Sunday, June 29, 2008

View from the Marsh

I’ve been walking more than running these days, but even this has been sporadic. So, in an effort to get myself into the groove again, on Thursday night, I walked with Ann Duffy’s Nordic Walking group out on the Hillsborough marsh. We left from the Tourist info building at 6:30 pm. (Check the link to the Albert County Events calendar on the sidebar for other nordic walking nights). Some walked in twos and talked, others walked in solitude, but each at their own pace.

We stopped at the midway point, by the river lookout beside the old gypsum silos, to wait for everyone to catch up and I was able to appreciate the views back toward the village. The tranquility of this space always reaches out to me and I feel so fortunate to live in an area where scenes of such understated beauty are commonplace. Ann and her group motivated me with their enthusiasm and inspired me to get with the routine.

The next morning, my dog and I were out on the marsh again. For a solid, glorious hour she romped and I strode along the river dyke as the tide flowed in from the bay. Long grasses bent in the same breezes that kept us cool in the morning heat, bringing the smells of fresh-turned earth and the myriad of wildflowers that grow so prolifically here.

In the quietude of marsh life, cobalt blue dragonflies and tiny periwinkle butterflies crossed paths in mid-air. I spotted a deer, grazing and nibbling at fresh shoots. A bald eagle soared. A farmer plowed a field between long lines of raspberry canes; another walked through hip-high grass with a border collie, searching for something.

Suddenly, there along the dyke, miles from any homestead, I spotted a single, mature honeysuckle bush, fragrant with blooms. I had to wonder how it came to rest there. Had someone dug it from an unruly garden and discarded it many years ago? Or had it steadily grown from a seed or sprout? Somehow, it found a place to root, to grow and to bloom in glorious colour, so solitary walkers, like me, could find joy in the surprise of its presence.

Looking back towards Hillsborough, it was easy to imagine the ebb and flow of life here for the past 300 years. I couldn’t help but consider how our transplanted ancestors found roots here in this wild space. Somehow, from nothing, they built solid, colourful lives for themselves and all those who could come after.

Tall white church steeples punctuated the sky along a main road lined with historic homes, many owned by generations of family. I thought about how they built the community; about the sweat that went into creating and maintaining these dykes and wondered how many others had walked this route through the centuries and appreciated this view.

When you take a chance, make a new beginning, plant a new seed, add a new routine, act on a new idea, you really have no idea how far down the road, it will bloom into something much bigger than you ever dreamed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

When do ideas become actions?

A few weeks ago, I watched my sister-in-law, Beth, as she made peanut butter cookies. Her strong, capable hands dipped into the big bowl and emerged with a small mound of dough. These same hands rolled the dough into ball, picked out a small portion, rolled, added a little chunk of dough, then rolled the it again in the palm of her hand.

While she talked to her guests, laughed, told stories, these hands kept working, rolling, adjusting, giving, taking away, rolling again, creating tiny, perfect balls of cookie dough.

I looked at the others, all lined up and evenly spaced on the cookie sheet, each one the exact same size.

Beth has made a lot of cookies in her life – for her two daughters, her husband, for church functions and bazaars; now for her grand-daughters, as well. Like her husband, Roger, who taught me to fly-fish, her hands don’t need her mind to work. They just do what she’s trained them to do. If I asked her what she remembered about that particular day, she’d say the enjoyment of talking with family members. The routine of cookie-making was a relaxing background task.

I remember when I learned to run – it was so hard, so foreign…my body needed time to learn what I wanted it to do. A friend once remarked, “For the first 20 minutes, my body just screams at me, ‘Stop! What are you doing to me?’, then all of a sudden, it’s like it says, ‘Oh…I get it…this is what you want me to do.’ And then everything kicks into gear and feels great.” She nailed it. After the first 15-20 minutes, running found rhythm. Rhythm found release. Release found revelation. Running was what generated my best thinking. I set out to learn to run, but also learned to elevate my thoughts.

With new things, our body needs to get used to the action, to warm up to the idea – just like our minds. At a recent workshop, the facilitator said, “On average, we hear an idea six times before we remember or act upon it. Six times.”

I think far too often, we don’t give ourselves enough time to adjust to something new before we give up on it. Beth made a lot of cookies before she perfected the routine.

Pull out an idea, roll it around in your mind, add a bit to it, take a bit away, roll it about some more until it’s the perfect shape and size. Then act on it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Footloose Rocks Again!

Last night Footloose 2008 relaunched and we sold an awesome 260 memberships, with more to come! An optional weight loss challenge was added this year and registrants lined up at the scales to ascertain their baseline weight. The challenge is to lose 10% of body weight in the 15 week program to qualify for some fabulous prizes.

Megan Shanahan explained “ The Canada Food Guide” and showed practical examples of portion control to help Footloose participants with their weight-loss program. As well, she is available for individual counseling and diets - call the Health and Wellness centre for an appointment.

Organizers have placed scales and locked drop-off boxes in all 3 communities for participants to weigh themselves and drop off their weekly weight and/or mileage rate. Everything is completely confidential.

There was a great turnout for families this year with lots of children registering for the program. We're trying to encourage parents to take part and be role models for their children. The family rate is only $24.95.

Anyone who has a pedometer from last year is requested to bring them into the Health and Wellness Centre (or drop them in one of the drop boxes). They will be recycled to help offset the costs of the family rate.

Says Rhonda Hamilton,
"Again this year we are overwhelmed with the incredible response to this county-wide program! We are delighted to be able to share a part in increasing activity rates, weight loss, and most of all build our community’s capacity and vibrancy! We believe that it's quite possible to hit 400 participants this year and we look forward to really pushing Healthy Living !"
Rock On Albert County! For more info, contact the Albert Health and Wellness Centre.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What if the Footloose Spirit was Spreading?

It is!

Word has it that Albert County's successful support of Footloose! is making waves....Petitcodiac plans to adopt our program in their own community.

Also, in case you hadn't already heard, N.B. Premier Shawn Graham also nominated Footloose! for the Tommy Douglas Award in Ottawa as an example of primary health care in Canada. If you remember, in 2004, Tommy Douglas was voted 'The Greatest Canadian' for his vision of Medicare and contributions to health care reform.

Don't forget, the 2008 Footloose! launch is tonight at the Riverside-Albert Recreation Centre. We're introducing more health challenges - and really cool prizes. This summer's focus will be on families and weight management. The buzz has already started and rumour has it that all those who regretted not signing up last year will be the first in line for a membership this year. Read my previous post... for more on Footloose! for Life.

See you there!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What if a group of women could change their world?

An awesome group of women gathered together last night for an evening of contemplative yoga and fabulous food. Most of us had never met before, but we had yoga in common, being clients from Tammy Carlin’s first year teaching in Albert County.

In the midst of her peaceful garden, we performed yoga postures and practiced slow, meditative walking through a profusion of herbs, perennials and rose bushes as the sun prepared itself to slip below the hills. As I walked, all senses alive, I felt the cool grass fold beneath my toes, while burying my face in lilac and lavender and savouring the citrus tang of lemon balm on my tongue. I heard the wind rustling the leaves of the poplar trees into a gentle applause.

Later, in a warm country kitchen, we discovered we were all superb cooks as well as fledgling yogis. Sharing the intimacy of our most embarrassing moments amid peals of laughter, we discovered something else. That sisterhood doesn’t need weeks and months and years to develop. Women can find harmony, camaraderie and support with only a few hours to spare.

Albert County has more than its share of amazing, talented, brilliant women. Women like this are the life and spirit of their communities; they have the power to influence all those around them. Small groups of them are starting to do marvelous things and energize others with their enthusiasm, but increased effectiveness and strength comes with numbers. What if all these sisters came together with a common goal to change their communities for the better?

Anything could happen.

Friday, June 13, 2008

What if what we learn now is a gift for our children?

A few weeks ago, we visited with family on the Miramichi River, where my husband grew up. As a bonus, my brother-in-law took me fly-fishing for the first time. I’ve never fished in my life.

Roger grew up on the Miramichi. The cells of his body are saturated with river water. He knows – and appreciates - every living thing that flies, crawls, strides or swims through these rivers, brooks and forests. We motored a few miles upstream from his home as he scanned the water, looking for just the right spot. He slowed to investigate tracks in the sand…possibly turtles, he thought, looking for a place to lay eggs. “On a sunny day, you’ll see them out here along the bank, warming themselves.”

He stopped the boat in the lee of a small island, in the spot where the current rushes around one side to meet the calm deep water on the other. First he explained how to tie a fly on the line. He demonstrated how to snap the line back, pause for a breath and a heartbeat, then roll it out over the water like a stream of silk. Naturally, I wasn’t very good. As I tried, time and time again, he quietly observed, “too fast…too hard…roll it out…snap your wrist…that one was're getting it.”

He knows it takes time to train the body to feel the line, to know what it is supposed to do, then to do it intuitively. I realized it wasn’t about being good or perfect, or even catching anything. It was about teaching my arm and wrist to understand. After awhile, he stood behind me, his hands on the rod’s grip over mine, gliding that line back and forth to dance on the water, letting me feel how it is done.

When we learn something well, we actually teach our body how to do it without the aid of our minds. It becomes instinctive. I think we pass such instincts on, in small subtle ways. Perhaps the cells in his body were more finely tuned to fly-fishing because of the skills of his father and grandfather.

I did catch a fish – a small sucker – not a very glamorous catch, but as he held it in his hands, I marveled at the beauty of the iridescent scales and distinctive markings, then he gently released it back to its home. It was thrilling to think my arms and hands were learning to call fish.

On the way back, I watched for turtles and we talked about how kids today don’t even swim in the river, let alone fish or appreciate its beauty. He told me how he just bought a couple of river kayaks so he could take his grandchildren out on the water. He hopes to teach them about the river and how to fish…if they want to learn.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What if forever goodbyes aren’t forever?

I’ve not had much experience with the tumult of emotion that forever goodbyes bring. I watched two grandmothers fade away – with one, I kept vigil by her bed, listening to her final laboured breaths, whispering over and over again that it was OK for her to go. My other grandmother clung to a long string of days, passing them like pearls on a necklace, as she inched closer and closer to her Lord. I wasn’t there when she finally left to meet him.

But tonight, I said goodbye to a still living friend. He’s leaving Thursday to be with his family in Ontario for the few sunset months the cancer has granted him. Granted, our friendship has been as adult friendships frequently are…opinionated conversations to unearth common ground, good-natured ribbing, occasional evenings and barbeques, a few shared stories. To be honest, we’ve been more a part of his dying than of his living.

But, as we sat chatting in his kitchen, the weight of his leaving hollowed my heart. This was forever goodbye. He is part of an elite club – those who face their own death – who watch it coming, helpless to stop its advance. He sat in his wheelchair and talked about how his dying would pain his mother, his grandson. I’ve always appreciated his blunt honesty, and at this moment, I wanted to counter with my own. I wanted to know, “How do you face this? How do you go to sleep at night, knowing each day that passes brings you closer? How do you say goodbye, over and over? Does being a Christian really take away the fear?” It seemed that the time for dancing had passed - but still I hesitated – I may also be a Christian, but what did I know about dying?

A local pastor dropped by for a brief visit. When he prepared to leave, he shook his hand. “See you later,” he said as he left.

Having faith that goodbye isn’t really forever may help tomorrow, but it doesn’t fill the hollow today.