Tag Archives: impermanence

Running Salmon

spawning salmon melodie-grabner-watercolour-5

Fish, especially salmon run in my blood.  My father was a fisherman. He moved from landlocked Manitoba, land of 1000 lakes to the west coast of BC in 1933; escaping the depression. My parents and my three older sisters lived on the ocean for 20 years, until I was born and my mom said that’s enough.


This weekend, we made our pilgrimage to Adams River to witness the annual salmon run. 2015  is a subdominant  year when you can see 100,000+ sockeye return to spawn in October (and maybe a bear or two).


The next big year will be in 2018, where you can see millions of salmon return.

spawning salmon-melodie-grabner-watercolour-1

I like to go every year as it is a pilgrimage to impermanence. The salmon come to spawn and die.


Sadly, this beautiful life cycle could also be dying. Hindered by global warming, urban encroachment and overfishing,  salmon numbers are dwindling. From the days of my dad when a 60 pound chinook was common place, today it would be a rarity for a sport fisherman, and you would have to go the Haida Gwaii to catch it.

Just as I now live on a riparian stream and do my best to keep it natural, I hate to think that only my paintings will be left for my great-grandchildren, when my father left me the ocean.

Blowin’ In The Wind

The teacher comes when the student is ready…..

Someone wise once said this, I’m sure. Sometimes it is difficult to know who the teacher is. Lessons learned this week. Living with your 88 year old mother-in-law, who tells you she doesn’t understand the word “happy” in any language is a lesson. Unable to live alone because of health and age issues she pines for her former unhappy life. There, she was in control by locking the world away. She was asking for her beautiful curtains that were in her house that was sold. “Sold with the house” I said. I might as well have ripped out her  heart. “All my beautiful things, gone. Everything is blowing in the wind”

Everyday is the same conversation. Only her things will give her back her life. Her control.

I was miffed at the beginning of the week. A drive into town, only 26 km. away and this is the sign I saw.

street cleaning signNot fair! Why was it spring there and not on my street?IMG_1607


Everywhere on social media people are talking about spring. Yes, officially it was the first day of spring last week. Posts have shown beautiful pictures of flowers popping up: happiness everywhere. Spring is like that. We come out of hibernation, shake off the dust, the closeness of hibernating for the last 3 months. We are like the grumpy bears, woken up from our slumber. Ready for action with an insatiable appetite. I wanted spring!

It only took a bit of contemplation and another unhappy conversation with Oma for the whack from the cosmic baseball bat to realize spring was blowin’ in the wind.

I planted seeds, cleaned my greenhouse, bought more seeds.

I was so glad that the weather was still cold. I would have time to seed some more perennials outside in milk jugs.They would need some freezing nights to split the seeds and help them germinate, and be  transplanted to bloom in the spring and summer.






Outside they went. I still needed more winter time.

I needed to remember my favourite bible passage, and my favourite Pete Seeger song Turn Turn Turn

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;”

I also needed to remember another favourite quote and song.

“The answer , my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”


Really….world peace?


It sounds like a very bad Miss America joke. “my greatest wish is for world peace”. Why would I have said that?
My daughter writes a very interesting blog. http://martinistyle.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/making-peace/ Not one for social media or putting herself and her family out there; she was inspired at an education conference. She writes every night now. I always like to stay up and read her blog before I go to bed. It usually gives me a warm feeling. This post gave me lots to think about.

I really had to stop and think why I would have said that my greatest wish was for “world peace”. So pie in the sky. Was I just being facetious? Was I just saying anything to placate her? Did I really think that is what I was wishing for? Or did I just want peace and quiet from her constant questioning?

I have taken a few days to really ponder it. Is my wish today for world peace?

I think every parent, in their heart wants to keep their children safe. They want them to grow up without conflict in the world, without fear of war, hunger, scarcity, even death. They want more for their children than they had themselves. I wanted to save them from my suffering and fears; the death of my friend at 10. Killed along with her whole family by the hands of her father. The long-suffering of my dad who died from bleeding ulcers. Something  cured today by antibiotics. He got very sick when I was eight and died my first year of university. Right after that my niece died from pneumonia at age 13. We were only five years apart and very close. This smack down with suffering started me on my own personal journey for answers.

Not growing up with a familial spirituality I was constantly searching. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s there were many new and emerging ideas and thoughts. At 17 I learned about transcendental mediation, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. I was the consummate “hippie chick” Protesting the war in Vietnam was the norm, even for Canadians. World peace was a mantra. Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell were my constant companions.

Yet time passes and decisions get made. I became a wife and mother and then a single mother. Responsibility for another life was mine. Somehow the success on my child became my success. Somewhat narcissistic I would say. I didn’t want world peace, I wanted them not to have to experience suffering, dying or death. I already knew that everything was not okay. Bad things did happen to good people.

In my journey to keep them safe I encountered many wonderful mentors and teachers. My own mother and our new sisterhood as mothers, not daughter and mother was enlightening. My desire to give my children a spiritual foundation led me to St. Francis of Assisi, the Poor Clares and Father Tim Elliot, OFM of Papua New Guinea and his lifelong ministry to the lepers there, to people who through their actions really did work for world peace.


Did I keep my children safe? Did I save them from heartbreak, hard lessons learned, growing up and older, suffering? No. That’s not the way it works.

What I have learned is that I could only set them on the path. Planes disappear, wars start, friends die, life is suffering and despair but through it we can know happiness and that their pain and suffering and along with that, their happiness is the result of their own actions and not my dreams for them. Just as I used to “now I lay me, down to sleep” prayer every night as a child with a “god bless” for everyone I knew, I now pray every night, the prayer of  loving kindness. May they and all be free from suffering and the cause of suffering.


Did I give them what they needed to wish for world peace and the ability to work for it? I can’t, nor ever could stand between them and heartache.


They will find peace for themselves.

Take Your Seat


Daily Prayer

Take your seat,

Feel yourself

Connected to the earth.

Be quiet

Let the stillness enter

Know that all things pass away

People, animals, nature

Yet you can rest at ease

Allow all things to rise and fall

With a peaceful heart

Be at the centre

This is home.

Hard Work and Cows

August has sped by, and it’s now September. Living in the country always seems to involve work. So far we have painted the outside of the house, laid a floor, painted a bedroom and redone a bathroom. We spent two weekends volunteering for our community and two weekends helping my mother-in-law and our daughter and son-in-law (he tore is ACL) who both live in the city but needed the country Papa with his chainsaw and a big truck.

The weather has been amazing, hot and sunny (July was a record for zero precipitation). We pruned, mowed, watered, and then did it some more. Our next door neighbor was diagnosed with acute leukemia two month ago, we mow and water his place as well.

I picked berries, apricots, peaches and pears. Then I canned, the fruits of our labour. Vegetables are next. I love this time of year. IMG_3727The jars filled with fruit always sparkle like jewels in the sun.

We visited the osprey nest and have enjoyed the two little ones as they learned to fly using our yard as a flight lane to the lake. Very noisy when they fly over; either just joy of the flight or letting their mom know where they were. A large heron who must live down the creek or in the neighbouring lake also used our yard as a flight path at least five times a day, but never when I had the camera out, only a paint brush. I knew he was over head because of the shadow he cast.

Osprey Nest

The bees have really enjoyed the flower garden and the natural meadow. I enjoy my morning coffee with them. The stellar jays are back and hogging the bird feeders, the humming birds are gone until next year. Other migrating birds stop by for a feed and then continue on. Even the wasps have left their nest.IMG_3719

I still have a war with the burdock and now thistle. Trees needed to be felled. Spruce bud worm and pine beetle have not be kind to us. Old age for some has also set in.

bucked dead tree

I try to keep the camera handy hoping to catch sight of the bears and deer that have been eating their way through the back.They only seem to visit at night, or when I’m not home. I know they have been through because branches are bent, grass is trampled and scat remains.

Late one afternoon the dogs started barking, with that bark that means something is afoot. I quickly glanced out the door and over the deck to see something very big and brown move through my sight. Quick grab the camera….turn it on….focus and came face to face with…

IMG_3695Six beautiful cow-calf pairs, very healthy, with that stare of “what are you looking at?” Now I know I live on the cusp of free range grasslands but I have never had cows on the property before. They must have come up the creek because we are fenced and cross fenced from the road back.  The closest rancher only has one pair, and they are caramel coloured. Our 15 month old Bernese Mountain Dog was ecstatic. Wow, can I go herd them? Let me show you I can do it. He ran from the deck to the gate and back, stared at them, gave them his best eye; they just stared back.

They had to belong to someone, they were tagged and branded. Do I let them be or try to move them through the gates to a more secure and safe field? They were enjoying the applesIMG_3705. We decided to let them be until we figured out where they belonged. It turns out they are owned by the native band and were quite a few kilometers from home. These poor moms were taking their calves to safer ground…. dirt bikers and quaders (usually city weekend warriors) have been tearing up the grasslands in their quest for speed and new trails. Even though it is private property, they are hard to catch, and have no respect for the ecology, wildlife or ranch animals.

I would loved to have kept them, but our property is not big enough to feed six cows. They got cowboyed back up  to the ranch.

Yes it’s September. Summer has been good to us. Fall is on its way. Hard work is how we get ready for winter. It brings thoughts of impermanence but also a renewal. I found these beautiful flowers way off in the back bush. I think they are lady slippers. Let’s see if I can transplant them to the front for spring.

lady slipper

Dust Bunnies ~Dog’s Tails ~Impermanence

“We change, whether we like it or not”

I live in a dust bowl in the grasslands of British Columbia. Dust is everywhere. It doesn’t help that I live with a menagerie of dogs, cats and a bird. There is no getting away without dust, dust bunnies created from hair, feathers, seeds and dander, flying everywhere. It is a constant challenge to stay on top of it.

I was sitting at the kitchen table reading, something I love to do but  gets pushed to the side by other life commitments, when I noticed huge dust bunnies and sand swirling around the table leg. It was annoying, not because it caught me off guard but it was a reminder that I was lacking in the cleaning department. I went back at my book and kept reading. When I glanced  down again, the dust bunnies and sand had moved on. They had moved to the other side of the room with the swoop of a dog’s tail. In a matter of minutes everything had changed; the dust bunnies and sand as well as my feelings of guilt.

I have a difficult time with the concept of impermanence. I know that it’s the nature of things to come together and move apart but I keep looking for solid references of an unchanging world or even an unchanging self.

I tend to suffer doubt when it comes to impermanence. I know that I am not the “queen” of my domain, so I suffer anxiety because I want to organize my life around an “enduring self” in a concrete world, even though it is only ideas and forms coming in and out. and that’s the truth. Nothing is permanent. If it was there would be no birth or death, no need to eat, no feelings.

Through meditation and contemplation I am beginning  to see the interdependence of phenomena (the dog’s tail), I am beginning to see the selfless nature of everything. It certainly helps to calm anxiety and “monkey brain” I have no need to control thoughts, emotions, relationships and events. My actions change and my priorities become more focussed. I am not fixated. I develop an appreciation for what I have and I can relax.

Gratitude  for dogs tails.