Tag Archives: hope

If you can’t think of anything to be thankful for today, I have a suggestion

Reid Dickie

“Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.” – Louis C.K.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada.

A few days ago, at the table next to me at Tim Horton’s a young black man chatted with an older white man. From their conversation I gathered the young man, whose English was quite good, had immigrated to Canada recently from Africa and the older man was his sponsor. Although the black man was somewhat nervous, their rapport seemed easy and genuine.

The older man recounted his weekend travels with his wife. They had driven to Kenora, explored that area a little, stayed in a hotel they’d never been to before then the next day decided to take a drive through the Interlake before returning to the city. As he listened, the expression on the young man’s face changed from keen interest to mounting confusion. Finally he said, “You are telling me that you are free to travel anywhere in Canada anytime you want? Is that what you are saying?” There was enormous disbelief in the young man’s voice and expression.

It took a moment for the sponsor to realize the source of the question but he replied that in Canada we have the right and are free to travel unrestricted anywhere we want. The young man’s surprised expression changed to thoughtful consideration then to a big smile that made the sponsor chuckle a little. The light of freedom had been lit in his head.

And in mine. I recognized how much of our freedom we take for granted, like freedom to travel without harassment, documents or restrictions. After driving 50,000 kms over the past two summers I suddenly became especially grateful for this freedom. We live in a vast sea of invisible realities that often require outsiders to point them out to us, allowing us an opportunity to be grateful, to be thankful for what we have. I appreciate the African man for his candid and sudden wisdom and hope it will serve him well in his new life.

Meanwhile, at the table opposite, two overweight middle-aged white men carped about how bad television is these days, how this seemed to be ruining their lives. Their topic defined their phantomhood and to whom they had forfeited their freedom. Ask not for whom the television tolls, it tolls for thee.

Whose freedom is more valuable: the new-found freedom of the young African or the devalued spent freedom of the white men? Who is more awake to freedom? Whose future brims with hope? I don’t like unanswered questions. The answer to all is the same: the young man.

As my friend Terry points out we have freedom to and freedom from in Canada, each bears its own responsibilities. While the young man knows he now has more freedom from oppression here, he is still learning the extent of that freedom. Newer to him are the freedoms to, which define his current possibilities, the range of his new instincts and just how far away the new horizon is. Both those freedoms, largely submerged in our culture, seldom emerge except when silhouetted against the life of a young African in a coffee shop. Oh Canada!

I’d be surprised if many readers of my blog have any problem finding something to be thankful for today, but, just in case, the above little story details something very specific – that you can drive anywhere you want in the country and have a Tim Horton’s coffee, maybe a bagel, without need of papers or passport! Wow! What a country!

Much less facetiously, every day I am enormously thankful I live in Canada. I have no will to travel anywhere else in the world. I am at home here, at home and grateful for every comfortable moment. Although we are in close proximity to, and increasingly under the influence of, the freeish United States, Canadians maintain an inner strength that defies loss of freedom. Canada is still a country where old hope inspires and new hope flourishes. I give heartfelt, lifelong thanks for that today.

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Eternal Romance

Reid Dickie
“I was a key that could use a little turning.”
 – Soul Asylum
Water and wind and their eternal romance with rock, etched into the weary flesh of stone, glowing eloquent beaches appear and disappear in a flash. On the prairies, in blissful perfection, their story never stops.  Here we are humbled yet throbbing, ecstatic.
There were moments on the Missouri Coteau this summer under a sky that opens up toward you and away from you at the same time when I could feel the mule deer mating just for the fun of it and prairie dogs chasing dragonflies just for the fun of it and evolution happening just for the fun of it! The eternal romance, The Imperative, echoes of Spirit bounding and rebounding everywhere!
Last Friday evening I sat under ancient silent cottonwoods and watched the red September sun sink below the Trans Canada Highway just north of Carberry, MB. I was staying at the Robin’s Nest Motel and Cafe (for the price, I recommend it). It is dry now and harvest time so the sunset was tempered with a fine yellow haze that lingered on the horizon all day. Swirls of sylphs dreamt above the setting sun. Silhouettes of dog walkers moved against the yellow horizon, crickets chimed the eternal temperature, the motel buzzed and the TCH hummed along. The dust turned the dusk to pink deepening to red, wisps of pale yellow meandered across the haze. The night cooled from near 30 degrees C.
 
Under the friendly cottonwoods I thought of what I had gained over the past two days of travel in southwestern Manitoba: my energy level was very high due to lots of sunshine and discovery, on which I thrive. I was learning, yearning and leaning – everything a man could need!
I was doing what I had yearned to do: to travel, see new things, meet new people, get ideas, feel at home wherever I go, bring Spirit out in myself, set the example, be the change!
The next day I returned to the city but detoured to Beaudry Park just west of Headingley for a couple of hours in the shade. It was a hot, hot day and the trees were alive with voices. In the distance I kept hearing trains. I had wanted to videotape a fast train. I love the noise, horizontal movement and the earth moving up and down with the weight of the speeding train. When I left the park I explored toward the sound. I crossed the Canadian National Railway mainline on a gravel road and shot a video of a fast freight that came by about 20 minutes later heading west. If you don’t have to be anywhere in a hurry and you’d like to watch a long fast freight train go by close up with great sound, click this into your life. Shot Saturday, September 10, 2011 at the CNR mainline crossing south of Beaudry Park on Manitoba PR 424. Train freaks will get a chubby, guaranteed! Watch for the engineer waving.
 
On the prairies in late summer – around now – there is a moment when the heat holds its breath and the cold sneaks in, a glimpse of our inevitable future, making the skin on our brown bodies tighten. Today that moment, the hinge, arrived. The north wind chills us today, reminds us today.

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Brandon Flood Update Tuesday May 17

Reid Dickie

“Right now we are measuring hope and progress in inches.”

That word comes from Brandon’s ever-quotable mayor Shari Decter Hirst at this morning’s media briefing after Assiniboine River levels dropped eight inches since Monday. The flood crest is occurring now in Brandon, the dikes are holding though still monitored 24/7 and any breaches so far have been small and manageable. Though the week has been sunny and warm there is a day or two of rain coming over the weekend which could complicate the event depending on duration and amount. Otherwise, city officials are struggling to control a sewage lift plant that is experiencing leakage of river water.

The picture above is an aerial view of Kasiurak Bay off Kirkcaldy Drive north of the river. The dike along the left side is topped with an aqua dam.

The bad news today for Brandon’s 1350 evacuees is they will not be returning to their homes before the end of May and likely much longer. This also applies to business evacuated due to flood risk.

I will report on flood conditions in Brandon and Portage Wednesday evening.

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I Had a Wake-Up Call Today

Reid Dickie

              A friend accused me of not being honest about myself on this blog, of not revealing how I am really faring with my new life, my new reality. Instead of reporting truthfully, my friend says I am covering myself up and hiding behind silliness and fluff, showing only my culture-bound side and little of my inner life. Since I made such a big deal about it at the start, my friend wants me to update my grieving process regularly. Fair enough. My intent is not to garner sympathy but to give you an honest taste of my current state.

            I still can’t throw out Linda’s toothbrush.

            Sometimes I still have to stop and think, ‘Is mine blue or green?’ Hers is blue. It languishes in the tumbler by the bathroom sink next to mine as it has for fifteen months. It’s not even Linda’s last toothbrush, that would be the one she used in the hospital for the final two months of her life. Sometimes she was so stoned with the heavy-duty drugs that tried to keep her pain at bay, she’d freeze in mid-air while brushing her teeth, elbow up, lips frothy, brush in her mouth, eyes closed, completely gone, erased by the drugs, a heart-breaking tableaux vivant, a desolate prelude. That toothbrush and her other stuff from the hospital were easy to get rid of but this one stays, for now. I don’t expect Linda to come back and use it again. I’m past that.

            Just after 9 o’clock on Christmas morning, 2009, Angela, one of the nurses at Riverview, the palliative care centre where Linda had chosen to die, called me. She said Linda’s breathing had changed overnight and they were being vigilant for the next phase. She wondered what time I was planning to come up. I said around noon, which Angela thought was fine.

            Death was en route.

            Forty minutes later Angela called back to say I should probably come as soon as possible. The four of us – Garcea, Kenny, Alex and myself – got there by 10:45 to find Linda peaceful and relaxed, mostly unresponsive, waiting. When we arrived, she opened her right eye just a crack to see who was there. Her skin was very grey, mask-like, another of the dreadful deteriorations I’d witnessed since September. Her brow bore deep wrinkles the neural pain had inscribed there.

            Death was in the lobby.

            Linda’s breathing became more halting over the next two hours. We each sat with her, talked to her, held her hand, said good-bye and lovingly waited with her.

            Death was in the elevator.

            A little after one o’clock, Linda suddenly opened both her beautiful brown eyes and took one last brief look around. Her breathing became staggered.

            Death entered the room.

            She slipped away very peacefully, breathing haltingly then long gaps then nothing. At 1:15 Christmas Day, with the four people she loved most in the world by her side, Linda’s life stopped. We, the four newly left-behind, held each other, tears flowed freely, missing her already.

            Death moved on. 

            Since Linda died fifteen months ago, there has been just one day when I have not shed tears for her. This was about 10 days ago so see it as progress if you like. I try not to get up too early as this makes for some very long days to somehow fill. Mornings are still the worst part of my day, when the tears flow the easiest and hardest. Sneak attacks of sudden tears still catch me through the day though these are becoming less frequent, less intense.  

            Most of the recognized stages of grief still arise occasionally in me. Sometimes I’ve been able to step back from them and view the process with a healthy perspective. I’m going to try that here as I report on each stage of my grief separately. The shock and denial stage is over, the dreadful question “How could this happen?” rarely arises in my thoughts. Emotions are still very handy and freely expressed when necessary. The nature of my emotional response often depends on how raw I feel at the time, how vulnerable I am.

             Anger tends to be directed at myself, seldom expressed fully or externally, my least healthy trait. I have managed to avoid becoming extremely physically ill from the grief though my short bout with heart and chest in the hospital in January probably had a partial grief source. Panic is rare now, diluted to general uncertainty and difficulty making firm decisions sometimes.  

            It has always been very important to me to feel guilty about something. Limitless guilt opportunities arose during and after Linda’s death. For two months last spring I was undone daily by remorse and regret. During that time, Linda and I refined our new communication skills and she told me everything has been forgiven. One of the beautiful consequences of death is utter forgiveness. She said it made her feel great and hoped someday I’d be able to feel the glorious release of utter forgiveness, too. Still a conscious part of my grieving process, I seek self-forgiveness daily, finding it occasionally and sharing in Linda’s bliss.

            I have known depression as an unkind friend in my life. Of all the personal work I have done using shamanism, the spirits have been most helpful dealing with depression. In two cases, they rooted out the cause and I took action to cure myself. Both worked wonderfully, restoring some peace in each instance. The cause of this depression is obvious. I am still in the spirit’s care and manage it well.

            Depression’s cruel brother, loneliness, is who I struggle with now. He’s a wily bugger bearing two dreadful gifts. One gift is loneliness of the flesh when my skin, my meat, my whole body craves a human touch, a caress, a hug, warmth, closeness, to prove I’m still alive, to prove I’m human, to say I’m not alone, to help me feel the deep-down sacredness of my own flesh. His other gift is loneliness of the mind which arises directly out of the facts, my new reality, undeniable, complete, true. This grim gift always evokes sadness and loss, demands repeated acceptance of the facts and the consideration of unknown possible futures. It has taught me to understand fully the meaning of being alone in a crowd. I have good friends and rely on them for help through this stage. I am strong.

            Developing new helpful routines has mostly eluded me so far. I spend much too much time tapping away here to fix my attention on patterns for my days. I see this post, this entire blog, as a way to be trusting and open with people, foregoing any suspicions or re-entry problems that might arise for me. Blogging as therapy!

            Hope is building in me every day now. Having a fulfilled life again seems possible. My energy is returning and the world feels mostly bearable again. Springtime in Manitoba is always a source of new hope. Last year I had unbound travel, the DickTool Kit to create and the Celebration of Light and Linda to plan. This summer has no duties or responsibilities, nothing to anticipate, which is why I’m making some general plans to travel. I have realized I am in charge of my own hope.

            The final stage of grief is acceptance and getting on with my life.  I accept that my new life is real, that I am finding new purpose and that my heart will always be full of love for my Beautiful One. I accept grief in all its guises as it arises and use my many inner resources to integrate and transcend it. I affirm my new reality.

            Physically, I haven’t changed much in the house where Linda and I lived for 20 years. Everything about the place reminds me of her which is sometimes beneficial for me, sometimes not. I have no solid plans about moving or re-arranging the house. As spring approaches, the gardens front and back become more and more daunting. Together we could weed, feed and manage them. As a solo project I am overwhelmed. Their future is uncertain.

            Through shamanism Linda and I remain in continuing contact. Communing with her using inner techniques – some we developed together over the living years – has consoled me immeasurably. Always in my heart, she is never far away from my spirit. On my shamanic journeys, Linda has become a helpful spirit, aiding with healing, discovery and protection work for myself and others. Her overriding message is, and always has been, Be Happy. Hearing Linda say in my head, “Be Happy, Reid” keeps me afloat during the hard moments.

            I can never underestimate nor find enough gratitude for the soulful, loving friends and family, organic and inorganic, who have rallied around me and helped me in ways sometimes unpredictable. I wholeheartedly thank my friend for challenging me today, for spurring me to dig deep into myself and report honestly. The process of writing this post has been another helpful step in my grieving, making me introspect and update my current state. Writing always has a therapeutic characteristic for me and today I feel a little better because of it. I promise you my blog will remain diverse, interesting and unpredictable but with extra personal edge.

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HOPE

Need to feel hopeful today? Click picture.

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12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY 1

MEDICINE ROCK

 August 19, 2010

“I am afraid to touch it”

             I’m not sure how I first learned of Medicine Rock but I’ve been drawn to it in the past without success finding it. Four fruitless searches for the site – twice on my own, once with Linda a couple of years back, once earlier this summer – turned up nothing. I was beginning to think Medicine Rock didn’t want me to find it. That happens. But this time – aha! Fifth time is the charm. I have help this time. After four failed attempts, I find someone who actually knows where it is and can direct me.

Medicine Rock festooned with foliage and the offerings of countless generations.

            Harry Harris at the Alonsa Conservation District gives me immaculate directions to Medicine Rock, which deliver me there lickity splickly. I’m good at following good directions. East of Riding Mountain and south of St Amelie, MB I drive on good gravel that becomes not so good gravel that becomes no gravel at all, just dirt. The Mighty Avenger gets a good prairie trail workout heading into the bush then further into the bush then just a little further into the bush then a bit more bush, all the while churning up a fine black dust behind us. Next to a rough hand-painted sign leaning up against two oak trees, a path leads into the bush. Medicine Rock, at last!

            I smudge with sweetgrass in the car, get out and stand in the wonderful silence.  I wait in the warm afternoon for a slight loosening of the contraction of being we all have and can feel as tightness just behind our eyes. Until I feel the knot loosen a bit, I’m unsure if I am welcome. I wait.

            Turning, I see, 40 feet down the road I came in on, a half-grown black bear. It stops, looks at me and sits down. I say, “Holy shit, there’s Bear.” Bear is one of my power animals. Then another half-grown bear comes out of the woods, yawns, sits down and paws the air next to the first. I get into the car and wait for mama bear to show up. The two cubs eventually amble across the road and into the woods away from Medicine Rock and me. A few minutes later mama bear bounds across the road after the cubs, paying no attention to me but certainly knowing I am here.

            I am thrilled to see one of my power animals as guardian of Medicine Rock. The powers of courage and strength radiate from Bear, appropriate since many of the travelers and hunters who left offerings here over millennia sought those same powers. I wait in the car, alert, quickened by the knowledge I am not at the top of the food chain, a situation that occurs about frequently enough. In a while, I re-smudge and emerge into the afternoon to wait for the welcome. I feel a prickle down my spine and my face tightens into a big smile. I am welcome. Everything feels fine. I walk the short path to Medicine Rock singing my power song.

            Medicine Rock is a huge boulder, six feet high, ten feet across and eight feet deep, nestled in an aspen and oak glen twenty steps off the road. It is thickly garnished with verdant and wild foliage that grows from tiny cracks and narrows shelves on the rock. Encircled by dense growth, riff with elemental forest spirits and tangled in the music of aspen, oak and lark, the old stone is alive, its heart beats once every century. Content, it radiates power. Immediately I am brought fully into the moment, humbled, in awe of the ancient stone. I am afraid to touch it. I tremble.

            Walking around the stone on a recently mowed area, I hear a red-tailed hawk overhead, ever-present frequent guardian of sacred places. When I ask the old stone if I can take a few pictures, there is subtle acquiesce from Medicine Rock that escapes the grasp of language. Most inner events at sacred sites are state-specific, that is they exist only in one state and cannot be translated easily or at all into another. At this moment, my physical sensations are shivery and lightness, emotionally I feel very balanced with little bliss currents pulsing through my awareness.

            One of the on-site signs explains the Ojibway legend of the mischievous little people who inhabit both the material and spirit worlds. Medicine Rock is thought to be a gateway between realms. To keep the little spirits from becoming malevolent, tobacco offerings are left on the cracks and crevices of Medicine Rock. I leave one of my hand-made feather flyaways on a bush near the old stone, sing my power song again and thank Spirit for getting me here.

            Medicine Rock gives me a little gift. Just as I am about to get in the car to leave, I look down and there is a round piece of chert on the ground, about the size of a loonie and covered in little black polka dots. I pick it up and it’s a small scraper with evident chipping along one edge to make it sharp. It is small enough for a child’s hand, perhaps learning the life skills. I ask the scrapper to travel with me and it agrees. Thank you Medicine Rock.

             (Over the past few hours while researching and writing this report, I have wondered where the little scrapper might be. I have lost track of it. Searching for something unrelated just a few minutes ago, I accidentally picked up my briefcase by the bottom, spilling its contents all over the floor, scrapper included. Wonder spawns wonder.)

Side view of Medicine Rock

             I drive away elated and fulfilled. Since this is my first visit, I came with no intent other than to discover and explore. My experience at Medicine Rock is worth all the attempts and now becomes another useful part of my personal mythology. As a shamanic resource for me, Medicine Rock generates enormous strength, which I can now access to augment Bear’s contribution. When I need to return, alone or with a spiritual ally, Medicine Rock is an easy site to reach in dry weather, impassable when wet. The road leading into the bush just past the bush through more bush is black dirt, zero gravel.

 DAY TRIPPING

ASSINIBOINE VALLEY ARBORETUM

 July 28, 2010

            On this warm July evening along Highway 83, the wide Assiniboine Valley a few kilometers south of Miniota, MB offers its beautiful vista including several fields flooded by the river. At the south end of the valley, just off the highway, I discover the Assiniboine Riparian Forest Centre, an endeavour of Manitoba Hydro’s Forest Enhancement Program.

             Situated on the high banks of the Assiniboine and not flooded, the Centre covers several acres with dozens of varieties of trees and bushes, all well planted, mulched with straw and very healthy. Over 600 trees were planted in 2008 with more added this fall. Each variety has a written description and picture of it when mature, easily read from the winding well-maintained pathway among the flora. Along with Manitoba’s familiar coniferous and deciduous trees, the arboretum features many fruit trees, berry bushes and some hybrids.

            A maintained pathway, accessible from the arboretum, offers a pleasant stroll through the forest along the banks of the Assiniboine, a river with many secrets along its wide valley. The trail has benches and picnic tables, school and public tours are offered. The Riparian Forest’s grand opening is set for Spring 2011.

           

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