Creatively Yours: Dog Days of Summer

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In July 2011, we experienced the hottest temperatures in recorded Canadian history! If you ever wondered what 40 degree temperatures feel like, you now know! During the July heat wave I noticed the city I live in (Toronto) was much quieter and even cottage country had a hush about it. Rather than rushing around “chasing our tails” so to speak, we collectively stayed indoors or rested in the shade and generally did less and less as the temperature went up; a perfect invitation for stillness, reading, reflection and perhaps even meditation.

Since my July 12th post In Communion with Nature, I have been reading a book called Wherever you Go There you Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  The author suggests that meditation wakes us up from the dream state of everyday living into a state of wakefulness and present moment awareness. He states that waking up or “mindfulness” leads among other things to the wisdom of seeing the interconnectedness of things.

Among other things I have been pondering, I wondered why we call hot summer days “dog days.”  According to my quick search on Wikipedia, “dog days are the hottest, most sultry days of summer.” That fits! Dog days can also refer to a time or event that is very hot or stagnant, marked by lack of progress.  Could that be the global economy? That fits! The term is also used to describe the stock market in the summer; a slow time perhaps because everyone is on holidays? Not to mention that poor performing stocks are often called “dogs.” I guess that fits? In Roman times Sirius was called the “Dog Star” because it was thought to cause hot weather due to its close proximity to the sun. Ah, now we’re getting closer to the source ….

Yes it has been a glorious, warm, sunny summer so far and Canadians are soaking up and enjoying the pleasures of the lazy days of summer. Our loonie is strong and it is a good time to travel. But with droughts, famines, tornadoes, sand storms and flooding occurring around the world it does make one wonder if the effects of global warming are catching up with us. And our future economic health is uncertain due to the impact of global debt: two serious concerns to contemplate on a perfect, sunny, summer day.  So, I turned to my book by  Jon Kabat-Zinn for some inspiration. He states:

When it comes right down to it, wherever you go, there you are. Whatever you wind up doing, that’s what you’ve wound up doing. Whatever you are thinking right now, that’s what’s on your mind. Whatever has happened to you, it has already happened. The important question is how are you going to handle it?

So with those thoughts in mind I share this prayer of hope, resilience and compassion with you from Living Wisdom with His Holiness the Dalai Lama by Dudjom Rinpoche.

“At this very moment, for the people and nations of this earth

May not even the names diseased, famine, war and suffering be heard.

But rather may pure conduct, merit, wealth, and prosperity increase,

And may supreme good fortune and well-being always arise”.

As the “dog days of summer” pass us by, I watch as my dog Jessie leaps from the dock into the lake with great gusto in pursuit of her Frisbee. And I get to accompany her on long walks through forests and streams. The look on her face is the closest expression of pure joy that I have witnessed this summer! And I get to share in that too!

Creatively yours,

Angela and Jessie

Creatively Yours: In Communion with Nature

Jessie

After a week of connecting with the quiet and solitude of nature, I am ready to reacquaint myself with the hustle and bustle of the city. It was an interesting, though very quiet time spent at my cottage with just Jessie and me.  Jessie is our family dog, a black goldenpoo and one of the best swimmers I know. From a dog’s perspective this is the perfect place to be – no fences, no traffic, no noise and an abundance of water to swim in, sunshine to laze around in and animal life to entertain you when things get slow.  For a type “A” personality it provides a bit of a challenge. What do you do by yourself for a week in communion with nature?

One of the definitions of “commune” according to Webster’s is to communicate intimately – with nature. I decided that this week I would draw on the inspiration of nature to spark my creativity and hopefully create some landscape paintings. My early morning kayak rides with Jessie presented some new perspectives and points of view. Sitting on the dock, I used to think the lake was peaceful, but from the view point in the kayak, the land looked very peaceful. Why is it that “peace” is always somewhere else?

I tried to practice meditation every day with limited success. Somehow the noise of nature distracted me and called me back to its’ presence. I read somewhere recently if you want to feel happy, go outside with nature. It is alive and calling you to notice it.  As I write this, I hear a bird noisily chirping in the background. That may be what mindfulness is all about – noticing.  And from my limited understanding of meditation, we can notice thoughts, feelings, sensations, and then let them go without judgment.

I have heard that painting and drawing can be meditative because you have a single focus, forget about your daily worries, lose your sense of time, and become one with the process. As with meditation, it is possible to find a sense of inner peace provided that our inner critic doesn’t take over. But for the moment, let’s just say that if we don’t give in to our need for perfection, creating art can be a peaceful and enjoyable experience. And like meditation, it takes practice and intention.

Though I didn’t accomplish nearly as much art making as I set out to do, I read some beautiful poetry from Roger Housden’s Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime.  I swam and played Frisbee with Jessie and enjoyed her company as we watched the sun rise and set together. I noticed the beauty of nature in the sparkle of the sun on the lake in the day and the reflection of the moon on the water at night. I noticed the warm air of summer days, and the cooling breeze at night. I noticed the songs of the birds and insects and the whispering of the trees. I noticed the summer flowers blooming and the bees buzzing all around. I spent a week in communion with nature and felt at peace.

p.s. I received this in an email today from Laurie and think it fits, so here goes….

Inner Peace

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without alcohol,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

Then you are probably the family dog!

Creatively Yours,

Angela and Jessie
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