Monday, 18 April 2011

Ducks, bulrushes, and cooking from "scratch"..... the key to our survival.

The challenge this week is to live green.  It should be a challenge all the time.  When my son was in Grade 10 one of the class projects was to figure out what the carbon foot print for his family was.  I am very proud to say that our household had the second lowest carbon footprint of all of the 10th grade at his school.  Since that time I have further reduced my footprint by not having a car.
My love of the environment was fostered by (hold on to your hats green-warriors) farmers, my in my family there are hog farmers, dairy and grain farmers, and they all loved nature and tried their best with the information that they had at their disposal at any time to honor the land. You see despite what you might believe if you listened to the rantings of the environmental extremists, most farmers love the land, and their animals.  There is not a more pampered farm animal than the dairy cow.  Happy healthy cows give the best milk. When your livelihood depends on the quality of your product, a dairy farmer with any brains will pamper his cows. When the market place is demanding milk, cheese and red meat, a business man will supply it.
Now to the vegans among us, I do agree that we are the only mammals on the planet who drink milk past the time when our mothers wean us, and I really don't believe that milk is necessary for healthy growth past the time when we humans are taken off the breast. (which usually occurs much too early now a days)   However we humans have been using dairy products for thousands of years....just never in the excessive amounts that we do now.  We are hunters and gatherers by nature, our natural diets consisted of both plants and meat.  The meat however was rally hard to come by, and it was never(except in the arctic) consumed in large amounts. I believe that it is the excess consumption of animal products that is the real problem.  

I don't know when vegetables became a repulsive thing to children, but I believe the main cause of the obesity epidemic in North America, is mainly due to our being too busy to cook, and being too tired at the end of the day to say to our're lucky that there is food on the table, eat it or leave it, but that's all there is.  No child is going to starve when there is food available for them to eat.  I recall vividly eating cold oatmeal for supper, because I had refused it at breakfast and lunch, I knew that I wouldn't be getting anything else till I ate it.  I was not harmed in any way by this.  No one yelled, I was not hit or threatened, there were no tears or tantrums. My parents simply said my often used are lucky to have food on the table, we are giving this to you to eat because it is good healthy food, and you are not going to get anything else till you eat this.  It was a simple calm statement, and I knew that they meant it. This only happened once (per child) and no child was ever harmed by a day of knowing what hunger felt like. In fact, I learned more than one very valuable lesson that day.  Kids need to know that it is a fact that they are not going to love every meal they are served, but they need to eat what is put in front of them and be grateful, and parents need to relearn how to plan a balanced healthy diet, and how to cook it.  Some of my best times with my children was cooking.  I was a single mom, and frequently worked evening shifts, so we didn't always eat together, but we cooked and shopped together.  This started when they were very young, my kids were participating in cooking when they were 4 years old.  It only took one trip to the farmer's market and allowing my son to pick out the fruit and vegetables for the week for him to become excited about trying new fruits and vegetables.  One of my fondest memories is of Drew (age 6) asking the vendor if he had nicer broccoli.....the broccoli that was for sale seemed a little past it's best.  He was a little dynamo  in the market. I would follow behind him with the basket, let him decide what to buy, and laugh at the responses from everyone in the market.  Don't get me wrong he likes his meat, but he always planned for at least a couple of vegetables per meal.

Now back to the farm.  I can only speak with any first hand knowledge to what is happening in Manitoba, but what is happening there is being played out all over the world as far as I can see.

Wet lands in Manitoba are being drained to make more farm land.  This has been happening at an alarming rate for the past 30 years.  At this same time there have been huge hydro electric facilities built all over the north.  The most critical dam in Manitoba to my thinking is the one that keeps the water level unnaturally high in Lake Manitoba.  Thirty years after this dam was built there are horrible potentially lethal algae blooms on the lake. One of this countries most beautiful lakes is being poisoned.  Now this is not all due to the dam, but there used to be a huge marsh where the Red River drains in to the lake. The water has been kept unnaturally high for 30 years, and now the marsh is dead.  No wild life.  This area needs a period of relative dryness for the bulrushes to germinate, and create a suitable habitat for the wildlife.  Simply taking this dam off line for two months of the year would do a lot to reestablish this marsh.  Bulrushes are extraordinarily effective at filtering out toxins. Allowing the natural flow out of Lake Manitoba to occur for a couple of months would facilitate the removal of some of the excessively fertilized water, and the natural movement of marine life, for part of the year. Reestablishing this wet land would contribute so much to the health of the lake, and the surrounding land.

The dam is not the only problem with Lake Manitoba.  There are, as you know from the news many spring floods in Manitoba, especially along the Red River.  This has always been the case, but they are getting worse.  The problem is that the many small marshes and swamps that have always dotted the prairies, have been drained for more farm land.  Now all the water after the spring melt goes directly in to the rivers.  In the past it would be retained for a period of time in the wetlands and there the bulrushes and wetland vegetation could do it's job of cleaning  the water.  Remember that when this land was in it's natural state it safely maintained vast herds of buffalo.  Far more large animals that can be accounted for by farm animals today.   E-coli  in ground water is becoming a huge problem.  The contaminations can usually be traced to farm animals, but if we look one step further into the problem we find that the land no longer has the capacity to turn biological waste into useful natural fertilizer. Yes, cow farts, and manure put off huge amounts of methane, and harbor e-coli but it is only recently that this has been a problem.  It became a problem when we interrupted the earth's natural ability to turn waste into new life. We have to preserve and protect wetlands, they are an essential component in the circle of life.  They are the lungs, the kidneys and the livers of our planet. This is the case in Manitoba, but the destruction of the Mississippi delta has made that part of the world more vulnerable to hurricanes, and other natural, and unnatural disasters. (don't get me started on the oil spill)  This is happening all over the world.

I think that what bothers me the most about what is happening to my beloved Lake Winnipeg is that although the problem is complicated.  The solution is relatively simple.  Take the dam off line for a couple of months a year.  Legislate that every farmer must return a set number of acres of land back to wetland. This would be the starting point for a vast improvement in the health of the land.  Oh yea, and all of us need to start cooking our own food again.  Farming is a supply and demand business.  Farmers would just as soon plant vegetables if the demand is there.  It is a lot cheaper from their viewpoint to grow things than to raise animals. They would also love to sell locally if the markets were there, it would cut down on their costs as well.

Last summer I went with my Mother and siblings to spread my Father's ashes on the land he loved so much.  We drove up to our homestead farm, a place that I had not visited for a very long time. The house and the barn that my Grandfather had built were slowly returning to the land.  They were being swallowed up and returned to nature, not a sad thing, just the mark of time passing.  It was the pasture that pleased me the most though.  I remembered a small corner of the pasture where bulrushes grew, a great place to find frogs, and to watch the wood ducks and canada geese,  but now the entire pasture was swallowed up by wetland.  I could hear all the returning inhabitants of the old pasture croaking and quacking, there were bulrushes as far as I could see, and the old barn would soon be lost to the expanding marsh.  I thought what a wonderful thing.  This small piece of land is being returned to it's natural state. The higher land around the homestead is still farmed, but my family want the original homestead left to nature. My Dad would be pleased.  I'll bet that his spirit is there right now watching the geese return.  

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

ok brain stop all that whining

The day after the tsunami hit Japan, I was at the studio in Dartmouth, getting ready for my class.  I was laying in savasana waiting for Brittany to start the class, and as usual was thinking about how badly things had gotten out of control after my injuries.

You see, 5 short years ago I had managed to tick run a half marathon off of my bucket list.  I had celebrated my 50th birthday by running a half at the Manitoba Marathon, and another half at a run in my home town.  It had been the result of 3 years of training, and hard work.  Then the unthinkable happened.  my body turned on me.  I tripped and fell while out on a run, I ended up with a significant lower back injury, and then first the right shoulder froze, just as it was starting to get better the left one went out in sympathy, and finally the right shoulder froze again.  I spent the next 2 years walking around looking like a turtle, as well as chronically dragging my left toes as a result of my left leg constantly numb, this resulted in frequent tripping over my own feet, and oh yea just because things weren't bad enough, I hit menopause.  One day I got up off the couch, found the bathroom scale and realized that I had gained a staggering 70 pounds.  I dusted the chip and cookie crumbs off of my enormous belly and cried out "Oh my god, I'm going to die if I don't do something about this".

My negative talk is not usually me thinking bad things about myself or being angry at my body, no, when I really get into the swing of things mine is a full blown pity party.  I worked so hard, why would this happen to me????  It's not my hoo hoo ......You get the picture,  

But back to the the tsunami class. Brittany walked in and asked us all to set an intention for the class.  She suggested that on that particular day it would be appropriate to send out good energy and open our hearts to the people of Japan.  Since it is a little hard to stay mired in a personal pity party when others are facing such enormous devastation, I went along with it.   That particular class was a turning point for me and my practice.  I stopped thinking about how my range of motion is limited in my shoulders, and when we hit warrior one I imagined myself lifting people out of the water, in runner's lunge I was holding back a wave, in tree pose I was scanning he horizon searching for a young man I know.  I dedicated that practice to sending love and hope to Takuji.  A couple of years ago, my son and I hosted a Japanese exchange student in our home.  He turned 16 on the day he arrived, and he was lonely and homesick the whole year he stayed with us. I had considered the whole time a dismal failure.  Every attempt that my son and I had made to involve him in our life had failed. and he had spent most of the year playing video games all night (destroying my computer in the process), and skipping school. He had never made any attempt to stay in touch with us.

Now this is the part where the miracle happens.  A week later I got a friend request on facebook.  Takuji is alive and safe, he says he thinks of us often and wishes that he had opened himself up to all the experiences that we had offered him.  Just another example of how an open heart opens the most unexpected doors.

I will always be grateful to Brittany for encouraging me to let go of my petty concerns, and look at the greater good. My practice has changed enormously since that class.  I try to think of myself as powerful, not damaged, I am enormously grateful when I only wobble in the balancing poses.  That is a huge step forward from having my leg literally give out.  I mean what an amazing leg I have....all the doctors said that it would probably never fully recover.  The benefits have mind blowing, both physically and mentaly.   I even started to consider making a secret goal for myself.  I would start considering this goal, and then I would say don't be crazy old girl, you could never do that.  This negativity would be followed by a round of you need to do something that scares you.  This was followed by you'd look like a fool, you're not 20 you know, you need to stop all this crazy talk.  

Last night I went to two classes in a row with Brittany.  I like doing this because I find that just at the point when I feel that I can not hold another pose, my body just takes over and before I know it, I'm doing something that I would never have tried if I had taken the time to think about it.  I stayed late to ask her permission to use her name in my blog today.  We started talking about how putting self doubt and negative thoughts aside was so helpful both in and out of the practice, and I questioned her sanity at making us do 3 (yes I said 3) camel poses in a row. Then.... she said it.......  She had thrown a door open and shone a light on my crazy idea.  The secret was out in one short sentence...."you should take the training and become a yoga teacher"   I think I will.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Week two..being accessible....I'm an middle aged woman...this journey started a long time ago.

This week at Moksha we are supposed to be working on opening ourselves up to possibilities, and being non judgmental of ourselves and others.  Don't let the title of this post fool you, I do know that this is a life long challenge, but it is one that I have been working on for a very long time.  It becomes easier with practice.

I grew up in a small town.  On my street there were only two houses with kids about my age.  One house was home to three kids close to my age, all of whom had learning and developmental issues, and the other was home to a very delicate little girl with quite a few physical and intellectual issues of her own.  The five of us were a band of buddies, always playing together....mostly I admit because I wasn't allowed to cross the street, and these were the days before play dates.  It was very early on that I noticed that I could figure things out faster than my friends. For example, Christine was not allowed outside to play with us.  She was always dressed like a little princess, and looked like she would break if she was jostled around too much.  It was me who masterminded the great escape to the creek.  I was also the only one who knew enough to stay out of the mud, and looked oh so innocent when I ran for help to get them all out.  I was convinced that I was the smartest kid ever.  I looked at my first day of school as the day that I would truly be recognized as the genius that I knew I was. Imagine my shock when I went to school for the first day and discovered that I was average.  Not only that I was being teased and taunted by the other kids for being friends with "those retards."

I wish I could say that I acted nobly and even at the tender age of 5 used acceptance and non judgement, but alas, I am not an all knowing genesis. I did what most kids would do, I distanced myself from my friends, and I never played with them again. The three siblings had a very difficult time in school, and were frequently manipulated and taken advantage of by unsavory people.  Christine and her family had moved away when I was in grade 3, and she was still struggling with grade1.  I never gave any of this much thought again till one day, when I was 15 out of the blue there was a letter for me.  It was from Christine.   I have long ago lost the letter, but I know that it was written on lovely blue paper with roses in the corner, and the printing was large and scrawling, like a small child.

The letter read:
Deer Patti,
You are my best frend.  wen we played in the mud it was the most fun ever.  I like coloring with you too.  I was in grade 4 but now I stay at home.  What grade are you in?
love  Christine.

My best friend ever, the delicate little girl who squealed with delight when I handed her a frog, so many years before had changed the path I would take in my life.  It has been a long road, but as the years have passed, I have always tried to be non judgmental, open and balanced. You never know what an impact a little thing can make.  Be very careful of what kind of energy you release in to this world. It comes back, both the good and the bad.  I have been truly blessed, that one letter opened my eyes to a whole new way of viewing the world.

I received that letter 40 years ago. This was a time when Yoga was not part of the mainstream.  Meditation was something done by people on the fringe. I did not find yoga till a few years ago, but immediately it was very clear to me that this practice could make the path to acceptance and non judgement a lot easier than muddling through, and hoping for a letter, or feeling guilty because you didn't help when you could have.  It was the tool that I could use to find what I had been searching for.

I touched Christine's heart because when I was 5 I believed I could take on any challenge that life could throw at me. (and believe me it was not easy getting her wheelchair down the hill, or her out of it to sit on the bank of the creek)   I touched her because my heart was pure, and I only wanted her to have fun with the rest of us.  I accepted my friends just as they were.  Later when I did not feel so confident, I lost the benefits of unconditional acceptance the other three friends, and we all suffered.

Yoga has become the place where I practice being that 5 year old again full of optimism and open to all possibilities.  I constantly battle to come to terms with the fact that I have the body of a post menopausal woman, and need to be patient with myself.  I usually go to class grateful that I managed to haul my poor old posterior in to the studio......I tell myself every thing else that happens there is gravy.  I have to admit that I do start judging when I enter the room.  I have found that I can only go to the front of the class where I can see the mirror once a week.  When I am up there I tend to be critical of how I look.  I try once a week to take a realistic, but non judgmental look at my physical self.  The best that I have been able to do so far is well, you are getting stronger, but OMG the Buddha belly is disappearing in the most unattractive way.  It's kind of deflating like a beach ball, and I have a big old flap there.  This non judgement stuff takes a lifetime. I am trying to practice acceptance of myself first, and then it is easy to take that attitude off the mat, and out in to the world. I figure I should have this perfected in about another 40 years......(please don't do the math)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Starting over, just a little late

Well, for any one who knows me this is not a surprise. One week in to the challenge, and I have just started to blog.  Honest, I did pay attention, I did eat reasonably healthy all week. and I did go to class for 6 out of 7 times.  So basically it I am just behind on the paper work.....(just like old times at work)  
Let me introduce myself.  My name is Patti Clark.  I  currently live in Dartmouth Nova Scotia.  I moved here officially in January, but have been back and forth between here and Winnipeg for about a year before that.  I am a retired psych nurse.  Last year I reestablished a relationship with my high school boyfriend, who had moved here from Manitoba 30 years ago.  Throwing all caution to the wind I "visited" frequently for all of 2010, and took the plunge and moved here in January.  
It has been quite an experience moving away from the province that I have lived in all my life, and away from my children, and granddaughter. I gave every thing I owned to my kids and charity (moving it or storing it would have been more expensive than it was worth) I had one of those rare moments or clarity in January when I walked in to my new home last January, seeing a bouquet of flowers in a beautiful crystal vase, and thinking well at least I own a vase.  This is actually a blessing......starting fresh can be the catalyst for positive change.  I can live in the moment with out being encumbered by the past.   
I decided to join this challenge to cement a change that I started last month.  In March I did a 30 day challenge and cleanse at the Moksha studio in Dartmouth.  I have done one other 30 day challenge in Winnipeg with my daughter, and in the beginning this challenge made me miss her so much more.  I missed the encouragement, and the time we spent together. Then a marvelous thing started to happen.  All the people doing the challenge and cleanse started to chat in the change room.  People who were just someone you recognized from yoga became support people. We started sharing recipes in an online group.  I probably would have starved without the help.  The past week eating vegetarian most of the time has not been all that difficult after our no meat, no dairy no eggs no wheat, no sugar month.  One day my mother called from Manitoba when I was out, and my partner told her that I was out foraging in the bush for supper.  He added that he was hoping for roots and berries that night because he was getting tired of twigs.  
Anyway, what I learned last week was pretty significant. I started to return to more normal eating, and I learned that I get a belly ache and heart burn that makes me feel like I am ready to explode when ever I sit down to a large piece of meat for dinner.....same with greasy food. I can not describe the disappointment at discovering that after I moved to a place where I could get fresh fish and chips, I can not eat them without wanting to die afterwards.  On the bright side this makes becoming vegetarian a whole lot easier.   So here I go into being a vegetarian by necessity, dragging my partner and new step son along with me kicking and screaming all the way.