Wednesday, 9 August 2017


A few summers ago we swam across the lake to jump off the rocks.  One, two, three, and off jumped my first friend.  One, two, three, and off jumped my other friend.  One, two, three…four, fourteen, forty, four hundred and I was still there, standing at the top looking out over the lake and the rocks below. 
One, two, three…and step…back. One, two, three…and step…back again.  It was like there was a physical wall stopping me from jumping, holding me back.  I couldn’t see it but I’m telling you, it was there! 
I felt like I was in a cartoon or a sci-fi movie; fear was real and it was impenetrable.  My friends encouraged me again and again then finally had to give up.  After treading for fifteen minutes they swam back to our dock figuring I was never going to do this.
I, however am a Capricorn and was determined to jump: to move through this barrier and be free!  I changed my stance, thinking it would be better to take off on my left foot.  Try.  Try.  Nope.  I kept thinking how I could master this. Surely there was a logical way.  Try.  Try. Nope.
And then a neighbour came by.  No words: just a friendly, soft smile, and over he went. I can’t tell you what happened, but there was a purity in that moment that opened something up… and I jumped. There was nothing logical about it.  I jumped and it was beautiful.
True magic happened up on that rock and it changed me - allowed me to walk right through the wall. No, allowed me to let go of the need to have a wall!
Was it a kind, gentle soul?
A soft, summer breeze?
A lightness of spirit that instantly recognized itself and took to the air?
Wow, the power of pure love.  We can do anything in its presence, its wonder, its magnificence!
The next year I went back and tried to jump again thinking I’d learned my lesson about softness, about opening my heart and letting go of anxiety.  This time, it only took fifteen minutes instead of thirty to fully surrender.  I was jumping from a new place, one a little higher, and had to adjust.  I didn’t sense a stone wall around me this time but the extra height was challenging my comfort zone. When I acclimatized and saw some others jump, I centred myself, went to my inner soft-spot, and leapt.
There was a line in The Shawshank Redemption - Get busy living, or get busy dying and walking right into something that scared me was a bold act of choosing aliveness. 
For a while, that was what I thought the lesson was about – confidently standing up to limiting beliefs and choosing aliveness.  But recently I was sitting on the dock with a different friend and reminiscing about the personal victory.
I saw a slim smile of recognition on his face but sensed it was about something different.  The story for him wasn’t just about the courage to walk in to what scares you, he was more appreciative of the quiet guy whose softness was so huge, so powerful, it melted my fear and inspired me to take the leap. What an incredible gift the neighbour offered.  His humility, his gentleness, and his relaxed casualness tickled a part of me that had been long awaiting this simple gesture of reassurance. I’ll never forget it. 
All Is well.
Love Is here.
As a grandparent, it’s not unusual to offer encouragement and assurance along the way to grandchildren.  I’ve become used to being the first one in the water, down a slide or on a ride.  But sometimes adults need reassurance too. ‘Jumping In” can take many forms, and leading the way smiling peacefully is a gesture that can change the world and the way we see ourselves in it.  No need to fight fear, no need to fight despair.
With hand on heart, the tenderness within can lead the way.

Marci's Canada 150 Challenge

My husband, Alan, was listening to CBC radio this winter and heard a woman being interviewed about the Canadian day she’d had. She and a friend were headed out to snowshoe, stopped at Tim Horton’s, and then were pulled over for speeding by an RCMP officer.  ‘How Canadian’ they thought and then wondered if they could come up with 150 things "Canadian" in this sesquicentennial year.
Alan loved the idea, and as a history major, picked it up and has been having great fun re-discovering and uncovering many fascinating stories. Adding a twist to the challenge, he decided he had to somehow work himself in by being photographed with some aspect of the story, such as tossing a garbage bag at the dump (yes, garbage bags were a Canadian invention), dressing in furs for a piece on the importance of the fur trade, or sitting on the bench beside the sculpture of Glenn Gould. There are over sixty-five stories on his Facebook page so far and some of ALAN'S CANADA 150 CHALLENGE posts are being published in the local paper.
As a philosopher and explorer of the human spirit, I had different musings about what it is to be Canadian.  Almost immediately my mind went to a writing circle I had participated in in Toronto.  We did an exercise to evoke childhood memories, tapping into feelings of innocence, and later read them aloud.  I wrote about pigtails and giggles and swinging so high I became part of the sky.  Innocence had such an earthy spaciousness for me and pulsed with an insatiable hunger for story and connection.
Another member of the circle, a tall German woman, recognized the bubbliness of which I wrote and asked to read next.  As she began her story though, you could sense a change. The joy behind her smile suddenly plummeted and her voice began to quaver. 
She grew up in the 1940’s with pedigree and elegance and was doted on by parents and servants alike.  It was a sweet life.  Her family had owned a factory and she would often skip across town and visit her father there.  But as the Second World War ended, her privileged world came crashing down and her family, fortune and sense of wonder fell into ruins.  She was just a little girl.  It wasn’t fair.  So much was taken away.
As I listened to this beautiful portrayal of ‘innocence lost’ unwind, my body began to shudder.  I kept listening to her heartfelt story but other feelings percolated as well.  Soon gut-wrenching turmoil put my body in shock, and I couldn’t move. 
Was the bomb that killed my grandfather’s sister and mother while they were praying in synagogue from that same munitions factory where this woman had eaten candy and sipped tea?  What do I do with this? 
What do I do?
So many thoughts blew in, catching me, pushing me, lashing me.

That was seventy years ago; that was an ocean away.
That was the family my grandfather failed to rescue and despaired about till the day he died.
I reminded myself.
I reminded myself to return to the present moment and let the purity of her experience resonate.
I reminded myself how tender every child’s heart is, and how devastating it is when it begins to shrivel.
I reminded myself…of my humanity.

To me this is what it is to be Canadian: to be part of this beautiful mosaic. Here, we aren’t asked to conform but instead, as a culture, ask of ourselves to remember our humanity.  We work hard, we explore the vast unknown, and we cherish the power in each one of our stories. And although we too have villains and obstacles in our story - our history, isn’t it beautiful to know the thread that weaves through it, binding it, quilting it, is one of respect and appreciation.
Bygones are bygones and if we can soften into the present moment with kindness and appreciation there will be much, much more to celebrate together in the many years to come.

Happy Summer, everyone!

Saturday, 20 May 2017


I remember singing a song at summer camp years ago:
“Did you ever get the feeling when you read the paper the world has gone insane?
That the animal part of the human heart has finally gone berserk.
Well it just may be that what you see is the storm before tranquility
And the world isn’t coming to an end my friend, the world’s just coming to a start.
I feel it in my heart.  The world is coming to a start!”
I was working in the camp office at the time and was surprised to learn the song wasn’t inspired by what was happening in the news of the day, but was written, I think, in the 1940’s. 
Those lyrics have stuck in my mind and I’m amazed how relevant, how timely, they continuously are.  Funny how it always feels like the world is about to come to an end. 
Since November and the American elections, not to mention all the devastation around the world including Syria, Standing Rock, and even the Gull River basin, the intensity of this feeling just seems to have multiplied. Recently, I began to wonder about fear – deeply wonder about it and the hold it had on me. Fear had become so big I couldn’t see it all, so big it was trapping and depressing me. Sure, traumatic things had happened but my reaction hadn’t always been in proportion.  It was more like present minor events were triggering something much deeper.  It was like fear, and even terror, were passed down in my DNA for me to keep re-experiencing.  It was like I was constantly reliving emotional events from my forefathers – from being chased by saber tooth tigers, to being enslaved by this or that despot, to surviving countless famines and religious wars.  Fear, and anxiety, it felt, had been bred in my bones.
But there was something in the air earlier this year - with the inauguration, with the Bell Let’s Talk campaign and several celebrities coming out and talking about their mental health problems – guiding me to walk right into the anxiety of my past and stand still with it and say hello.  Hello anxiety.  Hello fear of my parents.  Hello terror of all my ancestors.  Hello.  Who are you? 
And a flood of images and emotion were released.
I stayed still in the emotion - with the emotion - and soon we both began to soften. 
And then the fear wasn’t out there - huge, looming - anymore.  It was inside me, with me, as a companion.  We no longer were separate.
And as I held it in my heart, sorrow washed through us both.
What remained was a tender openness, a surrender that comes after having had enough experience with fear grabbing me by the throat, trying to get my attention.  Thank you for the gift of the warning.  Thank you for reminding me it is always my choice to harden or soften my heart, to be a victim or a master of my destiny, to separate from or speak out and take charge of the present moment.  Thank you for helping me remember who I am not and who I am.
Neuroscience has shown the body doesn’t know the difference between thoughts and acts of fear so will produce stress hormones either way.  Worrying about possible future events is where anxiety comes from and accounts for most illness.  After seeing pictures of icebergs around Newfoundland this spring, it occurred to me our thoughts are like the tip of the iceberg mixing with all the airy ideas that blow by.  Our real essence is the mass below: solid, stable, enormous.  If when I feel fear/anxiety coming on, I can move my awareness below into my belly and legs, I can connect with that feeling of stability and enormity and be present to calmly deal with my situation.  And since most of the fear I experience doesn’t even belong to me, I can let it go, return to the present moment, and go back to enjoying my day.
Knowledge is power and knowing how to surrender to feelings, how to sink into my iceberg base and be still to quietly listen to the insights, is tremendously empowering.
May we all know this peace within.

May we all know this power within.

Mayday is shortened from "venez m'aider," meaning "come and help me."
Lots of hands have been in Minden doing just that. 
Thank you all!

Monday, 19 December 2016

With Appreciation

Here we are: full swing into the Holiday Season in the Haliburton Highlands 2016! Yay!
So far we’ve had pancakes with Santa, crafted Christmas tree ornaments with elves, decorated sugar cookies with grandchildren and listened to truly inspiring music from remarkable young performers.  How lucky we are to live in such a generous and talented community.
There’s just so much to appreciate here.
(Ear-to-ear smile!)
There’s so much joy to express!
And then…
…a judgement slips in: ‘I should have…if only…why didn’t I’, and the joy of the season hardens into a rock that sits in the pit of my stomach souring everything else that is good and wonderful.
Or not!
The older I get the more I realize how much control I have over my thoughts and feelings.  As the days get darker and the news get bleaker, it’s so easy to slip away from appreciation.  But, honestly, isn’t this the greatest gift there is?  To give appreciation.  To receive appreciation.  And to start with ourselves.

Recently I saw a post on Facebook from my granddaughter that grabbed my heart: “needing a lil inspiration today” with the meme “Practice knowing that you’re worthy until it becomes your entire truth, being, and mantra. – Alex Elle”  
We’ve learned from an early age how to give appreciation: to look into someone’s eyes and say thank you, or to write a note, or to give a gift, or combinations of the above.  But have we really learned how to receive appreciation?  When we hold a door open for someone, do the words of thanks flow into our hearts or do they get stuck in our ears?  When we look in the mirror with approval, does the judgement have time to melt into a smile, or is the moment quickly skipped over?  When we do the laundry, do we take a second to recognize and appreciate how we take care of ourselves and our families, or is it just another chore ticked off the list?
I started practicing appreciation in the smallest things, like completing a game of Sudoku – ‘good job Marci, amazing how you figured that out!’  Then, ‘good job body, thanks for all you did to get me through the day!’  Now everything is appreciated - maybe not in the instant - but eventually, for Nature has taught me, over and over again, to trust the path.
It’s almost like there are two operating systems in life – not PC and Mac – but Judgement and Appreciation.  (Play along with me here to get the understanding – it may be a bit of a stretch.)
Like PC, Judgement is all about logic and function and happens in the head.  It’s a ‘Goldilocks’ binary world where things are either hard or soft, hot or cold, good or bad, and the desire is for things to be in balance, to be ‘just right’. 
Like Mac, Appreciation uses as similar language but it arises within the body from a place rooted in security, passion, and courage.  This gives it a different feel - a grace, a warmth, and its desire is for harmony. 
People have been elected on the basis they’ll provide security, but it is a feeling that starts from within, that is, from within appreciation.  We may be alone in the world with nothing to our names, but if we stop and begin by appreciating our breath, syn

chronicities will click in and start to feed us.
We can reprogram ourselves, change our operating systems, many ways, including by sitting tall, eyes open, body relaxed, and filling ourselves with gratitude, love and blessings for ten minutes.  And if we repeat this ‘mediation’ a few more times daily, the body becomes more comfortable with this energy quickly.

My experience as a musician has taught me a lot about harmony.  When we bring all the instruments together and give each a voice, appreciating what they have to offer and not worrying about trying to be fair, great beauty can arise.  The timpani player with 52 bars of rest then a dynamic roll is just as important as the violinist with pages of so many notes they look like chicken scratch. 
We’re all important. We all fit in to the great symphony of life.  We have to trust in each other, trust that each of us is playing the notes on our pages the best we can. 
How interesting that on the darkest day we chose to appreciate and celebrate the light of kindness.  Both are our essence – the dark and the light. Our anger and our compassion, our greed and our generosity, and our criticisms and our empathy are constantly playing off each other, harmonizing in different modes, different styles – some pleasing, some strange. 
None are to be dismissed, all are to be appreciated as expressions of our humanity.
(Ear-to-ear smile!)
May our holiday season be filled with much giving and receiving of appreciation.

Monday, 10 October 2016


There didn’t seem to be much of a transition from summer to fall this year.  One day we were swimming in the lake and the next we weren’t.  It happened so fast! 
Some transitions are like that- a blink of an eye, a beat of a heart – and life has changed.  Others, like the leaves turning colours or children growing up, feel more drawn out with time to prepare for what’s coming next. 
Transitions are happening at all levels of life, all the time, all around us. From the inhalation and exhalation of our breath, to the gift of the seasons, to the changing of the epochs.  At some level, things are always shifting. 
The 5th Dimension sang a song about the dawning of the Age of Aquarius – with harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding. Some argue this transition, from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age, happened in 2012, others say it comes in at the spring equinox next year, and still others say it won’t be until 2597.  To me, it feels like we’re going through something sweeping right now– sweeping back and forth, back and forth and moving things forward, moving things toward a more heart-centered way of living.
Although the news giants like to show us devastation of all kinds, the stories that go viral on the internet are the human kindness ones, like the prom king who knelt down and offered his crown to his friend because he thought it would uplift him, or the young man who, instead of going on a fun-filled spring-break, donated bone marrow to save a dying man he didn’t even know.  There are so many ‘small’ stories that happen, even here in our community: winter coat drives, volunteer-led cultural events, and helping hands in parking lots.  Our hearts have a need and desire to nurture all life; this is who we are.  This is what’s at the centre of our existence.
That being said, sometimes the signals are sent but not received, and human kindness is the least of our concerns.  Sometimes being safe or being right is far more important.  The head thinks it needs to take control and steer clear of perceived danger, absolutely sure that is what’s necessary.  Meanwhile, the heart patiently admire us.
In between the head and the heart is the throat, and that’s where the blockage happens.  Not surprising, lack of communication seems to be the root of most conflict.  If we only had the confidence and grace to speak clearly, harmony and understanding would abound.
Using our voice and singing together is a powerful tool.  Protest songs from Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, to name a few, drove the 1960’s Civil Rights movement. Now hip-hop artists are carrying the torch with Public Enemy, Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z voicing the emotions of the Black Lives Matter movement.  In these evolving times, speaking out and singing out creates much needed understanding and connection.
Coming together in song strengthens us not only in times of frustration but also in times of love and sorrow.  Lullabies and hymns bond us when no words seem appropriate to carry our emotions.  At the hospital bedside of loved ones, what else is there to do but open our hearts and sing or hum.
Keeping the channels between the head and the heart clear allows a stream of insights to continuously flow back and forth. Once again, it’s not about one being ‘better’ than the other, but rather about using all that’s available.  It’s possible to get around on one foot, but look at all the other choices we have with two feet to carry us. 
Our humanity depends on the wisdom of our heart flowing to our head because the alternative is acting like a fact-processing computer.  We consider soulless people animals, but that’s not accurate as animals have compassion and empathy.  Soulless people are more like one-footed robots, disconnected from the flowing tides of life and love.
Perhaps Sri Chinmoy’s words - I meditate so that my mind cannot complicate my life - can be modified to: I sing so that my mind cannot complicate my life. What a wonderful thought – singing to dislodge over-thinking.
We live in shifting times, alternating between great waves of love and great waves of concern.  What washes in and takes hold in the new age we can only hope is a pulse, a song that, from the centre of our heart, radiates strong and free:
Nurture All life, Nurture All life,
Nurture All life, Honey…
Nurture All life.

Monday, 12 September 2016


I am sitting outside by a pond of lily pads:
Bulrushes, and
A field of antique farm wagons:
Painted wooden wheels.

A mixed forest surrounds the
Manicured setting
To define this home as a place of
Peace and rootedness.

The grey sky holds it all down.

What’s left to do
But merge.
With the brown stillness,
With the green aliveness,
With the white bliss between.

What’s left to do
But drink.
Calming garden tea,
Rustling apple breezes,
Nourishing harvest breath.

No words.

No words.








I love you more…

Tuesday, 6 September 2016


                                                                              My 3 ½ year-old granddaughter is learning to read and was showing me how her daddy taught her to recognized the word ‘the’.  I would read a story and she would pick out the ‘the’s’ and ‘read’ them out loud.  Being a writer, I love words and find them fun to play with, so when we came to the word ‘mom’, I pointed out how, if you turned the book upside down, it became the word ‘wow’.   Every time we read the book, and we read it a lot that weekend, we would read the word mom and turn the book around and read the word wow.  Mom, Wow!  And she would laugh. And I would laugh.  Mom-Wow!  Ha ha ha.  All weekend it was mom-wow and laughter!
How simple and fascinating life can be.
“Be like children,” the sages say. Find wonder around you and in you, and you’ll never grow old.
I wonder.

These days, actually, there’s lots to wonder about.  Being curious about innocence can seem a ridiculous waste of time when the other reality that’s happening around the world right now - the violence and chaos and abuse - seem far more significant, far more important. Funny, if we choose to live only focused on the innocence, we are accused of living with our head in the sand, too soft, and outrageously out of touch.  Yet if we are fully focused on the terror, glued to the news and rhetoric, we are considered educated, even though we are denying the wonder that abounds and enlightens us as well.  Hmm, curious.
Lately, I’ve been trying to sit and be present with both.  They are both true, the innocence and the terror, so is it necessary to judge one to be better than the other?
Sitting with both ends of the spectrum is not the same as sitting in the middle. Sitting on the fence is withdrawing, not participating. This is an honourable place as it can give a new perspective and a time to reflect.   (Nothing is all good or all bad.)
Opening to all possibilities and having room to respect all, however, is such a strange concept we can barely wrap our heads around it.  How do we live with paradox in a ‘you’re with us or against us’ world?  But as the cultures blend and science and the internet introduce us to expanding visions, our curiosity is being piqued.  Hot and cold doesn’t have to equal warm anymore, hot and cold can equal hot with cold – or Sweet Heat, as Kawartha Dairy named their newest ice cream flavour.  The more we write about paradoxes, sing and joke about them, the more comfortable we become around them.  And the more we can harmonize with all possibilities, the healthier, happier, more abundant and free we will be.
So how do we acclimatize to this evolving way?  Are there books?  Are there organizations?  Are there apps?  Probably yes to all since we humans are always wanting something new to buy to make us ‘better’.  Are they necessary?  No, not really.
The most courageous and boldest act we can partake in is simply to smile.  Smiling at someone is a sign of recognition.  It is an act of harmonizing. It’s telling the other ‘I see you. I see the pain you’re in or fun you’re having and I’m with you.  You are beautiful and I’m with you.’  How does it get better than that?  Feeling safe and connected is what we all want and smiling does that.  Mother Teresa said: “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”
No wonder I love being around my grandchildren.  Kids smile, on average, around four-hundred times a day whereas adults only smiles about twenty times. Too bad for adults because science has proven those who smile more are less stressed and sleep better.  Hmm, curious. No wonder the sages tell us to be more like children
Yes, there is horror around us.  There is no denying it.  But there is also so much wonder too. Let’s not deny that either.
Smile: miles – limes - slime!