What could I say that wouldn’t fall short
Of describing your true beauty, softness, and elegance
Staring longer would only draw me further away from reality
Lost in thoughts, imagining, forgetting who, what, where we are
Nevertheless, for this fleeting moment, I found myself
Searching for words to describe a feeling, but failed
Some things better remain unsaid, some words unspoken
A thought came to mind as I walked away
I just kept going quietly
We both knew
I know, it’s not how the saying goes. “You can’t see the forest, for the trees,” is the more common expression. But I couldn’t help myself. With my lens at ground level, surrounded in red and white flowers reminiscent of the Canadian flag, among green leaves and stems, I realized I could no longer see the thicket of cedars a few feet beyond. I smiled and thought of this overused idiom, amused. I could no longer see the forest for the tulips…
This is the last of the winged visitors I met at the Indigo bookstore. This beautiful monocled great grey owl has been taken in by the folks at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre after he was hit by a car. The collision injured his left eye, which had to be surgically removed. That didn’t stop him from keeping a close eye on me.
This is the largest of the owl family, with a wingspan that can reach 152 cm. I’m told that its size is somewhat deceptive, made up mostly of fluffy and broad feathers. It is rather lightweight.
I met this 11-year old peregrine falcon at the Indigo bookstore, of all places. We could tell, from her loud squawking, she was very happy to come out and meet with the other bookworms. She suffers from cataracts (who would have thought birds get these too?). The nice folks at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre look after her.
If you like peregrine falcons, you might enjoy watching a livecam from a rooftop nest, here in Winnipeg. Charming…
I had never seen one of these before. This probably explains why:
Where mice and other small mammals are concerned this fierce, silent owl is anything but cute. One of the most common owls in forests across northern North America (and across the U.S. in winter), saw-whets are highly nocturnal and seldom seen.
This little owl is a northern saw-whet owl, a patient at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre near Winnipeg, Manitoba (actually in St. Adolphe). I met her, two other patients (peregrine falcon and great grey owl) along with great volunteers from PWRC at the Indigo bookstore—who would have thought, of all places—while I was there for a book signing.
Hidden on a branch
On this thin line between sunlight and shadows
Like birds on a wire
Shoulder to shoulder, strength in numbers
Outstretched thin arms
Cradling one precious seed, a teardrop
Nobody will hear it fall
On the green safety blanket below
Yet all will know
It came from your bleeding heart
Sitting in the shade of the canopy
Its unforgettable fragrance hypnotizes
Conjuring memories of days gone by.
Of all nature’s perfumes, lilac is my favorite
For too many reasons, happy and sad.
I close my eyes and inhale deeply…
A true delight for the senses, and the mind.
Long ago—well not that long ago, really—the only way to reach someone on the phone was through the operator.
“What city, please?” she (they were mostly all women back in the days when my Mom was a telephone operator) would ask. They were the “smarts” of the phone.
You could even call someone, long distance, and get them to pay for it. Many a time I found myself telling the operator “I’d like to make a collect call, please…” A teenager far from home, I knew my parents would accept the charges. What a bargain!
And if you were paying for the call with a pocketful of change, you’d better talk fast. The operator would interrupt the conversation, when your credit ran out, and ask you to put more coins to continue the call: “$2.00 for three minutes.” Sad time when your last nickel clanked with this dreary metallic sound as it hit the bottom of the pay phone coin box.
Although it was strictly forbidden to eavesdrop on conversations, I’m sure a little “snooping” only added spice to an otherwise long day, maybe, as long as the supervisor didn’t find out. Some callers even had longer conversations with the operator than with the person they were calling. Jim Croce sure did and wrote a song about it. Something about a faded number on a matchbook, and a girl living with an “ex” friend. That’s just the way it goes…
I was filled with a certain sadness when I first read news of Robert Pirsig’s death, the kind of sadness you experience when someone you don’t know, someone who touched your life without knowing it, passes away.
Maybe you are unfamiliar with the name in the title, which would be ok. Maybe you are familiar with what he wrote. Robert Pirsig is the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which he wrote in the 60s, and was first published in 1974. A friend gave me a copy, convinced that the book would resonate with me; and resonate, it did! I don’t know if I ever thanked that friend… (Note to self: say “Thanks!” to Terry).
The book uses “motorcycle maintenance” only as a metaphor for an in-depth look at life and people, a backdrop for the real story. The bike trip Pirsig took with his son, Chris, takes us from Minnesota to the west coast. I read the book twice and dog-eared many of its pages; it’s something I do. Then I re-read all the dog-eared pages and capture the key messages in a document. Every once in a while, I scan through the document, reminding myself of the author’s ideas that resonated with me. With Zen, I realized that I was a bit of a philosopher, although I’d never venture to write a book about my philosophy. The fact that I was also a motorcycle enthusiast, not a very mechanically-inclined one, I could see myself making that trip. I will read the whole book again…
“…A motorcycle functions in accordance with the laws of reason, and a study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself… the real cycle you are working on is the cycle called yourself.” Pg. 98
Here are some of the messages you would find if you read the pages with bent corners, just to give you an idea:
The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling. Pg. 12
You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness. Pg. 13
Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. There are things you should notice right away. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow. Pg. 204
Quality, or its absence, doesn’t reside in either the subject or the object. The real ugliness lies in the relationship between the people who produce the technology and the things they produce, which results in a similar relationship between the people who use the technology and the things they use. […] at the moment of pure Quality perception, at the moment of pure Quality, there is no subject and there is no object. There is only a sense of Quality […] Pg. 290
So the thing to do when working on a motorcycle, as in any other task, is to cultivate the peace of mind which does not separate one’s self from one’s surroundings. When that is done successfully then everything else follows naturally. Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all. Pg. 297
If you get a sense that Pirsig’s views were complex, deep, and sometimes confused (or is that confusing?), you’re right. The book takes you along, if you stick with it, and forces you to think about concepts fundamental to life, and to enjoy the journey, which is why I enjoyed it so much. Thank you, Robert Pirsig!