Baja Blue

Baja Blue
Bluetrue sky of the Korokoro Hills

Sunday, 6 December 2015

New Life Begins.....

The lemon yellow room with the white bunk beds looked out over the tall trees.  I loved the way the late afternoon sun made it almost glow, and the vantage point it provided for admiring the setting sun.  But those white beds, with their cheery, almost nautical theme, also served as a reminder of a very sad and painful time indeed.
Standing empty in front of the walls that had been insulated by my husband and painted by me in preparation for the adopted Ethiopian girls whose arrival was written on our hearts but was apparently not meant to be, they spoke volumes in the quiet. And the noise created by that quiet was so deafening that, for a time, I could not visit that room.
Then, some light.  My niece and nephew stayed in that lemony space, filling it with laughter.  Little Charlotte, in our city with her parents for a year while we were abroad, made the lemon room her own, declaring it home.  Her baby brother Kiva, almost born in the house itself, also spent time there, growing big and strong.
Yesterday, a moving van arrived to take our white bunk beds to one of the first Syrian refugee families arriving in Canada, whose little girls, 4 and 7, had to leave beds and toys and everything else behind when they fled Syria with the family after the first bombs fell.  We haven't met them, but are glad to know their new life will be made just a bit easier because of those beds.  For what is more important than a safe place to lay your head.
Today, we fashioned a new little reading and writing room out of that glowing lemony space, with a pull-out bed for visitors, just in case.  Curled up on the couch, books in hand, with the setting sun illuminating everything, we sense new life all round.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Beginning with Gratitude

A few weeks back in our home city, I was wrestling with the mundane challenges of my return to regular life.  The beautiful vistas of Moorea and Bora Bora had been replaced with traffic jams on the 401, the grime and routine of daily urban living, and the still palpable grief of losing my beloved Father-in-Law.  And I was struggling to maintain the healthy habits I had started on our year away, and felt overwhelmed with doubt about my capacity to successfully return to work.  Then, something surprising happened as I was struggling with the fog of "re-entry": the teachers and teachings I needed to help me navigate this return to the familiar appeared in front of me, just as I needed them.

Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra launched a glorious new 21 day meditation challenge focused on gratitude, and I cried thankful tears at the many extraordinary blessings in my life.  Kris Carr focused her wonderful blog on editing our massive personal "to do" lists, just as I needed to hear that message.  And I suddenly realized that the blue sky, seen through the magnificent maple trees in our very own Christie Pits Park, is just as blue as in other glorious ports we visited over the past year, and there is other beauty, such as the community garden, to discover there as well.  In short, I discovered that grace, and beauty, can be located readily with an open heart in the stillness anywhere.    

Eckhart Tolle said: "Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance." And the wonderful Mary Oliver, who has made an art of seeing and being grateful, said: "Hello, sun in my face/Hello you, who made the morning/Watch, now, how I start the day/in happiness, in kindness."

Here's to starting and ending the day in gratitude, which is, it seems, the perfect place both to begin, and begin again.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Start of A New Journey

I am sitting, not in a beautiful Polynesian bungalow, but in the less dramatic (but still beautiful) sitting room of our home in Toronto, contemplating one key question: Can I take what I learned from our extraordinary journey, and apply it to my life, in ways that help me to live a healthy and happy life?  Can I even survive, (let alone thrive), in this new/old world -- (the world I left just one year ago, but which now feels so foreign, and mainly unwelcome?)  And, with insomnia and fuzzy headedness and back pain already "back" -- (before I have even formally returned to work!) -- can I live that "old life" in new ways, with new tools, that allow me to not only survive (as I just barely did, one year ago) but hopefully to actually thrive?  I don't know the answers to these questions yet, but am going to try to find out.

The end of our journey was marked first by great joy, and (a surprising!) feeling of both great love, and protection; followed by great sadness and vulnerability (more on both of those, later).  Despite the dizzying swing between those two seemingly opposite states, when I found a moment to breathe and finally take it all in, I decided that the one, singular conclusion of the journey remains true, (at least for me), namely -- that we must make our way delicately, but with great purpose, and with a deep respect for the world and all that is in it; and, (especially), with great Love, which is, in the end, all that is.

My sister gave me a card with a (beautiful!) poem by William Stafford, that says: "Starting here, what do you want to remember?/How sunlight creeps across a shining floor?/What scent of old wood hovers, what softened sound from outside fills the air?/....Will you ever bring a greater gift for the world/than the breathing respect that you carry/wherever you go, right now?/What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, in this room, when you turn around?"

Here's to starting a new journey, that brings fresh insights and sees with new eyes; that carries a breathing respect for the world, and lives fully (and joyfully!) in each moment; that recognizes that there is no greater gift than now, starting right here, in this room, when we turn around.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Reflections on a Ten Month Journey

I was sitting in my little Polynesian bungalow at the Hotel Kaveka, watching a slow-burning sunset after an afternoon of heavy rain, contemplating the pending conclusion of our more than ten month travel adventure, thinking: "Have I changed, as a result of all this?; Have place, and people, as P.K. Page asked, changed me?" And the answer, from a new, quiet, but knowing place, deep inside, that I discovered, (or perhaps rediscovered) while away, was "yes".

The hard-driving, Type A woman, who used to measure the day's success by the completed column on her to-do list, (and woke up one day on an ambulance gurney, as a result), had left the building; in her place was someone who was, and is, straining at a much deeper "to do" and, (especially) "to be".

The woman who felt an expanding sense of fear both for and about the world now has a heightened sense of the fragility of this world, but also a greater confidence in the unseen force guiding it, and the strength of the shared bond of love between us -- the "one love, one heart", as Bob Marley so aptly said.  And she has a renewed sense of beauty -- both the astonishing physical beauty that is all around us, but also the quiet beauty in each life, or "the light that can shine out of a life", as Mary Oliver so beautifully phrased it.

Thinking about that beautiful light, and the bonds of love that seem not only intact but growing stronger, while gazing out across Cook's Bay, was almost too much to bear. So I will just say this: We are all in it together in this beautiful, fragile world; we must make our way delicately, but with great purpose; with a deep, breathing respect for the world and all that is in it, and, (especially) with great Love, which in the end, is all there is.

Bora Bora: The Pearl of the Pacific

Bora Bora, the Pearl of the Pacific, is perhaps the bluest, truest dream of all.  On arriving at her small island airport, you are greeted by a most beautiful and unearthly site: the perfectly clear and, in places, milky aquamarine lagoon; and, just beyond, majestic, blue-green Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia rising up to the sky; a scene that is so other-worldly that it feels, truly, like a waking dream.

Having heard of the tourist excess for which Bora Bora has also become known, I wondered what was to come.  But, with most of the tourists ensconced in over-water bungalows, and being blessed to stay at a small, family owned and operated hotel at which I was generally 1 of just 2 or 3 guests -- the lovely Hotel Eden Beach -- I experienced the Bora Bora of my dreams: peaceful, serene and exquisitely beautiful. I spent hours watching the changing colours of the magnificent lagoon, and radiant moon above the palms at night; and was overjoyed to one night see bioluminescent plankton throwing a slashing electric light along the shore as the waves rolled in.  But despite all this beauty, which was itself almost more than the heart could bear, it was once again the protective, lovingkindness of people and even animals that added love as well as beauty to my stay.

I was moved and astonished to have a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary take me under their wing, and have the family dog stand guard outside my suite, all night, and thought: Who am I to deserve such lovingkindness?  And then, (thinking of my morning meditation): You are one of the "spiritual beings having a human experience", who is both worthy of such kindness, and capable of also extending it, in the same way, to others.  And wouldn't the world be a kinder and more loving place if we could all find ways to do that?  Here's to the extraordinarily beautiful places in the world that give us a glimpse of the love that created this world; and the lovingkindness and generosity that bring that beauty, and love, alive in our hearts.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Moorea: Heaven Must Look Like This

I was utterly entranced by beautiful Moorea: it is the place where I rediscovered joy, and felt the grace of genuine lovingkindness.

From the moment I arrived at the Hotel Kaveka, and gazed out, from beneath the palm fronds, across Cook's Bay at majestic Mount Rotui, I thought: "heaven must look like this"; the tropical fish swimming in the lagoon below only added to the magic.  When I got on one of the hotel bikes and started touring around the island -- into charming Maharepa, and then back the other way, past the magnificent lookout at Paopao and the Bali Hai Club -- I felt a free and easy joy that I haven't felt (in great measure) since childhood.

But it was once again the blessed blend of wildly beautiful place and gentle people that cemented my love for this new "home".  An American couple, there celebrating their 10th anniversary, noticed me on my own, (with my husband now home to spend time with his Dad and me to follow); and decided to take me under their wings, including me in some magical adventures, and cementing a new, deep and lovely friendship.  We hiked up past the magnificent lookout at the Belvedere (with one of the men who built the trail!), did an amazing snorkelling and paddling tour, and beautiful sunset tour through Cook and Opunohu Bays, and spent time visiting, talking and dining together.

I was blessed to meet many other lovely people in Moorea, and felt a kind of grace, and special, protective lovingkindness from all.  Here's to the magical places and loving people who bring us joy, and the moments of pure grace, whenever and wherever we find them.

French Polynesia: A Bluetrue Dream Awake

Though I'd never visited before and had only seen pictures and heard some of the legends, the 7-year-old boy adventurer still alive and well in me had sights firmly set on the final destination of the voyage: French Polynesia. And these spectacular islands, archipelagos and coral-reef fringed islets ("motu") in the beautiful South Pacific did not disappoint; instead, they were the culmination of all that I had dreamed about and hoped for, for the voyage: a bluetrue dream, awake.

We started our French Polynesian adventure as almost everyone does: in Tahiti. And, though Tahiti is the largest and most urbanized of the Society Islands -- indelible, unique images of French Polynesian life and culture were already, everywhere evident.  Women, young and old, really do wear flowers in their hair; hibiscus and other blossoms are abundant; the island's interior mountains are deep green, covered in tall palms and ferns; and beautiful black sand beaches, and the blue Pacific beyond, seem to encircle everything.

The Tahitian people we met were extraordinarily kind, and proud of their paradise; and seemed, at least to us, to live their lives more closely focused on the natural beauty that surrounds them.  So I thought: why can't I find ways of more regularly seeking out and savouring the beauty in my corner of the world, even if I don't live in beautiful Tahiti?

You've not seen greens and blues like this before/A canopy of palms, a riot of greens/splay upwards, faces open to the sun and blue blue sky beyond/Above them, a frothy white meringue of clouds spiral lazily upwards/The endless blue day.  Here's to seeking out and appreciating the world's beauty, wherever we can find it; and to finding, and savouring, the endless blue day.