Friday, October 3, 2014

Escape From Public City



The past year has been less than inspiring with the deaths of a good friend and my mother, so I haven’t been able to write much. Life can seem almost frivolous when one isn’t engaged completely. Living then feels much like a meaningless progression toward the ultimate end. To write in such a state of mind can be therapeutic for the writer to help find a new focus or purpose, but such writing is not so interesting for anyone else. Some day I may have interesting insights into this phase of my life during the last year and will incorporate some into my writing. Today, though, I am thinking about the writing game in general.

I use the word game intentionally, because lately I have been feeling that the usual endgame of writing—to be published—has become more of a game, not just of luck but of cynicism and desperation. The writing world has expanded with technology. It’s so easy now to give oneself the reward of the endgame either through self-publishing books on demand or through e-publishing; though, it’s debatable if there’s much of an audience for these works. Some find a following through this route and might then be published by traditional publishing houses, but there are probably thousands more who don’t ever find a wide audience (over a 1,000 books, say).

Some probably deserve a wider audience, too, but in the midst of all the others, self-promotion is paramount and not all writers are gifted at this crucial part of the sell. To be a writer means to spend a lot of time alone in a room with only one’s own ideas and words flowing out and none flowing in. It’s the first half of the communication equation. The second half—publishing—although welcome, comes at a later time when the thoughts and ideas have moved on, so this delay in response can be difficult. Couple that with a publisher wanting that writer to go out and discuss those earlier ideas as if they haven’t been flogged to death through the writing and re-writing stages is actually a lot to expect. Besides, after being alone for so much time, how does one suddenly engage others? Only some have the gift of public speaking with ease.

There’s also the writer who turned to writing because of being a more introverted personality to begin with. Many writers are observers, not the actors of the drama but the interpreters. I count myself as one of these types. In a drama workshop I attended once wherein actors and writers were to try improvisation and so on, I and the other writers stood to the side and watched the actors speaking and gesturing, moving their story organically through speech and action. We writers were out of our depth—we needed to think about the concept and create the scene in our minds before we could even consider actually doing it. Most of us remained mute. I did try to join in the improvisation and apparently committed the cardinal sin of negating what another stated as true. I should have shut up!

I have a friend who’s published a couple of novels later in life, not to seek attention but because she always wanted to try it. She’d worked as an editor and publisher, so she knew what she was getting herself into; now though, she’s been informed that an online presence is a necessary part of her books’ promotion and she really should be on Facebook or Twitter. Doing this doesn’t interest her much, though she does have a lot of friends and could likely find her own audience is supportive if she were to use either platform for promotion. I suggested a blog to begin with, and it sounded like she might actually give it a try. I can sympathize with her predicament, though, because why spend time writing on this medium when the story is what we really aspire to write?

And once you enter that online world, you can feel lost pretty easily. When I see others promoting themselves through social media, I lose a sense of my own achievement and end up feeling excluded from an elitist circle. This reaction says more about me than anything else, I’m sure, though I do wonder if there is a point when all that tweeting and retweeting just creates less buzz and more busy background noise. There’s only so much of so many voices all clamouring for people to Listen to me! or Read this! that a person will be receptive towards. We all know how tiring and ultimately meaningless all those opinions can be whenever we have read through dozens on a thread.

When someone catches more attention online and a big buzz follows, a traditional publishing house might decide to capitalize on this built-in publicity and put out a book. These are usually the ones that seem too gimmicky to me. They have found some kind of “hook” that sets their voice apart, such as trading a paper clip for a house, living for a year without buying anything new, or trying to follow the ideology of someone famous for a year. I’m not going to name these books because I don’t want to publicize them further. They’ve gotten enough attention already. Most of these seem questionable as worthy of the paper they're printed on, in my opinion. The latest one I read about yesterday was a Pinterest joke that took off and is now a book in print. It was probably very entertaining in the online arena, but to put it out there as text to be stored forever (or not) on a bookshelf…well, all I can say is, Seriously?

The old saying is that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I say there is, and even much of the so-called “good” publicity is questionable too.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Little Bird Told Me

While watering the garden this morning, I decided to spray a large section that my hose couldn't reach. As I stood there with my finger jammed into the hose's end, the spray I created attracted an Anna's hummingbird, one of the resident hummingbirds that lives in our area year round. I wasn't surprised, because often in summer, the smaller birds that frequent our bird-feeding platform will show up to enjoy the rainshower I create while watering this way.

But this tiny hummingbird made a more personal impression on me. First she gave me warning that she wanted to partake in the shower by making a couple of little tweets, then flew right up beside me--close enough to touch--and then hovered there, facing me, as if sizing up how trustworthy I looked before flying back into the spray. She darted in and out of the water droplets and then when I moved the trajectory of water slightly so that a nearby Grand Fir branch received some smaller water droplets, the bird perched on the flat needles of the branchlet and began to stretch out her wings as birds do when they bathe. Her head feathers got ruffled up in the process, as she moved her head up and down while stretching her neck and flicking her wings. I was careful to keep the spray steady, not moving my finger in the end of the hose, and her bath time continued for about a minute. This interaction gave me a good feeling, as it always does. And I'm sure the water on this hot day also gave the little hummingbird a good feeling too.


This connection that I felt with the bird reminded me of a ferry ride I took earlier this month in which the captain announced that a pod of Orcas was just ahead. Everyone began to stand up and move forward on the boat, crowding the windows, all eyes scanning the water for a glimpse of the whales. Whenever one was spotted either blowing or breaching, an excited murmur would rise as people pointed out where they'd seen the creature in the water. This excitement didn't abate until the ferry finally passed them after one final awesome view of the pod breaching very close to one of the islands of Active Pass in the Salish Sea. I have been lucky enough to view such pods on a couple of occasions, and it is always a thrill.

It doesn't matter whether it's in person or on screen or in print, humans are almost always fascinated by a close-up view of other creatures in their natural habitat. Unfortunately this fascination can often cause hardship for the animal, when it is kept in captivity or interfered with in its environment. I believe, though, that most people do not want harm to come to our wild cousins and would like them to enjoy a good, natural life on this earth.

However, our good intentions are constantly being tested with news of human-caused global degradation, endangering scores of birds and animals. And all of us are at fault simply by living the lives we do. We want to live our comfortable lives with our cars, our big trips, our inexpensive food and the ability to buy new products whenever the desire consumes us. Consumerism is consuming the planet, though, at an every-increasing rate. This is a difficult knowledge to accept, resulting in most feeling absolutely helpless and pessimistic.

How can we change this machine of mass production that has so much power and control over the fates of every living creature? We are told we can exert our power individually, that every little choice adds up and that if enough do likewise, in time we might right the balance. So we try to be more mindful of the earth, air and water by recycling whatever we can, driving less, buying fuel-efficient or electric vehicles, choosing organic foods from responsible (and local) farmers, using less water and generally trying to not make such a large impact as we could if we didn't consider every action we take. We listen to politicians and vote for those that seem most in tune with preserving the planet long term, not just the short term, and we support those organizations that are trying to make more wholesale changes through education or legislation around the globe.

Can all these actions be enough though? It seems unlikely, given our global population growth and the insatiable desire for a better life by all, which generally translates into a wasteful Western standard of living. The planet is a finite space of finite resources and obviously all this man-made growth can't continue ad infinitum. Of course, there are those that think we humans will simply destroy one another eventually anyway, as if  it's in our DNA to be in conflict and self-absorbed. Others might still believe that this earth was created for us by some divine creator, and therefore it is not for us to worry about those creatures who can't compete with us.

I believe that if more people could interact more closely on a daily basis with the myriads of living creatures other than their own kind on this earth,  they might be more mindful of preserving the bond of affinity created by such interactions. It can start just by helping one little bird on a hot sunny day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Charity As A Two-Way Street



I received an email thank-you from the World Wildlife Fund today—a nice touch to stay connected on Earth Day. I appreciate this gesture, not only because it was unexpected but because it is so different from the norm. So often the charities I support, including WWF, are mailing me requests for further donations. These will arrive within weeks of my end-of-year donation blitz, usually accompanied with a tax receipt. Then a couple of months later comes the second wave, in envelopes that say Yearly Drive or Spring Campaign or whatever can be thought up to set this particular plea apart from the last one.

This practice of hitting up those that have already been generous is annoying, although I’m sure it’s done because there’s been some study completed somewhere that proves people that give can be cajoled into giving more. However, I think these charities run the risk of turning people against them by their constant harassment. I bet I’m not alone in my refusal to give in to these pleas for more. Yes, many agencies need a constant influx of funds to continue to do their work, but I don’t see how the cost of printing up and mailing these bi-monthly requests for funds actually balances out with any monies received as a result, especially since they're done so often.  As lousy as it makes me feel to ignore them, I, too, am on a limited income and can only give a percentage every year.

I’m sure other donators like me see all that paper going into recycling as a huge waste. Charities see it that way too, so they all suggest monthly donations, usually starting around five dollars and going as high as fifty. With a monthly donation set up, the charitable organization can cut down on the need for these mailings and gain some security in knowing that a certain amount of funds from public donations can be counted on for their budgets to balance. I do support a couple of agencies on a monthly basis; however, I have no idea if I can always give the amounts I do, as my work is sporadic, so I won’t sign up for other monthly giving programs. Besides, I prefer to spread my money around, sometimes giving one year to one environmental agency and to another the next, or giving to one society for the homeless more generously than another because of some imminent need. It’s not as if I have a huge amount to give, either, maybe twenty here or fifteen there, although all tolled, it adds up to about four per cent of my yearly income (which is very low).

Yet every little bit helps, so I guess I will continue to receive unsolicited direct mail pleas from charitable organizations throughout the year. Unless I can get them to stop. Maybe this December when I plan to send off cheques again, I should include a copy of this blog, and request that the agency approach me just once a year for a follow-up donation. I know it goes against all the guidelines they follow, but if I were listened to and appreciated for what little I give and not approached so often, I'd see this gesture from them as benevolent and kind--or,in a word, charitable--and I would make sure to always give to that organization in future.

After all, charity can be seen as a two-way street.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Rearview Mirror

So it's the last day of 2012, a day to reflect on the year ending and a new one starting. I have been feeling meditative of late anyway, so it seems like as good a day as any to take stock.

For me, the year started with some sad news of a death in the family; however, this man was 96 and had lived a very good, healthy life, so the sadness was mostly mitigated by this fact. If only everyone should be so lucky. Later in the year came the terrible news that a friend had accidentally drowned, which gave all his friends the opportunity to realize how quickly this life we live can end.

There was cause for celebration when my son completed his studies at a marine institute. He had had a couple of false starts before starting this program, so this attainment was important. He's been fortunate to be able to work immediately, though he has plans to further his education in time too. My daughter completed the last full-time term for her degree program; her final term this coming spring consists of one course, her honours thesis in Anthropology.

For myself, I continued with my freelance work as well as revising a novel that I first completed five years ago. What can I say? I'm not a driven person and also easily bored with my ideas. It's amazing to me that I've managed four blogs up to now! It's not that I don't think about the state of the world and the meaning of life...I simply don't feel that I'm any more brilliant than anyone else, and possibly these words that I am writing are too mundane to share.

My partner and I are fortunate to have a home and garden to look after. The old dog we adopted last Christmas has done well on a special diet, and he is enjoying a golden retirement with us. We painted our house this summer while the sun shone. It felt good to fill the holes where woodpeckers had taken a few pecks, though also sad to fill the gap in the siding near the roofline where every spring a family of swallows has nested. The new dark colour of paint would have shown their droppings too easily. So they will now have to find another eave or the like next spring when they return. I hope they do come back to our corner of the peninsula. For their cycle will continue somewhere, just as the years cycle by.

In recent days I've thought about my history and wondered about various work mates or friends that I've known and have lost contact with. At Christmas, a couple of them sent greetings without much in the way of real news. I answered in kind. But, I think, there's so much more I'd like to ask these people if the distance between us were dissolved and time expanded. One lives half the year in Mexico and the other half travelling in North America to see family or friends. The other lives across the country in Ontario, where she started out before coming west for some schooling. But there are many others I once spent good times with who actually still live in my city, and I don't see them anymore. It seems we simply grew apart--living lives that no longer intersected. I find that idea sad, yet I know I must also face this reality.

They say people pass in and out of our lives to fulfill temporary needs. I'm not so sure about that. I know some who are diligent about keeping in touch with their friends over decades, and I count myself lucky that they included me in that contact list. I have had times when I made a call or arranged a meeting after a few years of no communication only to realize that indeed the connection that once sustained a friendship seems to have simply frayed away, because that person has an excuse to not meet, or the meeting doesn't quite seem as fulfilling as imagined. We can "catch up" and share current news, but there's no real need to keep in touch more often. Yet I also know that if I were to hear of that person becoming ill or accidentally dying, I would be very sad that I had not been maintaining better contact.

Perhaps that's the best resolution I can come up with this New Year's Eve: to make more effort to reach out to those who have shared their thoughts and histories with me. Even if it's simply to say that I appreciate the time we once spent together and I hope they're well today. Spreading gratitude seems to me to be an appropriate action to take on any day, but after my recent life review, this idea reverberates and gives me a feeling of renewed purpose. Hello, 2013!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Salmon's Leap of Faith

Something I witnessed a few weeks ago has been forefront in my mind ever since. I watched salmon leaping through rushing water and wriggling furiously against a fierce Puntledge River current to get upriver to their spawning grounds. This sight has been happening on many rivers in B.C. during the past month or so. Every year at this time, people who care about the wild salmon wait with apprehension, worrying about dried-up riverbeds, previous oil spills or overfishing as possible deterrents to a healthy salmon stock returning to their home spawning grounds. I don't know what kind of salmon I watched; I'm no biologist, though I do know they weren't the obvious red sockeye that return to the Adams River far inland.

Aside from being totally amazed at the determination I witnessed, I was also inspired. Because when you see such a small creature prevailing to fulfill its destiny in what looks to be the most strenuous and almost impossible situation...well, you can't help but feel inspired. Here's a very brief clip of one such salmon that I happened to catch on film that day.



video




How often do we see ourselves in this way--naturally driven through such extremes to overcome obstacles? Hardly ever. Yes, every time an athlete out-performs another in competition, we hear about that person's dedication and what he/she did to prepare for such victory. And there are those that persevere through wars, famine, drought, floods and so on. Sometimes they accomplish such feats alone, but more often they manage through support from others. We are communal creatures, and our need for community proves to be paramount in such difficult circumstances.

These salmon are alone in their struggle. And they prevail. They may have some kind of communication with one another (who truly knows?), but we can only know what scientists have observed through tagging and monitoring the fish closely: an inborn natural habit for the salmon to return to the place they were born, every four years, in order to repeat their life cycles. If communication isn't part of the salmon's knowing where and when to come home again, then isn't it even more amazing to consider? Seeing destiny by design certainly appears supernatural, making it easier for me to understand why many believe in an ultimate creator.

Thinking about these fish reminded me of a wedding sermon I once heard. The minister compared the couple marrying to two salmon, making their way up the river of life together. They will find rough places in the flow and also calm pools. When one falters, the other is there to accompany or assist, and so their union will be complete. I found this analogy rather poetic and moving, and it caused me to tear up a bit (I was at a difficult time in my life where I felt alone in my journey). But now I see that no such cooperation is taking place on the river. It's each salmon for itself; they might be aware of a treacherous spot by watching another fail there, but each one must work alone. There is no "hand up" or such in the salmon world (except by humans who build fish ladders or transport fish over manmade obstacles).

Knowing that it's each fish for itself gave me a different kind of perspective of the human condition. Our community spirit, when it's strong and functioning well, helps all of us to live more complete lives. Yet, when we are not strong, or even ill, we must also have an inner resolve that gets us through. Yes, there's help in the form of medicine or other aid (if it's available and we can afford it), but ultimately we are individuals who must use our inner strength and courage to keep forging ahead to a better condition. We aren't necessarily so obviously tuned to our life cycles as the salmon exhibits, but if we understand ourselves, we might draw upon an innate knowledge and keep striving towards a better place, or destiny. And since we're human, that place will naturally include others who share it with us--not just other people, but also creatures like the amazing salmon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Preserving the Summer

Preserving the fruit from our plum tree has become a major undertaking this year, requiring five separate batches of canning the fruit in jars. Canning our plums became necessary when we couldn’t eat, give away, or find enough room in our refrigerator’s freezer to cope with an enormous abundance of fruit. People say that you can give fruit to food banks or soup kitchens, but then there are usually many others who have already beaten you to it.

(I also know firsthand that fruit isn’t as popular with the homeless as one would expect. My daughter serves snacks at a local soup kitchen and says they usually bypass the fruit and go for the cakes or doughnuts. This is understandable as it's known we're attracted to high fat and high carbohydrate foods when under stress--a drive that goes back to our hunter-gatherer origins when food wasn't always available. Loading up on fat and carboyhydrates offers some "cushion" for the body to fall on in times of famine.)


Since we don’t usually harvest this much fruit every year, and we don’t have the right kind of location (too close to a forest) to have a larger garden, we don’t want to invest in a chest freezer. Nor do we want to buy winemaking equipment. So that left good, old-fashioned canning. With canning, you need only a large pot with rack for holding the jars, the jars and lids, and some sugar--a total investment of about $50 at first and less than $10 a year afterwards. Then all you need to do is follow instructions.

The labour is what stops most people from doing home canning. It’s not especially difficult, but it’s time-consuming. Not including the picking of the fruit, canning takes usually a couple of hours to process about a dozen jars. It’s also a bit messy, requiring a lot of cleanup afterwards. So many people are time-strapped as it is; they don’t see the value in spending so much time over a steaming stove, just to have some jars of fruit later in the winter. But we love the taste of canned plums—it’s a bit exotic compared to the taste of the fresh fruit. They are still quite tart, but the cooking brings out another layer of taste that reminds me of black cherries.

Since my partner and I like the canned fruit, and we have more time this year as we’re not presently working, we ended up canning three-dozen quarts of plums. I’ve also made about a dozen 1-cup jars of apple-plum butter, a slightly sweetened fruit-rich sauce which is perfect on cooked oatmeal. I like looking at the finished product of purple-red liquid surrounding golden-fleshed globes, or the ruby-red apple-plum butter. I feel we have preserved the summer’s sweetness in jars to be enjoyed all winter long.






We have also preserved a method of food preservation that has been used by people in their homes for about 200 years. The recipes I follow come from a cookbook that’s about sixty years old. The method of canning as described in this book is still current. The only part of the process that has changed is the type of canning jar. Following an old recipe gives me a strong sense of preserving history. My parents didn’t can and neither did my grandparents, but they knew many others who did. Until the middle of the twentieth century, when freezers became affordable for the average family, canning was the most effective way to preserve the veggies and fruit you grew.

Growing and preserving your own fruit or veggies gives you a visceral connection to the food you eat. You are also assured that you know where the food was grown and how it was handled. Forget about the Hundred Mile Diet—how about the Zero Mile Diet!
We watched firsthand the cycle of flowering-pollination-budding-and ripening that took place in our front yard. We put up a makeshift stucco-wire fence to keep the marauding deer away, and made sure the slugs didn’t get to any windfalls first, and finally supported the fruit-laden branches with boards. All of this diligence sounds like more work than many would be willing to devote to just one plum and a few apple trees. But that fruit is the most delicious and healthy we could hope to eat.

We’ve also grown a few veggies in a raised-bed area that is fenced, but between digging out fir-tree roots every spring and then watching sow bugs, beetles or slugs work away at our struggling plants, we realized this is mostly a losing enterprise. Fruit and raspberries are more manageable, and we grow a few tomatoes in a little greenhouse. Fortunately we live in a semi-rural area and can buy fresh produce at farmers' gates or the weekly local farmer’s market. We can talk directly to the grower and learn whether or not they use pesticides or chemical fertilizers, or if they grow organically. Most are small farms and rely on natural sources such as manure or compost to enrich their garden soil.

So many people today rely on their supermarket for their produce. They don’t know how much exposure to pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers or irradiation it has undergone. Nor do they know if it’s genetically modified. Many feel powerless to the big farming operations and the food companies who package the produce they eat.  Apparently a large percentage of people are choosing to do something about that. The organic produce market keeps expanding its market share, year over year. Others, like us, have put a few trees in the yard or use containers to grow some vegetables. Still others are joining community gardens so that they, too, can enjoy the fruits (or veggies) of their labour. If you live in Canada you most likely won’t harvest produce year round, but the reward of being able to enjoy anything you’ve grown for yourself is a timeless one.

 But if you grow a lot, lucky you, because then you may become another practitioner in the art of canning preserves!







 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Life's Path



Life doesn’t usually turn out as planned. We start out our adult lives with the heady idea that we can do what we want, make our own choices and find our place in the world beyond. Some know right away what their passion is and follow it doggedly; others wander along, often making a few wrong turns before they find a path that feels right. Of course, there is never a truly “wrong” way, because every path we take offers a learning experience. It’s what we do with those experiences that counts.

Even the most predictable path includes roots that trip up the traveller. Some of these trip-ups don’t hinder much, but others can truly stop us in our tracks so that we just can’t continue the way we were going. When we’re stopped long enough we often feel we’re losing our way completely and we might never get "on-track" again. This loss of bearings is a signal that we should pay close attention, because a possible fork in the path might lie just ahead, a fork requiring fresh consideration.

I experienced this kind of trip-up when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. I thought that I wouldn’t be hindered by it, but I soon discovered that this diagnosis created a fork for me.
My illness, Crohn’s disease, is mostly invisible. Only those that spend time with me on a day-to-day basis can attest to its effect on my health. I was diagnosed twenty years ago, after almost eight months of debilitating intestinal uncertainty. The diagnosis, then, came somewhat as a relief: there’s a name for my problem. And they have drugs to treat it. I decided to be stalwart and not wallow in self-pity. That choice was not a considered one: I was simply wanting my life to get back to normal.


But I soon discovered that these drugs that were effective at controlling my intestinal problems caused me all kinds of other symptoms, which were even more debilitating than the first ones. I felt as if I had a severe flu, with achey joints, a ridiculously pounding headache that intensified with movement and total lethargy. The dosage was lowered and lowered and I was able to cope; but then the gastroenterologist said that the dosage was so low that it probably wasn’t doing much, so he put me on another medication, more specific to the ileum—the part of my intestinal tract that was damaged. I was taking the second drug for not even a month when I had a Crohn’s flare-up and was spending most of my day in a bathroom. I also lost five pounds in two days, and I was already underweight by about twenty pounds.

Another drug, an anti-inflammatory, was prescribed by my family doctor, but only for a few months  due to its harmful effect on the liver, bones and teeth. My intestinal problem improved, and I got high from the initial adrenal rush that the drug caused. I was racing around, completing chores and projects that had been too difficult to accomplish for months, if not years. That “high” dropped off as the dosage was lowered, and I settled into a more normal range of activity while also experiencing internal bleeding and intense abdominal pains throughout the day.

Because of the bleeding, iron was prescribed by my GI doctor. I was finding that all the pill taking was quite a routine; I had to plan for them throughout the day, dependent upon meals and so on. The second daily dose of the specific Crohn’s medication could only be fit in just before bedtime. This was fortuitous, when I realized one night while waiting to fall asleep that the abdominal pain began twenty minutes after taking that pill. The next day I didn’t take the morning dose and had only one or two of the pains. I didn't take the evening dose either, and the following day had no pain. I never took that medication again. (I also did not return to the GI specialist who had prescribed it.)

When the course of the anti-inflammatory medication ended, I was doing better, but I knew I needed to take control of my health. I did research on the effectiveness of dietary change on Crohn’s disease. I talked to other sufferers and learned what diets they had tried. I visited a naturopathic and homeopathic practitioner and followed his recommendations after his allergy test: no dairy or wheat, tea or chocolate (I had mighty trouble omitting the last two, but I did to start with).

Most importantly, I allowed myself the time to process my new reality. I hadn’t done that previously; I had said, “This disease will not affect me,” and carried on. The truth was, it had been affecting me for months, and it was going to affect me for the rest of my life. I could either pay attention to this fact and find effective ways to cope with it, or be constantly dealing with an unpredictable set of symptoms.

My analysis opened up a whole new path to me. Through therapy and copious reading of psychology books, I came to understand how I hadn’t been mindful of my inner state. I could see how I had internalized any negative emotion I'd previously felt, and it literally “ate” at my insides. I had not set boundaries or been proactive either. My body literally forced me to finally become aware. My new mindfulness was an awakening for me, but a death to the life I had created to then.  I soon realized that I was at another crossroads, a place where the road forks.

Every life path will come to such a fork, sooner or later. This is the place where we must make a choice and be true to ourselves. Afterall, our paths are our own—no one else shares them. They may accompany us while they travel their paths, but in the end we are the ones that know every step of the way. We all need time to make a choice when we discover a fork. We might have to take a completely unknown path, and risk losing some travelling companions who don’t accept this decision. Or we might go with the path that seems more worn, because it’s the accepted path to take, and taking it won’t upset anyone. We will no doubt need support for our choice once it’s made, because none of us is travelling totally alone—we all have connections to others that sustain us and help us grow. 

I have followed a fork that veered away from my former path. It wasn’t an easy choice; it was probably the most difficult choice of my life, because it affected my family, especially my children. But it was the healthiest route to take at the time, and because the decision was my own, I am able to live with it peaceably. Although my health crisis precipitated my new path, I’m sure that I would have discovered another similar fork without that provocation, sooner or later.  I needed to stop and take stock of where I’d been and where I was going. Through my analysis I discovered—and continue to discover—truths about myself: my strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge continues to change, just as my life path does. The one thing I do know is, whatever choice I make along the way, I am the one who must follow the course I choose, wherever that takes me. 

Respect your life's path; you are the one who must walk it to its end, so take care and pay attention to the roots along the way.