Monthly Archives: August 2015

Musings on the Spirit

Moonscape

Moonscape

I was taken aback the other day when our son mentioned in passing, “Well, I didn’t grow up in a spiritual household”. It made me ponder the nature of spirituality.   I don’t believe that religion and spirituality are the same thing, but what do I mean by spirituality?  We didn’t talk much about it as the kids were growing up, that’s for sure, because there were many years when I didn’t know what I believed any more, and it’s hard to talk about that.  I thought of myself as an agnostic until one day I made a casual comment about the lack of an afterlife, which made me suddenly aware that I’d made my decision unconsciously; I no longer believed in God.

Labyrinth on Gambier Island, BC

Labyrinth on Gambier Island, BC

Starting from there leads to obvious questions.  What are we here for? What happens when it’s over? Is there any great meaning in what I do during my lifetime? Looking back, maybe I should have brought up these questions with the kids; and perhaps, had I still been a practicing Pentecostal it would have been easier to present answers to those questions.  After all, that’s what religions do best and why they were invented in the first place.  (We’re here to do God’s will and spread his Word.  We will go to Heaven once we die- as long as we’ve accepted Jesus as our Personal Saviour.  Yes, they use a lot of Capitals).  Since I’d finally given up trying to believe all that, what could I tell the kids?  “There’s probably nothing after you die.” “You have to find your own meaning in life.”  “You better enjoy the process, because that’s all there is.” Hardly comforting to a small child.  I thought it better to avoid the subject as much as possible, thus Travis came to the conclusion that we were not a spiritual family.  Unconsciously, perhaps, I didn’t want to influence them into thinking the way I did, since I knew they’d go through their own spiritual questioning, and wouldn’t it be easier not to have to discard baggage before starting?

Crazy lily given to me by my cousin.

Crazy lily given to me by my cousin.

In the years that followed our decision to quit church, we each spent time wondering about the meaning of life; in fact, my husband tried Buddhism for a short period, I embraced Hatha Yoga, so was somewhat influenced by Hinduism I suppose; but neither of us has ever been strongly tempted to join any religion again. Despite the many insights and words of wisdom they have to offer, they are too fraught with contradictions and weaknesses to take seriously as a whole; to say nothing of the horrific things that have been done (and continue to be done) in their names.

Since writing the above, I’ve been letting my subconscious mind grapple with it.  It has shared this with me: my connection with the spiritual is really with the Earth.  The garden, the other animals we share the world with, the other planets and the stars with which Earth shares space;   contemplating and observing these are what brings me to what I call a spiritual place.  They are what bring solace and comfort to my heart on a daily basis.  Thanks, Travis, for bringing me to this realization and may you enjoy your own spiritual journey.

Here’s something to contemplate life by: Brahms Violin Concerto played by Jascha Heifetz and the Chicago Symphony.

Neighbourhood Inspiration

imageWhen I’m out walking or biking I’m constantly distracted, delighted and entertained by what other people are doing in their gardens.  Sometimes I like what I see and even stop to take a picture, other times I’m dying to pull out a huge weed that’s marring an otherwise lovely flower bed.  You never know what someone might actually want in their garden, though, so I don’t usually succumb to that temptation.

The other day I was catching my breath at the bottom of Cote-St-Antoine before biking up the hill through Westmount on my way home from rehearsal and was suddenly transfixed by the sight of the flower bed that runs along the Westmount City Hall property.  I loved what the gardener had done there.  First of all, most of the flowers weren’t the standard issue echinacea, black-eyed Susan, phlox, etc, that might be blooming right now. I didn’t even recognize most of the plants (perhaps they’re annuals); the very large colourful  flowers (see the photos) might be some kind of dahlia, and the little purple ones look familiar but I don’t know what they’re called.  It was refreshing just seeing flowers I don’t see everywhere, but on top of that,  kale, swiss chard and sweet corn were planted amongst them!  It was done cleverly and naturally so the vegetables looked as much a part of the flower bed as any of the other plants.  I’ve been doing the same thing in my garden, so maybe that’s why I found it enchanting.  I love the look of the colourful swiss chard, and many herbs are attractive and can easily be mixed into flower beds.  The seed plumes of the corn reminds me of ornamental grass, and are lovely accents in the garden.  The dark grey-green of the kale is a great contrast to the lighter green foliage around it.  I wouldn’t have thought kale could look so striking.

That experience reminded me that all our common vegetables came from wild plants at one point or other, and it’s only our perception that they’re from different categories that makes one a candidate for a flower garden and another for a vegetable garden.  Why not mix the veggies in like that?  It’s not the most efficient way to grow vegetables, I’m sure, but I leave most of the veggie growing to the local organic farmers, Jamie and Nora Quinn at La Terre Bleu,  from whom we’ve been buying for years. (To read some great excerpts from Nora Quinn’s Country Diary, click here) I’m not excited about growing only vegetables, and with the amazing produce the Quinns offer, there’s not much incentive to grow my own.  I’ve enjoyed having some edibles mixed in with the flowers, though.  So far they consist of rhubarb, raspberries, tomatoes (which I’ve been growing in large containers, without much success), oregano, basil, swiss chard, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  My rule is that the foliage has to be pleasing to the eye (raspberries and tomatoes being exceptions, but they’re so delicious!).image

Maintaining a flower garden is certainly a luxury that I’m grateful I can afford.  If I were in different financial circumstances, I might have gravitated to vegetable gardening and, (who knows?) I may do it in future in a more serious way.  My husband, Dave,  says he might be interested in gardening if it was to produce food; I might have to test him on that one day. However, I don’t see him out there harvesting the chard…

Just had to add this…