Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gotta love those Peak Experiences

In late April I went to Brisbane to see a concert. Not just any concert. It was more of a pilgrimage come to think of it. You know how sometimes there is a band or a song or solo artist that seems to speak to you? You listen to them/it and you feel the lyrics in your gut, your heart, your soul. The words inspire you to be better. The music makes you want to move your body. Even if the lyrics are dead serious, the music still makes you feel uplifted or energized. 

I was introduced to this artist well into his music career. I was in a happy place. Mabel Lake. A couple hours north of Kelowna, B.C. at my brother's cottage. The cottage is a TV free zone, other than a collection of movie DVDs, there is no cable or TV antenna. There is no phone line. If you want to connect to the world, you have to walk (or drive) to the marina store. I tell you all of this to explain why music is an important part of the vibe there. It is an eclectic collection of old and new. The first time I visited the family (the fun part of my family according to my daughter), we sat around the big kitchen table the first night, playing cards, board games, consuming a few bevvies (natch) and my bro put on a CD I had never heard before.

With all the chatter and shenanigans going on around me, the music, playing moderately loud, immediately resonated with me. I asked who it was. My bro looked at me incredulously. You've never heard Michael Franti? I had not. I found myself actually needing to move my body. I was glad when I was able to rotate out of the game we were playing and found myself in the kitchen dancing as though it was the only thing in the world to do. Without question, this was the beginning of my love affair with this music. A little bit reggae, a little bit hip hop, a little bit folk, a little bit rock. Just a great combination of meaningful lyrics (he is a poet too) and the kind of dance beat I gravitate toward.

They only had one of his CDs. Yell Fire. It became the anthem at the cottage over the next couple of  years. A Mable Lake weekend could not officially start until Michael Franti blasted out from the stereo. That, and a cold beer. We listened to it in the morning. We took it out on the boat and blasted it in the middle of the lake (no wonder we could not catch a fish). We cranked it up at cocktail hour. Then once more for good measure after dinner when the games would commence. No one tired of it. So, the last time I was at the lake, we all agreed that if he was ever performing anywhere near, we would have to go see him. When I heard he was going to be in Brisbane, I was stoked, but sad that the whole gang would not be able to go. It was going to be up to me to represent the family. 

I hooked up with Steve's niece who lives there and the two of us set off to see the concert. An odd couple in many ways as I am twice her age, but somehow, even that made sense. She was not as familiar with his music, but was open, and that is all you really need to be. I was not sure what to expect. The venue was smallish and intimate. The Tivoli, an old theatre, was exactly the type of space for him and the crowd. Standing only. A bar. It was more club-like and the atmosphere was perfect for what was about to happen. The warm up band was, not surprisingly, very capable of holding their own. Nahko and Medicine for the People came out rocking. In no time at all the room was buzzing. They were the perfect pre-cursor to the  main event. 

What took place next was like something I had never experienced at a concert in my life. Within seconds everyone was moving. Hands up, bouncing, jumping, singing along. The entire crowd seemed, dare I say it...as one. It was the most overwhelming feeling of unity. We all loved his music, his energy was contagious. The air was thick with positivity. Everyone was smiling. Every soul in that room was on the same page. It felt like the kind of collective energy that could move mountains. Had we all drank the same Kool-aid? If we had, I did not care. I wanted it to last forever. He was like some kind of happy messiah working his way through the crowd, dancing, singing, hugging people. We all wanted a piece of him. I touched him a couple times in passing, his sweat-soaked t-shirt against my palm, a sticky moist souvenir I wanted to take home. Maybe his DNA would infuse me somehow. Who would not want to catch whatever it is he has?

At the end of the 'party", my young friend turned to me and said, "Wow, I have never been to a concert like that before. What just happened there?" We were both smiling, soaked with sweat, energized after about 2 hours of non-stop dancing and a little bit stunned. It was like we had all just experienced a significant shift. And it felt like love. 

One great big musical orgasm.

The power of art.


Monday, May 26, 2014

From Where I Sit

Shiny silvery patchwork bark
covers the tall gum
A coat of understated elegance
Foxtail and ponytail fronds
Swaying, swishing, softly
before a cloudless cerulean sky

Momentary glance one

The poolside fence
a perch, a lookout
The Kookaburra first
Doves and Topknots follow
trying out the king's throne

Dew shimmers

Momentary glance two

Agave sculptures twice
mirrored in the pool
Three eucalyptus leaves
drift by, canoes without paddles
Rainbow Lorakeets disrupt the quiet

They leave, silence returns

Momentary glance three

Vermillion nastursiums
punch and pop their fiery heads
above their mock lily pad leaves
Screaming their bold colours
Unafraid to be eaten.

Courageous souls.

Momentary glance four

Two swooping cockatoos
sulphur-crested, chasing each other?
Following each other? 
Perfomance art? Excitement!
King Kookaburra is back

In the old gumtree, like the song says

This is where life happens
Outside my window
away from screens
and desks
Time to dress and join it

from where I sit.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Don't wait for the Bottom

Human nature is a funny thing. Lately I have been giving a lot of thought to the notion of change and how difficult it is for most of us and that in most cases it takes some sort of a crisis in our lives to catapult us into a new way of living. Even the smallest changes seem to require some catalyst.

And so, those of us who adhere to the glass half full philosophy in life, view crisis as a good thing. It can be the only thing sometimes that creates or rather forces change upon us. This requires living consciously and being able to interpret the crisis into a positive rather than dwell upon it as a negative event in our lives. Don't get me wrong. I am not diminishing the pain of life altering events. Death. Divorce. Illness. Not at all. What I am saying is I think it is crucial we don't let these things bury us. 

This leads me to wondering why, when we know that things like death are inevitable, do we wait until the last possible moment to forge ahead and do what we know we have to do. Are we such an apathetic species that we think it is OK to just sit around and wait for things to happen? Clearly we know that if we want things to change, it requires full participation. We don't wake up one morning, step out of bed and walk into a new life. 

No, instead we hem and haw and analyze and fret and research and hope and pray and maybe even wait for divine intervention depending on the change that needs to take place. Maybe a pill for instant weight loss or an aid for smoking cessation, or a tonic that replaces drugs or alcohol will turn up at the local pharmacy and suddenly your problems with addiction will vanish in the blink of an eye. But as we know, this is not about to happen any time soon, as much as we wish it would. 

What does present itself more often than not however is the crisis. The rock bottom moment. The last straw. Call it what you like. It will eventually come unless you wake up and nip it in the bud. Oh sure, there are some folks that abuse their health their entire lives and we look at them and wonder why they are not dead yet. You all know one. The smoker who lives to 100. The morbidly obese gal who needs a dozen pallbearers to carry her casket to the cemetery at 90. Keith Richards, for gawd's sake. There are those who manage to beat the odds. But in reality, not many. We read about those human miracles because they are just that. Miracles. We find it fascinating. How could a human being endure such abuse and stay alive? It gives us a little justification for our own smaller abuses.

Just as often we read about the health nut who croaks at 47. That allows us to sit back and say, "Yeah, it's a crapshoot alright. You never know when your number is up." And that is often true as well. We all know someone who led a pristine lifestyle and never smoked or drank or did drugs or gained an ounce after their wedding and we watched while Cancer came down and swooped them up before their time. That one scares us. We need a reason. If they were doing everything right, how did that happen? That leads us to wonder if we should even bother trying to eat right and exercise and avoid toxic life choices. But what else can we do? Live a life of reckless abandon and take our chances? Would that even feel good? Sure, the idea of stuffing your face with chocolate cake and ice cream everyday has a certain appeal, but the reality is, after a few days you would feel like crap. Eventually you likely would experience a health crisis and then the time you did have left would be of miserable quality and not worth living anyway.

I just read about another musician the other day - Avril Lavigne's ex husband - Deryck Whibley of Sum 41 fame, a young man who nearly drank himself to death and now, having hit his rock bottom, claims he will get better and start to write music again. His doctor told him if he has one more drink he will  likely die. If that is not incentive to quit the self abuse, well, nothing can save him. Which leads me to wonder if doctors don't need to be more aggressive with their advice to their patients. I have a bit of an issue with that. Most of them are afraid to present the cold hard facts to their patients in my experience. Case in point. At a doctor's appointment years ago after I had gained a lot of weight, I had a glance at my chart when the doctor left the examination room for a minute to get something and I read the description of me. I saw the word 'obese". I knew I was overweight. No question. But, obese? That really had an impact on me. Seems my BMI had crept over 30 and that is the definition of obese. The doctor never said a word to me about my weight. Did she think she would insult me? Why would she keep that information to herself? It would have been a good kick in my fat ass to do something about it. Had I not read that, I might never have taken the steps I took to lose the weight. That word scared the shit out of me. Maybe they wait until the diagnosis is "morbidly obese, or super obese". Those are the next stages. That was my rock bottom. And the battle rages on. 

Once again, I have allowed some of it to creep back on. There is a price to pay for my gap year of indulgence. I have had a headache for two days now as I withdraw from caffeine, sugar and wine. Time for a break from all three. One thing I have learned. I don't ever want to hit rock bottom again. 

This time I don't need a health crisis to motivate me. 

Seems I have evolved a bit.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Road to Perfection is Long and Winding

Sitting here sipping an organic latte and feeling all is right in my world. I love these moments. My daughter is still here and she is still slumbering just down the hall - her presence a comfort to me. I love the early mornings here. The birds are my alarm and the cooler temps are so welcome and interestingly uplifting my mood and energy levels. In addition to these simple pleasures, the salad garden I planted about 3 weeks ago is starting to flourish and for the last two  mornings I have been able to harvest some soft fresh arugula and spinach leaves to have on my breakfast sandwich.

That's right. A breakfast sandwich. Two slices of toasted Helga's Sunflower and Red Quinoa bread (gluten-free of course!), smashed avocado, my baby garden greens, one sliced free range organic hard boiled egg, freshly ground pink Himalayan salt, cracked pepper and a few freshly picked basil leaves. I could eat this for any meal really - but is is a great breakfast or lunch.

I think back to my childhood breakfasts of  a slice of white toast with butter and jam or a bowl of some sugar coated cereal and shudder now. Not surprisingly, as a child, I was plagued  with ear infections and throat maladies and colds. All that sugar was depleting my immune system. We knew nothing about that back then. Just like we knew nothing about the dangers of smoking and I did that for a time as well. I have become a firm believer in the connection between nutrition and health. My own brother has reversed his lymphoma by going Vegan. 

However, I digress. Back to my breakfast. Not only is every bite delicious, but I swear I can feel myself get healthier with each swallow of this nutritious powerhouse. It just occurred to me that I could add some fresh tomato slices as well. Maybe tomorrow. My tomato harvest was not as abundant as I had hoped but there were a couple to pick each day, albeit on the small side. It was my first attempt in many years to grow my own tomatoes and between the unfamiliar climate and soil conditions, I suppose I should not be too self-critical.  At least I succeeded in keeping them alive and they actually produced some fruits! 

Knowing where my food has been grown and more importantly HOW it has been grown is becoming more and more important to me. I barely need to give my own veggies a rinse to knock off the dust and sometimes I just stand in the garden and give a tomato a rub on my sleeve and eat it standing in the sun knowing it is free of pesticides. I find myself in the grocery store observing all the flawless produce wondering how it ended up so unblemished.  I try to buy organic as much as possible, especially apples, as they are notoriously heavily sprayed for commercial consumption. The adage that an apple a day may keep the doctor away may be true for apples that are not doused in toxins, but sadly, the majority are.

It is a journey of healthy living that I have been on for many years now and I am far from perfecting the ideal. Old habits are hard to break. I do still indulge in less than healthy foods from time to time. I kid myself with organic potato chips and organic dark chocolate, justifying my indulgences with the fact they are what I call "healthy junk food". And for all intents and purposes, they are, but they are still unnecessary calories in the end. And then of course there is wine. More empty calories. The thought of giving it up crosses my mind constantly. So far, it remains a thought. Seems the road to perfection is paved with Golden Chardonnay coloured bricks lined with Burgundy and Merlot houses with Pink Chablis shutters. 

Maybe if and when I ever reach the great and powerful wizard he will tell me I was meant to enjoy that road and I will be able to assure him I did.

.....hmmm, maybe organic wine is the answer. ;-)