Wild Vancouver nights

Black bear near the Seymour forestLast night I went for another run and skinny dip in the Seymour River. This time I went down the Twin Bridges trail, which is closed for trail work. I felt worried as I ran down the trail and saw that they are widening it and gravelling it. The sign said they would be replacing the bridge as well. I was worried that they were planning to allow vehicular traffic on this wild woody trail, bringing noise and air pollution to disturb the magnificent stillness of the forest. I was also concerned that the traffic would disturb the wildlife. And that this would be one more enroachment on a wonderful wild place that we are fortunate to enjoy near the heart of Vancouver—it’s just an 11 minute drive to the forest and river, from my house in East Van.

I thought about the arguments I would make against this work they are doing. That we need wild, untouched places. We evolved as a species among other animals in the wilderness, and we need wild places to go to. In fact, we need the wild places to be there even if we don’t go to them! I worried about this for most of my run, and noted the web site and email address to use to raise my concerns.

The site says:

Twin Bridges Replacement Project  The first bridge to cross the Seymour River was built in 1907-08 and was dismantled in 1992. It carried a water main across the river and provided east-west access for pedestrians. A second bridge was built in 1926 and is the only bridge remaining on the site. This bridge will be removed and replaced this summer and will thus continue to serve as an important southerly crossing for both utility operations and public recreation.

Huh. That sounds pretty innocuous, but are they going to allow general traffic on the trail? I will still need to check this out by contacting them.

So after I memorized the web address and decided to follow up on my concerns, I was nearing the end of my run and I stopped to give Reiki to two of my favourite trees near the top of the Homestead Trail. I was worried that these two friends might be cut down, the way that a whole stretch of trees had been lower down on the Twin Bridges trail. It had hurt my heart to see the trees gone, laying as stripped logs beside the road.

As I gave Reiki to the two trees that I have often visited with and used to stretch against, I heard a twig breaking. I thought it must be a cyclist, though that didn’t really make sense since it was almost dark. I turned back onto the main trail, and guess what I saw… A black bear loping across the trail! What a blessing. What a confirmation that these woods are precious and I must do what I can to help protect them. As I paused by the path, looking in the direction where he had gone, I heard bear rustling around in the nearby underbrush, and sent some Reiki to him too. I was so happy to have this brief encounter with bear people.

When I got back to Lynn Valley Road and started the drive home, another magical visitation occurred as a long-tailed weasel crossed the road in front of me and then disappeared into the woods. And as I turned onto the road leading to the freeway entrance I smelled skunk. What an amazing city, to have so much beauty, with the buildings and people and machinery all coexisting with the awesome natural world that cradles Vancouver.

To top off the evening, the Vancouver International Fireworks were happening when I got home, and I did my post-run yoga on the deck overlooking the Burrard Inlet, watching the fireworks erupting over the city, and the stars emerging overhead. Wild Vancouver night!

Red wheel rolling

IVI was driving over the Second Narrows bridge tonight, feeling high from a run by and skinny dip in the Seymour River. It was dusk, but the street lights hadn’t come on yet on the north side of the bridge. I was groovin’ on Led Zeppelin, as I am wont to do after running in the mountains. Feeling fine. I was listening to Led Zep IV, which I just picked up on CD recently. The song was what some say is the best rock’n’roll song ever, Stairway to Heaven—though my personal fave of all time has got to be Gimme Shelter by the Stones—and I was feelin’ the magic. I crested the bridge and the key to the universe was revealed once again:

  • And if you listen very hard
  • The tune will come to you at last
  • When all are one and one is all, yeah
  • To be a rock, and not to roll, and not to roll, don’t make me roll…Song Remains the Same

Oh wait, that’s the live version off The Song Remains the Same. I often insert the live bits when I belt out the lyrics in the privacy of my own car. And I was really getting into it tonight!

 Red wheel--not rolling, but it couldAnyway, just as I was reflecting that the answer to the mystery of the universe was to be a rock and not to roll, I saw the most amazing thing. A red wheel was rolling along in my lane. It must have been doing about 70. I was doing about 80 and passed it. It was about 6″ high, and rolling right down the lane! And it was red! And it was rolling!

What does this mean? Could Led Zeppelin have been wrong after all? Is this a sign that the key to the universe is to roll, not to be a rock?!! And if so, how do I do that? Turn cart wheels? Roll in the hay? Play roulette? Rolling actually sounds a lot more fun than being a rock, which doesn’t get to do much but sit there and wait for a glacier to come along!

Fried and fit to be tied

Beautifully mounted Yagi antenna; outlet pipe behind itWell, before I even had a chance to text the picture of the new antenna from my cell phone to my email, the new power adapter was fried. Dang!

All that “Searching for service” was for naught, since the power adapter had fried after less than a day of receiving phone calls. What gives around here?!

Positive thoughts about not being able to receive phone calls in the house at Monkey Valley:

  • It gives me a reason to take the phone with me on runs, where I get reception at the higher elevation, and talk to friends while I’m running. Makes the hour go by more quickly.
  • It makes me be more intentional about when I use the phone. I have to really need to use it to go to the trouble of going up on the roof.
  • It means my day is not constantly interrupted by phone calls, and I choose when to collect messages and return calls, preserving the retreat-like atmosphere.
  • It means I don’t waste time talking on the phone, and get more done.
  • It helps me with that Greta Garbo “I vant to be alone” thing.

Ah well, it was good while it lasted. Kind of like relationships with men. I guess I need to take a look at my object relationship with my phone! I can’t get no satisfaction! Sounds like the frustrating object relation to me.

Chairway to heaven: the efficacy of ridiculousness

Chairway to heavenThere was a breakthrough at Monkey Valley this week. For two years now I have been suffering with my cell phone here. I could only get a signal by standing on a bench on my back deck and holding the phone in the air, or by climbing up on the roof. Not great for those 7:45 AM conference calls with my client in winter with -10 C temperatures! Not to mention wind and rain…

So I finally forked out some cash to get a power booster, hoping that this technology would allow me to use the existing Yagi antenna on the roof to channel the digital signal to my phone inside the house. So I went to Kamloops, and got the power booster (second trip, and after many preparatory phone calls with different providers). I brought it home, and hooked it up, hoping this would be easy for a change.

I put my phone near the inside antenna and saw the discouraging message “Searching for service.” Shit! I took the phone up on the roof to see what kind of signal I could get, and got about two bars. I called Telus to see what was up, and confirmed there were no outages in the area. So something was wrong with the setup. Maybe the Yagi had broken down since I last used it with my old analog 3-watt bag phone a few years ago, before Telus forced us all to switch to digital.

I thought the best thing to do would be to test the antenna by moving it higher up on the roof, to where I was standing with the cell phone when I got two bars. But how would I support the antenna? I looked at the spot, and saw my dining room chair balanced on either side of the roof ridge, with the antenna strapped to it. Okay, that might work…

So I went in the house, got a chair, and hauled the chair up onto the roof, along with some trusty duct tape. I went to the antenna, and tried to pull it out of the plumbing outlet pipe in which it was lodged. It wouldn’t come. I pulled and pulled. It wouldn’t budge. I pulled some more, cursing to give myself more power. Finally the antenna budged, but the pipe came with it. Darn! But since it was loose anyway, it probably wouldn’t hurt to pull it some more. I pulled the pipe out as far as it would come, gaining about three and a half feet of height for the antenna.

In fact, about the height it would have been strapped to the chair. So what the hell… I went inside to check the reading on the cell phone and lo and behold: four bars!!! It worked!!!

View from roof topThe ridiculous notion of the chair on the roof led to the solution: the antenna just needed to be higher. Since I had contractors coming this week to do some other work (Brent and Tom of Tri-Ross Construction—great guys), they agreed to mount the antenna with a more permanent solution than sticking it in the outlet pipe with duct tape, and they also fixed the pipe I had dislodged. Wow! For once the new problems I created were easy to solve. And now I have indoor phone service at Monkey Valley.

My first phone call was a real thrill let me tell you! By the fourth call, not so much! And today, the darn reception was down to “Searching for service,” even up on the roof. Well aren’t we all! So unfortunately, I am still at the mercy of the whims of the universe as to whether some mysterious force chooses to send the signal my way or not. I guess that’s pretty much what life is like. At the mercy of a mysterious force, which sometimes sends visions of dining room chairs on roof tops.

Praying for the non-religious

Continuing with the story of the sweat lodge, one of the elements that was very moving wasPraying in the sweat lodge the praying. As a person who doesn’t follow a Christian tradition, prayer has often seemed impossible for me to do. If I don’t have a god I believe in, how can I pray?

In the sweat lodge, I found that participants pray in many different ways. Some are Christian and pray to god, some pray to great spirit or creator, some pray to the spirits of the directions, or to the ancestors.  The invitation is to pray, but there is no designated entity to whom we pray. For me this frees the act of prayer from its connection to Christianity, and allows the intention of the prayer to emerge more clearly. The act of praying opens one’s heart through having good wishes for the well-being of oneself or another.

In Buddhism, the practice of maitri or metta is similar; it is a prayer for oneself, others, and all beings to be happy and free from suffering. This type of practice is usually done in stages, beginning with oneself, and moving on to those we feel appreciation towards, friends and family, those we are neutral towards, those we find difficult, and then towards all beings.

In the sweat lodge, I didn’t consciously choose this progression of people to pray for, but found myself spontaneously praying for a friend who was dying of cancer, and then members of my family, people I had fasted with, and my spiritual teachers. I felt moved to be praying for people and expressing my caring for them in this way, but what was really astonishing was when I prayed for people that I had a problem with. By allowing myself to feel caring for the health and well-being of people whom I felt had hurt me, my heart opened in a new and surprising way. I felt myself to be much bigger than the small, hurt self I had taken myself to be in the interaction when I felt hurt. Instead, I was a more expansive being who was big enough to offer prayer for my teachers! And from this expansive place, forgiveness occurred. Later I noticed a shift in my feelings towards those I felt had hurt me; the reactive charge was gone.

This remarkable, unforeseen outcome of prayer was one of the many gifts I received in the sweat lodge.

Here is a prayer for at the end of life, or perhaps for when one faces the symbolic death of the vision fast:

Great Spirit
when we face the sunset
when we come singing
the last song, may it be
without shame, singing
“It is finished in beauty,
it is finished in beauty!”

– Evelyn Eaton, I Send a Voice