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The hardest part of making this trip was the prospect of Leaving Vancouver, where I have lived for 20 years, and which I love…especially in May when all the new leaves lend their bright green hues to compliment the evergreens’ darker shades. Here are some images of what I left behind.
Ever since 1987, when I fulfilled a long-time dream of seeing Canada by rail, and spent 4 days and nights travelling from Vancouver to Toronto, I have wanted to do it again and see the rest of the country…all the way to Halifax.
In early April, when I heard that VIA Rail Canada was having a huge seat sale, I did not hesitate to carpe diem. When would there be another chance like this?
So I went on viarail.ca and booked the whole country: Vancouver to Halifax — wow! That’s about 6,000 KM or 3,740 miles [according to Mr. Google].
Am happy to report the VIA Rail Canada is alive and well. Like Universal Health Care and the CBC, VIA Rail has historically bound this vast land together, defining us as a nation…a far-flung community. Riding the rails reminds me that all that is still true, and that our federal government has shown the wisdom to preserve and strenthen these ties-that-bind.
So here are some of the highlights of my on-board experiences as well as what I’ve seen on my several stop-overs. I hope this inspires you to take your own Great Trans-Canadian Rail Adventure.
is as near as your mouse!
On Friday, August 7, I will join friends and loved ones near and far to chant for peace.
Please consider joining us in spirit sometime that weekend by setting aside some time to be quiet with yourself, and/or with others, to pray, meditate, and visualize world peace.
I will be thinking of you with love as I do the same.
I have a life-long yearning to promote peace. I was a child of war, conceived unintentionally just before my father shipped off to Europe, and born 2 months after D-Day, where he was part of the landing on Normandy beach. My dear mother, who never planned on motherhood, found herself pregnant and fearful that she might never see her husband again. He did make it home 18 months after I arrived, and was a life-long alcoholic — to try to forget the devastation and suffering he must have witnessed, which I cannot begin to imagine, as they fought their way to Berlin. On the day before my birthday every year, the world remembers the horrors of Hiroshima. I was part of the US War Machine in Vietnam and saw the futility of war firsthand.
Since my 30s I have found yoga, meditation, and kirtan to be extremely beneficial in promoting peace of mind and opening the heart. When my ordinary mind quiets through these practices, and my heart opens by chanting these ancient Indian mantras, I feel a deep connection with all beings. I believe, along with Eckhardt Tolle, that it is essential for human survival that we all cultivate practices that lift us beyond our separate egos. We can promote outer peace as we each discover it within our own hearts. I find it a delightful pleasure to chant with other kindred spirits.
Thank you for joining me!
Two friends have sent me the same poem, which resonates deeply at this point in my life:
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
by Derek Walcott
Like so many people all over the world,
my heart has been deeply touched that Americans have elected Barack Obama.
What inspires me:
- By carrying the genes of the two races so long divided by the legacy of slavery, he both symbolizes and embodies the quickening healing of that deep wound in the national soul.
- The younger generation coming of age in this era of global connectivity understands more than any earlier people that racial differences are superficial. They have embraced him as a leader truly representative of this multi-ethnic culture.
Yet it is not just Barack’s racial mix that has stirred me, and given hope to millions.
- He carries from his early life in multi-ethnic Hawaii and Indonesia a global perspective.
- He is a citizen of the world, and the world is looking up to him as a trans-national leader.
- He integrates the feminine and masculine energies in a special way from the influence of his globally aware, compassionate, single mom.
- Colin Powell calls him a “transformational figure,” — others describe him as a visionary leader.
I am deeply hopeful that he will uplift and inspire people all over the world to come together in a spirit of kindred caring and cooperation.
- In 1955 riding the school bus to summer day camp near Coney Island at age 11, I sat next to another boy I immediately liked. Each day he’d save a seat for me; we became friends. When I wanted to invite him home, or visit his home a few miles from mine, my mother said no…because he was Black. I did not understand.
- Our block in Brooklyn was a White enclave. Across the street was all Black. Back then, polite Whites called them “Colored,” or “Negroes.” More often I heard “niggers,” and was taught to be afraid to go there; yet I did not understand.
- I remember my dear mother saying how much she liked our cleaning lady, Mrs. Hines. Yet she worried about shaking hands with her…as though her Black hands were somehow always dirty, or her Blackness would rub off.
- I remember in university in 1963 when the civil right movement was underway, feeling such hope that “the times they are a-changin’.” That summer, a century after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King’s “Dream” rang out across the land. Barack had just turned 2.
- Just 3 months later, on a cold November night, standing in line for seven hours to view the casket of our slain young President who embodied such promise of a new generation, hundreds of us sang, tearfully yet hopefully, “We Shall Overcome.”
- Five years later, the brutal slaying of King and Bobby Kennedy devastated and disillusioned me deeply.
- I was ashamed to participate in the senseless warfare in Vietnam, which also seemed tinged with racism.
- After Vietnam, I made my home in Berkeley because it seemed such a progressive place. I was saddened to see, even there, the great divide between the mostly White, affluent hills and the mostly Black, lower class “flats.” I chose to live in “the flats”, and to be an out, sexual minority among a visible racial minority. Looking back, I realize maybe it was because I felt different, a social outcast, that I could empathize with the plight of my Black neighours.
- So I am moved to tears of joy and gratitude to see at last that America is overcoming the deep wound left by slavery.
- I am astonished that we have come so far in the 45 years since MLK cried out from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “Let freedom ring!”
Even as I whole-heartedly celebrate this milestone in healing the racial divide,
I am saddened that three more states have enshrined sexual bigotry into their constitutions
during this election, diminishing same-sex love as somehow less than straight love.
Just as I have kept the faith that time would heal our racial wounds, I also am confident that time will bring a more enlightened view of human loving. As the mostly Republican California Supreme Court so eloquently pointed out this year, up until a few decades ago, interracial marriage was illegal in many states.
Barack’s own parents would have been outlaws.
I truly trust that within another generation, people will look back in disbelief that love between two women or two men was ever considered to be any less than love between a woman and man.
we SHALL overcome…someday.”
I recommend this scientific treatise, subtitled, “Animal Homosexuality and Biological Diversity,” by Bruce Bagemihl, 1999, which documents a very gay world in the wild.
It corrects decades of scientific homophobia in under-reporting the incidence of homo-erotic activity in the natural world. For example, it points out that many field observers, when unable to tell the sex of a pair of animals engaged in an erotic exchange, simply assume the mounter is male and the mountee female; thus very few if any homosexual activities were “observed.” When the same-sex pairing was undeniable, they often labelled it as something other than sexual activity, e.g. “tension-reduction”.
As the sun crosses the Equator heading south…the season of balance of light and dark.
Chris and I are just back from an adventure in New York City and Ireland. For me, it was a retrospective: revisiting my childhood roots, sharing them with Chris, who had never seen NYC [“It’s like Toronto on steroids!”] Ireland was about exploring ancestral roots: both my dear mother’s parents emigrated from Ballybunion, County Kerry.
Now how Oyrish is that I’ll be askin’ ya!
NYC is kinder and gentler than I ever remember; younger and more vibrant. It feels more integrated: African-
Americans seem overall more prosperous and a part of the middle-class fabric. Martin Luther King’s “Dream” is becoming reality for many, though not all.
Ireland feels ancient, gentle and soft. Dublin is both Old World and New. The skyline is low and timeless; streets are bustling with Europe’s strongest economy, thanks to IT. Downtown felt oddly familiar, easier to stay oriented than NYC where I grew up, and quite comfortable. Like the rest of the EU, it is now an amalgam of many cultures. It was comforting to see so many Irish faces that could be kin, and also sad to see the cultural roots of my family’s alcoholism. The pub is still the focus is Irish social life, and Guinness is the staple beverage. The puzzle: How can you cross “Publin” without passing a single pub? Answer: go into every single one! That’s a bit of black humour: the late night streets are a messy drunken brawl. But rural Ireland is truly pastoral. The guest house owners were wonderfully motherly and kept immaculate homes, helping me remember my dear mother’s wonderful ways. Most memorable moment: the morning we landed, we wandered Dublin streets, and stopped into Christ Church Cathedral. Sitting in the stone stillness with organ softly playing, we both had tears well up: the prayerful presence of a thousand years’ devotion was quite palpable, and wonderfully grounding in this timeless land. The very best part of travelling away from Vancouver for me is coming home; I love living here! After this holiday of looking back to my roots, I am looking forward this fall to adding a new skill to my professional menu: Personal Life Coaching, which I began studying and practicing early this year. For twenty-five years I have been enjoying helping people lead healthier lives with relaxation skills, yoga, meditation, and holistic massage. Now, in addition, I will be facilitating people making positive changes in their lives through focussed explorations of their desires, values, and creative inspirations. The profession of Life Coaching is still fairly new, and is based on recent insights in psychology and neurology, which build on what I learned twenty years ago doing my Master’s in East/West Psychology. Because it is usually conducted by phone, I can coach people anywhere. I hope you’ll look at GrowingFulfilment.com and tell anyone you think may be interested.