Sunday, May 24, 2020

Settling In; Moving On

Hiking on Vancouver Island, with Physical Distancing

 I'm pleased to report that the revisions to my novel have been going very well recently. This is officially draft number 3. I've expanded the ending, added scenes, and tweaked characters. I've also slashed out a lot of stodgy prose -- adverbs, nominal phrases, redundancies, and the like. It's leaner and punchier. I've managed to cut 5,000 words, which is good, because it's too long.

Unfortunately, when I'm successfully working on my novels, my blog writing doesn't fare as well. So today, I'm taking some time out to post an update.

Pandemic Panic

Like so many others, I was quite calm about staying home and sheltering in place at first. It was an adventure -- a chance to cook new things and use up supplies in the back of the cupboard. "Staying at home for a couple of weeks: how hard can this be?" I said to myself.

But then, I found myself staring at the screen in horror as the death tolls mounted in Italy and Spain. I stayed up into the wee hours poring over corona virus statistics from John Hopkins University, Worldometer, CBC, and the BC Centre for Disease Control. I spent 3 to 5 hours online every day reading news articles, watching videos and live broadcasts, and tracking the statistics. I became a fan of Dr. Bonnie Henry, the top public health officer for BC, and watched her daily update without fail.

Will the Rain Never End?
It gradually dawned on me that we were in this for the long haul -- years, not weeks. I missed seeing my kids, grandchildren, and friends. I went through some pretty bleak weeks, made worse by a bout of cold rainy weather.

The five stages of grief and loss -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance -- I've been going through them all. 

You'd think that staying at home with everything wiped off my calendar would give me ample time for my creative pursuits, writing and painting, which I never seem to have enough time for. But no. For the first six weeks, I couldn't work on my novels. I couldn't seem to focus. I was too anxious. I had to spend all my time reading about the corona virus. 

Perhaps the fact that I'm writing a three-novel apocalyptic trilogy had something to do with it. It's a little creepy when bizarre things I made up and wrote about in my fictional tale have suddenly started happening in real life.  

Settling In 

It's now Day 69 for us. Tomorrow we'll hit the 10 week mark. 

We're starting to settle in. This is our life. We're getting used to it. 

(I'm writing this knowing, with immense gratitude, that I and my family have been extremely fortunate. We're fortunate to be living in BC, where wise Dr. Bonnie Henry has led the provincial epidemic response informed by science, and where the residents of the province have been very socially responsible in following public health guidelines. I'm fortunate to have not lost anyone in my social circle to the virus.)

Settling in means I'm getting comfortable with my life with its new, more restrictive parameters. I'm happy to have time to write, even though it's because so many of the other things I was doing have been put on hold. 

One of my friends said to me, looking a bit guilty as she said it, "I kind of like just staying home."


I'm moving on with my life (while adhering strictly to the public health guidelines). Yes, things are different now, but that doesn't mean my life is on hold. I'm adapting to the new circumstances.

One of the advantages of being 63 years old is that I've had lots of practice at this. No, not with pandemics, but with difficult, wrenching life changes. 

I've moved a lot. Every move has meant leaving behind friends, my home, my job, favourite restaurants, and favourite walking trails. 

I've had injuries that have impacted my mobility. There were times I thought I'd never ski again because of knee injuries. I've learned to ski differently. I once broke a bone in my foot that wouldn't heal. I was in a cast for four months. I wondered if I'd ever walk normally again. 

Keeping in Touch
I've lost beloved family members. Every time it was extremely painful. It felt as if my own life had ended. I grieved. I came to acceptance. Time kept going along, and once again I found joy. I've adapted to changes and I've had a wonderful life. 

Moving On

Living in the age of the novel corona virus means finding new ways to do things, and continue to live a satisfying, fulfilling life.

I've started texting with my grandsons on Messenger. They love playing with the photo options and other media features. 

We enjoyed a physically distanced Mother's Day picnic with my daughter's family.

Mother's Day Picnic
Before the physical distancing restrictions, I was very involved doing fundraising with my local chapter of Lions International. All of those initiatives have been suspended. 

However, our Lions club has been out with other community members cutting broom. Scotch broom is an invasive plant species that is a problem on Vancouver Island. 

We can stay apart but be together while we cut broom. 
Rob with Broom

Clematis in Bloom

I have spent a lot of time out working in my lovely garden. Although the weeds are endless and I'll never keep up with them, I've been enjoying my gardening time.

I have planted tomatoes, herbs and a few other things in containers on my deck.

The flowering shrubs bring joy. And I'm quite pleased with my little vegetable patch, tucked in amongst the decorative plantings. 

Veggie Garden
On the long weekend, Rob and I went on a beautiful hike around the point with my son and one of my daughters. We enjoyed time together while still observing public health restrictions.

My Son
My Daughter

Another way in which we have adapted is that Rob and I are going for more walks together. To celebrate our recent anniversary, we picked up take-out sushi and ate it at a picnic table in the park. Then we went for a lovely walk around the harbour.

Not Too Old for Selfies
Settling in, adapting, moving on -- a good life.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Cooking My Way Through the Pandemic

First, a warning. Don't read this blog post right now if you're feeling hungry. 

Last Piece of Salmon (Caught by Rob)
Chicken Stuffed with Cheese & Sun-dried Tomato

Cooking and Me

I have always enjoyed cooking. It all started with baking. Somewhere in the family photo album, there's a picture of me around age 6 or 7 proudly displaying a cake I'd made in my Easy Bake Oven, a toy oven that was popular in the 1960's. My mom baked a lot, and she taught me to make cookies, cakes, and squares from scratch long before I took my one and only home economics class in Grade eight.

I helped with the cooking as a teenager, When I moved into my first apartment at age 20 after enduring three years of horrible university residence food, I embraced cooking and home meal planning with zest. I took a natural foods cooking course. "Natural foods" is what we called vegetarian cooking back in the 1970's, and the emphasis was on organic unrefined whole foods. I joined a food coop. I learned to make granola and bread. I went on to learn to preserve foods, and made a lot of jam, jelly, pickles, and canned fruit over the years.

Mom's Pie Crust Recipe in her Handwriting
My Cookbooks

I've collected a bookshelf full of cookbooks. As well, I have two thick folders of recipes that I've clipped out of newspapers, been given by friends, copied out by hand from somewhere, or developed myself and written down.

Most of the time these days, I invent meals as I cook them, without following a recipe. When I do use a recipe, I usually refer to one of my old standbys. Or, I look up recipes on the Internet and adapt them.

This past year, I lost enthusiasm for cooking. I don't know why, but I became bored with it. Except for a brief flurry of cooking around Christmas, when my son and two of my brothers came to stay with us for a few days, and when I volunteered to plan a community Christmas dinner for 60 people and cook it with the help of my service club, our meals became rather ho-hum.

The pandemic changed all that. Over the past six weeks I have been cooking and creating all manner of things in the kitchen. The photos above of the baked salmon and of the stuffed chicken breasts are two examples of my cooking efforts.

Turkey For Two

When Easter came along this year, I felt sad. Usually we have a big family dinner. We all get together and visit and feast. Our service club hosts an Easter Egg Hunt for the community, which my grandsons love to participate in. But, as we were sheltering in place, we couldn't be with our family to follow our usual tradition.

I decided to make turkey for our Easter dinner anyways, just for the two of us. I purchased the smallest turkey I could find and stuffed it and roasted it.

Roast Turkey
When you look at the photo, don't be fooled by the bare drumsticks. It might have been the juiciest, most delicious turkey I've ever made.

Turkey Dinner for Two

Turkey Dinner Close-up
Rob Adds Gravy
Turkey Pie
Two Berry Pies

I baked two mixed berry pies, one for us and one for my daughter's family. We did a pie drop-off the day before Easter. Perhaps we couldn't all spend the day together, but at least they had dessert for their Easter dinner. This pie has previously made an appearance here.

Of course we couldn't eat the whole turkey, so I froze much of the meat, and the bones for stock. This week, I used some of the frozen turkey meat to make a turkey pie. I still have lots left for soup.

Indian Curries

Last week, I also made a vegetarian chick pea and vegetable curry. The next day, we ate the rest of the vegetable curry along with some homemade chicken korma. A couple of years ago, my step-daughter gave me a great little cookbook, pictured below. I invested in some good Indian spices and learned to make my curries from scratch.
Curry Cookbook
Chicken Korma, Vegetable Curry, & Rice

Last Words

Rob is an appreciative diner, and therefore a delight to cook for. He cooks sometimes too. He likes to make pancake breakfasts for us on weekends.

Devil's Food Cake
Just in case you're not yet hungry, I've included a picture of a devil's food chocolate cake. I originally got the recipe from a community cookbook and have been making it for 55 years.

Hopefully, my desire to cook will still be with me when we're finally able to have guests for dinner again.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Learning to Let it Be

Magnolia Blooms
Stay the Course

Today is our 33rd day of staying home, sheltering in place. It's been almost five weeks.


Societal Lessons


This pandemic has had some lessons to teach us. At the the broader societal level, we have been learning that:
  • To have a good life, our close relationships and other human connections matter most of all -- more than engaging work, personal accomplishments, material acquisitions, or fun activities. 
  • Essential workers, especially health care workers, have become our everyday heroes. They are ordinary people doing their jobs in extraordinary circumstances. They have reached deep inside and found the courage and faith to keep going, taking care of us all by making sure we have groceries, caring for the elderly and treating the ill, even while risking their own health and lives. When called upon, will each of us find our own inner hero?
  • Leadership really matters. COVID-19 has shown us that the difference between good and poor leadership can be and presently is a matter of life and death. So we need to choose our leaders wisely.
  • We are interconnected, globally. "Globalization" has been a buzz word for decades, but now we are learning what it really means. The disease transmission process demonstrates how people in each city, country, or continent affect each other. If people across the border from you have the coronavirus (or people on the next continent), it is only a matter of time until your city (or continent) has it too. To address it effectively, we have to work together across our communities and worldwide, supporting the "have-nots" as well as the "haves." We can apply this same insight about inter-connectivity to worldwide economics, food-security, and climate change. 

Personal Lessons


Trillium on Today's Hike
The pandemic also has been teaching me some lessons at a personal level. The biggest lesson I have been learning is to "Let it Be."

All my life, I have been achievement-oriented -- a doer. I have approached life at full tilt, a ball of energy. I have no patience whatsoever, and have always felt that I must spend every moment of my life doing something productive. (On the plus side, I'm never bored.)

As you can imagine, I'm not very "zen." My greatest struggle in trying to learn to meditate is to make myself sit still "wasting time" doing "nothing" when I could be doing something productive.

My approach to life made the decision to retire difficult for me. 

I retired in stages. The first part of the process lasted a year or two, and during it I agonized about whether and when to retire. Finally, I decided to step down from my role as an administrator (which was very stressful and causing negative health consequences), but without actually retiring. I planned to transition back to a teaching role after a year of earned sabbatical leave. Halfway through my sabbatical year, I realized I was, in fact, ready to retire. I've now been retired for almost three years.

I have included several links to blog posts I wrote back then tracking my thought process about retiring. I found it very hard to let go of my work. What I did everyday seemed to be core to who I was. When I was no longer working productively, who would I be?

As it turned out, I love being retired. I discovered I was still me, and that my work did not define who I was.

But, I brought my characteristic energy and work ethic to retirement and immediately joined a whole bunch of groups and organizations. Before I knew it, I once again had a calendar full of meetings and other commitments. Yes, the meetings were about things that I like to do -- art, writing, community volunteer work, social gatherings, exercise activities, book club, academic writing projects, and so on. It was nothing like the grueling long hours of work I used to do. But still, I no longer had many unscheduled chunks of time left. I was being productive -- all the time. I was also beating myself up for not doing even more.

Manicotti stuffed with Spinach and Cheese
Homemade Berry Pie
Staying at home because of the pandemic has given me a second chance to retire. Everything disappeared from my calendar. I am finding out what it is like to just be rather than to always do. I haven't had time like this to let it be since I was a child.

I've discovered that I love just puttering in the garden or in the kitchen. It is peaceful to have unscheduled contemplative days. Although I have appreciated zoom conferencing weekly with my yoga class and my blogging buddies, and monthly with my book club and my writers' group, I've resisted adding any more conferences into my days.

It no longer matters if it's Monday or Saturday. I don't have to go anywhere. I can just hang out at home, and go for a walk if the mood strikes. I'm no longer personally responsible for single-handedly solving climate change, or for writing the defining book of the century, and that's okay.
Zoom Session with Blogging Buddies

Let it be

Friday, April 10, 2020

Reasons to Feel Grateful

The Trail Down Notch Hill

Today is Day 25 of our self-isolation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, like so many people around the world, Rob and I have been staying home, not seeing friends or family. Our trips away from home have been limited -- twice to buy groceries, once to get pet food, once to the liquor store, once to the vet, and twice to pick up takeout food. Three times people have dropped something off for us, and twice we've gone out to drop something off for others. We walk on the streets and trails near home, stop and chat with people while physically distancing, and otherwise stay home.


I was on a Zoom conference with some blogging buddies the other day, and when we went around the screen talking about our highs and lows of the week, a number of us said something quite similar. We felt lethargic, glum, blue, flat, anxious, and discouraged. We lacked energy and motivation to accomplish much of anything.

It is understandable that we feel anxious, scared, and unable to focus. Just about everything in our lives has suddenly changed. Even for those of us who haven't been personally touched by the disease (yet), we are affected by the grim death tolls around the world, and are afraid of dying or of loved ones dying.

Yet, even in these difficult times, we have so much to be grateful for.

Capable Leaders


I am so grateful to live here in Canada, where our health experts and politicians have done a very good job of managing the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Our federal, provincial, and municipal politicians have, for the most part, put partisan politics aside. They have worked together to address the pandemic by putting policies and support programs in place and moving resources to wherever they are most needed.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, screenshot from Global News Town Hall

In particular, I'm impressed with Dr. Bonnie Henry, our Provincial Health Officer here in BC. She and the Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, provide a daily briefing to British Columbians. They are clear, transparent, and consistent in their communications, and publish the health orders, ongoing statistics, and epidemic planning models on the BC Centre for Disease Control website for all to look at. They devote a significant part of each briefing to taking questions, and they answer the questions honestly and as thoroughly as they can, expressing genuine emotions.

Dr. Henry calls upon all of us to be kind, and to do our part. Although her orders in this emergency are the law and she has the authority to enforce them, she appeals instead to our human decency and our desire to do the right thing to protect our families and communities. And British Columbians are rising to the occasion and following her health orders. Because of it, we are starting to see our epi-curve flatten. Our cumulative number of deaths in BC thus far has been low.

Bonnie Henry is a leader we all can look to with gratitude. Phil Dwyer of Vancouver Island has written a ballad about her that you can listen to by clicking this link: The Ballad of Bonnie Henry. This newspaper article explains how the songwriter wrote the song and had it recorded.

A final point that I'll make about our situation is that our good leadership did not occur by accident. It happened before COVID-19. We voted for decent people who put their civic duty ahead of self-serving aims. As a country, we have invested in universal healthcare, and paid taxes to fund pandemic planning long before this pandemic became a reality. As a country, we have invested in equitable education for all. A populace that has good critical thinking skills is more likely to support and trust their scientists and other experts, and therefore to be well-placed to respond in a community-minded way when a crisis occurs. I am glad I live where I do.

A Glorious Spring


Wildflower by the Trail
I love springtime, as the trees begin to bud, the wild flowers start to bloom, and the birds and bumblebees return to our yard. The hummingbirds are in the blossoms, the eagles are wheeling overhead, and every evening the frogs in the nearby wetlands sing, making an amazing racket.

Crocuses in March
We have been especially lucky the last two weeks to have had lots of sunny days, and I have spent hours and hours out in the garden. I have dug up and planted a small vegetable plot. I have transplanted some shrubs, added more flowers to my spring garden, done lots of yard cleanup, turned over the compost multiple times, and spent a lot of time weeding (although there's still much more to do).
Magnolia Tree

The magnolia tree that I planted last year is blooming. The first of the rhododendron bushes burst into bloom today. I have really been enjoying gardening, and also my forest walks.

Staying Connected

One of the really hard parts of having to stay home is not being able to see people. I miss my kids and grand-kids a lot. Normally on Easter weekend, we would all be getting together and sharing a big dinner. I miss my friends, and all the people in the community that I usually see through volunteer work or in my book club, writers' group, art group, yoga class, and so on.

But at the same time, we have been reaching out to each other and staying connected in other ways. I have been making use of good old-fashioned telephone calls, especially to check in with my kids. I have zoom-conferenced with various groups, including my yoga class. I've messaged with my two older grandsons, and read stories to the grand-kids via FaceTime. I went for a physically distanced walk with my daughter. A screen is no substitute for being with people in person, but it has sure thrown into sharp relief what really matters in life -- the people you love, friends, and community. I'm grateful for the ways we are finding to stay connected. As for sheltering in place, as it turns out, Rob is a pretty good companion to spend my days with.

What are you feeling grateful for?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

When the Cracks Start to Show

Cracks Appearing*
Like many of you, dear readers, I am sheltering in place as ordered by our provincial Public Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. Rob and I closed our doors starting the afternoon of Monday, March 16. Since that time more than two weeks ago, we have both stayed home. I went out once a few days ago to buy some groceries and Rob went out yesterday to buy pet food. We picked up takeout food on Saturday. (At least I think it was Saturday. All the days and dates have become a blur.)

Other than that we haven't left home and our immediate neighbourhood. We haven't seen friends or family members.

We are very fortunate in that we are both retired, and therefore not worried about having to work or about loss of pay. We have a roomy home and yard, and because we live in a semi-rural area, we can walk on the streets and trails nearby, seldom encountering anyone.

Also, we are both people with many solitary interests. During normal times, neither of us has any difficulty entertaining ourselves for hours and days at a time, for example, me with writing, reading, gardening, and academic work, and Rob with woodworking, reading, outdoor projects, and watching movies.

And yet.

These are not normal times. We are living through a cataclysmic event affecting the whole world -- a pandemic. There is an ongoing media barrage showing us the mounting number of cases and deaths around the world. It is frightening as we contemplate the extent of human suffering; worry about health care workers, family, and vulnerable friends; and wonder whether our own lives are at risk.

I have found it hard to pull myself away from reading and watching coronavirus news stories. I have an irrational feeling that if I'm not tracking the news constantly, it will get worse the minute I look away.

Witnessing the progress of the pandemic, while also being sequestered at home and having all of our usual activities come to a halt, is stressful. It's also hard on relationships, and on individual mental well-being.

J.P. Sears recently posted a funny video called How to Destroy Your Relationship During the Quarantine, which you can watch by clicking here.

The video is funny, but the stresses on relationships are real.

Parents staying at home with children who are not in school or daycare may be trying to work from home while also finding ways to keep the kids who have been cut off from their friends and usual activities engaged, or at least not fighting with each other. Grandparents who otherwise could provide respite are in the demographic most at risk from the virus.

Children absorbing bits of the news may be anxious and fearful, and express their feelings by acting out.

Young people who are dating but not living in the same household may be struggling to hold their relationship together or tempted to ignore physical distancing.

The sandwich generation may be worried sick about their elderly parents on the one hand and their kids and jobs on the other.

Couples may find that the texture of their relationship has changed. Many of the activities and routines they enjoyed together are no longer available. Each may be responding to the crisis in a different way, or be in a different stage of coping. For example, one may be in avoidance mode while the other is seeking extra closeness and reassurance. Or one may be full of plans for new activities while the other can't drag him/herself off the couch.

The stresses can be extreme when struggling to work from home, or if a loved one is ill, or if the financial consequences for the family are dire, or if one or both are health care workers or in another essential service that puts them at greater risk.

People who already live alone may find self isolating especially hard, as their usual social resources are no longer available. 

The little voice in the head might start saying things like:

I've discovered I actually don't like my family at all.
Why can't these little fiends give me even one single minute of peace and quiet?
He/she spends every single minute staring at their computer and doesn't even talk to me.
We have nothing in common.
He/she turns everything into a big emotional drama that is all about him/herself.
What's wrong with me -- I can't concentrate on anything!

It's normal to feel strong emotions during a crisis situation like this. And, as strange as it may seem, the challenges we are all facing present an opportunity.

We have the opportunity to be kind to ourselves and to be kind to each other. We have the opportunity to open up to each other and deepen the relationship with our partner in ways we may not take the time for during our regular schedule. We have the opportunity to really enjoy being with our family members rather than passing like ships in the night as each one races off to work, school, or other activities. Children have an opportunity to learn to be more considerate of their parents and to develop a more caring relationship with their siblings. We all have an opportunity to reach out to people we know, and especially to people who may be lonely or in need of extra support.

With a heightened sense of the value of life we have now that our mortality is staring us in the face, each one of us can pause and take a long look at this beautiful planet we inhabit and be grateful for the life all around us right now.   
Life and Creativity Thrive in Cracks*
*Photos are free Shutterstock images from 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Twelve Things To Do That Don't Involve Screen Time

The Pond on a Sunny Day
The other day, a notification popped up on my my screen that kind of shocked me. Apparently, my average screen time last week was more than seven hours a day. Wow!

That was for my phone and tablet alone, and didn't count my computer time (which was quite limited last week) or my TV time (which was, in fact, zero*). Although some weeks I spend a lot of time on my computer if I'm working on writing or revising my novels or on academic work, I do try to limit the amount of additional time I spend staring at my phone or my tablet. More typically, my daily average is between one to two hours on the phone and tablet.

Some of the things I do on my phone and tablet are good, useful things. I am learning a second language, and I spend up to an hour on Duolingo doing that each day. I do all my blog reading and commenting from my tablet. I use the map program on my phone to navigate. I keep in touch with groups I am part of via email.

But seven hours is far too much time to spend staring at a little screen. No wonder I have had tired eyes and a slight headache.

I admit it. I have been compulsively looking at news websites for hours every day, reading and watching updates and reports about the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it's good to be informed, I've been overdoing it. It's not psychologically healthy to be as immersed in the pandemic news as I am. It makes me feel anxious and scared, and it eats up time that I could be using in more productive and healthy ways. To get my mind off the pandemic, often I end up watching an episode of a series or some TED talks or author interviews to divert my mind with other stuff. More screen time. 

Perhaps some of you are having a similar experience? Sheltering in place, anxious about the future, unable to participate in our usual community activities and groups, and physically separated from friends and family, suddenly we are filling our time with -- what?

Homemade Soup and Biscuits
Here are a few ideas. These are some of the things Rob and/or I have been doing that don't involve screen time.

1. Lots of cooking and baking. Using up those items way in the back of the cupboard.

2. Cleaning the house. Goodness knows I am not a housekeeping role model, but cleaning has the useful property of being something you can do that doesn't take a lot of concentration. My house certainly needs plenty of cleaning; it could keep me busy for weeks! The added bonus is that I can feel as if I'm doing something practical related to COVID-19. Doorknobs disinfected.

Evening Walk
3. Going for walks. My wearable fitness device tells me that I have been far more active this week than usual in terms of steps taken, kilometers travelled, and calories burned. The dog likes lots of walks too, and sometimes I've been able to talk Rob into coming along as well.

4. Read a book, an actual physical book. Presently I'm reading Radicalized by Cory Doctorow, which is on this year's Canada Reads shortlist.

5. Start a new project. Rob has been busy in his workshop building a new set of speakers. I have started keeping a daily journal while sheltering in place.
One of the New Speakers (with Green Baffle)

Daily Journal
6. Phone family and friends, and anyone you know who's on their own. I have been phoning my three kids a lot. Although I can't be with them physically, it's good to hear their voices and talk through the challenges we are facing day by day as we all practice social distancing and sheltering in place. I've talked to my grand kids too several times, and I've enjoyed chatting with a number of friends and other family. We are healthy and well, and very fortunately, so is everyone I know, thus far.

7. Yard work. Last week, we had lovely weather, and I spent quite a bit of time in the yard raking up branches and evergreen cones, sweeping the driveway, and digging up my vegetable garden in preparation for planting when the soil warms up a bit more.
Spring Flowers are Popping Up in the Garden
Sweeping the Walk

Washing the Truck
8. Wash the car/truck. This is allowed where we live; there are presently no water restrictions.

9. Get out in nature. Although sometimes I walk along the streets of the neighbourhood, most days I go out for a short hike on the trails. It is very soothing to the soul to be in green spaces, and to be among the animals and plants as spring makes its glorious appearance.

Hiking Along the Shore

10. Meditate or do yoga. Tara Brach does amazing guided meditation podcasts that she makes freely available. Appreciative followers can donate.

11. Play cribbage, card games, or board games with your housemates, or solitaire if you live alone. Rob doesn't play cards or board games, although he'll sometimes play crib with me to humour me.

12. Write an actual letter with pen and paper, and send it to someone special via the actual postal service.

13. Stress eat, guzzle wine, and compulsively touch your face. No. Wait. Don't do any of those things!

You'll notice that I have not included creative writing or painting on the list. Somehow I can't settle my mind enough to concentrate on doing either right now. But I'm hoping that will change soon, as we adjust to this strange "new normal."

Take care, my friends.

*As many of you know, I scarcely watch TV at all. When I do watch a newscast, film, or episode, I usually do it on my tablet, unless Rob and I are watching a movie together. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Reflections During the Pandemic

A Maui Sunset
 How quickly things can change.

In mid-January, we went to Maui for a lovely family holiday. We swam, snorkeled, kayaked, hiked, toured the island of Maui, and enjoyed spending time with our daughter, son-in-law, and grand kids. We took a break from the news.
On a Dinner Cruise out of Ma'alea Bay
 Returning home on February 2, we heard on the news about a mysterious new strain of virus devastating China, especially Wuhan City and Hubei province. Tragic and scary, but also far away.

We followed the story of the Diamond Princess, the tourists quarantined on board, and the efforts to repatriate Canadians who had not tested positive for the disease.

And then cases of coronavirus began appearing in Canada. I live in British Columbia (BC), where some of the first cases were identified and where the most deaths have occurred in this country to date.

Today, Tuesday March 17, the BC government declared a public health emergency. There are 186 identified cases of COVID-19 in this province, and there have been 7 deaths (6 of which were residents in a North Vancouver care home). There has been an eighth death in Canada in the province of Ontario.

Social distancing strategies are being recommended and mandated here in BC. Gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned. All bars, nightclubs, and pubs have been ordered to close. Businesses that stay open must implement social distancing (e.g., takeout at restaurants; provide for one to two meters (3-6 feet) of distance between people). Schools are presently on spring break, and following spring break, the K-12 schools in BC will remain closed indefinitely. BC universities have closed face-to-face classes and are transitioning to online and other forms of distance instruction this week.

As much as possible, people are being asked to stay home, work from home, and shelter in place. Travellers who have returned from other countries are asked to self-isolate for 14 days, as are people who don't feel well or who have less acute symptoms of the virus.

Meanwhile, the federal government has announced a financial assistance package for individuals and businesses critically affected by the economic slowdown -- for example an opportunity to defer mortgage payments. Canada has closed its borders to visitors from around the world and is in the process of finalizing an agreement with the United States to close the border between our two countries to non-essential travel.
A Hike by the Ocean on Sunday
 How has the pandemic affected me, personally?

Last week, I watched all the events on my calendar disappear, one by one -- meetings, art show, writers' events, a presentation I was scheduled to give, yoga, and volunteer commitments. The ski hill closed. The library closed.

I wondered whether people were over-reacting. I pored over the news reports; read the website of the BC Centre for Disease Control; watched newscasts such as those given by the Prime Minister, the BC Minister of Health, and the Provincial Health Officer; and read academic papers by epidemiologists and other scientists. And I concluded that the social distancing and other measures they have put in place are our best chance to flatten the curve and reduce cumulative mortality.
At the Ski Hill in March

I am grateful to live here in BC, and in Canada, where our politicians and health officials have worked hard to make the best decisions regarding this pandemic and people's lives. I am grateful for our excellent health care system that serves all Canadians. I appreciate the forthright, clear communication we get on a hour-by-hour basis.

As new recommendations have emerged, I have complied with them. Although last week we were still going out socially (but with precautions), this week Rob and I are staying home. We aren't seeing friends, or even our grandchildren. We're not going to restaurants. We have enough food and supplies to last for a couple of weeks so we don't need to visit stores.

Trail Through a Garry Oaks Meadow
We are very fortunate that we live in a semi-rural area, so we can still go outside in our garden or for hikes on the trails.

It is strange how quickly a person's priorities change in the face of a true emergency. The everyday plans and preoccupations fall away, and suddenly seem not so very important.

It has been heartening to see how so many people across so many countries and jurisdictions around the world have worked together to take the necessary steps and to help each other in the face of this pandemic. (Although it's also disappointing to read about the toilet paper hoarders and people re-selling disinfectants at exorbitant prices.)

It gives me hope that the human race will also find a way to work together on global warming and the climate crisis before it's too late.
Enos Lake Through the Trees

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Why It's Worth It

A Beautiful World and I'm Grateful to be Here
I think everyone asks themselves this question from time to time. "Why is it worth it?"

The question can take on a different shape depending on circumstances. It can mean: why is it worth persisting with this hard thing I'm trying to do when at the moment it seems so unrewarding and difficult or even hopeless, and nobody seems to appreciate it? This version of the question is about taking on challenges that help us grow, help others, and help make the earth a better place. It takes commitment to persist with an intention or goal when we find ourselves seemingly inadequate for the task, the way forward isn't clear, or when others obstruct our efforts or fail to acknowledge us.

Or it can mean: Why is life worth it? Am I really here on this earth just to shop, pick up dog poop, fill out this form, and drink beer in front of the TV? In this incarnation, the question really is about the deep inner sense of one's existential purpose. Depression, illness, or discouragement sometimes might be a cue to examine inner needs that have been ignored and repressed. Existential purpose is hard to nail down and it seems to easily get derailed. We find ourselves using our time up instead on trivial matters, comfortable routines, or self-gratification. Or, perhaps some of us fill our time up with busyness and daily obligations as a way of running from an examination of the inner self and life purpose.

Or "why is it worth it" can mean: What's in it for me? On the surface, this appears to be a selfish concern, a desire to put oneself first, rather than thinking about others or broader life goals. Often, a person's answer to this question never goes beyond the level of personal material reward -- the paycheque, the ego stroke, the better fitness score, or the tit for tat exchange.  But, underneath, everything starts right here, right now, with the person you are inside. All important work a person does has to start internally, by recognizing and accepting the person you are, and checking in to make sure that your external efforts align with your core values. I'm coming to learn that when I run away from my inner self, then my commitments, efforts, and daily pursuits may become unsatisfying or even harmful.  

Lately I have been writing quite a bit about the climate crisis, and how it has motivated me to take various actions.

Although I cannot put into words what my core life purpose is, one part of it is the desire to make a positive difference in the world. Putting personal effort into educating myself about climate change, communicating about it to increase others' awareness, and taking personal actions to reduce my carbon footprint, all help, in a small way, to make a positive difference in the world.

It's worth if because of my beautiful children and grandchildren, and the future generations who will inherit the earth. I've written about this here, and here.

It's also worth it because the earth, its systems, and the living plants and animals are beautiful, amazing, and inherently worth preserving. Here are a few photos of the area where I live that I've taken over the last three months. They show the beauty of our world.

An October Afternoon in My Neighbourhood
Sunshine on the Pond
Snow Encrusted Trees at Mount Washington
Mount Washington at Four O'clock

Rock on the Forest Floor
Tiny Mushrooms in the Moss

The Backyard With a Foot of Snow
We live in an amazing world, and I'm grateful to be a part of it. It's worth it.