Stories and sounds from the wilderness, Yoga Nidra, walking, mindful and relaxation Meditations. The stories weave together experiences, usually of the natural world, with thoughts on impermanence, memory, uncertainty, hope and loss. For more episodes visitwww.sundogs.blog
Picture for a moment a group of people high up on a narrow ledge, halfway up a cliff. Let’s call it a pedestal, the place we put virtuous, nice girls and women. Now imagine our little party teetering about on that ledge in 5 inch high heels, long towering necks, wasp like, breathless waists and tiny lotus shoes. They wouldn't get very far now would they, which is, I think, the point.
This story is about the Pitt River museum, corsets and other shrinking things.
Two days after we moved in Mrs Sprout came through our always unlocked back door, strode up the 3 narrow steps into her old kitchen, searched the top of my new fridge for tickets to a concert at the NAC that night. Her friend waited in the car. She asked if I’d taken them, and questioned what I’d done.
My husband hitched rides all over the world when he was young. I’ve only dared it a few times, including a ride, on a heavy rainy day, up the sunshine coast, and once when we hitchhiked to our honeymoon.
Bend in the road is a story about a canoe trip down the Rideau river, hitchhiking and regrets.
What is it about free wine, food, free anything, that sends so many of us into a tizzy?
Interestingly, we sometimes question the virtue of free items because we judge them to have no, or low, quality. In our minds we unfairly de-value the thing, decide that there must be something wrong, if it's free.
“We are all compost for worlds we cannot yet imagine.” (David Whyte)
Composting has always been a bit of a surprise, an experiment: I never quite know what will slowly, and sometimes suddenly grow out of the bins’ corners.
And I am a composition of all the good wishes and warnings, insightful and thoughtless, helpful and spiteful comments, all the conversations I have ever had, and not just the ones I remember and took to heart, but all the ones I have forgotten, dismissed, ignored, rejected, ridiculed.
I fell off a ladder yesterday. The whole thing collapsed and I found myself lying on the ground, testing body parts, wondering about what I might have broken. It turns out I got away with a sprained ankle - it could have been so much worse, I tell myself. Sure, this will keep me not busy for a few days or more; and perhaps it is a good time to practice my headstands, to see the world from a different angle.
Headstands is a story about perspective and about framing experiences.
Some meeting spots create the conditions to support a rich, diverse marine life, including Krill: tiny, shrimp-like sea creatures. To escape hungry predators Krill migrate daily, vertically, in huge swarms that can be seen from outer space; but despite their brave efforts they end as fodder: far down in deep waters when the sun is high, and near the surface of the rivers in the night.
Krill is a story about meeting places and parallel worlds.
For some, awe is proof of God; for others, science not only adds an explanation but increases their sense of awe, lifts them across the gap left by not knowing, sets them down on the others side, leaving them to wonder, wanting to know more.
Warning: not much happens in this story, unless you count my description of a breathing lake; or count the unfortunate rent in my winter coat, torn by the thorns of tall blackberry canes. In this story, no coyote will suddenly trot across a frozen lake; and your tolerance, your threshold for boredom, might not be as high as mine.
Come February, when the sun shows increasing signs of strength, when roots emerge from hibernating bulbs and their fleshy green spears have pried their way out, only then will I bring them out of their patient darkness.
Some endings are explicit: clearly we are told what happens next: threads are gathered into tidy bundles, there is no room to question the explanation because the teller has decided on this version, as the truth. Other endings are implicit, and have you wondering what it means to live happily ever after.
Are the paths we walk our own? What I mean is this: does everything unfold with intention, according to my own plans and free will? Is there inside me a tiny wizard of Oz, hiding behind the curtains of my mind, peering out through bony sockets, pulling levers, turning dials, shouting hoarse commands, keeping me on time, and on the straight and narrow path?
Apparently he always had a book on his lap, marked his notes in its margins; filled notebooks with observations on migration, nature and spring. Later they all went missing: someone who was more practical likely used them to started a fire on a cold winter night.
Refrain is about Atti, my great grandfather, and the tracks we follow.
Sometimes you meet the perfect word, like gigil, a Tagalog word meaning the irresistible urge to squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished. And sometimes there is no single word to capture a fleeting moment.
The first step you take on a frozen lake is a beginning that you will never feel again. It catches the breath in your throat, and has you wondering: is it worth it? will I fall? should I turn back? And with every step you leave a little bit of yourself behind.
It sometimes feels as though memories are awakened and tugged upwards by the finely tuned strings of our senses, linking a forgotten past to the here and now.
Wet Wool is about sounds and smells, and the link between sensations and memories.
To ruminate, to revisit a thought over and over again, comes from the word ‘ruminant’ - an animal that eats grass; chewing, swallowing, regurgitation and rechewing the same fodder over and over again. It is the same with us humans, we constantly consume our thoughts.
It wasn’t just Rosa’s voice I'd overheard; slowly, I picked up the many whispers that drifted out of other neighbours’ open pipes and widened seams. It was as if I’d discovered new frequencies on my dial, found private stations that I had never known.
My grandmother kept chocolate, an apple and a paring knife in her apron pocket, read to us, cheated at cards but let me win. She knitted socks and liked her tea with cream, told us stories about talking pigeons and rabbits and owls.
An old man once told me that not so long ago this city was a forest, then the Algonquin people called it their home, later Europeans came, took and cleared the land and farmed the rocky ground. Someone built a tram line from east to west, then came sidewalks and hydro lines. Who is to say when a neighbourhood should freeze in time? When is it at its prime?
This story is about my neighbour, 3 rusty cars and racoons.
Happiness comes from the Icelandic word “happ”, meaning luck or chance. We do tend to tie the two together, as though happiness were a thing we might hopefully trip over one day, should we be so lucky. Sehnsucht is about our yearning for happiness, and the challenges we face in its search. Photo Credit: Fridolin Walcher "Sehnsucht".
We seem to seldom give ourselves the opportunity to experience our minds without the noise and clutter of our busy lives. Like a night sky polluted by city lights, we might, through the haze, only recognize and attend to the brightest and loudest experiences. But In the wilderness the stars are more clear, less distorted. Mindful meditation is a practice to begin to notice and better understand and experience the moments of our lives, the sights, sounds, sensations and thoughts.
One might think that the show is over once the flowers of the Milkweed have flashed their beauty, and the leaves have fed the hairy black and orange caterpillar; but no, the best is yet to come.
This story is about Milkweed and a silver tour bus.
Yesterday, weeks after that first day of the deer hunt, on a snow covered path along a line of now bare trees, I saw a large Barred owl, perched high, still, waiting, watching for its small furry prey. And then, quite suddenly, it lifted and waved its powerful wings, and dove towards the frozen earth.
On Balance is about expectations, uncertainty and hope.
While travelling, eating hard-boiled eggs comes second only to apples, which, by the way, happens to be my only party trick - I eat them whole, apple seeds and all. My kids have grown up eating eggs on trains and planes, on mountain tops and on park benches. For years they hissed at us, embarrassed, but now they follow suit, peeling eggs around the world.
A story about eggs and ego.
Years ago I broke a pale yellow water pitcher that I’d received from a close childhood friend. We’d lost our connection but I kept the shards in a drawer, feeling pangs of regret and guilt for my carelessness. I asked my mom how I might fix the pitcher. She suggested I repair my friendship instead.
A story about regret, my great grandmother and her broken hip, and precious moments.
Through the lens’ furthest reach the scene loses its shape, colours merge and blur, as I zoom out and drift into space and slip through a narrow gap. I follow the sun, as does the earth, as does the moon. All of us, tiny electrons spinning and circling.
This story travels along a wild coastline, where the scene changes constantly, yet seemingly repeats itself again and again.
Sundogs, like all moments in time, are fleeting - we only notice them if we pay attention, (if we’re lucky enough to look up at the right moment), and our brief experiences of them sift through our hands - as does life.
This story is about a black dog, and speaks about the moments we live. (photo credit: C. Milne, "Sundogs North of Swift Current")
Conscious or not, the sorrows, secrets and the guilts we keep don’t rest peacefully. They are working on us, reminding us of our failings - usually more than fits the crime. I’ve watched guilt at work, have learned that it will not set you free, will not atone for your mistakes.
'Fossils', explores a deep lake, what lies beneath, and the sorrows we keep. Photo Credit: Q. Gall.
I know that I am not telling you anything new. But, do you know the answer to this: is this it, is this all that life is, and will be? And should the question make you shudder? Or is it an invitation to wonder?
Snakes and Ladders, spins together dancing men, a canoe trip into the wilds, and the question: is this it?
She sat down and told us that when she was a small girl, growing up in Eastern Europe, she too had warts on her feet. Her mother took her to see a wise woman in the village, who told her to take a bite out of an apple and bury it under the next full moon. According to our doctor, this cured her of her warts.
Searching for a cure for warts and other questions and quests.
I had heard that cats bring dead, or half dead mice, to their human owners to teach them how to hunt. Given our lack of responsive learning, I have always been impressed by Lola’s patience, her unwillingness to give up on us. But recently I came across a different theory: that animals might leave us presents to show their gratitude.
A story about our cat Lola, harvesting brussels sprouts and gratitude.
I once read that lightning fixes nitrogen in the soil. The lighting bolt's electric charge breaks the stable strong bond that exists between the nitrogen atoms that fill the air. The separated atoms rearrange and attach themselves to oxygen and rain delivers these molecules to the earth. It can burn you too. The shoreline remembers the power of such storms in its blackened trees, which, like the small flowery monuments to the highway dead, post their warnings along the way.
The story is about navigating your way in a storm.
Last winter a man I met in a small northern community told me that when he was young he would hunt for Caribou with his uncle. One evening, at dusk, he watched as thousands of the large lumbering animals moved not as one, but swirled in all directions. He said that the ground moved and shook with noise and motion. But the caribou don't migrate that far south anymore.
Impermanence, toads, caribou and the forest.
Of course there is no guarantee that change, and the stirrings of a thousand earthworms will restore life, there is always the chance that it won't. Life is not predictable and it might not end as happily as you once hoped. Nonetheless, even if choice seems faint, do remind yourself that you don't have to wait for the frail promises of your unraveling life.
Silkworms spin together no-till farming, silkworms and life transitions.
At our small cabin, the lake is moving and churning today, thunder threatens, the light bounces off the waves. I step into the water and pull myself under the surface and open my eyes, as beams of light reflect off tiny particles. And I become aware that I am this too, a tiny particle in an ever changing sea of light and life.
Entanglements is about the connections we share with the big and small, the living and dying.
Perhaps stories, our mental maps, our perceptions of the world are only illusions, marked by clear or faint, experiences along the path. We do seem to have an insatiable need to create meaning, to connect seemingly random memories, to help us make sense of the world, and our place in it.
This story threads together maps, owls and wolves.
Very early, on the second last morning of my month in India I crossed the clear, blue-green Ganges. The narrow, usually packed footbridge was quiet. Ahead was a woman, her dark pink sari fluttering in the breeze. The mountains rise up north of the town, cast their long shadows, keeping the air cool in the late winter morning.
This story is about a conversation at the edge of the Ganges.
One summer afternoon a thousand strings of light emerged from this wall of green and drifted into space, each end strapped firmly to the tiniest of spider babies, little parachutists, bravely and willingly allowing themselves to be carried by a faint breeze into the unknown.
This story weaves together images of parachuting spider babies, an ancient turtle, love and loss.
I was hiking in Utah once and had to keep myself from diving off a cliff. L'appelle de vide, it is called. The call of the void. Surprisingly there is little written about this. Doesn't everyone feel the urge to enter the void at some time in their life? Maybe not.)
Find helpful instructions here on what to do when you are lost in the woods.