Freedom in the Delay

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Vancouver Seawall Winter 2019

Whenever anyone brings up the subject of procrastination, they invariably give a nod to Mark Twain who stated with his usual clarity and generous humour:

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” …

Those poor frogs!

Procrastination is simply the action of delaying or postponing.

We know how not to procrastinate.  In fact, there are books written to help us through the trials and tribulations of avoidance.  I have read books on de-cluttering, time management, setting priorities – all are filled with marvelous vignettes and stories that give that exuberant promise that once I make a list, and dramatically cross off completed tasks, I will be liberated.

Living a productive life is a noble goal with great outcomes. Lists allow us to measure our performance, and perhaps stave off the dread of procrastination.

What if we looked at procrastination a different way?

What if we stopped the tasks, took a moment to simply be in the moment, and allow our mind to gather strength and resilience?  Perhaps what we consider urgent, may not be important. Perhaps a delay or postponement is the best course of action.

Maybe those frogs should be allowed freedom.

And with that thought, I invite you to share a walk along the Vancouver Seawall, just as the sun is setting.  Take a deep breath and leave your lists to another day.

 

Winter Sunset from Rebecca Budd aka Clanmother on Vimeo.

The Journey into Silence

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“Silence is a source of great strength.” Lao Tzu

 

This month, I am following my dear friends, The World According to Dina, Leaping Tracks and Silkannthreades into silence. For most of us, this is entering unfamiliar territory. We have become accustomed to sound, whether it be the soothing lilt of music, the white noise of traffic, urgent text message notifications, or the inevitable clamour of an alarm clock. At the same time, our affinity with silence has lessened to the point that we are uneasy in what seems to be a “void.” Consider how we rush to fill a conversation when there is a lapse into silence.

Silence is a complete absence of sound, something which very few of us will ever experience. City dwellers will always have the company of noise.  Nature offers the echoes of ocean waves crashing along a shoreline, wind rattling the trees, rain pelting the ground, voices of animals and the songs of birds. And the universe – even interstellar space is filled with noise.

I am discovering that silence can be reached when we allow the noise to drift away, when we relinquish the message conveyed by the incoming signal. In so doing, we open ourselves to new possibilities and outcomes.

In the end, silence is a personal journey, an inner conversation, an open invitation to explore and celebrate.

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.” Chaim Potok

 

Finding Silence within a City Garden from Rebecca Budd aka Clanmother on Vimeo.

The Art of the Story

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Halifax Trip 2003

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Photography is about storytelling – told without the inconvenience of words.

A few years ago, I purchased an inexpensive digital camera to document a family trip.  I confess that I gave the camera very little thought; in fact, I left the instructions at home, deciding to take the “point and click” approach.  I would never consider embracing the title of photographer.  That designation was left to those who carried tripods and huge cameras with impressively long lenses.  While I admired the tenacity and dedication of shutterbugs hauling heavy photography gear, I considered the apparatus an impediment to any adventure that I planned to undertake.

Halifax Trip 2003

Sailing on the Mar II

And then something happened along the way.  I heard the story.  Despite my haphazard approach to taking photography, with every shot I captured a moment in time that would never be repeated. And therein lies the mystery; for photos allow us a second look, a recollection of an emotional response, a reminder that we have lived on this earth.

Photos bring the narrative of the moment, insulated from the noise of the present.  With a simple click, we stop time.

“These people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on old dry plates of sixty years ago… I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. Any they in turn seem to be aware of me.”

Ansel Adams

Victor & Juliette

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“To love another person is to see the face of God.” 
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Paris

Victor Hugo is considered one of the greatest and most beloved of French writers.  Les Misérables, and Notre-Dame de Paris, (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) set forth universal themes that continue to stimulate and challenge.

Victor Hugo had a great love – Juliette Drouet, a French actress who left her theatrical career to devote her life entirely to him.   She was his secretary and travelling companion.  Some would even say that she lived a secluded existence; she would only go into public in his company.  Their letters spanned decades and demonstrated a profound and enduring love.  Following are excerpts from their correspondence.

Love Letter to Victor Hugo, dated 1831

“I love you, I love you, my Victor; I cannot reiterate it too often; I can never express it as much as I feel it. I recognize you in all the beauty that surrounds me – in form, in colour, in perfume, in harmonious sound: all of these mean you to me.  You are superior to all.  I see and admire – you are all!  You are not only the solar spectrum with the seven luminous colours, but the sun himself, that illumines, warms, and revivifies!  This is what you are, and I am the lowly woman that adores you.”

Juliette

Love Letter to Juliette Drouet, dated 1851

(Recall that in 1851, Victor Hugo was sentenced to a fine of 500 francs and six months imprisonment for his article condemning capital punishment.  That same year, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte become Napoleon III of France, ending the Second Republic)

“You have been wonderful, my Juliette, all through these dark and violent days. If I needed love, you brought it to me, bless you!   When, in my hiding places, always dangerous, after a night of waiting, I heard the key of my door trembling in your fingers, peril and darkness were no longer round me – what entered then was light!  We must never forget those terrible, but so sweet, hours when you were close to me in the intervals of fighting. Let us remember all our lives that dark little room, the ancient hangings, the two armchairs, side by side, the meal we ate off the corner of the table….”

Victor

 

The Best of Friends

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But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”   John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”  Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States

A Pathway

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the best of friends, even though their ideas and political viewpoints were not in sync.  From their first meeting at the 1775 Continental Congress in Philadelphia, they formed a strong affinity, respect and liking for each other.  In 1776, they worked together on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Eight years later, they were both in France on diplomatic service.  Throughout their long friendship they continued a lively dialogue through letters.  They had a falling out during the transition of presidency in 1801, when John Adams made some last-minute political appointments that displeased Thomas Jefferson.   The letters stopped for a time and then resumed in 1811 after a welcomed reconciliation.

John Adam’s last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” unaware that his dear friend had died only a few hours before.  They were friends until the last, both dying on July 4th, 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

This is the letter, dated November 13, 1818, from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, upon hearing of the death of Abigail Adams:

MONTICELLO, November 13, 1818.

The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medi­cine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.

Thomas Jefferson

The Last Letter

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Marie Antoinette

Several years ago I read Évelyne Lever’s, “Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France.”  Her writing style was compelling, transporting me back in time, enabling me to pass through the magnificent entrance of Versailles into the living quarters of the iconic Queen.  Under Évelyne Lever’s meticulous research and detail, Marie Antoinette came alive – it was as if I was sitting beside her during all of the transitions.  I confess that I broke down and cried when I read the last letter that Marie Antoinette wrote to her sister-in–law,  Princess Elizabeth (Louis XVI’s sister) at 4:30 a.m. on October 16, 1793, just hours before her execution.  The letter was given to Robespierre.  Princess Elizabeth never received the letter and met her fate the next year.

This is an excerpt of that letter that has been translated into English.

“It is to you, my sister, that I write for the last time.  I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, for such is only for criminals, but to go and rejoin your brother.  Innocent like him, I hope to show the same firmness in my last moments.  I am calm as one is when one’s conscience reproaches one with nothing.  I feel profound sorrow in leaving my poor children: you know that I only lived for them and for you, my good and tender sister.  You who out of love have sacrificed everything to be with us, in what a position do I leave you!  I have learned from the proceedings at my trial that my daughter was separated from you…Let my son never forget the last words of his father, which I repeat emphatically; let him never seek to avenge our deaths….”

Marie Antoinette lived during a time of economic uncertainty and political instability. During her last years, she became the symbol of lavish wealth and tyranny.  Even so, I often think of her as a women imprisoned, her children taken from her, waiting to rejoin her husband.