Category Archives: Peace and quiet

Only Child finds solace at Harbourfront

Harbourfront Music Garden and sailboats

Harbourfront sailboats and corner of the Music Garden in Toronto

Lake, beach, music and gardens – all created some peace for me, if only for a few hours. On Sunday I went to Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Outside the two-year construction clutter is gone and the remake shows. Walk, bike, streetcars and cars all have their separate place to move along Queen’s Quay. And walking on the beach – sand or boardwalk (cement or boards) is lively, yet peaceful. About the only so-called drawback is the juggler who attracts crowds that block the access along the boardwalk.

I sat on a bench facing the boardwalk and ate my packed lunch while watching the boats sail around in Lake Ontario and people-watched. People of all sizes, ages and in quite a variety of clothes. But all enjoying themselves. And not crowded but not just a few people either. Perfect.

After lunch, I strolled along the boardwalk over to the grassy area (note: it is fake turf but if you had experienced the lumpy clumps of grass a few years ago, you would not complain about the turf). I checked out the craft booths for the perfect turquoise pendant. A few came close but not just it. I am trying to replace the pendant that got broken when I fell thanks to some careless you-know-what leaving a paper wire out on the street.

From there I headed for a brisk walk west to the Music Garden. This is a unique combination of wildflowers and other perennials, trees, pathways and a grassy area with layered wide steps to sit on while absorbing one of the summer classical music concerts. Sunday it was Italian baroque played by four musicians from Montreal. C0mpletely captured all my senses for an hour and soothed my tattered soul and body.

After the concert (free, by the way), I took some photos of the garden and of the ships sitting in the harbour, including one of the tall ships which you can board to take a tour around Toronto Harbour. Because of time, I left this one for another visit.

Then, after a quick look at some of the displays along the way, I went inside one of the buildings. I knew what I would find – all one area has closed and boarded up shops. It looks desolate and out of the atmosphere of Harbourfront. It seems like it was forgotten in the remodelling of Harbourfront area. And you know what I miss most – Tilly’s – you know of the Tilly hats? I can’t afford Tilly’s prices but I loved wandering in the store and looking at and feeling the clothing. The cafe is also gone as well as other shops. Not good.

So I went outside and boarded one of the new LRT streetcars which are slowing replacing the old clunkers. I still like the old clunkers but the new ones ride smoothly and you don’t have to show your ticket or pass unless asked. This short run took me underground and into Union Station where I (finally after a long wait) boarded the subway – another LRT types car – which I like. And I returned home.

A good day. With my health issues I don’t have too many of those.

So, it is carpe diem – for all of us.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Harbourfront sailboats

Harbourfront sailboats

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Filed under Health, Music, Music Garden, Only child, Peace and quiet, Sailboats, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto

Only Child Grateful for Garden and Friends

Raggedy Annie guards Only Child's front garden

Raggedy Annie guards Only Child’s front garden

You’re getting some garden photos today. From this spring and summer. Friends’ photos coming up in a future blog post.

But both are connected in one way. I am grateful for both.

Let me clarify.

First my friends, my real friends, not the so-called friends like “Lois” who think they can control my life. On Saturday, my friend Bob picked me up at the Finch subway station. We were en route to Aurora for an old newspaper journalist reunion. While driving, Bob told me he was glad I was finding some peace with that church I had blogged about recently.

My first thought was “church.” I’m not a church-goer. I’m no longer Catholic or even Christian. Then my aging-brain kicked in. The Buddhist temple I had visited and meditated in during Toronto’s Doors Open May 23. I had blogged about it just after

https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/only-child-finds-a-little-piece-of-peace/

 

Bob said that he knows I have been through a lot in my life and he was hoping I would find some peace and that might be with that church. I replied “I plan to go back but there hasn’t been time.” He said he hoped that I would. I’m planning to this Saturday.

Thank you Bob. I meant to tell you this on the way to Aurora, but the conversation got distracted and old minds sometimes operate like the proverbial gnats.

Bob and I have been friends for years. He was one of my first editors at one of the community newspapers I wrote for in York Region when I lived in Aurora (not quite in the grey ages – the latter is my school days). He has listened to me rant about everything from house problems to nasty people in my life (Lois doesn’t quite fit in that bad category, but the boarder that lived here from summer 2013 to October 2014 does), to – well you name it. He has also come to many of my son Martin’s gigs with the various bands he has played in over the years

The garden is my refuge and my delight (weeds and all – you don’t want to know the number of containers and bags of weeds and tree and shrub branches in the last yard waste pickup). As I daily pick the many black raspberries, pot plants, water potted plants and just sit out and enjoy the garden while eating meals or reading or just sitting, I am grateful. Sure, we have had a lot of rain, but it has eased off the last week or so. Some rain and possible thunderstorms due later today so I hope I won’t be eating my words here. But when I see on TV and the Internet all those forest fires burning out of control in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatoon and find out the number of people being evacuated, I guess we are pretty lucky here in southern Ontario, at least up to now. We have greenery, lovely flowers, and fresh food growing in the gardens and on the farms. Out west it is fire and smoke and air pollution and fear of losing your home.

The Weather Network showed a map of the fires and within listed the culprits causing the fires. The furthest east was “Person caused.” The rest were caused by weather (read “God”). The sense of justice in me wants the guilty parties to pay. But we’ll never find the person who caused some of the fires. My hope is that God will bring the necessary rain (sans thunder and lightning) to put all the fires out. And keep the wind away. Unfortunately, current weather forecasts show T-storms and wind.

Meantime, back in gardenland here, I will continue to enjoy my garden. But still keep a couple of wary eyes on the weather.

 

Cheers

Roses early summer in front garden

Roses early summer in front garden

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family and Friends, Forest Fires Western Canada, Fresh produce, Friends, Gardening, God, Help and Support, Meditation, Only child, Peace and quiet, Raspberries, Weather

Only Child finds a little piece of peace

Only child in meditation mode

Only child in meditation mode

Last Saturday I visited a few buildings opened for Toronto’s annual Doors Open. Many buildings of all sorts, including some not usually opened to the public, have free access annually one weekend in May. There are so many buildings open that you have to plan your tour.

What I didn’t plan for was the peace in the middle of a too-busy city that I found at the Kadampa Meditation Centre. I have had the intent for many months to do some serious meditation on a regular basis. But the old “no time” excuse was why it wasn’t happening. However I put this meditation centre on my list for Doors Open and got a very pleasant and peaceful surprise.

As I walked down Crawford Street (and maybe there is a connection here with my last name) to get to the meditation centre, I was filled with a sense of quiet and beauty looking at all the gardens in the front yards of the old houses. Huge trees, perennials poking up from the ground, some with flowers. It was a quiet street attached to the busy Bloor St. West.

When I entered I was a little bit taken aback by having to remove my shoes. But I wore socks, so went along with it and then entered the main area on the main floor and sat down in the pew. And felt immediately at peace.

A volunteer told us about the centre and its founder, Buddhism and meditation. She also answered questions. See http://kadampa.ca/ for more details.

Then it was up the carpeted stairs to the small area where a short meditation session was to be held in 10 minutes. When the volunteer came upstairs I asked her some questions about the building and how long they had been in this location (that hadn’t come up in the talk downstairs). I found out the building was only six years old; it had replaced a crumbling old Christian church (she couldn’t remember the denomination) that had a husband and wife as pastors and after the husband died, it was too much for the wife to manage on its own. Where did the Buddhist group go during the renovation/building of their new place? She told me they met in each other’s houses in the area. It was then I realized that we were sitting in the area of the previous church’s choir loft (updated for seating for meditation). She said unfortunately they had only been able to keep a beam from the previous building as it was in such dis-repair for an old building.

I noticed that my questions came from inner peace and were calmly asked, not like I would do when I worked as a freelance journalist.

When a few more people came into the room, she started the guided meditation. I closed my eyes and listened to her soothing voice and went to peace. Afterwards I noticed how calm I was – even though I arrived at my last destination afterwards with only half an hour to spare before closing.

I did take a quick look downstairs at the temple and chatted with another volunteer. What amazed me was the place is open to the public daily even when workshops and meditation aren’t going on. That is when I decided I will be back to mediate, to sit in peace, and maybe take a few mediation workshops.

Will I become Buddhist? I don’t know. What does appeal is that this centre is not Catholic, not Christian. And as Catholicism and even many Christian beliefs have not helped me through life, maybe I have found my place.

Only time will tell.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Meditation, Peace and quiet

Only Child says Carpe Diem

00240021If the unsettled weather in the world teaches us nothing else, we need to grab the good-weather summer days and get outside. (Winter is another matter, better left swept under the carpet for now).

This beautiful long Victoria Day holiday weekend in Toronto, Canada got me outside in my garden. I enjoy gardening but there is always lots to do. The trick is to pace yourself over time, even within the time span you are currently out in the garden. So I did a “to do” list, but didn’t tie myself to what I did when. I started in the front garden, but I had been already out there, 30 minutes at a time or so when possible during lunchtime, evenings on workdays the past couple of weeks. So some areas were weeded and just needed fresh topsoil and the plants planted. One area I had even put down the topsoil. As I did this, I also yanked out a few dandelions that had sprung up. My neighbour next door was rotor-tilling one area of his garden and gave me some strawberry plants. They went into the front and some in the back. Later that day when I was out only for a short walk to Shopper’s, I did what any garden fanatic would do.

Bought some more perennials I saw outside a convenience store I passed by. So I had to plant them.

The rest of the day I spent sitting outside in the backyard, reading a mystery novel and snoozing.

Sunday, was much the same – except this time I dug up the area (weeds) for onions and lettuce, put down some topsoil in the front part of the area, and planted some onions and lettuce. There is still more onions to be planted but I’ve been sneaking some of the onion bulbs in with the flowers in both front and back. I use a lot of onions and like to store the remaining ones in the root cellar in the fall, so the more the better. (But we won’t think of fall now because we know where that leads).

I’m trying to be innovative with the garden this year, partly because I’m still dealing with the aftermath of God’s winter (make that two winters) destruction outside. But we won’t think of winter now. Also I’m removing a lot of what is mostly weeds and planting new perennials. So, I have a few areas in front where it looks somewhat weedy in back and is cleared with new perennials in front. My excuse? I’m waiting to see what perennials come up from last year so I don’t dig them up by mistake. Two hostas up and spreading and those two spikes might just be the third hosta poking through the weeds.

It has been dry here lately – we got some rain Friday evening but not enough to loosen the ground where the false sunflowers are starting to come up for this year. I need to remove some of them so I can get at my compost bin and also promised Tanya and Alex next door at least once clump. And I have another place in my renovated garden for a clump too.

Oh well, hopefully next weekend. It’s getting cold again before then.

Meantime the garden club I go to is having its annual plant sale this Thursday evening. Carol and I hope to get there. I need more sedum and lavender and a new sage plant. My old sage plant didn’t make it through the winter.

Enjoy the flowers, the greenery you see around you. Remember – carpe diem – seize the day. You never know what disaster will land on you tomorrow.

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Carpe Diem, Gardening and depression, Home and Garden, Only child, Peace and quiet, Reading

Only Child Revisits Aurora

Only Child revisits Aurora where she lived for 23year

Only Child revisits Aurora where she lived for 23 years

I went back to Aurora, Ontario where I lived for 23 years. This wasn’t my first trip back since moving to Toronto in 1998, but my “first” since 2009. That and the two garden centres outside Aurora that Carol and I visited provided a welcome distraction from the kerfuffle of the consumer screw-ups and mis-communications of the past few weeks.

So, on Saturday, Oct. 12 Carol and I drove (well she drove) a bit north of Toronto to the first garden centre – Black Forest just north of King City. I’d never been there before. The entrance of plants and structures was interesting and inside – well, I’m sure it is very colourful earlier in the season with flowering plants. But that Saturday it was somewhat bare over in the plant section. No offence to Black Forest but more a harbinger of what is to come. With the switch to standard time lurking (first November weekend) the roll to all being downhill weather-wise has started.

The garden ornaments were interesting and inspiring. But Carol and I bought some bulbs, which is what I had come for. I bought tulip bulbs.

On to Pathways to Perennials – a truly fairytale place to visit to temporally escape all the crap in the world. P to P has a winding road (with forest on both sides) into the actual centre and an outdoor/indoor cafe. We didn’t go to the cafe but stepped inside the gift shop. More bulbs – I bought narcissus and hyacinth and Carol bought a small mirror. Outside we toured their small garden and here’s where the impending doom of winter showed with only a few perennials still blooming or not yet dormant.

From there we drove into Aurora – lots of changes even since 2009. The pub where we would eat (outside in the summer) is no longer there but we found another one, a small chain, but one with great food and it was even warm enough to sit out on the large patio which almost surrounds the outside. Afterwards we wandered around the unique plaza, St. Andrews Village, this Shoeless Joe pub is in, including into Starbucks. The IGA grocery store (or one of its derivatives) is no longer there and neither of us could remember its actual store location.

Carol left her car parked in the parking lot there and we walked down the few blocks to the centre of Aurora. The plan was to visit the somewhat newly renovated Aurora Museum (now the Aurora Heritage Centre) but it closed at 4 p.m. and we missed it by about 20 minutes or so. Carol had never seen the newer Aurora Public Library so we made a quick visit there. Then we headed up the street a bit and crossed over to see my old friends Mike and Lorraine Evans who run the Aurora Downtown Hardware Store http://auroradowntownhardware.tel/ They’ve been there (with varying store names) for 39 years.

Mike and Lorraine are a phenomena in these times of crappy customer service. When I lived in Aurora, I would go into their store, let them know what I was looking for and one of them would either find it or order it in. When I had to buy a new microwave, Mike even drove me home with it because I don’t drive and the microwave was too heavy to carry. The duo (they are married) also provided me (and other regular customers) with the names of reliable and competent handymen and I used to hire one of them regularly.

They are an interesting couple – in their mid-sixties – she has long grey hair and comes from New Zealand. He has grey hair (and it’s all there) and might be a few years younger than her. They have a daughter in her mid-thirties. And they have a cat, Leo, whom Carol and I met. Leo was sitting in Lorraine’s chair near the back and looked very content.

And yes, both Carol and I bought a few items we were looking for. When we walked in the store and I introduced Carol and said “hi” I went right into “I need to get a few things which I can’t seem to get in Toronto and don’t get the service there that you and Mike give” – or something like that. So Lorraine went into action, finding the merchandise and asking questions about what we particularly wanted from the selection they had. She even pointed out something on sale in one category.

Too bad we can’t “lift” them and their business into Toronto.

After that we drove back to Toronto and all my problems.

No, I don’t want to move back to Aurora. I know I’d just get bored after a few months. I need the city for the many cultural, etc., events and my friends here. But it was a respite from hassles. And with the great bus service up and down the main drag into the north end of Toronto, I realized I can do the visit myself. Not in winter, so not before the end of March (I have a reading from my book Beyond the Tripping Point, along with other Crime Writers of Canada members at the Aurora Public Library March 24).

I told Lorraine and Mike about it and they said, “See you on March 24.”

Check out Aurora, Ontario, Canada at http://www.town.aurora.on.ca

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Home and Garden, Libraries, Peace and quiet

Only Child’s overwhelm leads to insomnia

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

Looks like my new motto to put off until tomorrow what you don’t need to do today isn’t solving my overwhelm problem. Now the overwhelm has moved into insomnia. Not good for doing client work during weekdays. I don’t usually suffer from insomnia. I may go to bed very late but at least I sleep until the alarm rings or if I wake up, I fall back to sleep within a few minutes.

Not for the last few days. I know I’ve inherited the worry wart syndrome from my late mother, but don’t recall her suffering from insomnia. But how would I know? I didn’t sleep in her bedroom at home. And when visiting cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, if Mom and I shared a room, she slept.

Maybe I’ve inherited it from my late father. He could give Mom a run for her worry money.

Or maybe it’s secondary factors – anxiety over too much to do (and all seeming to need doing at the same times), pain from physical health conditions acting up, and unfortunately age. It might also be because dawn arrives much earlier in summer, but I don’t think that is really the reason as dawn has been arriving early for over a month and my insomnia just started late last week.

An article on the University of Maryland Medical Center website http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/insomnia-000096.htm/  lists those three (not the dawn one) as well as the expected ingesting stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime, menopause, menstrual cycle hormone changes, circadian rhythms disrupted, sleep apnea, snoring partners, decongestants, and the one that surprises me – computer work. Snoring partners definitely isn’t my reason and neither is computer work. My writing and editing work has me on the computer on weekdays and some weekends I spend a few hours checking and replying to personal email. If computer use was the cause for me, I’d have constant insomnia.

I don’t know if this insomnia will turn into constant. To avoid adding insomnia to my lists of problems and things I’m not grateful for, I am attempting to make some changes. For beating insomnia, the sleep experts say you should go to bed the same time every night and get up the same time every morning. I do the former – it is just very late because of all the household stuff I am still doing late at night. A partner would be helpful here. I am trying to have a cut-off time for doing housework and follow my last week’s blog posting rule – leave it to another day. Now, if I could just get my mind to wind down (and it’s not caffeine. My last cup of coffee goes down before 11 a.m., more than 12 hours before I hit the bed). I walk and/or garden during the day as breaks from work and/or before and after work and get the afternoon sun. Before I go to sleep I do relaxing things – take a shower and read from whatever book I have on the go. The experts say don’t read anything too startling and I suppose mysteries could come under that. This is often my only time to read one of the many books stacked up in the bookshelf by my bed. My room is quiet and so is the neighbourhood I live in – until a bunch of racoons start fighting and crying. Or the newspaper is plunked inside the front door. That  woke me up Friday morning and this plunk never does.  Unlike other times when some noise awakens me, this time I didn’t go back to sleep.

The article at the University of Maryland Medical Center has some other ideas but I don’t agree with them. For example, it says don’t read in bed or watch TV in bed. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom but I do fall asleep in front of the TV in the living room in the late evening and it’s not boredom.  I figure if I read my book sitting up in the kitchen or living room – I would fall asleep. When I transport my body to my bed, guess what? Awake. The article also suggests getting 8 hours sleep; I’m having trouble landing over 5 hours lately. However, experience tells me that 7 ¼ hours works for me.

Now I just have to get the 7 ¼ hours.

Do any of you suffer from insomnia? How do you deal with it?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Books, Burnout, Only child, Overwhelm, Pain, Peace and quiet, Reading, Sharon Crawford, Sleep deprivation

Only Child reboots and relaxes in the heat

Longshot of Only Child’s front garden where she now lives  and that Muskoka chair on the front veranda.

It’s getting hot and humid outside but I love it. When I was growing up I would sit outside in the backyard shade or sometimes the front veranda in the mornings. As I write in my memoir You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons:

On sunny summer mornings, she [my late mother] parks me outside with my colouring book and crayons at the card table on the front veranda. I sit there in the slowly receding shade from the house and carefully pick out crayons to colour in the trees, flowers, people, and cartoon characters of my vast colouring book collection. Boxes holding only eight crayons are not good enough; I prefer at least 24 crayons because then I can pick out different browns for the hair and different greens for the grass and trees. I pull out a crayon, lift it to my nose to inhale the waxy smell, then apply it to the drawings of people and places. I make sure my crayon stays within the outline and that I shade evenly. No wisps or coloured lines scattered all over the page. Already I am realizing that I need some order in my life. But not without the spontaneous sweetness of nature. Often I lift my head from my shading to stare at the green grass and trees along the block and listen to the birds tweeting. Occasionally, a neighbour strolls by. We don’t wave or say “hello,” but I sense the peacefulness, not just between us, but overall. The neighbourhood is quiet now and I need to absorb this. It is more than just breathing – it is my reboot into living after confrontations with the Bully. Of course, I don’t figure this all out then. I am just content to soak up the moment without any angry outbursts.

(Copyright 2012 Sharon Crawford; excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons)

In the above, I am cooling off from much more than hot weather but from yet another encounter with The Bully.  However, on these hot humid summer days, we are more concerned with keeping our cool in another way. You’ve probably all seen those newscasts of parents leaving kids in steaming hot cars while they went inside an air-conditioned mall to shop. Or someone left a dog in an overheated car. Are these people stupid, careless, or has the heat gotten to them?

You never leave anyone or any animal in a hot car in the summer if you will be away from the car for more than the time it takes to fill the car up at a gas station (and then you are right there). If your car has air conditioning, it goes off when you turn off the ignition. Just think hot seat when you return to your car and sit down.

In fact, if you leave your car in the heat, take your children and dogs with you.

The mortality rate from heat exposure (not just in cars) is higher than dying from a lightning strike or a flood. In the United States, the average fatality rate for death from heat wave exposure is 400 a year. And during the Chicago heat wave of 1995, about 600 people died from heat exposure within five days. Check out the Wikipedia article and its references at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_wave#Mortality for more information about the perils of heat waves.

Today, tomorrow and Thursday, I am going to restrain myself from excess walking and even heavy gardening. When I see a weed (or two, or three, or…) I will say “on the weekend.” Instead I will sit in the shade and enjoy my garden or sit on the veranda, as I do most mornings with my coffee, now that I have a Muskoka chair – shades (pun intended) of my childhood. After an intense session of editing or writing (rewriting more likely) inside (air conditioning on when necessary, although I try to use open windows, fresh air and ceiling fans only, when possible) I need the change to absorbing beauty, calm, peace.

If that doesn’t motivate me, the Wikipedia article will. And yes, I’ll be dressing cool in shorts and tank top and using sunscreen and wearing my big sunglasses and a hat. For more information on protecting yourself from the heat check out http://triblocal.com/gurnee/community/stories/2012/06/health-department-provides-hot-weather-health-tips/

More garden photos from this month are posted below. Enjoy.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

Blue sea of Forget-me-nots which popped up in May – now finished for this season.

Raggedy Annie swings among the roses of the comeback rosebush (died, then resurrected itself in 2009)

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Filed under Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Health, Heat summer, Home and Garden, Muskoka Chair, Only child, Only child memoir, Peace and quiet, Reboot, Roses