Evolution of my self

OM Times Magazine states that personal evolution is a change of perspective. How one’s beliefs, self-image and self-knowledge affect us emotionally, mentally and spiritually is determined by testing new knowledge through experience and turning it into wisdom.

This said, this past year I’ve been going through a lot of re-evaluation of so many things in my life. Never as often as this summer, where I had some beliefs take a complete turn on so many subjects. I spent many hours with acquaintances and friends this summer, and many of them offered some interesting view points.

I also had the opportunity to have very deep philosophical conversations with priests and one brother who came to Moratinos to be part of a chaplain program. I posed some very tough questions, and the conversations that ensued put my beliefs in need of re-evaluation.

I also found myself trying to understand certain reactions I had to people’s ways, looks and habits. I deliberately took notice of my attitude and found myself aware of preconceived notions that turned out to not be as sound as they may have seemed 10 or even 5 years ago.

A big one for me is the concept of aging.  I met a man who was 79 walking the Camino with is 19 year old (wait for it) … SON. Yes, his 19 year old son. This man didn’t look 79, and he was fit and had so much energy and was a joy to get to know. I met a woman who was 85 who still gardened every day, who walked 5 km a day and swam in the ocean every week of the year! So what is aging? One of my misconception was regarding grey hair. In my own mind, I was ok with having loads of wrinkles, but somehow, couldn’t accept having grey hair. I’m fine with anyone else having silver strands, but I refused to let mine show… Until now.

I had a very vivid dream where a toddler (that I knew somehow was my grandchild) was playing with my long curly beautiful silver hair. IT looked fabulous! Soon afterwards, I had another dream where a voice told me “Your body or your hair do not define you. Be your authentic self – and don’t worry about what others think.”

Today, I took the first step to adding authenticity for my self. I made the first pass at letting my hair be its real colour. It will be a multiple step effort, but from this point on, I will embrace who I truly am… and let my ACTIONS, attitude, my “joie de vivre” define me.

with my new lighter hair

with my new lighter hair

Hollyhocks from Heaven

My garden is a big source of pleasure for me. I enjoy everything about it, from the planning and making decisions on look and feel, to the putting it all together, planting, caring, nurturing and enjoying every stage of the growth of all the plants/fruits/veggies/herbs.

I try to make my garden a calm haven. I want twinkly solar lights and beautiful fragrant herbs and flowers. I want colour – lots of colour! My garden changes every year. This year, it will consist mostly of veggies, since I won’t be able to tend it during my trip this summer.

I have been observing the growth of the tulips Steve’s Mom planted in the front of our home. I so look forward to seeing the first little green poking out of the ground. It means that it’s spring, and it makes my heart sing in thanking Marge for her love and support. I think about her each and every time I walk up the front door! And I smile.

Today, Steve asked me if I wanted to plant more of her flowers. I was taken aback since I didn’t know of any more flowers. He took out a bag with small pill bottles, the storage method used to protect seeds. On each cap, Marge’s familiar writing identifying the type and colour of the flower.

Nana’s writing – isn’t it interesting how some of us react very emotionally when we see someone’s writing. All writings are unique, and they are just like our fingerprints, snowflakes or stars.

Hollyhock seeds – I had to look up the flower to see if I recognized it. This is something new for my garden, and I am so excited and inspired to make the hollyhock project a success.

Those seeds have now taken on much more importance to me. Nana’s hands touched those seeds, she preserved them, identified them, and kept them. It’s an extension of her of sorts, one that we will enjoy for weeks during the summer. And the garden will now have an even more spiritual aspect… at least, for myself.

In a way, I see this experience I’m living right now as gift… and in my hands, I have what I want to refer to, as Hollyhocks from Heaven!

Thanks Nana,

We love you, and we miss you

Walking down the Camino memory lane

During the last 4 years, March has been  a month of preparation for my Camino journeys. Three times have I found myself packing, repacking, shopping for new items, retiring older items and dreaming about the upcoming magical journey that is the walking on the Camino de Santiago.

This year is a stay-at-home year. My last Camino journey, in honour of my fallen sister, was cut short due to a medical issue, but I never once thought that would be my last Camino. In fact, my plan is to continue to live the Camino life as often as health and providence allows.

I will however relive my Camino memories through a challenge I opted to take, that of blogging from A-Z during the month of April. This challenge requires us to write a blog entry focused on each letter of the alphabet, on a daily basis. The subject is totally up to our choosing, and I decided to dedicate my challenge to my Camino memories. I have over 5,000 pictures taken during my 3 Camino adventures, and I decided to combine text and picture to share my experience with readers.

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Most of my blog readers are not pilgrims, but most have let me know they enjoyed experiencing the Camino through my photographs and stories. In honour of the Camino and all it has brought to me, I dedicate my challenge to it. I will post 4-5 pictures each day and in choosing my photos this weekend, I opted to aim to give a less traditional view into my journeys.

I looked for pictures that perhaps were not obvious of the Camino, but pictures that still to this day stir my soul and makes me long to return once again on Spanish soil.

I hope you enjoy this 26 day photographic essay and if you prefer the convenience of receiving updates as part of your emails, you can sign up on any of the pages of my blog and updates will be delivered directly to you.

I have received much more than I could ever give back to the Camino and I hope that for pilgrims, this brings back great memories and for non-pilgrims, I hope you discover a new side of what can be while walking the Camino de Santiago.

COMPASSION… to love together with.

two-hands-holdingAccording to Wikipedia Compassion means “to love together with.” 

What a beautiful way to describe that word – Compassion. When I think about compassion, I think about helping others who need emotional, spiritual or physical support. But how much more beautiful does “Love together with” seems to be than just being of support.

Compassion requires us to be called or drawn to reaching out to others who need us. And it need not be in traditional ways; we can, in fact, extrapolate that any action of supporting, helping, listening, encouraging, listening, empathizing, soothing, or comprehending is part, comprehending.

With this concept in mind, we can recognize that we show compassion in many ways, at various times of the day, and likely without even know we are showing it. And there lies the key – the key to transforming our days into manifestations of comprehension.  With awareness comes insight, and now we can see that our days are filled with compassion and when seeing such compassion we will be entices to let it linger, let it live, let it thrive.

How do we do this? By being aware of our past actions, and by wanting to expand that influence even more than what it is today. By seeking ways to show compassion, even with the simple act of a smile and a nod.

It’s in us to give, we do it every day, but likely not in a way we can notice it. Now that we know just how masterful we are, how influential we are, how benevolent we are, we can build on those actions and continue to grow and give.

I know, many of my readers are … shall I say, “Realists” and a few of them are “Pessimists”. Whatever our collective outlook, my outlook is positive; I believe in the power of positive, love, caring, joy, support and happiness. In the end, we need all types to make this world work.

I have been blessed to live on the positive, beautiful, encouraging and loving side. I love living here, and I believe that with the additional focus on compassion, my world will continue to develop and bloom; this in the most beautiful and amazing way.

Compassion is something we all practice – now let’s make compassion an even greater part of our lives. The world needs it now.

Keeping his spirit alive

Syls DadJanuary 21, 1970 – I don’t remember much about the actual day other than my brother Paul and I were in our big bed with my sister Monique who was asked to tell us about Dad’s passing. I can’t remember if Mom was in the house, or at the hospital but I remember the actual moment the three of us sat on the bed. My brother was 5, my sister 16 and I was 9.

This was 45 years ago today. Growing up with out a father was difficult and challenging. There is a special relationship that daughters have with the first man in their lives and the relationship I had with my Dad was far too short of time. Not one special occasion went by without my thinking of him and wondering how that event might have been with him there.

The more important events certainly made me miss him even more, but over the years the grief made room for remembrance. I still have moments where tears appear and the yearning to have just one more day with him, as unrealistic as this may be, becomes a dream.

I have a very strong belief that when we die our essence-spirit-core is still present, not in a human mortal way but in other less obvious ways. A gentle wind that brings on the faint smell of Old Spice, the feel of his crisp Air Force shirt on my cheek or the warmth of his big hugs. Memories, no doubt, that come on for no special reason but to remind me of him.

Today I was going through some quotes about grief, trying to find one that resonated with me. Pages and pages of quotes just didn’t seem to mean anything to me until I read this one:

“When those you love die, the best you can do is honor their spirit for as long as you live. You make a commitment that you’re going to take whatever lesson that person was trying to teach you, and you make it true in your own life… it’s a positive way to keep their spirit alive in the world, by keeping it alive in yourself.”  – Patrick Swayze

I couldn’t have said it better… My father has always been, and always will be alive in me, in my heart, and in my soul.

Dad Christmas time

The Ripples of our Actions

butterflyPerhaps you have heard of the butterfly effect The name of the effect is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.

I truly believe that our actions create reactions, and we often know little of those reactions or consequences. Although many find the word consequence to be of a negative connotation, a consequence is simply a result or effect of an action or condition.

I try to think of the consequences of my actions, but I am well aware that I have no idea of the breath of depth of these outcomes. I take pleasure in reading stories of a pay-it-forward type of action that trickles down and affect dozen, hundreds or many even thousands. A simple one that I read about of late was an unbroken chain of pay-it-forward coffee chain at a local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. The “I’ll pay for a coffee of the next person behind me” action lasted almost the entire day shift! What a fun and encouraging event.

Our words have immense consequences, both positive and negative. A genuine compliment, a kind uplifting comment or an encouraging statement can change someone’s day in a matter of minutes. Conversely, a insulting comment derogatory words can negatively impact someone’s self confidence. All our actions have the possibility of uplifting or bringing down people.

This past week I was privy to an action that created nothing but anger, disappointment and a lot of head shaking. I participated in one of the city’s largest craft fair, offering my handcrafted folded fabric ornaments. I take pride in my work and ensure that only the best quality ornaments are offered to the public. I carefully measure each piece of fabric that is used, and I constantly check for accurate creation of the end product.

As we were setting up for the 6 day fair, a letter was circulated that informed us artists of a certain group of women who would be having lunch outside the craft fair area, and would  then visit the various kiosks. When I chanced outside the craft area I was privy to admire the many women that were dressed with class and affluence. There was an air of sophistication that could be felt as I watched them mingle drinking unique cocktails and chatting away. BCF 2We were asked to consider giving a donation to the group. Knowing a bit about this group and some philanthropic activities, I opted to donate a Breast Cancer ornament whose profits are returned to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I felt this was an appropriate donation given these were women and the likelyhood that most knew someone who had been affected by this disease.

A few days later, I was told that my ornament was in the back office, and it wasn’t used for the networking event because it’s value was far below the expected $100 value. I stood there in utter shock. None of us knew of this arbitrary expectation of donation value. I’ve run events and when there are donations that are of lesser value, we bundle them up to create a combined prize, therefore, the fact the donation was of lower value did not negate its potential for a nice combined gift.

I felt quite insulted that someone based on their own judgement deemed a donation to lack worthiness for their event. Giving it back seemed to be akin of a virtual slap in the face and a pure dismissal. Somewhat like leaving a penny tip to a waiter – worse than not leaving a tip at all, a penny tip is a loud and clear statement of unworthiness. I discussed this situation with many of my neighbor artists of the craft fair, and each and every one of them (men and women) felt this was appalling, insulting and devoid of compassion and gratitude.

It is unfortunate that the actions of one sole person who had the task of managing the donations tarnished the reputation of the entire group. In reading the profiles of some of the group’s leaders, I don’t doubt that most would not have acted this way, however, the only action we were privy to experience was that of the outright rejection of a valid albeit less expensive gift, and one associated with a cause, no less!

A few hours later, the rejected beautiful ornament (I may add as per all the feedback I received) was rightfully bestowed as a gift to someone who battled breast cancer and was now in remission. This person will appreciate this small token as a true gift of caring for what this recipient has gone through to win her battle. This gift would  not be looked upon as lacking a set value of X dollars, or a well-known label of X name.

ripplesWe can recognize that the power of our actions, immediate or delayed affect others. Perhaps if we consciously take a moment or two before making our decisions, we might recognize that like the beating of the proverbial butterfly wings, our actions will have rippled effects… hopefully positive ones!

Falls brings on nostalgia

Fall has always been my favorite season. My creativity soars in the fall, and this is when I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel (National Novel Writing Month) P1030254sitting at the table in our cottage. The leaves were falling all
around the cottage, and the air was crisp and clean.

I find solace walking in the woods watching the leaves gently float down and carpet the ground with a burst of red, orange or yellow. I relish the sound of crackling leaves under my step as the colder air nips at my ears and fingertips.

colours fall Sylvie Hanes

My camera captures some of the moments where the sun kisses the colorful leaves or the gust of wind tears them away from their tree. The flutter of chickadees and bustling of workaholic squirrels remind me I am not alone in this space.

It is a magical time when every changing hue of bright color seems to infuse my mind with touches of inspiration for new writings, poems and photos.

Along with the increased creativity comes the increased nostalgia. Perhaps it’s a wish for a simpler life without so many electronic distractions grabbing our attention at all times of the day. Perhaps it’s the search for a quieter time when schedules lighten and free time is abound. Perhaps it’s simply the beauty of nature begging for our attention during its last act before its curtain call.

P1030270I allow myself to be lulled into this magical season and I feel blessed to live in a part of the world that provides me with such a colorful show. Each day is different, each walk is new and each glance provides me with a new act of this beautiful nature play. Soon the curtain will fall only to replace this radiantly rich chromaticity with  bland depleated tones but until then I will relish each day of this beautiful season.

A day at the library

Fiction, mystery, romance, biography… any book will catch my attention, and this since the tender age of six. Books were my friends when I was young as there were very few kids of my age in my neighborhood.

I had no favorites, all books were a treat to me. During the summer months we had an extra treat as a book bus traveled every two weeks in our area. In those days, we were allowed to borrow as many books as our age. Given my voracious appetite for reading, I felt this wasn’t enough for me, even at the age of seven.

I spoke to my Dad about it, and he suggested we visit the local library lady (as I called her) to see if we could get that limit increased. I remember feeling quite nervous as we entered the building but I felt confident walking in with my father. She sat in her large wooden chair as we stood in front of her waiting to be acknowledged.

Dad explained that I had a very special request to ask of her. She took off her glasses and motioned us to sit down. I nervously explained to her that I felt the book limit was too low for me as I usually finished my allocated amount within the first week and I was left with nothing to read until the book bus would return the following week. As coached by my Dad, I mentioned the fact that I returned all my books on time and in good condition.

She listened carefully, and after a short pause, she asked how many books I wanted to borrow. I had decided that since I was seven, I would be brave and ask for an additional book to my allocated limit. I hesitated and at that very moment, she asked if ten would be enough.

Imagine my surprise and joy at that beautiful number: TEN! I was so excited as I watched her write the number “10” on a small piece of paper, adding her signature and pasting it to the back of my library card. My father smiled and we both thanked her and shook her hand. I quickly headed to the children’s section to pick out ten new books for me to read.

Decades later I would constantly travel for my work often staying in one city for months. If my project was a lengthy one I would always locate the closest library and get myself a card. Never would I be short of reading material and over the course of fifteen years of travel I accumulated more than twenty out-of-town library cards.

Today I own an e-reader but nothing can replace the look and feel of a physical book. I relish the thought of walking into a used bookstore and wander about, feeling and smelling old books. No matter what the challenges are in my life, I know there is always the pleasure of escaping with a new tale, an old familiar story or a good biography.

Long live books!

all lc

A very special hat

DSC_0934It has been in my possession for decades. In itself, it speaks to someone’s career in the Royal Canadian Air Force. I imagine it was part of quite a career. It was retired along with its owner in 1966 and now, even though the fabric is somewhat fragile it is to me a symbol of a great man.

I often wonder what secrets it must hold, privy to endless amount of sensitive and secret information, strategic conversations and important decisions. It was part of daily rituals along with its ever-so-well-pressed uniform. The uniform is long gone but we have all its adornments including two medals.

Syls DadFor me, however, it’s a symbol of the man who was my father. The man who took the time to read the comics to me while I sat on his lap fresh out of the tub and in my pajamas. I was too young to read at the time but we would pretend I could as I made up words and sentences that I thought were appropriate for the pictures.

I remember one night when I spotted a centipede running across my bedroom floor. I screamed in horror and Dad ran up the stairs and asked what happened. When I told him about the bug, he looked under my bed, and asked for a crayon. I gave him one and he mumbled a few things, then popped up and said “There, I wrote “dead” on his back and he won’t bother you again” – an explanation that at my young age of 6 seemed logical to me.

When I did learn to read I became a voracious reader. My father used to tuck me in bed, and I was allowed 15 minutes of reading before sleep. He played our “reading” game with me. He would come up, kiss me goodnight and turn off my light. At which point, upon his departure I would take out my flashlight and read another 5 minutes. Knowing I was doing this, he would walk back up, take away my flashlight and kiss me goodnight again. I would then stand up on my bed, and for a few more minutes read by the glow of the street light. Once again he would come up, always with a smile on his face and finally take my book away, leaving me with one final kiss goodnight. This was our daily  “reading” ritual.

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Dad passed away at a young age; a mere 45 years of existence ended abruptly, leaving my mother and 5 children to cope with an incredible loss. I was only 9 years old when this happened. I miss growing up with him by my side, I miss living all the important days of my life with him by my side.

I feel his energy and soul has never left me, but I still long for his physical presence. His hat is physical reminder of who he was, and although I try not to be materialistic, this is one item that I cherish with all my heart.

He was a great man and I am blessed to have had the chance to know and love him, even though it was a very short time. He will forever live in my mind and in my heart.

A gift from the heart

It was during our annual siblings birthday party and the time came to open our presents. We’ve been doing this for more than a decade, saving all our siblings’ birthday gifts for this one day. It was handed to me and I immediately thought it might be a book, however, something was moving inside the harder cover giving me doubts about my first guess.

I gently removed the wrapping and found a hard box protecting a book. I pulled it out and immediately felt a small tug at my heart as I glanced on the cover and noticed the beautiful art; poppies! As many of you know, poppies mean so much to me now, as they were one of my sister’s favorite flowers, and I titled my last Camino as “The way of the poppies” in her honour and her memory.

The next thing I noticed was the title of the book “Life from an optimist’s point of view”. “Ah, a book about optimism” I thought, which fitted me well since I consider myself a true optimist. Then it hit me “Wait, that’s my website’s main title.
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It still hadn’t sunk in until my dear sister Monique said “Read the inside cover”.

“This book was specially created for my sister Sylvie Hanes for our sibling annual birthday party August 2014. It is full of my favorite of her blog entries from August 2010 to May 2014. My favorite is the entry “I leaked” from May 17, 2011″

At that very moment the tears came a’flooding! How ironic her favorite entry is about me crying! I could not believe I held in my hands a compilation of some of my blog entries so beautifully arranged with both original pictures and some of her choice. I felt humbled, incredibly touched and amazed that someone though enough of my writing to put it together this way.

So many people have blogs, and we write for many reasons. My first ever blog states “This medium will allow me to share experiences, thoughts, questions and of course, my pictures.” Little did I know back then that four years later, I would still be leveraging this medium. Writing to me, from an early age, has always been a way for me to express myself. When I would have misunderstandings with my mother, I would revert to writing a follow up (most of the time, an apology) and reasoning behind my actions or behaviors. I’ve always favored my English or French classes for the joy of writing be it fiction or research work.

However, even though I know some folks read my blog, I don’t stop to think anyone really pay much attention to my words, with the exception of when I get comments or feedback; both of which always seem to surprise me. This book gave my words flight and a place to land (other than the web) and a physical reminder of my sometimes wild imagination, deepest thoughts and random chatter. The fact that anyone would take the time and effort to make such an amazing book touched me to the core.

You have encouraged me once again to put words to virtual paper. I seldom go back and read my entries, and I am going through each and every page of this wonderful book and remembering each and every moments that brought me to write those entries.
What an honor and a privilege to receive such a gift. To you, my dear sister, a huge heartfelt and sincere “Thank you”.

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