A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.

~Rita Mae Brown
Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

~Alfred Adler


On The Bedside Table
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    by Joe Hill
My Now
Old Writey Bits
My Thanks
Matt Fitzhardinge - Alaskan dogsledding header picture


A Little Bit More of the Farm Life

(Friday the 19th of March)

Up at a decent time this morning (830) to have a couple coffees before heading out to meet up with Tim's da, where I learned about how the sheep are bought and sold and Tim updated his dad on how much fencing he'd need for the driveway. Basically it's a 700 metre driveway thats recently been planted with trees and now has to be fenced to keep the sheep from munching them down. Even though the sheep don't much LIKE the leaves of the trees, when you've got 400 head where each of them needs to try a few leaves to decide whether they like the taste, then you don't have trees for very long.

All very rational, it is.

We dug about on the farm to round up the bits we'd need to build a jerry-rigged fire pot to get a fire going and cook the yabbis outside and will now have a bit of lunch before heading back out again.

Yeti will be driving up after work tonight and we'll have a feast with Tim's parents, then head back into Perth in the morning.

Tim and I headed out after lunch to figure out a way of transporting and rolling out a 200 kg roll of wire fencing with only the two of us (we ended up sliding a length of pipe through the middle and using a chain to hook it to the bucket of the tractor with me standing on the end and walking over it as he backed the tractor up) and then stopped by the house again to pick up Heidi and their new baby, Hamish, for his first 'fishing trip'. The two traps in the first dam yeilded about 12 yabbies only but they were really big ones. At the second dam we got about 25 per trap so the five traps all together gave us plenty for dinner.

There seems to be a bit of a debate about whether the yabbies are actually carnivorous and why exactly they eat the parrots but Heidi said that she'd heard they strip them down because the rotting animal is a contaminent in the water and needs to be removed so it won't pollute their environment. Regardless of why they do it - they're super effective at it - one of the parrots was stripped completely down to bone in 24 hours and the rest were 90% of the way there.

We dumped them all out on the lawn to be rinsed off and I played around a little with one for pictures before handing them off to Heidi so she could kill them by dunking them in hot water; twist their heads off; and pull out whatever that vein is before tossing them in the pot.

I ate a few as is - this, of course, being the way we would normally each things such as this back home - pick and peel shrimp-like and they were very good, very rich, and tasted like little lobsters. Everyone else got hunks of fresh homemade bread, slapped on some butter, slathered on a layer of 'dianne' sauce (mayo, tomato sauce, lemon), piled on the yabbies and ate them like a sandwich. I tried that and somehow the combination of it all totally turned me right off. I couldn't even look at them anymore and the smell was starting to make me nauseous. Weird.

Friday night was the first night of three that the Shire was running a fox hunt - basically everyone goes out with spotlights and shoots as many as they can and the Shire will pay $5 a head to a local charity. Sounds bad, I know, but when you consider that these are all farmers and the fox is not only an introduced species with no natural predators here whom kill the baby lambs, it starts to make sense.

I'd digress here about the introduced species; camels; cane toads; foxes; rabbits etc, and the irrevocable harm they've done to the land and native animals of Australia but I'm sure you're all well aware of their struggles in this regard, so there'll be no digressing.


Be Prepared to Learn More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Sheep

(Tuesday to Thursday, the 16th - 18th of March)

A couple of 'regular' days in Sydney faffing about - some shopping, the Sydney Aquarium, meals out and Alice in Wonderland in 3D, which was my first 3D movie so was a pretty cool experience. Sydney is freakishly expensive - movie tickets for 2, one bag of chips and a pop = $50. A bottle of Gatorade - $4.95. 2 burgers and some fries = $27. I mean, I know that the salaries are high and the housing prices as well, but really? Really?

Jeff and Yeti tell me that the cost of living is slightly higher in Perth even.

An uneventful flight to Perth and the boys picked me up at the airport and took us back to Yeti's 'new' house, where we visited briefly, handed out pressies and then Tim and I were off for the two hour drive out to his farm.

Tim's a farmer with his dad, they each have their own chunks of land but they farm together - sheep, canola, barley, wheat and some other grain I can't remember at the moment - and when Tim told his da that he was going into Perth his dad said, "Well, then, take 20,000 kilos of grain down with you and bring 20,000 kilo of fertliizer back with you, will ya?" Consequently, my 'ride' to the farm was a huge truck with a trailer attached. Suprisingly, it was quite a comfy ride through the forest for the two hour ride at 10 pm - sighted a few wallabies but nothing overly exciting.

Last time I visited Tim still lived with his parents and they were negotiating to buy his uncle's portion of the farm which had what would become his house on it. I seem to remember that no one had lived in the house for about 20 years and it was the bit worse for wear - not to mention that its roughly a 100 years old. Once Tim married his girl Heidi, they cleaned it up, moved in and then spent roughly 2 years getting it to it's current state - which is absolutely gorgeous. 11 foot ceilings throughout, hardwood floors, I don't have the words to describe it anywhere near adequately. It's constructed around a central hallway with rooms down each side with every room having a door to outside and a full verandah around the house.

I'm not good with remembering technical things - like say, actual farm size, sheepie numbers, etc although I am good at asking questions and Tim is excellent at giving understandable answers SO let me get this down before I forget. Again. 5500 acres. Massive.

Of course, now I've forgotten the rest.

After a quick shower upon our arrival, I settled into my room and had a great sleep until I was woken at 7 am by the dawn chorus. Magpies, parrots, gallus and cockatiels. It's still a little strange, and granted, I've only been in Australia for 5 days, but it's really hard to get used to flocks of parrots and cockatiels flying about like they own the place. I have this weird feeling that I can't get past that they're zoo animals. Or pets. hah.

I headed out for a cigarette and then read my book for awhile before falling back asleep and waking up at 1230. oops.

In the afternoon, Tim and I headed out to feed the sheep with the two dogs - Heidi's dog, Gyp - a boxer blue heeler cross, who normally lives with her parents but comes up a lot for sleepovers, and Tilley, the new border collie who will eventually join as one of the three dogs who manage the sheep with Tim and his da.

Along the way I learned about the wells that feed the house (which over the years have variously used windmills, diesel pumps and now solar energy to pump the water), the dams to provide water for the sheep and the aquifers under the soil. The current well has been in operation for at least 50 years, which suprises me as there is very little rain here but Tim tells me that underneath us is granite which of course the water can't seep into. What rain does fall then just seeps into the ground and pools above the granite. The current well is 60 feet deep so that gives you an idea of the geography of it.

At one site we stopped at there was an old well that had been dug by hand. By hand. I had to say that twice cause it makes me exhausted and giggly just to say it out loud. The supports for the well consist of round concrete sections about 5 feet across and 4 feet tall. One digs a hole and positions the concrete in it then hops in and continues to dig out underneath it as the weight of the concrete forces it down farther into the ground before adding another concrete round once one gets far enough down, and so on, handing the dirt up in buckets, until the water table is found. Considering that the concrete rounds are quite cramped inside, it's got to be high up on the list of the worlds crappiest jobs. Not to mention that it's got to be a bitch on your back.

The sheep are usually given grain and hay a few times a week - today we hauled ..er.. something behind the truck and as we got into each paddock Tim would release the chute for 90 seconds. Each paddock area holds a different age of sheep - we hit the two year olds and the pregnant mothers and a couple more. Once the sheep realize Tims hauling the tucker truck there is a veritable stampede across the stubble. Its quite cool.

We stopped by his dads place to pick up some frozen parrots from the shearing shed... oh wait, let me stop here... Last time I was here it was October and I did get to see Tim shear a couple of sheep but normally they are sheared in March (next week to be exact) every year.

The sheep are self-renewing. By that I mean that there is a group that is kept to breed, usually for about 5 years, and at all times there'll be paddocks of 1 year olds, 2 year olds etc. - about 7 age groups with 12/13 paddocks of females and 2 paddocks of rams. A lamb is only a lamb until it's first two adult teeth come in - about 14 months. Then it's mutton. A large part of the farm's sheep are sold to Muslim countries so they are either transported live or slaughtered in abbatoirs specially set up to conform to the religions requirements ie: facing mecca, before being shipped.

Pricing-wise, of course its variable with the markets but say, 50 (mutton) - 90 (lambs) dollars a head. Hay goes for about 60 dollars a round, each pile of wool from a sheared sheep gets about 25 dollars.

It's all about the numbers in farming. And balancing out the percentages between grain and sheep.

Back to the parrots. Parrots that end up "accidentally" dead are tossed in the freezer for use later as bait so we picked up some traps and a clutch of bait and headed out to set the traps in a couple of dams for yabbis (basically a freshwater crayfish).

Then home again to a lamb roast (yum!) and to bed.


Be A Love and Pass Me the SPF 50, Would You?

I was blogging this from poolside but it seems I was just a weensy bit too far from Jeff's apartment for the connection to be consistent and consequently lost most of the post.  Which is not a bad thing since I'm still trying to find the flow and it was mostly bollocks.  Now that I've had my 15 minutes of sun (I'd say I'm easing into the sun exposure but considering I'll be out learning to surf tomorrow, I will just admit that it's too damn hot) and a dip in the pool, let's try this again, shall we?

I landed in Sydney yesterday morning and strangely, I'm not feeling 'off', beyond what that dodgy noodle pot is making me feel.  I'm not a particularly good sleeper on flights and asked to give an opinion, I'd venture to say sleeping during a flight is a downright bad idea.  Up there with consuming alcoholic beverages.  I've come to the conclusion that it's just harder on your system.  No scientific basis for that but the sleeping contorts your body, only adding to the damage that staying sedentary for long periods of time is already causing.  It's not a regular rest period, even if it's during the time you'd normally be sleeping, and so I don't think you derive any benefit from it - really, it's just a way to make the time feel like it's going faster.  You're better off just to suck it up and find ways to amuse yourself.

I was up and about around 830 am on Friday to finish packing and have a massage before getting to the airport about 230 for the first leg of my flight to San Franciso, landing there at 530 pm and boarding the Qantas flight for a 1055 pm departure.  The doctors had told me to take Robaxacet every four hours and get up every 1/2 hour to do my stretching and walk about, although I only got up every hour or so throughout, it made a huge difference to how I felt when I landed - ie: normal as opposed to all twisted up in a knot and like I'd been knocked enthusiatically about the noggin a few times.  I'd booked an aisle seat in a row with only two seats so getting up and moving about wasn't quite so disruptive.  It didn't hurt that it was the best international flight I've ever taken, if you discount 14 hours of turbulence, that is.   I swear, I kept looking around fully expecting to see Jack Shephard sucking back a few inflight vodkas.

Qantas is brilliant.  Full stop.  A welcome package - headset, toothbrush, toothpaste, sleep mask, a teeny good quality pillow with an actual pillowcase, not that creepy faux fabric and a lovely soft blankie - which I nicked shame on me, and after a decent meal: a goody bag filled with bottled water, m&m's, cookies and mints.  The best thing was the water fountains by the lavatories so you could refill with cold water yourself and which I took full advantage of at least 5 times.  Good variety of entertainment as well.  Not to forget the headrest that can be adjusted to wrap around your head and keep it cushioned and steady.

I watched Up In The Air, finished reading Shutter Island and got most of the way through No Second Chance .

I wasn't asked anything in US Customs about the conviction, although it is always such a treat to find your locks cut off your luggage and a "we rummaged about in your underwear and kept what we wanted" note inside your suitcase upon arrival at your destination.  I seem to remember checking Australia's site to find they wouldn't be too arsed about the criminal record and proceeded to forget all about it until I was pulled out of the line so they could 'have a quick chat about your conviction.'  Thankfully, that was totally painless and involved me filling out a form with the details and waiting while they shuffled off to a back room, presumably to check me out somehow, before returning my passport and sending me on my way.

After settling into Jeff's we went out for a bite to eat and I crashed out for a three hour nap (having been up 36+ hours) which left me feeling quite a bit more Jenlike, then headed out for some sushi.

After  a decent nights sleep I got up around 830 this morning and prepared to brave the transit system for a ride into the city proper for a go-round with Jeff's massage therapist.  Once I found my way out of the apartment building, that is.  It's quite sprawling and confusing, not to mention that the first floor in Australia is really the SECOND floor.  Sydney is home to four million people and if I stop to think about that too much it's quite overwhelming, considering my city is 400,000.  The downtown literally teems with humanity and the sheer cacophony is distracting.

Jeff's masseuse should be declared a national treasure.  Kerrie loosened up my entire body and knew exactly what was going on in there - her every observation was dead on to things it's taken me 5 years to work out about my injury and how my body has compensated for it - truly the first time in my life that massage remolded my body - I left there feeling literally a completely new person.  I must admit to feeling a perverse sense of pride when a massage therapist tells me that I have a remarkable pain tolerance level.

I grabbed a takeaway Americano, checked in at the OzExperience office to make sure I had the right idea about picking up my bus in 10 days  and walked a bit before boarding the bus back to Jeff's.  At Sandy's new place in Calgary a couple weeks ago I noticed a fragrance in the bathroom - P&S Fig and Olive - and gave it a sniff to find the most fantastic thing I've ever smelt.  I seem to be making a lot of sweeping "BEST EVER" comments these days, huh? It's not facetiousness, I truly mean it - backed by the 40 years I've got under my belt. Anyways, the internet informed me that Yoshi Jones in Newtown stocks their products and I stopped in (within a block from Jeff's place) to find that they were currently out but it was on order and 10 bottles will be arriving any day and certainly in time for me to pick some up upon my return to Sydney on the 1st or 2nd of April.  

I also hit the Lemongrass House and picked up some heavenly bodywash and soaps, which I am heading to the bathroom directly to try out. 

Things I learned today:

No matter what you think the temperature is before you leave the apartment - wear shorts or you'll be sorry.

SPF 50 does not a sissy make.  Although I'm sure tomorrow will see me crispy no matter what I do to avoid it.

Do not give into the siren call of hot coffee.  The combination of the humidity, the heat and your own body temperature coupled with hot coffee will make you very very sorry.  And yeah, I know it's not very warm to you Sydneysiders, bit it is TO ME.

Remember, those parrots everywhere have not escaped from a zoo, they actually all live here, this is normal.

Tonight I'm going out for dinner with Jeff and his lady friend and then he and I are heading out near Royal National Park for surfing lessons in the morning.  My dentist back home has provided me with the mold of my lower teeth and emergency contact info for a colleague here in Sydney just in case I manage to knock anything out with a surfboard but hopefully being prepared for that eventuality will negate it.  Wish me luck!


A Little Trip to see the Calgary

I arrived at the Calgary airport yesterday morning, made a stop in the Life is Good store and headed over to pick up my rental car.   How excellent that felt. 

I totally forget how freeing it is to have a car.  We were sitting around last night and I'm kinda craving a Big Mac and then, suddenly I'm like, "Wait a minute!  I HAVE A CAR!"  So we went.  And I'm totally choked with myself because I had an Angus burger and it just doesn't have the same craving deadening power as a dirty Big Mac.

But, the car!

I've know Katerina for um, 6 years or so.  Blogging friend, lives in Calgary and I started following her blog while I was still living here. Wicked funny blogger and I'd send you there but she's toasted it.  In the five years since we've progressed to phone friend and she's my nemesis in the Wordscraper.  (bitch!)  Anyways, she's had a terrible unfair nasty time with the cancer this last year and I'm super happy to have gotten the chance to do the face to face thing with her finally.

Both of us are the kind of people who just are who they are.  There's no difference between the Jens you get in email, on the phone, on the internet or in real life.  And so, it's been good.  We sort of knew what to expect.

Before the whole internet explosion, as a society, I don't think there was much call to meet people you knew but had never met.  I'm not particularly articulate today but I think you get what I mean, right? 

And I find it super interesting to be in this position. 

In a large proportion I think bloggers tend to use their blogs as a diary of a type.  A way to externalize their internal struggles (or whatever) to an audience that they know they'll never have to come face-to-face with and that's freeing.  It's a nice way to get feedback or to feel 'heard', I think.  I know that during periods where I knew the people coming here, I've edited myself.  I lost some of the anonymity and so some of the benefit of this place when I allowed people from RL to come here because even though I am the same Jen, there are things I put out here that just weren't things I'd want those people to be privy to.  Not that I've come to regret it but the realization is there that I've muzzled myself.

In a few weeks, I'm jetting off to Sydney to stay with our Jeff and I'm really pumped about that.  In Jeff's case, from reading his blog I do get the feeling that the person I'll be presented with will be a different version of the real world Jeff and I'm looking forward to getting to know him.  Or, maybe he'll feel more able to be 'that' person with me.  Any road, it'll be an interesting journey.

Back to Calgary - Kat and I did some shopping today and ate at Gee Gong, which I have dearly missed (the best salt and pepper squid going, I tell ya) and now we're doing the duelling computer thing on the couch and taking it easy.  I'm off tomorrow to meet up with my friend Chingve (CJ) who used to be my video store guy and became a good friend as well.  Then to see Philly, spend a couple days with Sandy (who's just moved back to Canada from Canberra) and a couple days with Pam and Tony before heading home. 

I haven't posted for so long here that now it seems that everything I want to say has this enormous backstory that I just don't have the energy to get into.  Things that require an explanation to have a context and it's not that I don't want to talk about them, it's more that I'm just beyond the nastiness.  As I said to Kat, after 5 years of being kicked repeatedly in the hoo-hoo (and for a goodly amount of time, the world wouldn't even wait for me to get back UP before it wound up for another boot) 2010 has so far contained an almost daily dose of good news, forward movement, productive days and well, joy.

I'm saying this because I'm trying to get back to being here and that is a) one of the reasons I put it off and b) leaves me feeling like I've left this huge . gap . in here and c) I've kinda lost the 'knack' of telling my stories.  So, for the two of you that still check in on me, bear with me, will ya? 

I'm feeling my way back.


Retreat. Part III.

I can't tell you about the Reiki workshops because you don't know the secret handshake code.


Quite an interesting group of people, we all sat around last night and after taking a whack at the heart chakra bowl we said our names and why we're here. Most people are here, apparantly, because they've been led to Sister Eileen somehow. I'm here because of my cat.

Yes, I said that. It's true. During the last few years throughout the daily struggle my life became, I withdrew from everyone, including the internet. My caretaker, touchstone and the one who was there for me through all of it? Cabot. He's not the sort of cat that just sort of hangs around and sleeps like Magpie, Cabot is a little unique in that he needs me just as much as I need him. If 've spent too much time in a day away from him, he paces near wherever I am and talks to me until I lead him to the couch for a little bit of a cuddle. He greets me at the door when I come home. At night, I say, "Bedtime buddy" and he goes directly to the bedroom, hops up on his pillow and waits while I shut off all the lights so we can have a little snuggle before he settles in. I wake up in the middle of the night with him spooned up against me and my arm tucked around and under him. He lays and strokes my face. He's learned quite a few words and to a large degree, I can direct what he does. It's hard to describe all the ways this little animal is as much a part of me as my own arm. I think it may be extremely interesting to follow us around for a day and see how we interact, it's part dog and human, part cat and human, mother and baby and husband and wife, all rolled up in a mishmash of tangled limbs, purrs and conversation.

Now, where was I before the kitty love-fest?

I'm not sure about this reiki thing. I have questions that no one can answer. It's sort of like being back in Sunday school with me and all these fundamental questions seething about in my head and everyone refusing to answer them. Then kicking me out.

Okay, so they didn't kick me out and I haven't questioned anyone's faith. Yet. I mean, we're learning about Universal Life Force Energy here, people and I'm a humanist at heart. I need something more than "you just feel it" and "even if you don't feel it, it's there". I know, I know, I'm being taught energy healing by a nun - so in her eyes, we're dealing with a gift from God and she's been doing it for 17 years and yes, it straightened out her spine from the scoliosis even though the doctors told her nothing could be done. And she spent years dealing with depression and now, she's all good, no drugs, nothing. (Shouldn't nuns be immune to depression? Don't they live inside God's holy light?)

But, something inside me is asking, stridently, that if this is a gift from (lets just call him/her...) the Universe and it's something we all have, why doesn't it work all by itself? Why is the only way that it can be activated is by paying someone who then tells you nothing about it except that after waving their hands about - YOU'VE GOT IT? This isn't 'training' per se, it's an oral tradition handed down by stories, or testimonials or whatever.

And once I've got it, how do I use it? I know there's different schools of thought on the what of it's usage. There's an Usei school and some other guy but those are just the symbols you inscribe in the air - although I don't think you learn symbols in the actual healing until Level II. I do know that the nuns have added a "Christ symbol" only because they asked us whether we wanted it. Sure, what the hell? Throw it in the mix. The more dieties the better, I say.

But the treatment is just me (or whoever) just standing there while you lie down and placing their hands on you. Because, you see, now that I JUST HAVE IT it flows through me and into you. I don't need to turn it on and off. I don't need to do anything special. It just is. And no matter, in theory, where I put my hands, it's like aspirin, it just goes where your body/ mind/ spirit/ soul needs it.

So, if we have friends that are "attenuated" then why not just hang around them for an hour? Why pay someone, if, after all, it's flowing through them at all times and they're just the vessel, it's not like the people who charge for it are directing it in any way or doing anything special? Should I be charging all those people who sit around me on the plane? Cause, you see, now that I've GOT IT, then everyone around me is getting it too. And not paying me. And they should.

Shouldn't they?

The Sister told us that she never felt like she had anything, even though people told her how she made them feel and that until she did the second level, she didn't really believe it was working. But THEN SHE FELT IT. So, you know, even if you feel nothing, it's still THERE. And working. And I can get you to pay me to give it to you.

And the more you use it, in your healing hands, the deeper it gets, the stronger it gets. So you can wave your hands at plants and they'll be healthier. You can THINK energy in someone's direction and even though they're thousands of miles away, they'll GET IT.

Now, I know I'm sounding awfully cynical here and up until my self-treatment and one with my buddy this afternoon, I thought there may be something to it and I was all excited about my attenuation.

We all sat around and the Reiki people stood behind us and made symbols and waved their arms about and then, it was done. We were good. We HAD IT.

And that's about the time I started thinking, hey, wait a second here. I just spent a half hour in guided meditation not in healing. In any meditiation thing I've ever done, you imagine that light is filling you or moving through you and taking all the toxins out or surrounding you in a protective bubble so there was nothing new there. But now it's reiki because I HAVE IT.

And me and my partner just lied there while the other one put their hands on for half an hour. I felt relaxed, sure but....

And what about these people that cry? Or see Christ? Do they just have great imaginations or some previously unknown talent in self-hypnosis?

I'm not sure why I'm questioning this. Am I looking for a lightning bolt from the sky? Is it just not tying into what I believe in? What do I believe in?

I know that I believe the mind is the most powerful thing we've got, in so many ways and on so many levels. I believe that every living thing has an energy of it's own. I believe the nature of that energy is always changing and moving.

Maybe there is a Universal Life Force that I can suddenly now just think about and be tapped into so that it can flow through me.

But after telling Sister Eileen that I was watching during the attenuation she told us that no one, in her 17 years of teaching, had ever admitted to doing that.

And I started to wonder..... just a little.... if we're all playing a big game of the Emperor's New Clothes.

I guess, in the end, it doesn't really matter what my little devil's advocate voices are telling me, because I'VE GOT IT. And I can make you PAY ME FOR IT.

And isn't that just what healing's all about?


Retreat. Part II.

Yup, we're still on Thursday.... I retired to my room after dinner for a little more reading and then availed myself of the therapeutic pool housed in a building beside us. The pool is what I would guess to be about 10 -12 metres long, 2.8 feet at one end, 7.8 feet at the other and kept at a balmy 32 degrees (89.6F). A treasure for late-nighers here, both the pool and the library are open 24 hours a day. At one end is a sitting area with plants and a skylight. It's an incredibly relaxing thing to get a noodle, wrap it around your neck and just float in a dark warm pool looking up at the sky.

By this time, of course, it's only 9 pm so I plugged in my earphones and watched "Whip It" before reading a bit more and heading into sleep.

Okay, now it's friday and I awakened on the ungodly hour of 715 to my cell phone alarm, I decided that it was way too early for breakfast and rolled over to go back to sleep. Considering that I was starving by the time I went to sleep last night (and even ate quite a few mints to try and head off my impending death) I reasoned that my stomachs capacity could probably use a little shrinking after the last three weeks of constant eating and that I really would like to lose that 20 lbs I'd put on in those same three weeks. (A side-effect known as hyperphagia due to a new medication) Although the effects of the medication become less the longer I take it, I think my stomach needs a little re-education on 'normal' meal size and meal times.

So, I slept in until 1030, showered, went for a walk and hit the silent lunch (salad bar, lentil soup and veggie bruschetta followed by carrot cake and lemon square for dessert), wrote the previous blog post, had a hot stone massage at 130 and a swim/float bring me to here.

My word at lunch was "Power".

It's 345 so I'm going to wander around and see if I can find a nice comfy spot to plunge back into the books for an hour until dinner and then starting at 630 pm is my first class with Sister Eileen.

I do miss coffee though, as I haven't had any today, but not in that physical withdrawal kind of way, just in a 'it'd be nice to have a warm cuppa' kind of way and although I do feel a bit of a need to check my email for things I've been waiting for, I don't feel any need for the social aspects of the internet. This place is silent and I like it.

Sitting beside the window in my rocking chair, I can hear only the clicking of keys and the gurgling sounds my water bottle makes through its mouthpiece after I've had a drink.


Retreat. Part I.

I'm in a place called "Queenswood" for the weekend. As much as you may want to guess it's a mental health facility of some kind, it's actually a retreat and residence for the Sisters of St. Ann.

A bit of history. The Sisters of St Ann were pioneers in education and health care in British Columbia. They opened the very first school in Victoria in 1858, in addition to St. Ann's Academy where they educated the sisters and went on to open 34 more schools throughout the Pacific Northwest. In the 1960's when St Ann's Academy was bustling and filled to capacity, the Sisters of St. Ann decided it was time to find property in Victoria near the University where young sisters could live while getting their education and professional training, and where ill and aging sisters could reside and retire.

Near Cadboro Bay the sisters found 15 wooded acres, containing pristine forested areas as well as tended gardens. It had been the homestead of Lt. Col. Alen A. Sharland, whose home was destroyed by fire in the early 1960s. In the 1966 the sisters commissioned architect John DiCastri to design Queenswood House, a convent and retreat centre. Queenswood was designed as an oasis of peace for students, missionaries, and people of all faiths who needed space to study or just respite from the buffeting of the world. Designed as a space evolving spiritually in harmony with the contours of the land, the building follows the descent and rise of the terrain and the orientation of light within it's magnificent natural surroundings.

The building itself reflects the shape of an uplifted body, with the residence wings as the legs, counseling rooms in the torso; hospitality centre and Marguerite Lounge in the heart; conference rooms, library and dining room as the outstretched arms and the chapel as the head.

Quite forward thinking and always with concern for women, the sisters' first retreat upon opening in 1967 was for single mothers needing to renew their energy. It was called "Seven Beds for Seven Mothers."

As Queenswood programs became known in the Greater Victoria community, it has earned a reputation as a welcoming, nurturing retreat centre for anyone seeking a quiet, restful place to retreat, relax and renew oneself - physically, mentally and/or spiritually.

As you know, Haiti has been devastated by Tuesday’s earthquake. There are 40 Sisters of St. Ann and their families in Haiti and they run four schools and a clinic as well as the SSA Haitian Province Administration centre, with residence and novitiate. Sister Eileen confirmed to us this morning that all the buildings have collapsed and that one of the Sisters was killed when this happened. All of the others survived.

I'm here this weekend to learn Reiki from one of the sisters. Sister Eileen to be exact. The course is Friday night to Sunday but I checked in a day early to give myself some time to settle in and prepare mentally for learning a healing practice.

As you can imagine, the building is old. It's built with concrete blocks, each one being the outside and the inside of the walls at once. The interior walls are the same concrete blocks. Each residence wing is two floors housing small rooms, a few offices, rooms for reflection and a communal shared bathroom.

My bedroom contains a closet, a single bed, a sink and mirror, a desk and chair, the rocking chair in which I now sit to type and a dresser.

Quite a few of the areas here are "silent", which suits me just fine. I'm sure the other guests appreciate that they feel no obiligation to speak to the girl with the blue hair. Over the last couple of days they've managed to eyeball their fill, so to speak.

I think there may be internet connections available in the library although once I became accustomed to it not being available, I find I have no real desire to check on the 'real world'.

After unpacking on Thursday, I headed to the library to check out a couple of books (the lovely old system of signing the card in the pocket!) and retired to my room to do a little reading. I chose two books for my time here, for although I brought a non-fiction book and a small business book of my own, I wanted to read some selections a bit more inward looking and thought provoking. The library is quite comprehensive and carries over 12, 000 books - I'd say 90% of them are biblical, spiritual or philosophical in some way.

My two books are a research paper: " Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics: Lifestyles for Self-discovery" by Marsha Sinetar; and the non-fiction "Lambs of God" by Marele Day.

Back cover blurb for Lambs : Carla, Margarita, and Iphigenia are three nuns living in a crumbling monastery on a remote island, forgotten by time, the world, and the Church. Their days are spent in rituals of prayer and storytelling, as they knit the wool of the sheep that inhabit the monastery grounds, and into whose bodies they beliieve their deceased sisters' souls have entered. Then one day a priest appears. Hoping to rise in the Church hierarchy, Father Ignatius wants to convert what he believes is an uninhabited and valuable piece of Church property into a resort for the wealthy. He is as surprised to see the nuns as they are to see a flesh-and-blood man, and what follows is the strange, moving, and often hilarious story of their struggle - a struggle of wills, but also of faith.

I've read a bit of each so far and both are extremely compelling books.

After a brief bit of reading, I headed down to the dining room for the 'silent' seating of dinner. Inside the room door there is a bowl filled with words and each entrant is invited to dip their hand in and pull out a word, laying it down face up on the table so that others can see what's come up that day. My word? "Birth". I find it appropriate.

Dinner was Mediterranean chicken breast, salad bar, baked potatos and a lovely rasberry cake and whipped cream dessert followed by a walk around the grounds and through the labryrinth.

Typical as Island winters are, the trees are skeletal and the very air is grey but here and there are snowdrops under the trees and tulips poking their heads above the soil and in my minds eye, I can imagine how beautiful and enchanting this place must be in all the other seasons of the year.



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