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Herb Woman

I’m dreaming strange dreams again for the first time in several months.  I believe in the significance of dreams, although I am almost embarrassed to admit it.  Perhaps it is a superstition so instilled in me that no matter how hard I try, I cannot rid myself of the silliness of it, cannot even acknowledge it as silliness.  Instead, some piece of me clings to the idea that something magical lies in the interpretation of dreams, and that to receive a dream is a blessing from the gods. (So silly!)

In my dream, I was in a room with two older women and I, myself, was 55 years old.  One woman was behind me, and the other was in front of me.  There was a strange apparatus in the centre of the room, and the woman in front of me was conducting a ceremony, a Last Ritual for the woman behind me to ease her passing.  A light was reflected from the apparatus, and instead of striking the woman behind me, they fell on me. I was afraid and thought perhaps that I would die instead of the elderly woman behind me.

The ritual was over.  I never saw the woman behind me.  The woman in front of me, the Herb Woman, was putting large trays of things into an oven.  She was wearing a blue babushka, and I was wearing a red one.  I walked over to her and asked, “How do you do it?  I know you help people, but how can you do it?”

She looked at me intensely for a moment, then said, “What are you so afraid of?”

“Of ending!” I exclaimed.  “Of ceasing to be, of ceasing to learn, of ceasing to experience and learn from life!”

Again she gazed into me, then patted me gently on the hand and told me to have some tea.Image


The Myth of the Spirit

I’m trying, sometimes with great difficulty, to understand who I am, where I’m going, and what the journey signifies. More often than not I feel like I’m not anything, that what I think I am is a construct of all those things I wish I was. And I guess one of the things I wish I was is permanent and not of such a transient nature. I wish I had some sense of spirituality, but whenever my mind caresses that sphere, I feel that it is false. I want to find my way again, to know myself and my thoughts, to understand what I believe in. If I believe in the spirit, I want to know that I believe in it and not that I am succumbing to a comfortable myth. And if I believe that death is annihilation, then I want to embrace that and to not be afraid in acknowledging that I don’t believe in the myth of the spirit. But I oscillate between the desire for belief and unbelief. I have no faith even in faithlessness.

I want to begin to look into all religions, to find what greater Truth all of these beliefs have in common. I feel that if I can study these things, I will be able to discard aspects that I disagree with and narrow my search for meaning in this way. Maybe the only way I can find out what I am is by eliminating what I am not.


I have found it next to impossible to continue to write about my vocation over the past few months. I was unhappy with many things, but felt helpless to name them or speak of them in fear that it might negatively reflect on the organization as a whole. Even now, I feel an acute sense of responsibility to remain mute in order to continue to cast a positive light on the numerous wonderful things the organization provides. However, because of many things, I have chosen to resign.

I have told most of my students about my intent to leave, and this breaking away has been very difficult for me. Students who I thought I had made no impact on proved to be the most upset with the news I was leaving. I know they will be fine, and I know that my replacement will be able to continue to advocate for them.

Even so, I’m sure I’ll be shedding many a tear in the next few days after the centre closes.


I almost had a panic attack for the first time in over a year.  Usually these attacks spring from some feeling of anxiety or an overwhelming emotional experience induced by something small and almost insignificant, like a colour or a phrase.  Today it was an Anglican Cathedral.

This particular cathedral was built in the 1840’s in the centre of a small but developing city.  Today it looks alien amidst a background of commerce.  It is surrounded by a forest of sky-scrapers and is an anachronistic reminder of a calmer age… a lost age.

‘Twas the topmost cross that first caught my attention, an outcry of black upon a blue sky. I struggled to make out the shape of it, encircled as it was by brass or  iron or some other blackened metal.  My gaze followed the cross downwards across  the roof of the tower, an octagonal structure, and down to the stained-glass windows.  These windows took the shape of what appeared to be a lily, a three looped image proudly pronouncing something that I was not yet able to hear.  Then suddenly I recognized in the shape the outline of an old friend’s tattoo, and immediately thought about what that tattoo symbolized: body, mind, spirit.

More thoughts raced through my mind, some of which tripped along their journey, slowing them to a rate at which I could appreciate them: thoughts on Kierkegaard, my tattooed friend,  and the man who mugged me several months ago.

My gaze traveled lower on the cathedral, and sculptured screaming faces stared back at me.  Their voiceless agony pierced through me, and I felt like a video camera, panning in for an extreme closeup of these lips, these noses, these eyes.  They were distorted in a disturbing way by gaping holes left in the limestone over a hundred years of Canadian weather had so efficiently cut away.

I felt the attack come over me, and for a moment I started to hyperventilate.


As the year slowly dies down like the last embers in my fireplace, I sit here with my loved ones and reflect not only on the past, but also on the future.  And as it seems to be the trendy thing to do now, my family and I sat down and discussed our Bucket Lists, and I came up with the following 25 Thing to Do Before I Die.  In no particular order, here they are:

1. Go to the West Edmonton Mall.

As a child, I remember seeing frequent advertisements for the West Edmonton Mall  between my favourite cartoon shows.  For me, this place is like the Canadian Disneyland, and I would love to experience it.

2. See the Rocky Mountains.

I’ve never actually seen mountains before, but I’ve seen pictures.  Also, while studying a poem by T.S. Eliot, I was told by one of my profs that people who lived in valleys at the foot of the mountains often suffered from severe depression, since the mountains block out a lot of the sun.  I’d like to see that, to experience that kind of power.

3, Go Whale Watching.

Several years ago, when I went to Mexico, I swam with dolphins and was surprised and disappointed by their size.  I had always imagined them to be bigger.  So now, I want to see the real big ocean guys: whales.

4. Go Parasailing.

I’m afraid of heights, but I’ve done a lot of things I was afraid of, and I think I’d walk away from this one in total awe of the experience.

5. Try surfing.

I’ve gone “body surfing” (kind of) on the rolling waves in Costa Rica, but I think it would be fun to try it on a board.

6. Go to London and walk down the city streets.

I am an avid reader of Victorian Fiction and would love to walk down the same streets as some of my favourite characters.

7. See old Bedlam

Just because.

8. Visit Stonehenge.

I imagine that this would be a powerful experience.  Also, this where is the final scene between Tess and her love takes place, after the red dripping from the ceiling….

9. Visit Ireland to feel the faeries.

I find that Ireland and Canada share many aspects of colonialism, and I relate strongly to some of  the mythology of the country.

10. Read and Understand “Finnegan’s Wake” by James Joyce.

I’ve already attempted “Ulysses” and understood parts of it.  But “Finnegan’s Wake” is still far beyond my comprehension.  I had a well annotated edition in my Norton Anthology, and it took me half an hour to get through the first paragraph.

11. Walk under Niagra Falls.

When I was in grade 7,  my class traveled by bus to Toronto.  We stopped by Niagra Falls, but only looked at it from a distance and then went to a lame ass water park that wasn’t even open.  I want to go back and get a close-up look of the Falls.

12. Visit Prince Edward Island.

Because of Anne of Green Gables.

13. Visit the Reading Room of the London Library.

I want to walk down the same aisles that George Eliot and Charles Dickens walked down, and sit in the same chairs that Reardon sat in in Gissing’s New Grub Street.

14. Go to B.C.

I want to see the huge redwood forests.

15. Drive and walk up/down Magnetic Hill and experience the illusion first hand.   Walk a little way into the bush and find out when and where it ends.

16. Peruse the Louvre.

This is just something I’d like to experience.

17. Publish some writing.

Maybe a novel.  Maybe a collection of short stories.  Maybe an obituary.

18. Go to Churchill and see the polar bears.

Bears have a strong personal significance to me.  They are incredibly potent symbols of spiritual teachers, and I would love to see a polar bear in its natural environment.

19. Experience a full day of darkness in the Arctic.

It’s an aspect of Canadian Experience I would like to have a part in.

20. Ride a train.

When I was a kid I hopped trains in town, but I’ve never actually been on a passenger train, even though my father, as a former employee of CN rail, has access to a VIA rail train pass to anywhere in Canada.

21. See the real Prairie.

I’ve never been further West than Winnipeg, and I’d like to see the rolling hills and complete flatness of Saskatchewan.

22. Go Sailing.

It looks fun.  And I like water things.

23. See a giraffe.

24. Taste a huckleberry.

I don’t even know what a huckleberry is.

25. Learn from a Buddhist monk, a Rabbi, a Priest, and an Imam.

Preferably in one room.  At the same time.

You Should Not Bear the Cross

I’ve had a very excellent Christmas this year, full of celebration and reflection.  Thinking of the person I was and the person I have become led me to reread many of the  posts on my “myspace blog”.  I read the self-righteous and venomous words that scorched the pages (or rather the screen, I suppose), and could not believe that those were my thoughts.

And yet, I do lament the amount of spiritual messages, the outpouring of my psyche from the chaos, that I experienced then and do not seem to experience now.  Post after post of prophesy screaming to me from my subconscious self misunderstood and misinterpreted!  That screaming has quieted, perhaps because I’ve heard and understood.  I need to focus on remembering to hear myself now, even when all feels well and the screaming is reduced to pleasant murmuring.  It’s too easy to forget the murmur.

One post that especially resonated within me was the day I had had a strange outburst in the shower, and cried out, “You should not bear the cross for he who dies upon the stone!”  At the time, it was merely a thought that came to me and I didn’t understand what I meant.  I didn’t understand where it came from.  I just knew that it was true.

I later imagined I had meant that I shouldn’t take responsibility for a former friend of mine when I felt she had sacrificed herself to her hedonistic drives.  I thought that this meant I should tear myself from her and end the friendship, that I ought not to be a martyr and sacrifice my well-being for this individual.  This is what I did (terribly self-righteously!).

But now I’m re-investigating the interpretation of this phrase and I’ve found that both parts of this phrase (the cross and the stone) are unmistakably Christian.  The Stone is not “pagan”, but rather represents the foundation of the Church, which are the teachings of the Anointed One.  I’ve even found a Biblical verse which seems to reflect the phrase exactly:

“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” -Matthew 21:44.

And the cross I should not bear was not literally carrying another’s burden, but rather following a leader who was unable to withstand the stone, the teaching, his own ideas, who was false and a hypocrite… Myself.  And not only myself!  It was a call to examine the nature of my reality more closely, to look at things carefully before making quick judgements.

This call came out again and again.  And again and again I misunderstood and misinterpreted, redirecting personal responsibility and believing that everyone in the world was either stupid or evil, and that I myself remained uncorrupted and aloof.

I’m not sure where exactly I’m going with this.  I certainly don’t feel this way anymore, and furthermore, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove when it comes to my own spirituality.  I’m not wary of sounding neo-pagan, and I’m not worried about sounding Christian.  I’m not concerned that others will misunderstand me and classify me as a madman.

Spirituality to me is merely one way of expressing in figurative language all of the truths that I cannot name, and if I use metaphors others have used, it’s no different than using a language another has invented to communicate the commonplace happenings of my Experience.

And I think that is the substantial difference between the I that was and the I that is.

Do you believe in God?

I overheard the most interesting conversation today between a grade nine Christian student and a grade 11 student who is non-religious.  The grade 9 student is very curious about religion , and will often ask people about their beliefs.  The response of this grade 11 student to the question, “Do you believe in God?” was:

“If God DOES exist, then he’s a giant douche bag.”

Touche, young man.  Touche.