I spent a beautiful morning walking along the stunning Antrim coastline: beginning at the Giant’s Causeway and ending at Dunseverick Castle. The castle is an ancient royal site of the Dál Riada, a Gaelic kingdom from at least the 5th century AD. Saint Patrick is recorded as having visited the site, where he baptized Olcán, a local man who later became a Bishop of Ireland. The castle was captured and destroyed by General Robert Munro in 1642, and his Cromwellian troops in the 1650s, with only the ruins of the gate lodge remaining. The northern area contains an oval depression of wet ground which is thought to be a holy well, known as Saint Patrick’s Well.
As I explored this desolate and ancient site, I discovered a lone Hawthorne tree. In Ireland, the Hawthorn is synonymous with the ‘Sidhe’ or Fairies. From the times of the druids the tree was highly valued as a source of medicinal remedies. The flowers, leaves, and berries were used to treat conditions of the heart, and lower blood pressure.
Certain hawthorn trees, especially those associated with Holy Wells, are known as “Rag Trees” or “Wishing Trees”. Historically, cloth strips taken from the clothing of an ill person were tied to the branches of the tree as a petition to a local saint or deity. Local people also tie strips of colourful cloth to the wishing tree as a symbol of their prayers or wishes. These items are known as clotties. It was an honour to come upon this beautiful and sacred offering. #JoyBlogging
Before I left for my trip to Europe, I planned a dinner out with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Kathy. She picked me up from my place and asked if we could quickly stop by her house before we headed downtown to the restaurant. As we walked in her front door, I was surprised to see the smiling faces of some of my best friends in the world. They had all gathered together to wish me well and send me off on my trip in style. It is such a gift to have people in your life who celebrate your successes and cheer you on. We enjoyed an incredibly special dinner, with a cheese platter from Charellis, a taco bar from Little Piggy Catering, and a pavlova from Crust Bakery. The best part of gathering with these beautiful humans is how much we laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. It was an experience that I will always cherish. #JoyBlogging
I was recently in Sacramento visiting friends and family. I was born in California and I moved to British Columbia when I was seven years old. Until my late teens, my family drove down every summer to visit, so I remain close to those who live there. Since becoming an adult, my visits have become less frequent. Due to the pandemic, and being the parent of a young child, it has been seven years since my last visit.
What struck me most on my trip is the impact of time, aging and loss. Many people that I love have passed away and my remaining relatives are in older and in declining health. I am getting close to stepping into the role of an ‘older’ members of the family, along with my cousins, and our children will become the younger generation. There are aspects of my old life that continue to exist, such as the deep love for and connection to those who remain, but I feel an aching sadness for what is gone. It is bittersweet, and beautiful, at the same time. #JoyBlogging
This past spring, my daughter attended school in Aix-en-Provence, France for two months. Although she was in French immersion before we left Canada, joining a French classroom was a very different experience, and she faced a steep learning curve. Thankfully, she met an amazing group of friends, which made a huge difference.
The administration and teaching staff were kind and supportive but they expected a lot from her. Middle school students in France are held to high standards and taught challenging topics such as classical music, literature (poetry and fiction), art history and theory, world history and politics, advanced math and science.
At one point, my daughter was asked to memorize and recite a 16th century sonnet, Heureux Qui Comme Ulysse by Joachim Du Bellay. Du Bellay wrote the poem in 1558 when he was exiled in Rome, Italy, longing for his homeland. In the lead up to the assignment, my daughter practiced with my sister, Cara, who is a successful theatre actress. I was amazed at my daughter’s ability to retain it all. She practiced so much, I even caught her reciting it out loud in her sleep.
On the day of the assignment, she did really well, and received a high mark for her efforts. Her teacher was very complimentary of both her pronunciation and delivery. It meant a lot to her, as French teachers do not generally hand out praise lightly. For me, this little moment sums up our experience in France. I was so proud of my child for being brave and facing something that was really scary. It was heartening to watch her rise to the challenge, and keep showing up, even though it was hard. It reflects some of the gifts that we hope to give our children for life: confidence, courage and determination. #JoyBlogging
Today was my daughter’s the first day of school. It unofficially marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new year. This is her final year of middle school and the first one where she is not under restrictions from the pandemic. Community is so important to me and I have felt its absence over the past two and a half years. This morning, the Parents Advisory Council (PAC) hosted an in-person coffee morning. It was really nice to have the opportunity to gather together again.
I felt particularly proud of my child today. She experienced a really difficult year in grade seven, which made it hard for her to come back to school; but after studying in France, and attending a week-long hiking/canoeing camp this summer, she returned with a new-found confidence and sense of grounded self. She is transformed inside and out; and she made the brave decision to transfer classes and start over fresh. This evening, we celebrated her success by going out for dinner at Bao. They serve delicious Asian inspired bowls and buns; and we enjoyed a cosy meal together. It was a good day, all around. #JoyBlogging
In these last few days of August, I watch the salmon battle at the mouth of the creek that runs behind the house. Little boys nudge at the slippery masses of red and black with wooden sticks. The fish struggle to crawl upstream over pebbles and rocks, aggressively pushing past each other to deposit their eggs: an irresistible yearning calling them home. Glassy-eyed carcasses line the shoreline and cormorants feast. The leftovers decompose into nitrate, providing essential nourishment to this delicate ecosystem. Fall impatiently taps her fingers, waiting to settle in. #JoyBlogging
I have always wanted to hike along the Juan de Fuca trail. I was finally able to go today with two good friends of mine, Alex and Mary. It generally takes a few days to walk the whole trail, and as we only wanted to do a day-trip together, we took two cars, leaving one at each entry point: Botanical Beach and Parkinson Creek. It was a warm and overcast day, with sunlight peaking through the clouds. The path itself runs through the forest and close along the coast line, so you can enjoy the smell of the ocean, and the lush foliage of the trees as you make your way along. We were mindful of bears, as there are many living in the area, foraging for ripe blackberries and salal: a bell dangled from my backpack to signal our approach. We stopped mid-way to rest on a sloped grey rock that overlooked the ocean: sharing a picnic lunch of cheese, salmon, peaches, dark chocolate and kitchen-sink cookies. Rested and well-fed, we continued along our journey for the remainder of the afternoon. The eleven-kilometre hike took four hours to complete and we emerged feeling happy, tired and satisfied after a full day of connection and exploration. #JoyBlogging
Tonight I went with my step-dad to see a live music performance in a garden paddock in Deep Cove. We sat out in the warm evening air, comfortably settled in our camping chairs in the grass, and enjoyed a performance of Leonard Cohen classics. The hummingbirds danced above our heads, diving in and around the trees, leaves gently rustled in the breeze. The salty smell of the ocean was in the air. Light softly fell around us until we were enveloped in darkness, broken only by the warm glow of a single spotlight. #JoyBlogging
Today I went out with my friend Mary on a kayaking adventure along the coast. It was a pleasantly warm day with a light breeze. The ocean was calm and expansive. We paddled along the shoreline for an hour and a half, talking about our kids, and life in general. At one point, a massive sea lion emerged from the water in front of us, scaring both us and him. He quickly dove back under the water, leaving behind only a light trace of ripples on the surface. As we pulled into the beach, at the end of our trip, families gathered around barbeques and gas-light fire pits. We each plunged in the water, and then walked our boats home, dripping in the twilight. #JoyBlogging
Today I watched my daughter swimming in the pool for hours. She did summersaults and flips, handstands and back walk-overs. She disappeared underneath the azure waters in a ripple of movement, and reappeared at the other end, with a slight gasp of air. I reminded myself that this is the same the child that used to require entertainment at all times, as she could not manage self-led activities. I watched her beautiful, graceful movements as she lost herself in the joy of play, and I felt so proud of the independent woman that she is growing up to be. When she was not in the pool, she read her book beside me on her sun chair, or she quietly journaled. The air was hot and dry. The cicadas sang in the olive and pine trees surrounding us. It was a truly beautiful afternoon. #JoyBlogging
Today we took an electric bike trip with Aix Bike & Go out into the Réserve naturelle nationale de Sainte-Victorie. It is the national park located just outside of Aix where the artist, Cézanne, spent countless hours painting in nature throughout his career. It was wonderful to get out of the city and explore the local countryside with a knowledgeable guide; and we were able to cover a lot of ground due to the electric bikes. One of my favourite moments is captured in the video below: when we stopped moment to enjoy the view. It was warm and the air was fragrant with wild rosemary, thyme and sage. I could hear the chirping of cicadas and see the majesty of Mont Saint-Victoire in the distance. It was a very peaceful and special experience. #JoyBlogging
The weather in Provence is beautiful. Most mornings, when I step outside of my door to walk my daughter to school, I am welcomed by a clear blue sky and a warm breeze that envelops me. As the day moves into the afternoon, it can become quite hot, which is less pleasant. Living in the city, it is a wonderful to discover quiet places to cool off. Aix is a city known as the city of a thousand fountains. Although this is not quite accurate, there are many beautiful fountains to be found here. Today I sat by this contemporary one located next to the Palais de Justice. Children, dogs and pigeons waded in its cool waters. I pulled off my shoes and dipped my feet in. The sound is very relaxing and it is a great place to read a book and watch the world go by. I truly enjoyed this little slice of heaven. #JoyBlogging