Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Homeward Bound

Well, my friends, it has happened at last, after nearly two years of panic and searching.
I got a place.
I feel compelled to tell you not to get too excited because of the deficits--less space, less privacy, no garden, no balcony, not allowed to feed my friends, the birds. I feel equally compelled to say I am hugely relieved, and feel hopeful that this can be a comfortable and happy home. The people seem lovely, the building is secure, clean, and well maintained (as is the yard), and I trust the organization that runs it. It's even almost in my old neighbourhood, so the wrench won't be so huge.
Thanks to the Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans of Canada for building subsidized housing for aging folk.
Above is Beth, my new building manager, who is herself a breath of fresh air. Below is my (gasp) view.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Walk With Me, Thich Nhat Hanh

My friend Kelly and I finally got to see Walk With Me, the film about the monastic tradition of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh that has been in the works for years. As a member of the larger sangha of the Plum Village tradition, having met with a small group of friends, new and old, for more than fifteen years, I have waited in happy anticipation for its release.

I was going to call it a documentary, but it is more than that. It isn't fiction. It is a meditative experience that exposes the viewer to some of the most graceful elements (and some amusing ones) of the life of nuns and monks in the Plum Village tradition, and those who come on retreat with them. There is a lot of silence. There are a lot of gentle bells. There are smiles and tears and yes, tiny motes of instruction to have it all make sense to the Western mind.

There are moments here and there where the deep, dulcet voice of Benedict Cumberbatch reads from Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals, 1962–1966. These journals were written at a time when he was in exile from his beloved country because of his peace activism. They are extraordinarily beautiful and profound reflections, and move like a thread of silver through the happenings, and nonhappenings, of the film.

I want to see it again. And I am grateful still more that I have the support and inspiration of this wonderful community.

If Walk With Me is not scheduled to appear in your town, suggest a venue to the organizers (you can find them on Facebook), or ask your local film festival or theatre to schedule some showings. In Vancouver, the film festival added several showings because the first ones all sold out. These ones are selling out, too. It is probably a good bet for your theatre.

A lotus for you, Buddhas to be!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Long Road Leads to Joy

More than forty years ago I set off with two friends on a journey across a vast stretch of country. It wasn't the first time I'd taken a long trip paid for by thumb, nor was it quite the last. But something changed as a result of that particular voyage, as I suppose it did, in other ways, through all the others as well.

Before we left the small automotive city where we had met, three strangers from three different worlds who became good friends, I was caught in a directionless, rootless life. Shortly after we landed in Vancouver, the city I had longed to return to, I began to commit myself to life in a concrete way. I became an activist, volunteering for several years in feminist collectives, a rape crisis centre and a women's bookstore; I began doing Radical Therapy, where I learned about the social causes of personal troubles; I began digging deep into what the dynamics were among women and men, classes of people, and so on, that led to the great disparities in our lives and the monumental challenges in understanding and communicating that we faced. I grew more aware of my own limits and needs, and indeed my own limitations. I learned to receive and give support in new ways, to be more self-reflective, to believe in my goals.

Over time I got a little too serious. You won't often see me taking months out of my life to explore the world anymore. I have projects, I have illnesses, I have commitments. I don't remember the last time I just lay out in the sun and dreamed about the clouds. I am learning, though, more practical and better controlled ways to find rest and renewal. My Buddhist sangha is one part of that. I am embarking, right now, on a new leg of the journey, enrolling in a year long Complex Chronic Diseases Program at Women's Hospital. Whatever other projects I attempt to complete in the coming months, the centre is that program, the quest for greater health and energy through effort, rest, and increased understanding and support. This is a very cool thing.

There have been long, harsh periods on the road. Times of anguish, times of drought, times when I could not get a lift no matter how I tried. There have been times of rapt absorption, times of silliness, times of deep satisfaction, times of deep regret.

I am not old, but I feel old in many ways, because of my illnesses. I have no idea how long I will be treading the roads. Surely less time than I have already walked. My goal is only, as long it has been, to walk it well. To put one foot in front of the other with awareness and compassion--for myself, for those I meet along the way, from ants to elephants. Whatever I do, I do it, generally, invisibly. I am more comfortable that way. But just because I am not bouncing along beside you doesn't mean I don't know that you are there. You are my companions. We travel, and join, and separate, and change, and intersect again as life permits.

I have no idea if this is making sense. I have been in a fog of exhaustion for months. But I wanted to call out to you from my dwelling place on the path. To let you know I haven't forgotten you. To send you blessings as you wander your own long road.

NoteThe Long Road Leads to Joy is the title of a book on walking meditation by Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Image: Casey and Rachel. Photo credit, Vera.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018


Whoo. I try to post something roughly once a month here, but I have had my nose pressed so close to the grindstone that it's looking a lot blunter than before. For more than three months I worked away, day and night (well, day and evening) on a project I had to get done, tout de suite, and everything else took a back seat. Or a trunk. Or went spinning out the window on the breeze.

Now, it's done. There are a few small details left to sort out, and new projects have already begun (and old ones been resumed, and postponed Important Matters begun to be dealt with). But the weight has lifted off my shoulders in a tremendous way.

I love working. I love feeling a sense of purpose, pouring my heart and mind into something that seems important to me in some way, that will benefit someone, I hope, besides myself. (Though I'm happy if it benefits me, too.) But because my energy is so all-over-the-place, no matter how hard I try, it takes ages to get anything done, it wipes me out, it interferes with the things I need to do to keep healthy, and it worries me. That's the worst partthe worry.

But I almost don't care. I am grateful that I have some work of value in my life, even if it doesn't pay, even if it isn't what I hoped to do when I was young. I'm grateful that I have stayed with it long enough to have some skill. I'm grateful that it does have meaning for a few other people, too.

I've been sleeping ridiculously poorly lately. But I don't care. It screws my day up; I can only think a tiny bit and so get little work done. But I just feel so gall-darned pleased with everything. Even if I'm tired, even if I'm a little anxious, even if anything. I'm just glad to be alive.

Friday, 9 February 2018

“Searching for the Moon” by Casey June Wolf

on the first night of darkness
I searched the sky for her
my thoughts
noisy as the river in spring

on the second night
the finch betrayed her presence
busy in the moon’s thin glimmer
with unexpected song

on the third
with my own eyes I saw her
knelt to earth in welcome
and delight

as she grew   so I grew
at the moment of
her greatest girth
a herd of sharp-tined stars
traversed the sky

the waters in the river’s bed
spurred on by the moon
swelled to overflowing

I danced in glad elation
in her white woodlet

thanks to you
moon of strength and stillness
thanks to the reeling waters
whose blessings churn and rise

ImageMy first shot with my new Canon 350D, a solitary leaf hanging in the cold winder sky. Shot in Melbourne, Australia, by Lachlan Donald from Melbourne, Australia (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, 10 December 2017

What is the Kindest Thing You Ever Did for an Animal?

What is the kindest thing you ever did for an animal?

A few months ago my nephew Isidore finally wore me down by sending links to interesting things on Quora, a site I have mentioned here before (methinks), where questions are asked, answered, and bandied about. I could no longer resist at a certain point, and signed up so I could answer a question. I have myself only asked a few, and I discovered today that one that I did ask several months ago has about a dozen answers, some of which are very moving, and all of which are touching in the way they reveal each author.

In reading through the answers which for some reason I just discovered I had not been notified of, I was inspired to write another, edgier question. (Which just got it's first answer, I notice.):

What is a time when you did not act to help an animal and have always regretted it, and what were the circumstances that made you hold back? Would you act differently now?

Used correctly, this site can be a great way to affirm my sense of the goodness of humans, and my part in it all. (Used incorrectly, well...you know.)

Here are the answers so far; the link, in case you want to add a reply or see if there are any more comments, is above with the original question. I would love to hear what you have to say.

12 Answers

Eon McLeary

Friday, 8 December 2017

Glum Facts and the Power of Song

As you may know I have been contending with a few glum facts lately, in amongst the riches of life. The struggle to find new and welcome housing, a few private matters that are weighing me down, and now the love of my life, our community garden, is being torn up to make modular housing for homeless folk. The city says they will relocate us, to which I muse, why not put the modular housing in this new location and leave us be? You can't really "move" a garden. You can destroy one and start another, but the soil carefully tended takes a big step backward, and the soil they supplied last time was riddled with horsetail spores. But all that could be handled--who am I to begrudge the homeless?--except for one abiding concern. If they move it away from the Skytrain station, I may not have easy enough access to carry on there. So again we wait, this time for the eventual announcement of our garden's fate. In the meantime, I am mourning another loss.


I have also been trying to inject a little singing into my days, the last few months. When I am away or horribly forgetful or horribly busy, that ends up just being me tweedly-dumming through the day. When I am home and see my "SING!" notecard on the counter while busying myself with other things, I run through a bunch of vocal exercises and when I really get it together, like today and yesterday, I pull out my big black binder of Irish songs and run through a few.

Today was "M" and "O". I admit there are still a lot of songs in the binder that I haven't learned (but with the internet I have more hope of finding their tunes), and too many more whose melodies I have forgotten, in the long interregnum between the days of yore when I learned and sang songs galore, enjoying them at Irish music sessions with the likes of Ken Howard and Michael Dooley, and the days of now, when I almost lost my ability to sing. I have missed that music-making very much.

So what good does it do to limber your vocal chords up and sing a few tunes on your own in your room? Isn't that a little pathetic? Isn't music made to be shared? Look at all those eager folk on Britain's Got Talent. To them, singing at home is only the beginning. For me, it may be an end in itself.

When I take an hour, or half an hour even, out of my day and offer it up to song, I feel as though I have repatriated myself in the country of my heart. My body, inside and out, is completely involved, with the workout of breath, posture, and so much more. My emotions are engaged. I strive to do the best I can vocally but also to feel the song in its fullness. The result of all of this is a wakening from at least some of the weight and dullness that come with constant worry and self-criticism, coming back from fear and regret to a complete moment in which the song and myself are the only things in the world--and that is joy.

So delight with me in the full throated strains of another dedicant of the gods of music. And then, taking his inspiration for your own, open your heart and sing.

Image: 'Rufous-naped Lark, Mirafra africana at Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa' by Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Video: English: "Singing seriema (Cariama cristata) at Areia city, from Brazil's northeast state Paraiba (PB).