Monday, September 30, 2019

How Could I Have Been So Blind?

Photo of Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 from CBC
 A Book About Oil

I am happy to report that I have finished Project X and sent it in. In the process, I did a lot of reading on topics related to the paper. One topic area that I read quite a bit about was global warming, and the climate change that is a consequence of global warming. This issue is something that I have been educating myself about for the past year.

I read the following book, Oil's Deep State: How the Petroleum Industry Undermines Democracy and Stops Action on Global Warming  -- In Alberta, and in Ottawa, by Kevin Taft, written in 2017. Taft was an elected MLA of the Province of Alberta from 2001-2012, so he had an inside view of the impact of oil companies on government. He has a PhD in Business and is an expert in public policy.

Although he is writing about a heavy topic, the book was fascinating to me because I lived in Alberta during part of the period he writes about. He describes how the big oil companies in Alberta, which are extremely wealthy, strategically used their money and power to influence politicians, researchers, and the public in order to bring in a national energy policy that favoured the fossil fuel industries and also to suppress information about the effects of fossil fuels on global warming.

I was shocked. I know that sounds naive. I knew the big transnational petroleum companies were bad actors, but I hadn't really understood the range of tactics they have used to protect their right to amass wealth from oil (even though they knew about global warming) and to undermine democratic processes. Right in my own country. (Really naive, right? Ongoing wars in the middle east over oil, etc.)

 I asked myself: How could I have been so blind about global warming? As a person who cares about the environment, how did I not know about global warming and its terrible consequences a long time ago? Rephrasing Greta Thunberg’s anguished question – why didn’t I personally start taking action a lot sooner?

Taft says that scientists made the public aware of the risks of global warming and the relationship of global warming to the burning of fossil fuels as early as 1965, confirming fears that had been voiced more than a century ago. I myself heard of global warming decades ago (but not as early as 1965 – I was just a little kid then). So here’s a list in which I have tried to reconstruct my thought processes, excuses, and misunderstandings:  

A List

1. Ever since I was born, there have been a series of terrible things going on in the world; like the cold war and the threat of a nuclear holocaust that could wipe out humanity; the threat of overpopulation that would strain our planet beyond its capacity to support us all; terrifying diseases like AIDS, Mad Cow Disease, Ebola, and necrotizing fasciitis; and awful wars. In spite of it all, my own life has been good, and life for many people around the world has gotten better (overall poverty has decreased; international agreements have been made about weapons proliferation, population is still increasing but at a much slower rate than in the 1980s, etc.). Somehow, each of these possible doomsdays has turned out better than predicted, so far. So, the problem is that I have become COMPLACENT. A news stream of constant crises made me numb to them. Global warming seemed like just one of many crises.

2. “They” will look after it. Like a child looking to my parents to take care of the things that were too big for me to manage, I looked to powerful others – the government, the scientists, the United Nations, and so on to fix the big problems of the world. For the most part, I believe that our democratic system has worked quite well, and great progress has been made in lots of areas. But I have gradually come to understand that THERE IS NO THEY; THERE IS ONLY WE. That is to say, our elected officials, our scientists, our diplomats, and so on are just regular people like you and me. Yes, they might have specialized skills and be extraordinarily talented. But they can’t make the big changes needed to change course on global warming alone. All of us need to contribute.

3. What’s so bad about the climate warming up, I remember asking myself. After all, Canada’s winters are awfully cold, and the summers can be quite short and cool. Maybe we’ll have nicer summers, and the winters won’t be so bitter. Maybe we’ll have a longer growing season. Wouldn’t that be good for agriculture? WRONG! I was thinking about it in a too narrow way, about how it might affect me in the small region where I lived. I didn’t think about people dying from heat waves in areas further south, or realize that the rapidity of the change in climate would make it hard for plants and animals to adapt, or recognize that altering the Earth’s temperature would result in extreme weather events like wildfires and floods. In fact, over the last 30 years, throughout northern parts of Canada where I used to live, the forests have been devastated by the spruce budworm and the pine beetle, forest diseases that have been caused by big corporations planting a forest monoculture in combination with the climate having changed to warmer summers and warmer winters.
Photo of the City of Calgary Flood of 2013 from The Calgary Herald
4. When I first heard about sea levels rising, I didn’t take it seriously. How could a few inches cause a problem for anyone? Surely no one built their houses that close to sea level? See number 1 above – another example of COMPLACENCY, combined with ignorance. But now we know that whole island countries will be lost to the rising oceans, and that many of the great cities of the world are built on river deltas and are threatened by flooding.

5. Lack of, or distorted, information. Throughout my lifetime, I have witnessed environmentalists being looked down upon, scientists being muzzled, and media giving a lot of airtime to people who have no credibility and who state ideological positions for which they have no evidence as if they were facts. It is hard to know what to believe when scientific evidence is scorned, and lies are touted as facts. One example from Alberta when I lived there was that the petroleum industry re-labelled itself as “the energy sector” and oil and gas as “clean energy” even though there was nothing clean about it. So, on global warming, I took a “wait-and-see” approach. I have research skills and I had access to a university library. I could have gone and done my own research. WHY DIDN’T I EDUCATE MYSELF?
Image of the 2013 flood in High River Alberta from The Calgary Herald
6. Another factor is that I worked within a system where a culture of overwork was normal. Eleven and twelve hour workdays were normal. I didn’t have much time or energy left to focus on anything much except my family and the basics of life in the hours when I wasn’t working.

7. Too many problems and too little time. This relates back to #5 and #6. There are so many things to educate oneself on. Is this fair trade coffee? Does this water bottle have BPA in it? Is gluten bad for you? Was this clothing made in a factory that condones human rights abuses? What are the main recommendations of the reconciliation report? Did these eggs come from a factory farm where the hens were confined in cages? Is this detergent phosphate free and is phosphate the only problem with detergent? Is gasoline with ethanol added better or worse for the environment? How much exercise a day does a person need to maintain a healthy heart? Is one glass of wine a day good, or is it better to drink more, or less, and what about alcohol other than wine? Is it worse for the environment to use cloth rags that you launder or to use paper towels? Are genetically modified foods dangerous or not and are they safe for the environment? Is high fructose corn syrup worse for you than other sugars? What is Canada’s policy on refugees seeking asylum? And I could keep on listing questions like this for pages and pages. It is easy to see how global warming could get lost when there are so many important things to care about. A person is tempted to pick one or two causes and forget about the rest. The sense of overwhelm leads to a kind of learned helplessness. BUT IF WE DON’T HALT GLOBAL WARMING, NONE OF THE OTHER ISSUES WILL MATTER.  

8. I have always voted, and educated myself about my voting choices. But I always thought of myself as a not very political person. I felt distaste for the name-calling and empty talking points of politics. It seemed that whatever politicians promised on the campaign trail, they went and governed in the same old way after they were elected. I became cynical about politics. But now I am beginning to see that engaging in our democratic system is one of our best ways of making a difference on global warming. The big transnational corporations certainly aren’t going to change their ways on their own; they are too busy lining their pockets to the detriment of the rest of us. VOTING FOR A POLITICAL PARTY WITH A STRONG ENVIRONMENTAL PLATFORM IS IMPORTANT. And along with voting, it’s also important to be fully engaged in the political process – to donate to parties that have a strong environmental platform, to volunteer to work for those parties during campaigns, to write to elected officials, and to consider running for office oneself.

 Looking to the Future

I could kick myself around the block a dozen times for being so slow to start learning about the threat that global warming and climate change pose to our planet and the survival of our civilization. It brings me to tears whenever I think of the overheated world that my grandchildren, and everyone’s grandchildren, are going to have to live in. But there’s no point in looking backwards and blaming myself. The best thing I can to is to take responsibility for my choices now and throw my efforts into practical actions that will make a difference on climate change. We have a narrow window of time of about ten years to shift the possible outcome of global warming to something bad that we can live through from something really bad that humans might not survive. FOR THE SAKE OF OUR GRANDCHILDREN, AND EVERYBODY'S GRANDCHILDREN, LET'S TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE NOW. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Project X Ate My Brain

Project X ate my brain, err, rather, it is still in the process of eating my brain because it is still in progress.

Project X

I am deep into an academic writing project that I have dubbed "Project X." It has totally taken over my thoughts and my time.

In it, I am pulling together disparate threads of ideas that come from my lived experience during my 25-year career in higher education, my research focus over the last few years on ethics in research and researchers' public responsibility, and my recent immersion in learning about global warming and the climate emergency. My voracious reading for the project has taken me into new (to me) research fields, such as corporate social responsibility, and back to rereading and thinking about ideas from the ancient history of my intellectual development, such as John Dewey's writings on democracy and education, and Karl Marx's concepts of capitalism and surplus value.

I am trying to craft an coherent and compelling argument that knits several disparate ideas together.

I have written more than the requested number of pages, but am still refining the argument. The task that faces me in the hours and days ahead is to read, read, read; write, write, write; and then cut, cut, cut. Project X is overdue, and I have nobody to blame but myself and my own procrastination. But, my goodness, is it ever a fascinating ride!

So, I know I promised a blog post on my excellent summer vacation. But I have to defer that post for now, and so many other things until Project X is all wrapped up and delivered with a bow.

Some of the things that have been put off to the side are: my daily exercise, revising my novel, working on the prequel novel, my art, reading and writing blogs, any new time commitments (I am still trying to keep commitments that I previously made, although some of those are going to be late, too). I sure do hate saying "no" to new fun things.

But lest you are tempted to feel sorry for me, thinking that my life hasn't been very fun lately, I have to put you straight right now. For me, academic research and writing is fun (if unremunerated).

As well, there have been a number of very fun events in my life in September, all planned and committed to many months ago when I still optimistically believed that I would have been finished with Project X by now. 

Birthday Bash

We hosted a big birthday bash at our place to celebrate Rob's and my September birthdays. Friends and family came to the party from far and wide. We had a band!

Dancing to Beatlemania Tunes

133 Years of Wisdom

 Friends and Family Come to Visit

We had a wonderful time visiting with friends and family, some of whom travelled 1,000s of kilometers to celebrate with us. We also enjoyed some excellent grandkid time.

Blogger Meet-Up

I also had the chance this weekend to participate in another blogger meetup! This time I got to spend time with Natalie from Natalie the Explorer, Donna from Retirement Reflections, and Ann from The Unretired.Life.

Natalie, me, Donna, Ann
We ate, drank, walked in the rain, and generally made merry.
A Lovely Rainy Day
Oops, I think I am procrastinating again.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Self-Sabotaging Writing Habits

Sunset at Lake Cowichan
 If you have been following my blog for awhile, you know that I am a writer. I haven't updated you recently on what's happening in my writing world, so, first the good news!

How the Novel is Coming Along

For the last few years, I have been working on a novel. Last November, I announced that I had completed a first draft of it. But then I changed my mind and re-wrote the ending. Then I read the whole manuscript through and made minor corrections. Then I was finally ready to send the manuscript out to beta readers.

What is it about, you ask?

It is a dystopian tale that takes place in the near future. A small group of survivors, all female, have survived cataclysmic events that have destroyed their city, and for all they know, most people on earth. Years later, two best friends in the shelter come of age and begin to wonder what is outside of their protected enclave. The ecosystem of their little world is beginning to collapse. Each of the two has to make a choice whether to listen to her conscience or follow her heart.

Over the spring, I received feedback from my five beta readers. All of them were very positive about the story: plot, characters, the futuristic setting, the social commentary, and the writing. Two of them recommended changing the ending (again), and I agree. I left things up in the air too much, and that was unsatisfying. My amazing beta readers also gave me lots of pointers about specific changes to make.

I have also read out many snippets to members of my writing group, and their advice is always constructive, gentle, and to the point.

So, the good news is that I've written a novel and I'm really happy with it.

The Revision Process

I spread out all the notes from the beta readers around my computer and began to work through the revisions. That has worked well, as long as I sit down in that room and at that computer. I have found that it is important to not leave too long a time period between each revision session, because then I forget all the details I was trying to hold in mind about what to change, and have to read through all the notes again. Successful revising, for me, appears to be dependent on how I organize my time, space, and written notes.

Before I wrote this novel, I wrote two other novels that I never finished. With the first, I got about 3/4 through a first draft. With the second, I finished a first draft and sent it to beta readers who made excellent suggestions. And then I became so overwhelmed about how to tackle the extensive revisions that I couldn't bring myself to do them.

I am happy to report that I am not struggling with my motivation to do the revisions on this novel. I am enjoying the revision process, and I love sitting down at the computer to work on it. And I really want to finish these revisions and get on with the next phase because this novel is timely right now and because...

It's Going to be a Series!

Yes, it's not going to end with the novel that I have just written. It's going to be a series of three books, and the completed one is the one in the middle. Right now the prequel novel is burning a hole in my brain. I have written copious notes for it, and the opening scene.


So where does the self-sabotage come in? Why am I not finishing the revisions?

I have no desire to avoid working on the revisions. I am eager to sit down at the computer and mentally jump back into the world of my story. I kind of dread the next step of seeking publication, but that is not why I haven't been working on the revisions.

I have always been a person who takes on way too much. They are all things that I want to do, like travelling to Crete, or going on an excellent 3-week vacation, or spending time with family or friends, or participating in art shows, or agreeing to do other writing projects. Or they are things that I have committed to do for others, such as volunteer work for my service group.

I am very disciplined about making myself follow through and actually do the things that I have promised that I will do. But the downside is that all those other things have specific more urgent timelines, so my writing time gets pushed into the background.

In the case of the revisions, my summer travels meant that I have had hardly any time to sit down at the particular computer where my revision notes are laid out. I was afraid to take the revision notes with me for fear they would get lost, and also because it takes long stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the head-space and work on revising.

In contrast, I was able to write background notes for my new prequel novel anywhere in any little fragment of time that I had. All I needed was a laptop or pad of paper.

There is a little executive manager in my brain who tells me how to allocate my time. The sabotage equation goes something like this: "I want to work on my revisions, but I've promised to do project X which is due [insert date coming up very soon] so I can't do my revisions until I have finished project X. But I don't really feel like doing project X right now, so first I'll [insert alternative activity such as do the laundry/go for a walk] to get myself into the mood to do project X, and at least [the laundry will be done/I'll get my 10,000 steps]. Oh no, the whole day has gone by and I haven't worked on my revisions or on project X!"

Or I'll be talking to a friend and the next thing I know, I'm meeting them for lunch or dinner, or to go on a bike ride, or X, Y, or Z.  

So that's how I have been sabotaging my revision process. I've been avoiding project X (which is actually a very interesting project and I'm sure I'll enjoy it once I'm actually working on it again), and not allowing myself to work on my revisions until project X is finished. 
Floaters on the River

Never to Old to Ride on a Swing
The other thing is, I've been too busy having fun! I have inserted a couple of photos from my excellent summer vacation to whet your appetite for my next blog post.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Blogging, Friendship, and Community

News Flash! Bloggers Converge on Vancouver Island!

Originally, that was going to be my title for this blog post. That was way back in late July, when the event actually happened and when I intended to write this post. The weekend of July 19, I had the chance to meet with five amazing bloggers, only one of whom I had met in person before. They arrived in the little window of time in between when I returned from Crete and just before I left on my next amazing summer adventure (which I hope to write about soon -- because, you know, pretty soon it will be Fall).

But maybe the delay has turned out to be a good thing, because as the topic rolled around in my mind during my August travels, it shifted in focus a little. I started thinking about how we make friends, how we deepen friendships, and how blogging is one part of all that.

The Big Event

But first, the blogger meetup.

From left: Donna, Ann, Erica, me (Jude aka Dr Sock), Janis, Kathy
The plan was hatched by Donna of Retirement Reflections, who put her head together with Janis of Retirementally Challenged and Kathy of Smart Living 365. The three of them coordinated a plan for Janis and Kathy and their partners to holiday in Canada this summer, and to arrive in central Vancouver Island in late July. Before I knew it, Donna invited me to be part of the get-together, and then Erica of Behind the Scenery and Ann of The Unretired Life joined in too. Of the six of us, two of us were from the central part of Vancouver Island, one from the south Island, one from a Gulf Island, and two from different places in California.

You might have already read about our gathering. Donna wrote about it here, Janis wrote about it here, Erica wrote about it here, and Ann wrote about it here. Kathy cleverly got us all to write lists which she compiled and discussed here.

Donna hosted the weekend (which stretched into several days). She put a huge amount of planning into it, researching activities and excursions for us to join in with, suggesting accommodations, providing meals, soliciting ideas for blogging discussion topics, and herding cats (that's us!). Thank-you Donna!

On Friday evening, we all went to see Deafaids - Beatlemania, a Beatles tribute band that put on a free concert in the community park.
Music in the Park: From left, Donna, Janis, Ann
Saturday was the more structured, blogging-focused part of the meetup. We met at Donna's house and talked our heads off about blogging through the morning, lunch, and afternoon. Yes, there was wine.

We Talked Blogs, For Hours

Look How Serious We Were

 On Sunday, the gang (spouses too) came over to my place for lunch, a tour of my art studio, Notch Hill Art, and a hike. Fun was had by all.

After Our Hike
Tour of Notch Hill Art

10 Things I Wish I had Known Before I Started Blogging

Kathy asked us to each put together a list of ten things we should have known or wish we had known before we started blogging. (You can read everyone's lists here.) I started blogging a long time ago, before blogging communities were "a thing." Things like differing purposes of blogs and blogging etiquette that seem quite obvious to us now were not so obvious more than a decade ago. I was very lucky to have entered the blogosphere just as the phenomenon of blogging was taking off, and it has been fascinating to see how the practices of blogging have changed. In particular, the development of blogging communities of people who share their ideas with each other has been wonderful to observe.

As a blogger, I've changed too over the years. Kathy published a short version of my list on her blog. Here's a longer version.

First a bit of context. I started a blog 11 years ago to get familiar with the process and technology of blogging, for a work-related purpose. I created a blog to use temporarily as a practice blog before building the actual work blog (which is now long gone). I had no expectation of keeping Dr Sock Writes Here going, yet here I am more than 11 years later, still blogging faithfully 1 to 3 times a month.

1. I wish I had known I was going to keep on blogging for years and years, because then I would have given some thought to my blog's name and URL, which were just some silly things that I pulled out of the air because I needed a name to set up the practice blog. The original Gideon Sockpuppet was an actual hand puppet that I made of a a sock in a puppet theatre workshop when I was a teen. If I can ever find an old photo of Gideon, I'll post it on the blog. Gideon (the actual puppet) was a very opinionated fellow.

2. Once I committed to keeping the blog going, I wish I had given some thought to the purpose of my blog. It has shifted over the years. At various times, it has been a technical learning experience, a way to immerse myself in blogging culture, a writing blog, an art blog, a retirement blog, a chronicle of what I have been doing, and a soapbox for my opinions about things. Presently, it zigzags between all of those things.

3. I wish I had steeped myself in blogging culture a bit before starting my own blog. I had hardly ever read a blog before I started one. But then again, my approach allowed me to do my own thing rather than running with the herd.

4. I wish I had known that there are people out there who actually read blogs. At the beginning, I threw words into the ether with no expectation that anyone would ever read them.

5. I wish I had learned the principle of reciprocity a little faster. That is, if someone comments on your blog, it is polite to respond to their comment. And if a person who regularly comments has a blog, it is courteous to read some of their blog posts and comment if you feel inspired by what they wrote. (If you have time! There is so little time to read all the wonderful blogs in the world.)

6. I wish I had known that bloggers aren't just strangers on the other side of the world, but real people -- people with shared interests -- that you can actually meet in real life. But now I know that!

7. I wish I would have known how much enjoyment I get from regularly reading selected blogs. You can learn a lot about people, their interests and lifestyles, and other places through reading blogs.

8. I wish I had known how much time blogging would begin to take up in my life as I became more integrated into a blogging community. I presently limit how much blog writing, reading, and commenting I do so that I have time for all the other important things in my life, including my other writing, and my real-life friends and family.

9. This is not an "I wish" point, but an observation. I am endlessly fascinated with ordinary people's everyday use of writing, images, and videos on the Internet to represent themselves to the world, express their point of view, interact with other people, and form communities. Blogs are a great example of that.

10. Oops. No number 10.

Why I Blog

Why we blog and persist at it was one of the topics that we kept returning to in our conversation about blogging at our meetup. That is a big question with lots of answers. I think each of us has more than one reason that we blog. Here are a couple of my reasons.

Having a place to write down my thoughts and combine that writing with visual images was what drew me to blogging. The idea that *anyone* could have a platform for publishing that was not blocked by gatekeepers, high costs, and genre rules was appealing to me. Blogs have democratized publishing. I also like the interactive, evolving nature of blog writing.

Another big reason, and the last one I'll talk about here, is that blogging is a way of forming community. This reason brings us back to the theme of this blog post -- friendship and community.

Making Friends; Deepening Friendships

In these challenging times, we need to form communities. We need to make friends and hang onto our existing friends.

In our expanding social world, one's peer group is no longer just the people living on the few streets nearby, but potentially can include people all over the world who share work interests, hobbies, skill sets, or social concerns. It is wonderful that through online technology we can meet fascinating people whom we never would have known in earlier times. Yet, managing a whole world full of potential acquaintances can seem overwhelming. As we turn away from looking for friends among the acquaintances right around us to seeking human relationships through a much broader sphere, the process also can feel isolating.

Making friends means putting yourself out there: being in places where you'll have a chance to interact with people; taking the first step to start a conversation; engaging with someone by doing something jointly together; helping people and accepting help. Writing a blog is a way of putting yourself out there. Commenting on someone's blog is a way of socially engaging.

In the case of our blogging meetup, we took it one step further. We all knew each other to a certain extent because we had read each others' blogs. But because most of us hadn't met in person, there also were lots of things we didn't know about each other. One thing that all have in common is that we blog. The topic of blogging provided a touchstone, a shared focus that we could all weigh in on.

The topic of blogging provided an excuse to get together, just as doing yoga together, or being in a service club with others, or collaborating on a work project, or cooking together with others to prepare a holiday meal provides a way to get together with people and to come to know them better. 

Ultimately, I believe that it is not blogging per se that builds a community or develops friendships. Blogging is just a technology that extends the reach of our relationships. Rather, it is the process of sharing something of ourselves with each other, being there for each other (e.g., reading, commenting, and keeping in touch), and doing things together (in person) and for others that builds friendships.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Two Very Different Cretan Cities

Well, "cities" might not be quite the right word.

As I wrote in my last blog post, I have just returned from a yoga retreat in Crete. As well as meditating and doing lots of yoga everyday, we went on a number of excursions to explore historical and fascinating areas of Crete. The first two excursions were to the Palace of Knossos and to Matala.

The Palace of Knossos

The Minoan city of Knossos on Crete is thought to be the oldest European city. It is located only a few kilometers from Heraklion, the largest contemporary city on Crete. Probably inhabited from neolithic times, this bronze age city was the centre of Minoan civilization. The first Palace of Knossos is thought to have been built around 2000 BC, and at its height, the palace and surrounding city had a population of 100,000 people. The total inhabited area was 10 square kilometers. The palace was abandoned around 1300-1100 BC.

The Palace of Knossos is in the Middle of a Wide Valley
The Palace of Knossos was rediscovered by British archaeologist Arthur Evans. Excavations began in the early 1900's. Today some sections have been restored. My photo below shows the restored north entrance. There is a fresco that depicts a charging bull partially visible behind one of the columns.

Some Sections of the Ruins Have Been Restored
The Palace of Knossos is famous in Greek mythology because of the legend of the Minotaur. The Minotaur was a creature that was half man and half bull who was kept at the centre of a labyrinth constructed by Daedalus underneath the palace on the orders of King Minos. Theseus entered the labyrinth and fought the Minotaur. Theseus was able to find his way out of the labyrinth by following the thread given to him by Ariadne, the king's daughter. Then Theseus and Ariadne fled from Crete.

A Painting of the Minotaur
I can't believe I was actually there, in this historic place I had read about in books!

On the afternoon we were there, it was very hot, or so it seemed to this northern gal. After we had wandered all over exploring the ruins, Theo gathered us together in the shade and led us in a meditation. He had us visualize entering the labyrinth. For me, this and the subsequent meditations were powerful experiences.


A few days later, we travelled to Matala on the south coast of Crete. The cliffs of Matala have many caves, ranging in size from small ones that could fit a couple of people to the ones the size of a large room. It is not known how the caves came to be there, but it is most likely that humans dug them out to use for habitation. In the 1960's hippies descended on the community and lived in the caves.

We made use of one of the caves for our daily meditation session, much to the consternation of some swallows who had nests on the cliffs.
Climbing Up to the Caves of Matala
After we came down from the caves, our group split up. I went with three others to have a cold drink in a beachfront bar. Then we explored the little town.

The hippie presence was everywhere, from the colourfully painted sidewalks, to VW vans parked all around and represented in murals, to tributes to John Lennon painted in the square.

Goofing Around with Nura

Exploring Matala

We had a lot of fun browsing in the shops. But at this point, we didn't dare buy anything because we had no suitcases in which to bring stuff home! (Click to read about the lost suitcases.)

After shopping, we went for a swim in the Libyan Sea (the part of the Mediterranean Sea south of Crete). The water was so refreshing -- a wonderful feeling on a hot afternoon. Theo's tent provided some welcome shade. 

Our Tent on the Beach with the Caves Behind

We ended the day with a beautiful dinner at the Sunset Taverna, so named because it offered a spectacular view of the sun going down. After dinner, we walked back to the beach and I took the photo below. Idyllic.

A Beautiful Sunset
But, the day was not over yet. We still had a long drive back in the dark to the place we were staying, over mountains and around hairpin turns. We stopped high on a mountaintop and all got out of the cars to look at the stars. It was an amazing day.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Retreat in Crete

Circle on the Sand
A Yoga Retreat

I have just returned from a yoga retreat in Crete. I went with my daughter, K, and it was absolutely fabulous.

I loved Crete, which I have never visited before -- the beautiful rugged island, the generous people, the turquoise water, and the delicious food. I loved the retreat, which included daily yoga practice in the morning, brunch, excursions to beaches and historical sites, daily meditation, and dinners featuring excellent local food.

Nura (our yogi) and Theo (a psychotherapist from Greece) were our fearless leaders, instructors, and tour guides. The seven participants travelled from Canada and Switzerland to take part, and they were a warm, wonderful, fun bunch of people to spend a week with. And, best of all, I got to go to Crete with my daughter!

In Crete with my Daughter
Where's The Luggage?

The first thing that happened is that our luggage did not arrive on Crete. Apparently, there was a baggage handling problem at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, and 60% of the people on our flight arrived at Heraklion in Crete without their luggage. We were among them.

We arrived at 8:30 in the evening after 24 hours without sleep, to discover that our bags were not on the carousel. Theo and Nura were at the airport to pick us up, but we couldn't leave because we had to stand in a lineup for two hours to file a lost luggage report.

The next day, the luggage did not arrive either, and our yoga retreat group was leaving to drive across Crete to a remote village on the south side of the island to our retreat location. We were wearing jeans, T-shirts, socks, and running shoes from our flight the previous day that were none too fresh. Although we'd each had the foresight to put a couple of spare clothing items in our carry-on backpacks, we did not have hats, sunscreen, sandals, or light summer clothes, and it was hot there! We also didn't have our yoga clothes, yoga mats, toiletries, or bathing suits.

So, we tore around Heraklion to try to buy a few essentials, as the area where we would be staying for a week did not have stores. But it was Sunday, and everything was closed, except for a few tourist stalls. Nevertheless, we managed to find some light clothes, and, amazingly, the last store we looked in also sold bathing suits and underwear.

I had just finished publishing a blog post in which I announced that I was imposing a clothes shopping moratorium on myself. I think the universe was laughing at my good intentions!

The wonderful people at our yoga retreat were so kind, lending us yoga pants, other clothing, sunscreen, and yoga mats. I accepted that I would never see my suitcase again. I was managing to get by just fine with the little I had, and I wondered why I had thought I had needed all that stuff I'd packed in my suitcase.

And then, four days later, our suitcases showed up, having been delivered by taxi from Heraklion. A surfeit of clothing!

A Beautiful Place To Be

We stayed in a family-run inn in a tiny hamlet. It was situated across the street from the Mediterranean Sea.

Our Accommodations
In the photo of the inn above, our room was the middle blue-painted one.

Water Tap in the Stairwell
Inside our Room, and my Feet
 Every morning at 8:00 or 8:30, we did 1 1/2 hours of yoga on the terrace under the bamboo umbrellas. Then our hosts served breakfast at a long table under the umbrellas. Some days, they set up the tables right beside the sea, under the shade of big trees.

Breakfast on the Terrace
The Yoga and Meditation Sessions

I attend a weekly yoga session with Nura Madjzoub (and I also go to a yoga studio in my neighbourhood once a week). Nura takes a holistic approach, which really resonates with me. I am still a beginner, and I find that yoga has added an important dimension to my life. 

Several times a year, Nura offers yoga retreats in international locations. I was thrilled when my daughter and I committed to attend. I have never done anything like this before.
Theo Making a Funny Face

Nura collaborated with Theo Kyriakos to offer the retreat. Theo is presently based in Greece, and he was our cultural guide as well as our meditation instructor.

Nura in Front of the Temple of Apollo

Nura and Theo organized the retreat around the theme of harmony, specifically the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether.

They were also great fun to be with, as you can see from this photo of Nura hamming it up in front of the Temple of Apollo, and Theo making a funny face for the camera.

That's Me Doing a Headstand!
After six consecutive days of 1 1/2 hours of yoga, I was a little sore, and very tired. But I loved every minute of it.

Partner Work
After yoga and breakfast each day, we went on an excursion, either to the beach or to a historical location. After fun and frolick in the waves, Theo led us in a guided meditation. We explored our shadow side. I found the meditation experience very powerful. The meditations left me with lots of images and ideas to explore further.

Most evenings, we ate a late dinner at Taverna Kriti, a local family run restaurant, where we sat at a covered patio beside the Mediterranean. The food was fabulous. The last night, George made us a longtime family recipe: goat with wild artichokes, simmered all day in an egg yolk and lemon sauce. He raised the goats. He picked the artichokes himself up in the mountains. I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of it.

I leave you with one final image that says it all: eating watermelon in the sea.

Watermelon in the Sea

Friday, June 28, 2019

A Shopping Moratorium

Tomatoes and Herbs on the Deck
Yesterday, I heard something I hadn’t heard for a long time. It was the sound of raindrops pattering down on the roof.

For the last six weeks, we have had no rain. We have been experiencing a drought. The grass outside is yellow and crunchy. The arbutus trees have been dropping their leaves. When I walk along the parched trails, I kick leaves underfoot as if it were autumn.

We live in a coastal rain forest, not the desert. So the rainfall was very welcome.

As a consequence of the drought, our area has water use restrictions. We can only water our yards and gardens for a few hours every second day. (Vegetable gardens are exempted.) We are asked not to use water to wash cars or to hose off driveways.

We have installed soaker hoses to water the shrubs. We don’t water the grass or use a sprinkler. We’ve used lawn clippings to mulch the gardens.

This is the third consecutive summer of drought in this area. Although I haven’t lived on Vancouver Island long, local people tell me that this weather pattern is atypical. The fire risk as at a high level and it is still only June.

The recent hot dry summers in this area are most likely a consequence of climate change. A recently released report on the changing climate said that Canada, especially the more northerly parts, can expect more degrees of warming than the world average, due to the climate crisis. One reason is that as the glacial ice and snow in the arctic and on the mountain tops melts and is not replenished, light from the sun will be absorbed rather than being reflected by the white snow. That will warm the land and air, causing the remaining glaciers to melt even faster.

The more I educate myself about climate change, the more worried I become. The consequences of rapid warming for human civilization, animals, and plants are dire.

But there are positive changes taking place too.

People are now talking about climate change. It is a topic in the media now, whereas for so many years the topic seemed to be avoided. Now our national broadcaster, CBC, regularly reports on climate related issues as well as solutions that individuals, communities, and various levels of government are implementing. Cities, and regional districts like mine, are developing policies and plans to reduce their carbon footprint and take action to mitigate climate change. For example, my regional district has been very proactive in developing a solid waste management approach that diverts waste from landfills. Each household recycles, sorting their household waste into compost (food and yard waste), paper products, recyclable plastics and metals, and garbage (for the landfill).

Since I last wrote about this topic, I have continued to look for additional ways to do my part to reduced my carbon footprint. Here is a list of new I initiatives I have taken in the last two months.

1. I met with my financial advisor and divested my retirement portfolio of fossil fuels. I replaced those mutual funds with funds that are investing in green technology.

2. Reduced beef/lamb in my diet to once a week.

3. Now do most of my grocery shopping at the nearest store (3 km.) to reduce driving, and if I am in the nearby city anyways, I mostly shop at a locally owned independent grocer that offers local produce, meat, and dairy products.

4. To reduce our water usage, we bought and installed more soaker hoses, we mulched the gardens, and we don’t flush the toilet overnight (ewwww).

5. I convinced my service club to offer a vegetarian alternative at the next community pancake breakfast. Now instead of pancakes and sausage, people can choose to have pancakes and fruit instead.

6. When I put away my winter clothes a few weeks ago and brought out my summer clothes, I realized I have way too many clothes. So I have implemented a shopping moratorium for myself. I will not buy any clothing, footwear, ore jewelry for myself until 2020.

I believe that as individuals make personal changes changes, we will make a difference and also inspire ourselves to change policies and practices at a broader social level.

On a totally different topic, I am heading off on an adventure with my daughter. In my next post, I’ll tell you all about it!