Saturday 31 May 2014


Just a few lessons that I have to share from an epic hiking trip I took in Peru with friends in 2012.

First and foremost.  Go there.  Get to Choquequirao.  Though this was perhaps the most epic hike I've undertaken in the Andes, it was worth every sweaty step.  Choquequirao is hot, remote, expansive, mysterious and 100% magic.  Go there.  Did I say that already?

Now onto some lessons learned on a dusty, sweaty, major trek.

1. Take the long view.  I learned this way back in my university Outdoor Pursuits days.  Go figure, they were right.  Yes, you will hike up for 1.5 miles straight.  But you WILL get to come back down again.  Oh wait, that part's painful too.  Scratch point #1.

2.  Don't drag your baggage along.  Seriously!  How many times do I have to learn this one?  All you REALLY need is a Snickers bar in your pocket.  All those cucumbers and journals really start to weigh a girl down. 

3.  Things never go according to your expectations.  Ummmm....just ask my friend Carolanne, or anyone who's paddled Georgian Bay in 50km/hr winds.  And the point is - this is usually where the best memories and experiences happen.

4.  Why do we do this after all?  Remind me...  Some might say it's for the profound connections to nature and to one another.  Some like to get really dirty so that a shower 5 days later feels just that much more phenomenal.  I hold that it's for the discomfort that jerks you smack into the beautiful present.  Or so that we can eat more Snickers bars.  One of the two.

and 4.5 Break in your hiking boots first.  Right Karen?

Now get thee to Choquequirao, Peru.  Wow.  No other words will do.

2 Days in Purge-a-tory

It's spring.
And I just moved into a clean new home.
That means one thing and one thing only:  it's time to purge old possessions.
Goodbye old love letters.  Goodbye ancient, expired snack foods.  And good riddance old bills.
But it's SUCH an emotional process!  Painful, slow, and the LAST thing I love to do.

Yup, purging.  My worst nightmare.

All I can say is thank God for my mother.  She flew out to help me.  She's more patient than Job.  She's an organizational guru.  She's endlessly giving.  And endlessly forgiving when she ends up in the accidental role of whipping boy in my more emotional moments. (Sometimes, I am a very bad person)

My mom, the saint - providing snacks and smiling, even in the midst of my hell...

Obviously, I should have called in reinforcements.  One of the many friends or family members who love to declutter, throw out old junk - some of whom actually do it professionally.  Like, for a living.  I mean, check these gals out:  Room to Breathe (Incidentally, they were writing a piece on how to declutter your home AS I was doing it...)

The biggest problem I have is with paper - it just builds and builds...The number of coloured post-its and chicken-scratch-covered receipts that have passed through my home probably amount to at least 7 ancient redwood trees.  And that's not cool.  Not to mention that at times I feel that they are burying me alive.  Retribution from the redwoods for taking their children before their time I suppose.

It's just that I feel like I need to capture every thought I think.  Somehow catch these ephemeral moments in ink...I have scraps of poetry, snippets of screenplays, random 3am strokes of insight and an overwhelming amount of non-done to-do lists.  But thanks to my Mom, I have a few less now.  The struggle continues - if you can handle a stressed-out ginger, come on by and help out...
 (but anyone who knows me well will tell you that an angry ginger is not to be taken lightly)
**Months later, and I finally have recovered my wits sufficiently to write about it.  Trust me, it wasn't pretty - but now I'm so proud of my place that I'm inspired to post the whole place to Pinterest...

Thursday 8 May 2014

Farming is Life

(the rest is just details)


I've fallen in love these past few days.

(what else is new? you may ask)

It's totally different this time!

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a farmer.

Then I got older, worked in the mountains, sat in an office and forgot about the farm.

Until last week.

And now I want to be a farmer again.  Or at least marry one.
(I'm under no false illusions here.  I do recognize that farming - or loving a farmer - is probably one of the most demanding things a human bean (thank you SARK!) could choose to undertake.  And I am not excited about the idea of 4am wake-ups.  Or never taking holidays.  Or working all season only to have the weather destroy your crops.  But I do believe that knowing the land, learning how to live in harmony with our changing seasons and providing nourishment for our species - in a sustainable way - is one of the most noble, needed pursuits on the planet today.)

I spent the week with my seventh cousins thrice removed on their land near Clearwater, Manitoba.
I showed up like city-girl Paris Hilton on The Simple Life, only without the cute outfits (and showing less cleavage).  I arrived in nightclub boots and skinny jeans.  Like the wonderful people they are, my family welcomed me in with open arms (and a more farm-appropriate Carhartt uniform).  I vow to get one for myself now  (I mean, how can I possibly become a capable, resilient person without the right outfit?? Seriously...)

A calf literally fell out of its mother as Mom and I forced our compact rental car up the lane way. 

I named him Teardrop.  But don't tell Don.  Even I know that you're not supposed to name farm animals.
(But my parents' friends once made a pseudo-exception to this rule by naming their backyard cow 'Freezer Beef')
Within an hour I was driving a tractor.  And then I was holding a gun for the first time in my life.  I'd never imagined I'd see the words Winchester and Remington up close.  It was terrifying.  I can't believe my cousin Don trusted me to even hold the thing.  Thankfully, I'm a terrible shot, so the gophers of Clearwater have never been safer.

My family is absolutely amazing.  If there are more generous people on the planet, living with greater integrity, I have yet to meet them.  This land is their life.  Once upon a time they had fields yellow with canola.  Then they raised sheep.  And now cows.  When I asked Don why he switched from canola to cattle, he said that he didn't like what the crops were doing to the land.  He takes a holistic management approach to farming, mimicking nature's processes.  Allan Savory, who first conceived of this notion believed that, "only livestock can save us."  He believes that rotational cattle grazing can restore rangeland soil.  These restored grasslands are then able to sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide, lessening our negative impacts on the atmosphere.

I only spent two days on the farm. 
But under these vast open skies holding a newborn calf in my arms, I had an epiphany.  This really is life.  In our cities, we remove ourselves from the cycles of life, death, weather and seasons, hiding out in malls and on freeways.  Here, out in the Manitoba wind, I was right next to my food, to my family and to the land - our lifeblood.  I think that this is what breeds resilience in people. This is an enormous part of what it truly means to be alive and human (thank you to Ken Low and Leadership Calgary for that concept).  And as Don reminded me, 'It's not the big things.  It's all the little things.' 

As we pulled away, I waved at Don in the tractor, his 3-year old grandson on his knee.  What a place for a kid to grow up.  This might just be what it takes for us to become free range humans again.  It's time, people.

Tonight I am grateful for:


For fresh wet calves,
Who stand a second after they're born.

For babies and boys
And Mom.
For the tractor
and Don
and Jan-Anne-Brayden-Mitch.

For the wisdom that comes from the fields,
for not letting skool get in the way of your education.
For resilience,
for sunsets.
For the generosity of strangers.
For family and farms and
Family farms.

For love and fresh food and pico de gallo. For twins and bottle-feeding and snowy white owls.
For a calf in wolf's clothing,
deep mud and 2-way radios.

For poetry and poets and
Even for iPhones.
For places without service.
And lives of service
And peace and
And Palestine.

I'm grateful for you.
And for me.
And for we.

And most of all, I'm grateful for this whole mad circle of life and for all the things that