Monday, 30 January 2017

Monday Moanings - January 30, 2017

Me Today:

Felled by a virus that literally knocked the wind out of me, last week I was easy prey for that trio of muggers who go by the names of  Fear, Uncertainty, and Dread. And my goodness, didn't they have an unending supply of ammunition? Running on "alternate facts" and executive orders, social media and news services exploded with tweets, images, headlines, and sound bites.

At times I felt the sting of loss; not just of my world but the world. I grieved the loss of a bright, hopeful future for my children. At times I felt a prickling of fear shiver through me, body and soul. But then other voices emerged in the media, voices of well-reasoned commentary and astute observation. Then people stepped up to help those in need of shelter, of comfort, of hope. These words and actions did much to reassure me that there is wise, humane leadership in this old world after all; leadership that will call out injustice and not turn a blind eye.

This morning I awoke to read of the deadly attack at a mosque in Quebec. I grieve again. I will steer clear of the sensationalism that peppers social media and fuels fear. I will wait for the facts to emerge and in the meantime do what I can to be of comfort to others.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, ©1952.

©2017 April Hoeller

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - January 19, 2017

Faraway Places...

Grey January skies with too few sunny breaks, tune up my wistful heart to recall an old song. The version I recall was sung by none other than Vera Lynn with my parents joining in whenever it was played on the radio.

Have a listen...

"Faraway places
 With strange soundin' names
 Far away over the sea
 Those faraway places
 With the strange soundin' names
 Are callin', callin' me

Our 2017 excursion to faraway places begins 243 days. It's a bit of a long stretch for us between adventures, but there's work to be done home here, so we'll just have to whistle while we work and hope the time flies by. We are heading back to Europe as my love has a conference in Berlin (just like last year). I'm working on intriguing ways to get there. Looks like Prague will be the starting point for a river cruise. Here's hoping the Elbe River levels stay high enough to float the boat. All that's needed is 84cm (33.1 inches) of water under the hull.

image courtesy of Viking River Cruises

 Goin' to China
 Or maybe Siam
 I want to see for myself
 Those faraway places
 I've been readin' about
 In a book that I took from a shelf

2014 took us to Asia:

Hong Kong
China: Laolongtou - The Dragon's Head, the eastern edge of the Great Wall.
Old Shanghai
Xian - The Terra Cotta Warriors


 "I start getting restless
 Whenever I hear
 The whistle of a train
 I pray for the day
 I can get underway
 And look for those castles in Spain."

Several trips have taken us to Spain, the most recent being last year.


Grenada - The Alhambra
Seville - The Alcazar
And we've been privileged to cruise to so many other faraway places.

St. Petersburg, Russia 2012
Venice 2013
Sydney, Australia 2010
Mumbai 2011
Ushuaia, Argentina 2008
Oslo, Norway 2007

And then some...

 "They call me a dreamer
 Well, maybe I am
 But I know that I'm burnin' to see
 Those faraway places
 With the strange soundin' names
 Callin', callin' me..."

©2017 April Hoeller

Monday, 16 January 2017

Monday Moanings - January 16, 2017

Blue Monday?

So apparently today has the notoriety of being the most depressing day of the year.

Unless of course, it's next Monday. There is some disagreement here on which day exactly Blue Monday falls. Most claim it is the third Monday in January -- that would be today -- while others say it is the Monday of the last full week in January -- that would be next Monday, the 23rd.

I think I'm getting a headache...

The theory is that late in the first month of the new year, the hype and hoopla machine that propelled us through 6+ weeks of the Christmas/New Year season, has finally run out of gas, AND the credit card bills detailing the excesses of those weeks have arrived.

Ah, but a little research reveals the real truth about Blue Monday. It's origins date back to 2005 when Sky Travel in the UK wanted to drum up January business. They called in a prof at Cardiff University and he developed an equation to calculate the most depressing day of the year.

Interestingly, it turned out to be in January! The idea caught on, along with the remedy: spend your way out of it by buying a vacation package. Oh, and while you're away, spend more money!

The retail industry loved it and we bought it - hook, line, and sinker.

Neuroscientist Dean Burnett has called a spade a spade: "This claim is incorrect. It is unscientific. It is pseudo-scientific. It is uber-scientific." His rant in the Guardian a few years back put it in no uncertain terms:
When asked whether it really was the most depressing day of the year, he answered,
No, no, no.
No. Na. Nein. Non. Nyet. Mhai. Illai. Não. Nee. Ne. Nope. Negatory. Nada. No way, Jose. Nil. Nu. Nie. Bu Dui. Iie. Nem. Nullus. Nej. Neen. And, in case any Klingons are reading this, Ghobe!"
There is no scientific evidence to support a Blue Monday in January, or a Blue Wednesday in October, or any other day of the year.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) does have some credibility in the world of science and medicine. For some of us, this time of year just doesn't bring enough hours of daylight to keep us merry and bright.

But have you noticed that both 7am and 5pm are looking a little brighter these days?
The sun where you live may not appear as a great fireball in the sky today, but it is still up there and rising a little bit higher each day.

Where there are shadows, there is light...

Blue, red, yellow or green, it's time to smile and kick off into a new week.

May there be enough light for all of us to enjoy.
Have a good one.

©2017 April Hoeller

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - January 12, 2017

A Great Escape

Old Man Winter and Lady Spring have been locked in some kind of arm wrestling match this week. Ontario has had snowstorms, windstorms, and thunderstorms; ice pellets, freezing rain, blizzards, and pouring rain.

               Sunshine for more than just half a day would be nice.
                                  A beach would be nice.

So let's go!

No words, just images of warmth and sea and sand.

Grand Cayman
The Galapagos
The Galapagos

Little Cayman

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Abacos Islands


Cozumel, Mexico

©2017 April Hoeller

Monday, 9 January 2017

Monday Moanings - January 9, 2017

It feels a little empty, a little sad...

The tree has been disrobed and dismembered, its artificial limbs and push-together trunk systematically tucked into the Rubbermaid coffin that now lies buried in the depths of our basement. The ornaments have returned to their nests in the aging red and white cardboard box with umpteen layers of packing tape holding its sides together.

Some ornaments get special treatment - tender cocoons of paper toweling cradle these precious ones that are heavy with memory and oh so fragile. Each one got to sing its story again this Christmas, but one for the last time. Brittle with age, it fell apart in my hand, a half dozen sharp peaks of impossibly thin heirloom glass. Ah well, nothing lasts forever and the old give way to the new.

The tree lights, those tiny jewels that gave me so much peace and solace in the late evening after a long day, lie powerless yet perfectly coiled and bound into compact quarters. They will no doubt while away their time in the dark writhing themselves into a frantic tangle for me to resolve some eleven months from now.

All the other decorations of the season have also been returned to their resting places - all the knick-knacks and doodads, wreaths, garlands, and precious children's crafts, even the Christmas mugs and plates - all have been exiled to the attic or basement, away from the daily scene.

It feels a little empty, a little sad. My surroundings seem so ... blah.

And so the seeds of the January blahs begin to germinate. They were sewn in the razzle dazzle of December, the music and the memories, the stories and the smiles, the laughter, and the hospitality. Such exuberant merry-making was truly unsustainable.
Now, what?

A New Year has begun.
Mary Anne Radmacher urges me to:

“Live with intention.
 Walk to the edge.
 Listen Hard.
 Practice wellness.
 Play with abandon.
 Choose with no regret.
 Appreciate your friends.
 Continue to learn.
 Do what you love.
 Live as if this is all there is.”

So let's mosey along through January, doing all we can, when we can, as gently as we can, for ourselves and others. The days are lengthening - a whole eleven minutes longer over the coming week - the light is returning.

©2017 April Hoeller

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - January 5, 2017

Correspondence Day

Winter is back!  After a brief sojourn in rain and slush and muck, our driveway has solidified into a craggy gauntlet of frozen treachery that none, without ice cleats, may pass. It's going to be an indoor day for me.

My hero - spreading ash on the driveway of doom

I will surround myself with warmth - fleece, blankies, tea - while I attend to my inbox. Would that it were an actual box, with real letters in it, handwritten missives telling of concerns, questions, and well wishes; something like the red box of government papers sent to the Queen daily.

I want to sit at my writing desk today, pen in hand, fine paper before me and do that old-fashioned thing - write letters. I don't want to sit in front of a computer screen tapping out individual elements of the English alphabet to make words, sentences, paragraphs. I want to form flowing cursive script on cream coloured pages with torn edges.

I don't want to use emoticons, however yellow, cute, funny, clever or animated, to convey some kind of emotional state. The honest moments and movements of my heart need words, real words born of thought-FULL-ness; words that don't always come easily, that often struggle to be a handhold, a hug, a substitute for eye to eye, heart to heart communication.

If I find that writing takes too much time, there is a Plan B. Another old-fashioned instrument lies within arms reach, the one invented by Alexander Graham Bell. To speak and talk in real time, with a real person - what a concept! It is so much more satisfying and effective than a ping and flash of words across a smartphone screen. And there is far less chance of miscues and mix-ups occasioned by a plethora of abbreviations.

This is not a rant against tech. I use it - no kidding, eh? I appreciate its speed, efficiency, and encyclopedic (though not always truthful!) data. And yes, at some point, I will end up keyboarding most of my cursive communiques. The information super highway is unlikely to get buried in paper.

BUT I don't want to sacrifice the irreplaceable skill of written, hand-written, words on paper and that two way street of listening and speaking that is person to person conversation, especially in matters of the heart, in those relationships that matter most.

The kettle is boiling, my pen is ready. It's Correspondence Day.

©2017 April Hoeller