Today is Remembrance Day, here in Canada. It’s a day to reflect on the lessons that we’ve learned from war, especially since World War I; to remember and honour the sacrifices that were made by so many so that we may live in freedom; and to consider the suffering that conflicts are still causing in modern times. The hope is that, in remembering all of these things, we will continue to work toward a more peaceful world.
In these times, it seems especially important to take a moment to pause and remember.
I took a walk in a popular Winnipeg park today, where a Peace Pole was dedicated in 2015. Have you heard of these? The inscription explains that they are “found in over 180 countries to promote peace, understanding, and goodwill.”
This Peace Pole was added to a beautiful little garden in the park that, in the summer, radiates colours and delightful fragrances. Since it’s November, many of the flowers and plant life around the pole lie dormant amongst the evergreens, waiting to bloom again in the spring. A fitting symbol of life, perserverence and hope.
“LEST WE FORGET”
In the meantime, in the nearby pond, all sorts of birds gathered to prepare for their autumn migrations. It felt good to pause and reflect, as I watched with interest how the animals in nature – ducks, geese, and seagulls – managed to share this space in the park.
May we humans continue to learn how to treat each other, our planet, and all life on it with empathy and compassion.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
“The sun has come out and the air is vivid with Spring light”
Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens
Mahalo. Have you heard this word before?
In my latest post, I talked about the presentation I saw by Chad Pregrake, the 2013 CNN Hero of The Year. I found his story encouraging because it showed that each of us has the power to act on the things that matter, and that small actions can add up to make a significant difference.
I closed that post off with a song by a famous Hawaiian musician (It’s a medley of two songs: “It’s A Wonderful World” and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow“). My oldest brother, who loves to visit Hawaii, left a comment on that post that introduced me to the concept of Mahalo:
“In keeping with the Hawaiian theme of your closing, they have this concept of Mahalo, which translates to ‘thank you’ but also can mean gratefulness or thankfulness, and can be expressed as simply as picking up trash and leaving the place better than you found it.”
Mahalo. I love it. The soft sound of one word to remind us of our own power to make a difference.
What a wonderful wor(l)d.
And while we are speaking of gratitude…
Spring has settled in around here, and made itself right at home. We’ve passed the May long weekend, which is when experts announce the official start of the “frost-free” season in Winnipeg. Gardeners can start planting!
So, today at Home… hurrah!, I am in the mood for a light-hearted celebration of all things Spring, with a Winnipeg twist! (In case you are not familiar with Winnipeg, it’s an interesting little place.)
1. Spring officially started more than 2 months ago, and this is how the various regions in Canada looked on that first day of Spring.
2. I love birds, and I am always thrilled by my first sighting of geese flying over us, returning after a long winter! Some thoughts on migration here.
3. In the spirit of spring, I recently tried painting a bird.
It started like this….
Then it went through a few phases. Can you guess how which one of the two was the final painting?
*See answer at the the end of post.
4. This morning, as I woke up, the fragrance of lilac blossoms reached my senses before I even opened my eyes. My husband had put some fresh blossoms in a vase, in our bedroom. Ahhh… Fresh lilac blossoms, outdoors and indoors! Love.
“Every Spring is the only Spring – a perpetual astonishment.”
5. Barbecues! Actually, this past Friday, my husband made the best burgers ever. I am not always the biggest fan of burgers, but these were amazingly delicious. I will soon tell you how he went about making them… if I can pry the secret out of him!
6. I’ve been using my favourite emojis again! 🌸🌷💐🌱
7. Oh, the joys of being outside on a warm evening…
8. … in sandals!!! Aaaahhhh…
People who have to layer up in parkas, scarves, hats, gloves, long underwear, two pairs of socks, and boots, can really appreciate the care free experience of slipping into sandals! (No matter what our feet might look like!)
9. When celebrating Spring in Winnipeg, it is not always easy to decide what to wear. For example, according to Wikipedia, temperatures for April in Winnipeg range from −6.3 °C (21 °F) to 34.3 °C (94 °F), and can change rather quickly.
10. Green! Everywhere green! We are embracing this glorious season as the dormant world becomes vibrantly awake in May.
If you are a bit of an explorer at heart, you might find this interesting.
A while back, I read something about Winnipeg, Manitoba that really surprised me. And, at the same time, it didn’t. Winnipeg, nick-named “The Peg”, is the unique and interesting place I have come to call home for more than two decades. I have been wanting to write a post on The Peg for a while, and when I read the big news, I knew it was time.
A Little Background…
Now, before I get to the news, there is something you need to understand about Winterpeg (That’s our other popular nick-name. With our record low winter temperature being -47.8C before the wind-chill, you can easily guess why. In all fairness, we rarely get anywhere near that cold!). People have a tendency to complain about, or at least poke good-natured fun at this place. It’s too cold, there is too much snow in the winter, the drivers are bad, too many mosquitoes in the summer…
If you don’t believe me, check out this hit song, actually titled, “I Hate Winnipeg” (written and performed by a popular Winnipeg band), this Simpson’s clip that was often played on one of our networks, or this commercial (it’s a chuckle).
The Weekday Off
I’ll admit that I have certainly complained at times, especially when I’ve had to drive to work in a blizzard. Or when my garage door froze shut and I was almost late for work. But I digress…
Overall, there are many wonderful things about Winnipeg. One just has to learn to see them. In fact, I have come to see Winnipeg as “a weekday off”. Let me explain.
When I was in university, my summer employment often found me working on the weekends and having Monday and Tuesday off. Some people didn’t like that schedule, but I saw it differently. Sure, it wasn’t “The Weekend”, but there were many unexpected advantages to a weekday off. It was easy to make appointments and run errands, and there was always a choice spot wherever I went… be it a provincial beach or a city café! In time, I came to love, in some ways, even prefer the “weekdays off”.
And that is the perspective I try to share when we all start getting down on Winnipeg. It’s a week-day off. If you look at it from the right perspective, Winnipeg has many unexpected advantages, and is a wonderful place with much to offer.
So what’s the big news I recently read?….
The Big News
Well, you can imagine what an unexpected and pleasant surprise it was to read that Winnipeg has been named, by non other than the National Geographic Traveler, as being one of the top 20 cities to visit in the world! Top 20 – On the same list as some pretty amazing places, like the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom; an island in the South Atlantic Ocean that is full of penguins; one of France’s finest vineyards; even places like Bermuda, and New York city. I won’t go through all 20 places named, but feel free to check it out for yourself. (Here’s a link to the web-site edition… though I still want to read the print edition for the full article.)
Now, when the conversation starts to turn towards the obvious difficulties of living in this climate and city, I remind us: Hey, we’ve been named one of the top 20 cities in the world to visit. And people pause, smile and nod in agreement. That’s true, they say.
The National Geographic Traveler has given my positive perspective a lot of credibility.
By now you might be asking, Okay… so what are some of these cool things about The Peg?
Here is a quick list. Just some of the reasons why Winnipeg is kind of an awesome place (to visit, and yes… to live!):
We have wonderful restaurants with authentic cuisine from all over the world.
A world-class zoo, the oldest ballet company in Canada, a vibrant arts community, interesting galleries and museums- including the new National Museum of Human Rights.
Many beaches within easy driving distance of the city. In fact, Grand Beach has been listed among the Top Ten Beaches of North America.
Lots of beautiful parks and trees, and the Forks (The place where our two rivers meet, The Forks has a children’s theatre, and is full of shops, galleries, restaurants, cafés, and special events – both indoors and out).
We have the longest ice skating river trail in the world (at 8.5 km), and a popular winter festival (Le Festival Du Voyageur), as well as many other festivals, many of which take place in the summer.
We are a diversely multicultural city, and also a distinctly bilingual city, with celebrated vibrant French communities amongst the English majority.
We have the typical cold, snowy prairie winters. It may not be easy, but if we look at it objectively, it’s an interesting experience. That fluffy white snow is rather magical, if you dress for the weather. One can also try winter sports, or stay inside feeling super cozy and warm. Bonus: Bragging rights for being tough enough for the Manitoba winters!
We also have beautiful, sunny, hot summers, and fleetingly colourful autumns.
The city is surrounded by cool towns such as Gimli (one hour away), provincial parks, and a national park only 3 hours away. There are lovely farm fields all around, and lots of nature to be seen, all within easy driving distance.
If you are really adventurous (and don’t mind spending a bit of money), you can take a trip to visit Churchill, and see real-live polar bears and beluga whales in their natural habitat.
The house prices and cost of living are still relatively low! This means that one can have quite a high quality of life on an average income.
The provincial slogan for our license plate is “Friendly Manitoba”, and most of us really are.
On top of everything, there are some interesting facts about this city. Did you know that Winniethe Pooh was named after Winnipeg? Or that the character of Bond, yes… James bond was probably inspired by a real-live Winnipegger? Ditto for Snow White.
That’s not all… Just for fun, click here or here to find out more.
Sure, going to the Caribbean to soak up some sun does seem like a top choice for a vacation, you won’t get any argument from me. But still… Winnipeg is an interesting place for the brave hearts! How exciting that our square “Peg” has made the top 20s in this round world!
Do you have an unusual or little known favourite destination?
For me, there is something captivating, even comforting about migration. Even though my life on the ground may have changed over the year – I’ve lost loved ones, my father is in palliative care – in the spring, the birds return. And while it does not make the losses easier, there is a serene kind of solace found in the predictable beauty of the cycles of nature.
The arrival of the migrating animals after their long journey exemplifies courage, and life’s triumph over adversity. We look up and welcome the geese, not only as a sign of the changing seasons and spring’s renewal, but simultaneously as a symbol of perseverance, and life’s constancy.
That’s the thing about migration – it heralds change, but also continuity. It is a process that transcends our existence here on earth: Migration was here before us, and continues without us. Just like when children grow, they make us more aware of the passage of time, migrations orient us to the seasons of life and create a sense of connection between the passing years.
There is something so worthwhile, so healthy about pausing, and remembering the processes in nature that transcend our own lifespans
Migration also reminds us of unseen bonds that connect us to other parts of the planet. We share something beyond ourselves; We share a living species that calls both of our lands home.
“Where Is Your Home, Restless Wings?”
In the modern era, it is harder for us to grasp the magic of migration. We have developed the remarkable technology to connect with almost anyone, anywhere, instantly, but in so doing may be forgetting a time in recent history when distant lands were still mysterious, and the world felt much bigger. Less than a century ago, simply receiving a letter from a different part of the world was an exciting event. In some ways, migrating animals are like living, timeless emblems from distant lands; messengers reminding us of an intricate connection with people we will never meet, and places we might never see.
And just as I finished writing these reflections, the world outside my window was transformed over night by a fluffy snowfall, and the words on this post are now a farewell to fall.
How wonderful that the timeless truths of nature are right at our doorstep, and the simple act of stepping outside and looking at the sky can help us find comfort and perspective in our modern, everyday lives.
Would you like to learn more? Here are some links to organizations that are working hard to preserve habitat so that life on earth can stay diverse, and migrating animals can persevere. Every bit we do helps, and these organizations are making a real difference.
Okay, when I decided on the phrase “Everyday Adventures at Home… Hurrah”, I had in mind some pretty safe adventures; looking at and living life creatively and openly – not adrenaline thrills. This Saturday, though, I found myself on more of an adventure than I had expected.
It was the last sail of the season – the day when we sail the boat for a couple of hours, from the marina where we keep the sailboat for the summer, to the marina where the boat gets hauled out of the water and stored for the winter.
I’ll admit that, unlike my husband, I am not a natural sailor. I am an active person – I love walking, swimming, and bike riding – but a rather passive sailor. Maybe that makes me more of a ‘passenger’? I enjoy sailing as a unique way to connect with nature, for relaxation and fun.
We’ve had our boat for about 6 years. At 22 feet, it is not a huge boat, and one can certainly feel the motion of the water and wind around it.
So, Saturday’s sail started out well enough. Quite promising – a sunny, warm day. It was windy, just enough to keep a quick pace (or so we thought). As we headed out (my husband, a family friend, my son and I), it looked something like this…
Well, it turns out the winds soon grew stronger, at points at least 70 km per hour, with the waves becoming frighteningly high, and jarringly choppy. The boat was leaning sharply, getting slammed every which way. It was hard to control, and we were getting splashed as the cold water crashed against the deck. All this made it difficult, and dangerous to balance on the bow of the boat in order to raise the sail, and the fabric ripped with the force of the wind, though it was still intact enough to move us forward.
We have been in large waves before, but they were gentle, rolling waves. Kind of lulling. Saturday’s waves were sharp, driven by a hard wind, repeatedly lifting us up high and crashing us down. It was the first time that I was seriously worried that we might come to harm.
Fortunately, between my husband, and a good friend of ours (who often joins us on sails), we managed to reach our destination, unharmed. My husband took the helm, both literally by steering the rudder, and figuratively by directing our efforts. Our friend worked the sails and GPS. My 12 year old son and I helped by being an extra pair of hands – holding the GPS, passing ropes and ties. Most importantly, we tried to stay calm.
I did manage to take a few, very quick snapshots in between the really scary waves. They were all taken from the same vantage point – I didn’t move – so the horizon changes in the pictures because the water was swelling, and we were rising and dropping, very fast.
Honestly, these pics do not capture the size of the waves, nor how violently they were tossing the boat around. Nor the shrill hisses and howls the wind produced. Nor the deep, straining groans of the wood, as heard from the hull (where I spent a lot of time, both to stay out of the way and to hold on for dear life). I braced myself with my legs and took these quick snapshots from the doorway that goes below deck.
Eventually, we had to insist that my son come down into the hull with me, though he wanted to be out on deck where he felt safer. He was getting wet, and we didn’t want to chance him falling in the water. I was more worried for him than for us throughout the ordeal.
Toward the end of the trip, as we struggled to get the sail down, wind flailing it violently, we saw the coastguard heading out to make sure we were okay. I actually felt immense relief. Even though we managed without their help, it was such a reassuring sight. I was grateful to all those brave souls in professions that risk themselves to help others.
By the time we arrived at the harbour, the wind was howling so strongly that it was hard even to walk on the dock. The boats parked in the marina were rocking, some of their cables flying lose in the wind.
In the end, I am happy to report that we are all safe and sound. I don’t exactly regret the escapade, either. I’ve learned some lessons, and it stretched us, brought out our courage, and tested us. If one sails, I suppose one has to be prepared to accept high winds and learn how to handle them. Some people thrive on that excitement. Not me. While I like to step outside of my comfort zone by learning new things or being outdoors, I definitely don’t need that much danger to feel alive.
Still, the unexpected happens. We had to accept the situation and just do the best we could with the experience we had. My husband had been in a thunderstorm once when he was training to sail, so it was some comfort to know that this was not his first experience with very challenging conditions. I guess one is bound to encounter difficult weather sometimes, in sailing as in life. I am really proud of us for pulling through this one.
“If we are strong, and have faith in life, and its richness of surprises, and hold the rudder steadily in our hands, I am sure we will sail into quiet and pleasant waters…”
“We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.”
Welcome back! Hope you have all had a wonderful summer. I have missed you, and I have missed blogging for the last long while… Looking forward to catching up. I have a lot to share, and despite of the fact that the months ahead will be very busy for me, it is the season to get back into regular writing. I can hardly believe that we are almost at mid-September, but (I think) I am finally embracing the idea of autumn and its routine (maybe).
July and August of 2015 are now behind us, and when all is said and done, I look back on a special summer. Many out-of-town guests, one road trip to Alberta, a brief stay at the mountains, some time at home, time at the lake. That is the synopsis that describes my summer, but hardly captures it.
It was not a perfect or bump-less summer (literally… I recently suffered a mild concussion. Please don’t worry, though, I am much better already). But there were so many beautiful moments – and I am glad that I remembered to notice.
Northern lights, a big round moon, the stars. Fireworks. Hot days spent swimming in cold water, cool evenings spent by the campfire. Farm fields, trees, birds. Mountain lakes. Laughter, family and friends. Aaaah.
I miss summer already… and I have lots of stories to tell, but I won’t try to relate my whole summer in one post.
Hopefully, some of the experiences and thoughts that I’ve been wanting to share with you will find their way into my blog posts in the months to come. As I’ve heard it said, “In September, we know we’ll welcome summer’s ghost.”
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
Above Image: Creative Commons, “Window and Flowers” by Sukanto Debnath, is licensed under CC by 2.0
Post by Carina Spring.
Windows are a wonderful place where the comfort and ambiance of the indoors connect with the light and colours of nature.
Crack a window open, and the fragrance in the room immediately transforms. Freshness. The season enters your room through the air: fresh cut grass, new blossoms from a nearby lilac tree, the woody smell of wet soil.
The sounds gravitate to meet you. Urban sounds, mingled with the sounds of nature. Children playing, the mesmerizing rustle of leaves in a soft breeze, birds, a car driving by.
Wherever I go, I always ask for the window seat.
Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com!
Image links will soon be added. Sorry for the delay ~ technical difficulties.
Have you ever arrived at a new place, a place that felt so familiar, or so right for you, that it instantly felt like home?
The Seasons, Reasons, and Geography in Our Lives.
When I was about 9 years old, I saw the mountains for the first time. We were driving in the car. Suddenly the distant gray shapes became benevolent giants, covered in evergreens, towering over us. Looking out the window at that moment, I felt I was home, and that sensation has never left me. Until my late teens, I lived close to the Rockies and spent many happy camping trips enjoying their magic.
Life led me in a different direction, though, and I have lived most of my adult life on the prairies. When I moved away from Alberta years ago, there was a part of me that assumed I would somehow end up back there. In reality, though, one practical decision after the next, I now lead a happy life far away from the mountains.
I took a day trip out to the Rockies, a few summers ago, while visiting family. Although a lot had changed, I got the same sensation when I saw them. The thiness of the air, the joy of climbing up a path, lumpy roots under my feet. The sounds, the colours. Everything about that geography felt like home, like I was built for it.
On our car ride back, I realized that I’d forgotten my sweater in one of the hiking paths. I had to laugh. I never lose sweaters. Never! I had to leave the mountains, but my lucky sweater stayed behind. I hoped no one would find it, so it would decompose and become part of the soil; it’s threads intertwined eventually with the roots and flowers. Maybe a bird would use pieces of it for her nest. These silly ideas made me smile, as I watched the familiar shapes, contrasted against bright storm clouds, growing smaller in the rear window.
In the end, I love my current home in a prairie city. This region offers its own delights: a summer swim in refreshing lake waters, the animated skies reaching from horizon to horizon, the swaying fields changing shades with the wind and light. I love my quality of life here, too, and am thankful for all it gives me. I wouldn’t want to move away, certainly not at this point in my life.
When we are on a path that is followed by choosing what feels right as life unfolds, there is a wisdom in knowing how to derive happiness from the route on which we find ourselves. Our experiences sculpt our understanding of life, and lead us down the roads we need to travel.
I spent years living near the mountains, and it fed something deep in my imagination. The geography in the mountains expressed the poetry in my spirit, and now my spirit expresses the poetry of my experiences. In the end, for me, the answer lies in the art of accepting with grace the different chapters in life, and not resenting their end.
Still, I will always love the mountains.
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” ~Socrates
How about you? Is there a place that you have visited or lived in that felt like home, right from the first time you saw it? Maybe it’s a city, maybe it’s a greographical region? Dive in if you’ve any thoughts to share on this topic!
Have you ever built a snowmen? We haven’t built too many, but my son and I made one in our backyard this winter. As you can see, our snowman wound up with an unintentional foreign flair.
Since then, we’ve had a few warm spells and then some light snow falls. Let’s just say that it’s best you only see the “before” picture – he is no longer in his prime.
Our neighbourhood seems to be full of snowmen this season. Some are quite impressive – really big and colourful! Even after the weather challenges these Frosties have faced, a few of them are still smiling!
When my son was little, I used to read him a book called “Where Do Snowmen Go at Night?” It was written in rhyme, a child’s humorous speculations about why snowmen look so melted and tired by the next morning. It was cute, and quite hilarious. I recommend it if you have kids! Heck, it’s fun for adults, too! 😉
Do you have any favourite children’s books? (From your childhood, or your kids)
Canadian winters. What an experience. Do you like winter? How do you survive it?
I was listening to CBC recently and a guest speaker was talking about the possibility of making downtown ice trails so that people could skate to work. He made an interesting point: Winter cities live in freezing conditions for many months of the year. Why focus on the 10 days that are really, really unbearable? Instead, focus on getting outside and embracing the season. I couldn’t agree more!
There was a time in history when people enjoyed winter. Regular winter festivals were the norm, people bundled up and walked outside, played outside, and just all around made the best of the season.
I know winter can be hard, and driving in it is the worst part for me. But enjoying the season is a mind-set. If one dresses for the cold, and I mean REALLY dress for it, it is fun to be outside. The quality of light, the crisp, cold air, the brilliance of the snow. It’s invigorating and magical!
Okay, when it gets ridiculously cold (for me, that is when the temp goes below -32 C with a windchill) it can be too much. But normally, it isn’t that bad. When it is, I try to get cozy and kind of hibernate. Wait till the cold snap breaks.
Anyhow, here’s to winter and making the best of it. The way I see it, if I’m going to live somewhere this cold, I might as well really experience it. There are many people in the world who will never know the joy of walking in the picturesque beauty after a fresh snow-fall. Lucky us!
btw I snapped the picture with my cell phone camera on my way home from work. I was not dressed for it so I could barely hold on to the camera. My point? I will make the best of winter, but will LOVE summer when it comes! 😉
Well, just in case it’s too cold for you to go outside, here are a few versions of that song to keep you smiling! Take your pick.
I had no idea that Lady Gaga had done a version of this song!
Have you heard this version? It’s a classic.
Or this one?
Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com, I can’t wait to share my next post with you!