Tag Archives: inspirational

OLi’s Tale

Some stories begin at the beginning. That is the natural way of things. But some stories begin before the beginning. And that can be the most interesting of tales.

 

Lizzy had just moved to New York City; she had needed a change and she thought she could find anonymity here. She wanted to wander silently through the crowds and soak up the beauty that was New York but she didn’t want anyone to rely on her or for her to rely on anyone else. Maybe just for a little while. And that is how Lizzy found herself in a small art shop buying a few supplies. She like to sketch what she saw but she didn’t have what she needed.  And of course, she needed something to carry all the supplies she would use. The shop offered perfectly sized canvas bags. It was great and it was, well, boring. But the shopkeeper had a plan. She supplied the paints so anyone could paint what they wanted onto the bag. Lizzy loved the thought but had no idea what to paint. So, she looked around the room and saw a book with a fierce picture of a dragon on the front and the words “MYSTICAL CREATURES”. She thought the idea of a dragon was great but he had to be a little less menacing so she put her head down and started to paint. Eventually she was happy with what she had done and she was just finishing off the tail when a small child approached her cautiously.

“I think he would like to have a purple ribbon around his tail.”

Startled, Lizzy looked up and then immediately looked down. After all, the voice had come from almost below the table from a beautiful little girl dressed in purple.

“I like your dragon but I think he needs a purple ribbon.”

The voice spoke with the confidence of innocence. Lizzy smiled and answered her.

“I agree.  And what is your name?”

“Olivia,” she said. And then with a sudden burst of shyness, she turned and ran from the store, her father in tow. He smiled a tired smile at Lizzy and followed his daughter.

Lizzy grinned. She wanted to credit the little girl with giving her the idea so she started to print her name on the ribbon. O L and then she thought maybe she shouldn’t because she didn’t have permission. She wondered what to do. And then a thought came to her. She already painted an O and an L and she would add an I but in lowercase to acknowledge the small child. And OLi was born.

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In a time very long ago and in a place very far away, lived a tribe of dragons and a tribe of people.  The dragons lived on top of a mountain while the people lived in the valley far below. It was an uneasy truce but it had lasted for hundreds of years. And it was expected to last for hundreds more.

But what is expected and what actually happens is very often the exact opposite. In a nest on the edge of the cliff were several eggs. They were quite large. One of them was restless. It seemed to shake and roll about the nest. It really was disturbing the other eggs. Eventually the egg rolled to the edge of the nest and over it. At that point gravity took over and the egg began to roll down the mountain. Now dragons’ eggs are quite strong, they are tough creatures. But it was a very long way down the mountain. There were fields and forests and streams that had to be navigated and it all seemed to happened as if by magic. No harm came to the egg. In time it reached the valley and it started to slow down. Eventually it came to rest at the edge of a red barn at the outer edge of a farm. It wasn’t there very long before a young boy named Christian found it.

Now, Christian had never seen a dragon before but he knew exactly what the egg was. He had grown up learning about the mystical beasts.  They had been taught that they were fierce warriors and would eat little children if they misbehaved. Christian believed they were really just tall tales to keep the children from being naughty. The dragons had never ventured into the valley as long as he had been alive. But there were stories . . . .

Christian looked at the very large egg at his feet. He wondered what to do about it. He knew he couldn’t tell his Father because of course he would just destroy it. As he was looking intently at his latest dilemma, he noticed it start to shiver. It was cold. Without thinking Christian picked it up and took it into the barn.  At the very least he would keep it warm until he decided what to do. It was an old barn that was rarely used but it still had remnants of hay and it was protection from the wind. The egg would be safe here. Christian made a little hollow in a bale of hay and placed the egg in it.  He then wrapped an old blanket around it. He also wanted to make sure no one else could find it. Goodness only knows what would happen if he was found harbouring a dragon! It didn’t bear thinking about.

As he was eating dinner that night Christian was distracted. What did baby dragons eat? The tales never told you that. But he was enjoying his mashed potatoes and peas and he wondered if maybe he would just try to feed it whatever he was having for dinner. He figured he could sneak something into the barn. But of course, it all depended on when the egg hatched. That was something he was looking forward to.

Several days went by and Christian was very diligent about making sure he was in the barn as many times as possible. He found it gave him great pleasure to hold the egg and feel the life inside. It seemed to move, gently at first and then more vigorously. It was also warm, calm under his hand. And then one day it happened. It cracked. Christian wasn’t in the barn but he noticed it as soon as he did come in and he sat down on his hands and knees, face inches from the shell and watched.

Slowly, oh so slowly, the crack started to get bigger. Eventually a piece fell off and Christian looked in wonder and saw an eye. It blinked. He almost couldn’t contain his joy. But he knew that too much excitement might scare the new life so he clapped one hand over his mouth and hugged himself with the other. For a while nothing seemed to happen and then everything happened. A little face poked its way through the shell and shook furiously. A shoulder showed and then two small hands. Ah! Quietly whispered Christian… and then, Wings! Before too long the shell was gone. Or rather bits of it were strewn around a very small, miniature dragon.

Barely daring to breathe Christian put his hands out to the small creature in a gesture of friendship. The tiny dragon burped. Christian smiled. And then it made a noise that sounded a little like “Olly”! It really wasn’t much more than a squeak but now Christian knew his name. He put his hand on the forehead of the small creature and smiled. In return he seemed to purr and when he put his head in Christian’s hands, a friendship was born.

Christian knew he had to keep his young charge out of sight of the others. He was after all a dragon, albeit a very small one. They developed a routine that seemed to work for both of them. First thing in the morning Christian would arrive with fruit and nuts which the young dragon seemed to love. They would play for a while and Christian did bear a few scars from OLi’s teeth but he didn’t mind. The dragon was fed again after Christian’s dinner. Basically, whatever Christian ate, so did OLi. It was interesting to discover that the young dragon’s favourite food, was mashed potatoes.

One day Christian noticed that his little sister had put ribbons on her dolls. They looked pretty and helped her identify which one was which. So, without thinking he pinched one. It was a beautiful purple and he thought it might look good on OLi’s tail.  OLi didn’t agree. If you weren’t a young dragon snapping at a ribbon that is now dangling from your tail, you might find the whole situation quite funny. Christian did. OLi performed some quite amazing aerobatics trying to get away from this purple thing and from another’s perspective it was quite spectacular. Maybe he was learning something. When he finally came down to the ground, he sniffed at this purple thing hanging from his tail and he seemed to have a change of heart. This was his.

Unfortunately, time does not stand still. Even for young boys and their young friends. OLi was growing. He had learned to fly all by himself and while his takeoff wasn’t the best, he was pretty good in the air. He also hasn’t figured out the fine art of fire breathing, which, given that there was a lot of hay around, that was a good thing.  He rarely left the barn but it was pretty big so that was OK. Something else Christian noticed: there were no barn mice or rats. He thought he probably shouldn’t think too hard about it. OLi was in this barn all by himself a lot and he never seemed to be hungry.

The days and nights blurred for Christian. He loved his new friend desperately but he also knew that the valley was no place for a dragon. OLi was becoming quite big, although nowhere near as big as a full-grown dragon he was still becoming more than Christian shoulders could handle. It was time. The young boy had a plan. He would tell his family he was going to stay with a friend for a few days and he and his dragon would climb the mountain. OLi would go home.

It took it several days but Christian and OLi made it to the summit of the mountain. Christian dared not go over the top but he encouraged his young friend to seek his own kind. It’s almost as if the dragon didn’t want to leave. He butted his head into Christian’s arm and wrapped his wings around his hands, his version of an embrace. But he was intrigued by the sounds coming from the top of the mountain and the glimpses he could see of the full-grown dragons. Eventually he did go. And Christian stumbled down the mountain barely able to see with the tears in his eyes. He knew he had done the right thing and he also knew that he would never forget his friend.

As the years went by, Christian often thought of OLi. He wondered if he had been accepted by his tribe and how big he had grown. He would look up towards the mountain top and think of his friend looking back. He never forgot.

Over time memories change. Truths become myths and myths often distort the truth.  People remembered that once upon a time there were dragons. But the general belief was that they had died or left. No one had seen one in so very long. Except of course for Christian but had he kept his secret carefully hidden. The valley grew prosperous. People had time to indulge. And with that indulgence came complacency. Never a good combination. Young men started to wonder about the dragons that no longer existed. Eventually they wondered too much and decided that they would find out for themselves. They decided to climb the mountain. They didn’t make any preparations because they didn’t think there was anything dangerous at the top. They were wrong.

Seven young men in their prime left the valley that morning. No one knows for sure what happened because the four that made it back three days later were so filled with terror that they would not speak of it. But there was a growing concern that the myths were true. A gloom entered the valley. People looked to the skies more often and with trepidation. The air seemed to quiver with anticipation and it wasn’t a good kind.

Christian looked at the pitchfork in his hand. What was he thinking? How could you fight off angry, fire breathing dragons with a pitchfork? The minutes ticked by. He ran a hand over his eyes, shaking his head. He didn’t understand why it hadn’t happened. They had heard the dragons coming. The sky was black with them and red.  Fire. The children ran to the wells to get buckets of water. The adults ran for tools, weapons, anything to protect themselves. But at the last minute one dragon had broken free. He came straight at Christian’s farm. When the others turned to follow him, he took a stand. He breathed fire on his own kind! He protected Christian’s farm, his family!  Why?

The other dragons took flight. Perhaps they had grown tired of their sport and returned to the mountain. All except one. The one that had protected Christian landed in his field and stood there. He wasn’t menacing. He looked almost sad. Could it be? Is it at all possible? Christian put down his pitchfork and moved slowly towards the dragon. He heard the gasps behind him but he ignored them.

“OLi?”  He whispered, “Is it you?”

The dragon put his big head down just the way he had when he was small.  He used to invite Christian to rub his forehead. And now he did it again.

“OLi!”  Christian cried and he ran to his dear friend. It had been so long but he had never forgotten. And apparently neither had OLi. The dragon wrapped his huge wings around his friend in such a tender embrace that people wept. For a few moments they held each other. Christian felt something warm touch his hand and he instinctively grasped it.  Then OLi backed slowly away and with one more nod he took to the sky.  He glanced back just once and then was gone.

Tears streamed down Christian’s face.  “Goodbye my friend,” he whispered to the wind. He glanced down at his clenched fist and slowly opened it. There nestled gently in the palm of his hand was a faded and slightly scorched purple ribbon.

To Plan or Not To Plan

This is a Blast from my Past. I still think it holds true even today. I hope you enjoy it. Previously posted on March 11, 2018.

A friend of mine made a comment the other day that I have been pondering ever since I heard it. He said that ‘a bad plan was better than no plan’.  Now he is a military man so perhaps in that context it might be true.   An intelligent person can always modify a plan on the fly. Thereby changing a bad plan into a good plan.  But using the same rationale: couldn’t one create a plan, on the move, to suit the circumstances of the moment?

My first reaction was that I don’t have a plan. Or rather I make things up as I go along. I like spontaneity and the titillation of not knowing what’s coming next. But then isn’t that idea just a very loose plan?  I’ve been talking myself in circles. On one hand having no plan can leave one floundering with no idea, no concept of how to move forward. On the other hand having no plan could mean that you’re open to create the circumstances you wish while not being constrained by any artificial restraints of your ‘plan’.  Are you confused yet? I am.

Some people enjoy the regimentation of everything being planned to the minutia. Others, myself included, love the instability and challenges that can creep up when you’re not too tightly organized. When I was traveling I made sure I had a plan for getting to my destination and I was aware of my options once I was there but I liked to make any decisions when I opened my eyes in the morning. I liked to be able to change my plans at a second’s notice. I liked the challenge of not knowing what’s around the corner and then reacting to it.

Now isn’t that what life is all about? I am sure my parents had plans for me as a child and worked towards my being a competent adult. I think they did their job well. I of course may be biased in that! But I am a thinking adult. I make my own decisions and I’m capable of reacting to the world around me. I enjoy that aspect. Someone once said that everyone should do one thing a day that terrifies them. I like that idea. I might not do it everyday but I do not shy away from that which frightens me. Except for snakes. Oh my good heavens I am so shying away!!!

Whatever kind of person you are, planner, non-planner or a combination of the two, I think we all have the same goal:  to enjoy life, you’ve only got one!

 

Lost Time

Do you ever worry about the amount of time that is lost by the frivolous indulgences we have? I’ve been known to sit on my balcony and simply stare at the sky, sometimes it feels like it’s for hours. Is that lost time?  At the end of the day, you curl up in front of the TV and watch some so incredibly inane sitcom that you can’t remember the plot 10 minutes after you change the channel. Is that lost time? How about sleeping, or resting when your body is prone and your mind is turned off. Is that lost time?  My answer to all of these questions is an emphatic no!

When I’m sitting, staring on my balcony, my mind is constantly in motion. Story ideas, post ideas, quips, would that work for a poem or is it more of  a short story? My mind is percolating some new idea. It is very rare that I can ever turn it off. On my desktop is a file called In Progress. It is where I put the bits, I can’t make grow but I feel they are worth saving. There are two short stories in there and a poem. There used to be three short stories but after several years of it sitting in that file, I had an epiphany. And I wrote one of my sweetest love stories. It still makes me cry. I am such a wimp!

We lead busy lives. We work hard, we play hard and we live hard. We need downtime to recharge. And let’s face it, we invented time so we can’t lose it even if we tried. It’s always creeping up behind us and screaming that something isn’t right. We are expected to be somewhere or something must be completed forthwith.

Our minds are constantly being bombarded with input. Faces, names, advertising, directions, the list is endless. But we need time to sort out what has been imported. We read, we hear, we feel and we see. Now we have to unscramble it and have it make sense. Sometimes that is easy to do and it’s done almost instantaneously, other times it requires a little more thought. And that thinking requires us to stop. Have you ever gone to bed with a problem nagging in the back of your mind only to wake up with a solution in front of you? That’s because you turned off and let things work naturally. Our minds and our bodies are incredible tools but they need time to recharge.

Many years ago, I knew a woman who read Harlequin romances on a near constant basis. I have never cared for that particular genre but she said it gave her an escape that did not require her to think. She was an incredibly busy woman with a business, a husband and two children. She was constantly on the go. But the books she read took  little time and little effort and it gave her a release that she had not been able to find elsewhere. It was not lost time to her.

As a species we are not built to always be running in top speed. We are not automatons.  We will burn out and so many do. And perhaps that is the lost time.

Deep Reflections

“If you look deep into your enemies’ eyes you may indeed see yourself.”

I don’t know where this quote comes from. Wikipedia failed me. It may have been a line in a movie or a book and it just stuck in my head. But when you think about it, it is true.  If you are looking at your enemy, then your enemy is probably doing exactly the same thing to you and thinking the same thing. It’s all about perspective.

In this fast-paced world we look, we see, we judge and act on that judgment. It isn’t necessarily true or fair but it’s what most people do. We don’t have the time to spend shaking hands and looking into the eyes of a stranger and getting to know them. And that is a shame and it is a travesty because we miss so much beauty and wealth that it makes us poorer.

We live in a technological world where everything we want to know is at our fingertips. There is so little sharing of information between two people talking, examining feelings and aspirations. All that seems to have been shunted to one side in favour of knowing the latest trend and the most popular celebrity. I enjoyed my ‘getting to know you’ dates. I enjoyed learning, the hard way sometimes. But it was a joy and an experience. Now everything is at my fingertips and I don’t even have to go to the library to check out a reference book. I wonder if someday we will be no longer need to interact at all with another human being. It will all be done by computer bits and bytes.

I am going out for lunch with a friend in a few days and I am feeling a little anxious. It’s not like I haven’t done this hundreds of times but I’m afraid I will have forgotten the niceties. It’s been a year and a half and I have grown comfortable in my reclusiveness, perhaps too comfortable. Hence the necessity for going out to a restaurant.

When we look deep into the eyes of another, we do see ourselves or the version of ourselves we believe. Each of us feels love, despair, hurt and an endless harmony of emotions. No one is alone in their feelings. Human beings are social animals, we need each other. We need to see each other and to physically connect even if it is just a simple hug. Times don’t allow for all of that right now but they will, in time and while I hate to say it: we must be patient or we could lose it all.

 

Perseverance

 

One of the most intriguing attributes of an interesting person, to me anyway, is perseverance. As a species if we had not had this background of grit we would still be in the dark ages. Tenacity, determination, steadfastness. These are all attributes of the people that move this world forward. It’s not about education, it’s not about finances or status, it’s about an unwillingness to make do with mediocrity.

I knew a man with a grade eight education who started his own business and became wildly successful. He had a beautiful family and a beautiful life all because he did not believe it when someone told him ”no”. I have also known people who have been given every opportunity in the world and still never made anything of themselves. When life is too easy there is no incentive to try harder. When life is hard it can be too easy to give in.

When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I was feeling rather sorry for myself. At the time I was using two canes to walk and it was extremely difficult. I spent most my day sitting in a chair looking at a black-and-white TV. (It wasn’t that long ago! It was just a cheap TV.) My mother, never one to mince words, came into my room and crossed her arms. She made a point of saying that I had two choices: I could sit back and be a victim of this horrible disease and wallow in my self-pity or I could get off my back side and make a life for myself through the limitations that I may encounter. Then she looked at her watched, tapped the glass and said you’ve got “15 minutes, go!” Well, I started to laugh and then I actually understood what she was saying:  we all have choices to make.

Life is not easy. We all face challenges, some severe and some minor. Sometimes we need to not be brave. Sometimes we need to wallow in self-pity and in misery. We need to cry and rant and get it out of our system. Just don’t stay in that wallow. I get depressed. I get miserable. But I don’t stay there. I put on a movie that I know is going to make me sob uncontrollably and then I clean myself up and move on. I’ve made the choice to have a life. I worked for 30 years at a great police department. I travelled; I took a cruise. I worked my life around my MS and I have no regrets.

 

 

 

In the Background

When I was a youth my father took me driving. He used to quiz me as I was behind the wheel (terrified that I would do something wrong because of course my father was in the passenger seat)! He would ask me the colour of the car behind me and I had to answer without looking. What were the colours of the cars on either side of me, how many people were in the cars? He taught me that it is in the background, the places we don’t usually look, where there is a true value to be aware of.

I have known many police officers in my life, professionally and personally. No, I am not a criminal! And one thing I learned about them very early on is it is that they are always aware of what’s going on around them. Their eyes are almost on a swivel, constantly moving. I felt safe in their presence, gun notwithstanding. And I learned to do it too.

I may not be able to tell you what people are wearing around me within 10 feet nowadays but there was a time when I could. And I would do it unconsciously. Many, many years ago I was at a mall and was leaving with my purchases. At the time there was a serial molester about and young women were being warned to take care. I carried my keys in my fist and I put my head on a swivel. It was a bright beautiful Saturday afternoon and as I stepped off the curb, I noticed a young man do exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. He glanced at me and then turned away but he continued to move in the same direction I was. My heart was in my throat but I continued on to my car and quickly got inside. No hesitation. I glanced over and yes, he was looking at me and then turned on his heel and went back into the mall. This was in the days before cell phones so when I got home, I called the police and gave them a detailed description of the man. Was he the molester? I have no idea. But the man they arrested a few days later resembled the one I saw.

Being aware is not just a safety thing. When I watch TV, I always take the time to see what’s going on in the background and sometimes it explains the foreground. It’s almost as if we are programmed to see only what is in front of us. We have peripheral vision and it is quite acute if we would just pay attention.  Perhaps that is the key: we need to pay attention…

The Not So Simple Truth.

Last week I wrote a piece called The Art of the Lie. About how some people are really good at it and others not so much. So, this week I decided to write about the opposite, the truth. We desperately want to believe that the truth is simple, yes or no, one or zero but it is not. The truth is as malleable as wax on a hot sidewalk. Ask any police officer with three witnesses to a traffic accident, and you will find the truth of which I speak.  There will be three absolute, honest truths about what happened. They all saw the exact same thing but from different perspectives. And our perspectives are coloured by our history, our experiences and our beliefs.

Using the traffic accident as an example. A car careens into a pole. Sounds simple enough. One person sees a drunk careening across the road into a pole. A friend was killed by a drunk driver many years earlier. Another sees a person asleep at the wheel when the car plows into the pole. He had a friend who fell asleep on the way home from work. The third sees someone trying to commit suicide. A memory from his past.

As a species we are storytellers. Some go so far as to make a career out of it but each one of us tends to editorialize or to embellish what we see. We are not automatons; we use words to paint pictures. But what was it that our witnesses did not see? They could not imagine that the individual behind the wheel of the car had a medical emergency. A blood clot broke loose and travelled to his brain causing a stroke. His body reacted to the stroke by going into a full spasm forcing his foot down on the accelerator, leading to the accident. We can’t know what lies behind the truth. We either accept it at face value or investigate to learn the real truth, the whole truth. But most of us don’t do that. Most of us fill in the blanks with what we have experienced in our past. But what does that do to the truth?

The colour is yellow. Or is it Lemon? Gold? Canary?  We see the same colour but we interpret it differently. It is amazing to me that we can communicate at all. For the most part others understand what we mean when we use our words and yet some of our greatest humour comes from our misinterpretations. And also, some of our greatest tragedies. We don’t always understand each other’s truths. And it is open to interpretation.

The Mirror

 

When you look in the mirror,

What do you see,

Do you see who you are?

Or perhaps who you could be.

 

The reflection looking back,

Is not all that you are.

There’s so much beneath,

So much there by far!

 

Your soul can’t be seen.

Your courage is concealed.

Kindness and love,

Are not yet revealed.

 

The image reflected,

Is merely a start.

The who that’s inside,

Is the really good part.

 

So, remember these words,

And take them to heart.

You are who you are,

And that’s pretty damn smart!

 

 

A Perfect Moment

The frantic pace that life inflicts,

Surrounds us every day.

Sights and sounds bombarding,

That fills one with dismay.

 

Take a moment, maybe two,

And calm your weary brow.

Close your eyes and take a breath,

And I will show you how.

 

Steam wafts gently upwards,

Escaping  from the hollows,

Of a  perfectly made cup of tea.

A scent of spice soon follows.

 

Ripples brush the surface,

Your breath a tender breeze.

Hands clasp around the warmth,

And soon you feel at ease.

 

Let this moment heal you,

Feel peace in its embrace.

Knowing you can always find,

This perfect state of grace.

 

 

Searching

 

We are all searching for something. From the moment we are born when we are looking for warmth and sustenance, we are searching. Sometimes we are simply searching for our keys, directions to a new hot location or sometimes a lost memory. That is what moves us forward. Could it be that the simple act of searching is the true meaning of life?

In the animal world, creatures spend their lives in the pursuit of food and shelter. That allows them to live. They procreate and their progeny starts the cycle again.  In the plant world it is exactly the same. They are constantly searching for food and a way to protect themselves from becoming food. They procreate and the cycle begins again.

The cycle of the human species is a little more complicated than that. Being sentient adds a whole new layer to the concept of searching. Yes, we start out only looking for sustenance and warmth but as we become aware we start to want. We want the shiny baubles; we want toys and we want to understand. As we grow and gain knowledge we want more.  We need to experience the world we inhabit. We want companionship and focus. We look for jobs to give us a sense of purpose. Or simply jobs that provide us with the means to acquire food and shelter.

We join groups of like-minded people so our search becomes communal.  We try religion, book clubs and social media.   Humans are creatures that crave companionship, mostly. There are those who do their searching internally and are always looking for ways to improve who they are as individuals and by extension the world around them. Perhaps we should all be doing that. But most people are simply looking for the next best thing, best book, best meal, most interesting movie. Our tastes are more simplistic than the philosophers. And that is not a bad thing.

Some say that it is the journey that is important not the destination. And that is true to some extent. But if only the journey was important then you lose the incentive of the destination. Once your objective has been reached, it is at that point you start searching for a new one, a new target, a new goal. And the search begins anew. That is the excitement, the wonder of living.

What are you searching for?