Life Whispers

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As I have in one form or another since I left my corporate executive role last January, I continue to search and experiment for the defining aspects of my “new” life. What does my ideal day look like? How do I want to spend my time? In what ways do I want to be of service? How can I engage, empower and release my creativity? What calls to me, brings me joy, delights and inspires?

The answers to these questions are, surprisingly, as elusive as they were when I felt I had no discretionary time to shape them. As I write my morning pages each day (a daily practice of writing three pages stream-of-consciousness), I recognize how much room I have to have any life I can imagine. My work is in shaping the life I want.

For a brief time in April and May, David and I engaged deeply on the notion of buying God’s Pocket. God’s Pocket Resort is a scuba and kayak resort on a small island in the Queen Charlotte Strait, north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We have loved visiting there as guests, and in the last few years, as care-takers in the off season, and occasional help during the season. Our friends, the owners Bill and Annie, have decided, for various reasons, to sell. Over those two months, we thought about the enormity of such a decision, the pivot from the life we have here in San Francisco. We looked at numbers and considered the basics of the current business model, as well as what we would want and hope to develop if we were to be co-owners or partners.

Buying a business like God’s Pocket is much more than a business decision, it is a major life decision. For one, David and I would be business partners, not just financial partners as we already are. The purchase would be a stretch financially, but not impossible. And while we didn’t think we needed to live in Canada, we’d need to spend considerable time there. This was a big part of the draw for us: an adventure on so many levels, and the opportunity to live differently than we do today., the magic and beauty of this unique place. We never imagined that we’d run the business day to day – the princess in me didn’t want to be cleaning guest rooms everyday all season – and that put additional burden on figuring out our staffing needs. Our vision was to recruit someone who could captain the dive boat, as well as generally manage the day to day, and who we could put in a position to buy us out in 5 to 7 years. Our plan B was to get David certified to run a commercial 50 ton boat so he could fill in as needed.

While captains could be hired, working God’s Pocket is unique’ you don’t go home at the end of the day, you go to your room on the island. We needed to know that whomever we’d hire had a strong understanding of the place and the role. Our primary candidate, who had run the resort for several years in the past, wasn’t ready to jump in to our vision. Further, we discovered that a prerequisite for certification to drive a commercial 50 ton boat is Canadian citizenship or residency.

In the end, after much consideration, we realized that loving God’s Pocket and having a vision for its potential future were not enough to get us positioned for success as owners. We were sad to let go of this exciting potential picture of the next ten years of our lives, even while knowing that letting it go was right.

And in the lull after the decision to withdraw our offer for God’s Pocket, we have both felt slowly into the gap created by the loss of that focus. David is dancing on the cusp of retirement from his mechanical engineering work in the space industry, and I have been in that liminal space for a year and a half. Now we are letting things “resettle” so we can see what we might have learned from considering God’s Pocket, and what will inform what we do next.

In that space, the gray quiet after letting go of intense focus, I have wanted to have “the answer” come to me, clear and articulated. I want the ‘money idea’ to show-up full-born and ready for me, for us, to move it forward. I realized just yesterday that I was, in a way, waiting for the arrival of the purple unicorn, with a sandwich board for a saddle proclaiming the ‘money idea,’ and with a soundtrack of angels singing “ahhhhhhhhh.” (I know I am not alone in scanning my surroundings and interactions for the big and obvious signs that will surely put me on the ‘right’ path.)

In my experience, the call to next steps doesn’t show up as clearly and boldly as the purple unicorn. The call comes in whispers, and we are lucky to hear them. We have to get quiet and still to hear our own voice, let alone that which floats in the air, waiting for us to notice. Getting still is the last thing we are inclined to do when we are lost, seeking, or recovering from a shift in the foci of our lives, but is what we must to do navigate the path forward. That, and having more adventure and getting out to be in nature!

My prescription for us is a trip to Scotland. We will be there for almost three weeks, with time in Edinburgh and a few days in County Sutherland, where my father’s people come from 4-5 generations back. We have booked a self-guided walking tour, and we’ll walk from the East coast to the West coast along the Mary Queen of Scots trail over 10 days, ending in St. Andrews. (Our lodging is arranged, as is the daily transport of our luggage to the next inn.)

To my surprise, I am intrigued to realize – doh! — that my heritage comes together in Scotland. My father’s family comes from there, as noted. And many years later, from 1965 to 1967, my grandfather on my mother’s side, Alfredo Trinchieri, served as the Italian Consul General to Edinburgh. I remember, probably at age 5 or 6, being in his apartment. But it is a distant and snapshot-type memory, and we may not discover where he lived so as to walk by. Thinking about exploring and experiencing these family threads coming together in the weeks ahead is compelling and exciting. As is being in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by dramatic and subtle beauty and nature.

The way to shape one’s life are always found in doing the next right thing, adjusting if it doesn’t turn out to be what one wanted, and then doing the next right thing. What is next for me is Scotland. Stories and pictures to follow.

Love,
Susan

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Home Again

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I am surprised that I haven’t posted in so long, although I know it to be true. I imagined that I had posted just before we left God’s Pocket in mid-March; the truth is my last post was in late February when David’s father died.

As the kids say: “OMG!”

This post will, therefore, be an “all in” update since life has been full since my last post.

We left God’s Pocket on March 12, drove down island and ferried across to Vancouver, and then headed to Whistler for a few days of Spring skiing with Richard and Jana, our good friends from Seattle. I had never been to Whistler – I know so little of mainland British Columbia – and was excited to be there. Driving from the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay to Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway was its own thrill. It is the Canadian version of California’s Highway 1: a spectacularly beautiful coastal drive.

We had a lovely time, but our friends didn’t fare as well: Jana fell and twisted her knee on the afternoon of the first day, resulting a fracture (discovered in the x-ray “after” she skied down the mountain!). Perhaps in sympathy, Richard fell a few times two days later (and our last day there) and his knees became swollen and black and blue. David and I were generally unharmed.

We drove to Seattle on Friday, and spent the weekend with our friend Elizabeth who lives in West Seattle, enjoying her company, the city and dinner one evening with David’s sister-in-law and partner. Truth: I always feel a little guilty not reaching out to my other Seattle area friends and former colleagues when we are there. I miss them (you know who you are!) and I’m not good (apparently) at balancing family and an extended group of friends.

We got back to San Francisco on March 22, delighted to see our cat, Ethel, who has become a gregarious love bug now that she is the only cat. We were also happy to sleep in our own bed after almost three months. It’s the little things that let you know you are home…

My coach training through the Martha Beck Institute is going well. As with any learning process, I’ve had a few frustrating and confused moments, but mostly the skills and guidance we are getting is wonderful and helpful. And I’m so taken with a program that honors intuition, the ‘magic of the universe’ and other slightly “woo woo” concepts while providing structured content, brain science and practical tools. Lately we’ve been concentrating on skills to help with “dissolving limiting thoughts” – and we start with ourselves and practice on each other. No shortage of material for most of us!

All this time, I’ve been working towards officially launching my coaching practice: Clear-Eyed Coaching & Consulting. That sentence was so easy to write, and oh my, have I come a long way for that to be true.  My “ideal” clients, which may evolve as I get more time in, are executives and leaders wanting to up their game at work, and individuals who just “know” it’s time for a change in their lives (maybe around work, maybe around other things). My consulting work, which includes coaching, expands the focus from the client to include his/her work environment, systems, staff, etc. I’ve also developed an interest in working with “solopreneurs” – small business owners who need and want some guidance in establishing, changing or growing their businesses.

It is at once nerve wracking and disconcerting to realize that I am my brand and my service, both inseparable. Unlike having a corporate gig, there’s no hiding behind my title or the bureaucracy if things don’t go according to plan. And that’s exactly why it is exciting and fulfilling to be on this path. I can’t wait for my website to go live, which – fingers crossed – should be in the next few weeks.  I’ve received great and supportive feedback so far, which helps fuel me when the doubts show up to play.

My niece Natalia, on the cusp of graduating from high school (and whom I’ve been helping with her college process) came out for Spring break. With her cousin Jason living in the guest room since September (while looking for his own place in San Francisco), we set her up on the Aero Bed in the dining room. Chaos all around, but fun to have the next generation hanging with us. (Natalia is my brother’s eldest daughter; Jason is my sister’s son.) We did a few ‘family of four’ things, including one spoken word with dance performance that had us all scratching our heads.

The two highlights of her visit were:

  • Shopping at the Nordstrom Rack for potential prom dresses: we found two beautiful gowns (and one ‘pretty good’ one) for a total of $164! We timed the Red Tag sale perfectly.
  • Driving down to see UC Santa Cruz again, this time through the eyes of someone who could go there if she wanted (she was pleased to have been accepted). We wandered the campus more fully than last summer, and we chatted with a few students on a beautiful day.

And then she went back to Maryland, where I’ll be over Memorial Weekend to see her graduate and enjoy an opportunity to gather with the family and celebrate.

And in the meantime, David is ramping down his NASA project, leaving him wondering what’s next. He has ideas, lots of ideas: his updated personal business card says “Rocket Science… always launching something new.” And some of those ideas may call him to a new level of engagement. He is thoughtful about what is next, as am I, and we both are likely to keep working in some form or fashion for the rest of our lives. We both like the stimulation and engagement; nice to have income as well.

There are other things afoot, but it’s too early to share, or too mundane to write about. Which leads me to this blog. I have decided I want to continue to post, but not on any predictable schedule (which I’m sure you noticed already!). I would prefer not to go two months between posts, so will endeavor to be more conscientious. With luck, I still have some followers who enjoy seeing Dancing On the Way Home in their email boxes.

Love,
Susan

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Happy Valentines, Mama & Papa

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I  am writing today about my father-in-law, Efigenio Raul Mustelier, who died on February 14. I want to acknowledge his life and honor him. Writing about him and his life is perhaps the best way I know now to recognize his humanity, and provide him witness.  Sadly, in writing about his life, I realized there was so much about him I didn’t know. Papa was more than the facts of his life, as we all are, but part of respect is getting the facts right when we can. I asked David, my husband and his son, a lot of questions; there were a few he was not able to answer, or least couldn’t be sure.

Efigenio (pronounced ‘Eh-fee-heh-neo’ and more commonly called “Efi”) was born in 1922 near Manzanillo, Cuba on December 11, 1922. His parents, Miguel and Clara Mustelier, had 8 children (and a 9th, the eldest, a half-sister); Efi was the youngest boy, and elder to one sister. Miguel was a landholder, and involved in agricultural endeavors – sugar and cattle – and was reputed to be a tough father. The family worked hard but was economically comfortable.

From a young age, Efi dreamed of going to college and becoming a doctor. He met the love of his life, Angela Dionysia Ferrandiz (known as Gela, pronounced Heh-lah), a first-generation Spanish-Cuban woman, in Manzanillo the year before he left for college and medical school. Most of the 10-year relationship leading to their marriage was long distance. Efi attended medical school in Havana and in 1950 went to New Jersey for his internship, followed by Chicago for his residency in obstetrics and gynecology.

In 1952, his brother-in-law Manuel (Manolo) Remon Sr., came to visit Efi in Chicago where Efi gave Manolo his power of attorney. Manolo returned to Havana where in the office of an attorney, he completed Gela’s marriage to Efi by proxy. She left that same day to fly to New York. Efi took the train from Chicago and they stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania across the street from the “Penn Central” train station. The picture above is of the two of them on their first night as newlyweds, celebrating with friends and family in Brooklyn.

Efi and Gela returned to Chicago by train.  Around this time, Efi was drafted into the US Army due to the Korean War (he was a Cuban citizen but also a US Resident).  Ten months later, their first son Raul was born in Chicago. Efi loved the United States and was very proud of being in the US Army, and made it his career. Their family grew as they moved from station to station during his 24 year career, and Efi and Gela evolved into Mama and Papa, which is what I knew them as, and what many people called them.

Papa’s first assignment was in Munich, Germany, where Miriam was born. They went next to Camp Leroy Johnson in New Orleans, where both David and then, two-and-a-half years later, Roy was born.  Their first tour – there would be three – at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the headquarters for the Army Medical Service Corps, came next. They spent time at Fort Irwin (near Death Valley) before going back to Germany (Darmstadt) this time. Then came Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, followed by the second tour in San Antonio. The San Antonio tour included a year in Vietnam, obviously without family, where Papa along with his duties as a hospital commander, became popular for delivering babies for some wives of high ranking South Vietnamese army officers. Fitzsimmons Army Medical Hospital in Aurora, Colorado came next, followed by Fort Ord in Monterey, California (where Roy would meet his future wife Kristen Swanson many years later). The family then returned to San Antonio, where Papa completed his final tour with the Army and retired.

Mama and Papa, growing older, moved from San Antonio to Austin to be closer to Miriam (the “boys” were scattered: Raul lived in Seattle, David lived in San Francisco, and Roy in DC). They built an in-law extension on the house so Miriam could live there and help them.

Papa loved food and wine. One of David’s most formative memories is of his father taking over the kitchen on Sundays to prepare a large family meal. All of the Musteliers have an extraordinary appreciation for flavors, and fresh ingredients, and well prepared foods; they are amazing and creative cooks, and most of them also love wine.

I first met Mama & Papa in Tuscany, Italy in 2003. I had just become engaged to David, and so was included in the family trip to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. In fact, I met the whole family for the first time when David and I walked into the living room of the large refurbished farmhouse we rented. From there, the whole group took day trips to surrounding towns, and enjoyed meals outside under the trellises. We ate and drank wine, and lined the empty bottles against the terrace wall, honoring them as “soldati caduti” (fallen soldiers). Mama and Papa were welcoming and lovely to me in my first entree to the Mustelier family, perhaps in spite of being occasionally overwhelmed by the enthusiams of their adult children and their spouses.

Papa was garrulous and outgoing, and loved to tell his stories. In his later years, he charmed the Costco food sample purveyors, and chatted up anyone within earshot on his outings to the grocery store. Not surprisingly, for being a Cuban of his generation and a Colonel in the Army, Papa could be tough on his kids, especially as they came into their own adulthood and engaged their fierce intelligence. All said, Papa was extremely sentimental: he loved his family, and was very proud of his children.

Mama died in 2011, and Papa missed her terribly these last 6 years. They had been married just short of 59 years.

Papa had just turned 94 when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in late 2016, but he was otherwise extremely healthy and hale. He was expected to recover from the surgery to remove the tumor, but his digestive system never really worked again. A friend of mine said at the time: “Efi is full of surprises, and he has surprised people most of his life.” Still, after some time in the ICU and on a ventilator, and a week of trying to recover from both, Papa died on February 14.

Our thought was that Mama had come to get Papa to celebrate their love on Valentine’s Day. We think their eldest son, Raul, who died in 2008, made the reservations and ordered the wine.

David and I will leave God’s Pocket next Tuesday for a few days to join his siblings, extended family and friends for Papa’s funeral. He will be buried on March 2, with full military honors, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

Love,
Susan

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Splitting Wood and Other Second Chances

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I successfully split two fat logs into stove-size firewood this afternoon. This is no small accomplishment for me. Last year, when I recognized the daily “nut” of firewood that the wood stove required of us in order to keep the house (and us) warm, I gave it a try so David, my husband, wouldn’t have to do it all. However, first, I was afraid of the axe. I had been warned to watch my swing so that the axe didn’t miss the log and hit my shin instead. Second, I didn’t leverage my body in the swing because see Number One. Third, the log didn’t break into pieces with one of my whacks like it does in the movies, so I assumed that I must be doing it wrong. Two whacks and I was done.

Today, with the possibility that David might go off island for family health reasons, we both decided it was time to give it another go. What I learned was that firewood doesn’t magically split, especially if the wood is wet or damp, and if the log is fat. Splitting wood is about dropping the axe with momentum – which is where the power comes from – on the wood until it cracks. That can require any number of swings, creating tiny fissures in the wood. Eventually, the log will have several cracks, and a whack or two later, it will split like it does in show business.

So many lovely lessons in this afternoon’s work. And maybe life gives you a “do over” now and again when you’ve been a doofus. Or more kindly put: when you weren’t yet ready for the experience in front of you.

We’ve hiked more in our few weeks here this year than we did the entire time last year. And I’ve allowed myself to be more adventurous, stepping in to my qualms and realizing they make excellent company when you bring them along rather than arguing with them. We attempted a hike the other day to the highest point on the island, Meeson Cone, which requires scrambling up and back down several steep hills, over and under fallen trees and including a few spots with rope assists. It was mostly fine, if a little sketchy in a few spots, and I realized how much I was enjoying the experience. It’s like I was remembering that I love to move and I love adventure. I felt more right about being out than I had before we left the house, qualms gently placed in the backpack along with the water and emergency radio.

The biggest “second chance” so far has been our trip into Port Hardy. Last year we had wanted to take the hour long boat ride to town, David for adventure and me for a few supplies (okay, the truth is that we were out of bourbon and chocolate). But we never made it as the weather didn’t cooperate and water looked too lumpy. Oh, and I was afraid and very resistant. Last Tuesday, we braved the very cold, clear air and flat waters, and took the skiff into Port Hardy without incident. We saw a pod of dolphin in the distance about halfway there, but it was otherwise uneventful.

Once in Port Hardy, we enjoyed lattes at the little upscale coffee shop-book store near the Canadian Coast Guard pier where we tied up. I bought Liz Gilbert’s “Big Magic – Creative Living without Fear” which I’d been wanting to read. We ran some errands for our hosts, Bill and Annie, and then shopped at the Save-On for groceries. A few hours later, we loaded up the skiff, and headed back to God’s Pocket. As we neared the islands, we saw a large otter, which dove under as we neared, and a seal pup with large eyes which didn’t, clearly inexperienced with motor boats.

Last year, when we saw wolves on the shore of Harlequin Bay (on the backside of our island) and I hopped online to do wolf research, I found PacificWild and fell in love with the organization’s work and website. I became an admirer of the Executive Director, Ian McAllister, for his leadership and work trying to protect the habitat and wildlife of the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, for his photography and his books. Several weeks later, our hosts returned to God’s Pocket to begin preparations for the 2016 season, bringing with them two dive scouts and the cook. Overwhelmed by the sudden influx of people after five weeks of quiet with David, I snuck out to our room after dinner.  What I missed that night, a year ago, was a visit by Ian McAllister of PacificWild with the catamaran Habitat, along with a friend Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer.

Apparently, I got a do over here, too. Yesterday afternoon, we had a lovely and rare visit. The Habitat docked at God’s Pocket and Ian McAllister and his team of three came up for a visit. He was in the area diving and filming underwater for his Imax film; one of his crew, Tim, was the caretaker here at God’s Pocket after the season ended last year until Christmas. We offered tea and chatted for a while before they went out, with David, for a dive just outside the Bay.

I got to tell Ian that I needed a “fan freak” moment about his work, his books and photography (I have one of his wolf pictures hanging in our guest bedroom/my office in our condo). (Click here for the gallery of gorgeous wildlife photos, videos, and documentaries.) He blushed a few times, but once I got that out of the way, I told him I was “done fussing” and we resumed our more relaxed chat. They came back up after their dive and dinner, and he gifted me a book of poems and photos, “The Wild In You,” that he collaborated on with a Canadian poet, Linda Crozier.  And as he left, he invited David and me to visit them on Denny Island, where he and his family make their home, and where PacificWild has its organizational base in the Great Bear Rainforest. We had made a new friend: in my book, that’s not a do over, that’s a do better!

For the last few days, we’ve had snow on the ground, and intermittent snow fall. Big floofy flakes have been swirling over the water and the deck, and resting gently to welcome more. Our coterie of birds and animals leave tracks in the snow and carry on with their routine not seeming to mind. I am filled with wonder, and gratitude.

Love,
Susan

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A Welcome Return

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Out of the corner of my eye, in the distance, I saw an enormous splash. Was it a wave hitting a barely submerged rock? Looking more closely and seeing the splash repeat, I realized it was a whale. A humpback whale was breaching and slapping the water with her pectoral fin. She did it again and again.

David and I were on the Hurst Isle, the boat that would return us to God’s Pocket Resort for another sojourn, this time for one month. Bill Weeks, co-owner of God’s Pocket and our boat captain, offered an explanation: “She’s waving to you, Susan, welcoming you back!”  Of course she is, I thought…

We have been here just a few days, caretaking the resort this week. The area has been receiving some much needed rain, coinciding with our arrival. So on that front, things don’t seem much different from when we here for two and a half months over the winter: it is cold and wet!  But other things are quite changed. The water, crystal clear to depth in January and February, is murky green due to the algae bloom that happens every year at this time. The large number of otter we saw on the back side of the island are now gone. There are no cormorants on the breakwater, let alone on Cormorant Rock at the mouth of the cove. My favorite great blue heron no longer comes to the cove daily.

But there are other new things. Visitors of the human variety are quite common. Normally, for a small fee, boats can tie up at the dock here, otherwise they can anchor for free between Cormorant Rock and the shore of Hurst Island. At the moment, there are three rather large boats affiliated with the resort tied up to the docks and so not much room for other vessels. We had a family of three Australians anchor their 36 foot sailboat just outside the breakwater who we invited for dinner. Within the next 24 hours we had a motor boat with a retired couple on their way up the BC coast, and another sailboat with four men on it anchor just outside the cove. Two kayakers also paddled up for a chat, hoping our “store” was open. With the resort closed this week and the limited dock space, it was easy to be friendly. But we couldn’t invite everyone ashore, let alone in for dinner!

Bald eagles are present in abundance. On our crab pot-setting adventure yesterday, we saw no fewer than four pair of eagles, some with their juveniles, hunting over the water for fish. David, too, was fishing, hoping to catch rockfish, while I watched the eagles swoop and dive and return to the trees. Sometimes there was a fish in their talons, sometimes not. We humans were lucky yesterday: David caught a 16 inch spiny rockfish and 28 inch lingcod, really the perfect size (any smaller wouldn’t be legal, and any bigger would mean prime breeding age and shouldn’t be taken). Dinner was delicious.

We’ve already had a few unexpected, exciting moments. I was doing dishes with my earbuds and music playing in my ears when we realized that there were schools of fish in the cove, jumping out of the water, to eat shrimp fry and crab larvae treats. We assumed they were herring since they are the only schooling fish we have seen up close. The herring we are familiar with come into the San Francisco Bay every December-March for their annual spawn, and often take over the water in front of our condo.

When we showed the short video of the fish jumping in the God’s Pocket cove to our hosts Bill and Annie, they wondered if the schools were not herring, but juvenile salmon… The herring had just had their spawn further north in the warmer water inlets close to shore, so it didn’t make sense to them that they would be schooling down here in the deeper, colder water. So we think: herring = one kind of cool. But juvenile salmon? = another exponential kind of cool!

Bill and Annie are staying at their cabin across the Christie Pass, slightly northward, on Balaklava Island, and they invited us for dinner tonight to share the Dungeness crab from the pots we set yesterday (that they picked up today). We had a lovely, wine-enriched time with them, and the crab was delicious. I shared with them the very short ditty I made up and have been singing to myself since my arrival:

Looking for a humpie, humpback whale,
Swimming in the ocean, fluking with her tail!

As luck would have it, on our way back across the pass, we saw two humpback whales head into the pass in our direction from the east. We cut the motor on the skiff and waited. While holding my breath in awe, I was able to use my iPhone to video one of the whales surfacing, blowing, and going back under (see my instagram post!).  One breath past us, the whale dove deep, ending our enraptured vigil, so we resumed our course towards home. We stopped two more times: we saw the blow of a whale in the distance to the north, and then again, behind us to the west in the pass as we neared God’s Pocket. Those sightings were exciting, but nothing like the close visit we had just enjoyed 25 feet off our bow.

The days are quite long here at this time of year, and we have noticed that we are exceptionally tired. We are shaking off the stresses from our last few months, and even as we arrived here, the grief-inducing terrible news of the last few days. I am grateful that it is very quiet here: it is good for reflection, for nurturing peace, and for doing very little.  I am glad to be able to retreat to nature, and to this remote island, even while knowing that doing very little is selfish and doesn’t contribute to the common good.

So, I will make my anger and grief heard. And I encourage my friends and blog followers to do as I will: please reach out to your representatives at all levels of government and let them know how you feel.

Love,
Susan

PS — Please allow me another shameless plug! My (maternal) aunt, Camilla Trinchieri, has just published her novel Seeking Alice, which I highly recommend. Here is the link to Amazon, where it can be readily procured and enjoyed:https://www.amazon.com/Seeking-Alice-Novel-Excelsior-Editions/dp/1438461283/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466138742&sr=8-1&keywords=seeking+alice. Buy it (from Amazon or your local book seller) and enjoy!

I post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes on Fridays. Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

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Canis Lupus

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As the skiff rounded the rocks into Harlequin Bay, we saw them. Two wolves standing together on the rocks near shore. At a distance, they almost looked like German Shepherds: sandy and cinnamon colored with darker spots at their necks and tails. They seemed a bit smaller than what I imagine a timber wolf to be, and we momentarily considered that they might be adolescent pups. They stared at us, and we stared at them. We were so stunned that we didn’t have the presence of mind to kill the motor. They watched us go by in the skiff and we watched them head away from the water into the woods.

We had heard that there were wolves on the island, and indeed on many of the small islands that dot the Queen Charlotte Sound here in British Columbia. They can go from island to island, swimming, looking for prey. They also are known to be resident on these islands, many of which no longer have a deer population, the typical prey for timber wolves. We have been told about seeing wolf prints and scat, and about the sounds of howling, but never sightings on the island. I was awestruck.

I’ve seen wolves in the wild twice before. Years ago, on a cross-country ski trip in the back country of Yellowstone National Park, a group of us watched a pack of wolves stalk elk at dawn. Several years ago, in Banff National Park in Alberta, driving on a side road at dusk in mid-October, I saw a very dark animal trot across the road about 100 yards up and head into the woods. I remember it vividly, and even then yearned to see more of it. I thrill to see these wild animals and birds: I get excited with every eagle sighting, although there are many each day, and with each harbor seal and every otter sighting. (Admittedly, I’m not so taken by sea lions, in part because I’ve had some exposure to them both above and under water.) I am awed and excited by and interested in seeing all these creatures in their natural habitat, much the way I catch my breath each time I see a hummingbird outside our place in San Francisco. It just never gets old. Admittedly, I am in a remarkable part of the world right now, surrounded by natural beauty. Still, I am filled with wonder and amazement at what is often right in front of us if we look.

Back at the house, I geeked out a bit online. There are 40 subspecies of wolf– canis lupus -in the world, including the Australian dingo (canis lupus dingo) and the domestic dog (canis lupus familiaris). I learned three important facts about local wolves:

1. A Canadian study completed in 2014 showed that island-based wolves in British Columbia had enough different DNA to be (potentially) considered a separate subspecies from either the timber wolf, the Vancouver Island Wolf (canis lupus crassodon), or the British Columbian wolf (canis lupus columbianus). They don’t interbreed much.
2. First Nation people have long considered them separate: they speak of sea (or coastal or marine) wolves at the coast, and timber wolves inland…
3.  Sea or marine wolves have evolved to lead permanent lives on islands and near the shore, hunting salmon, digging for clams and mussels, and eating the occasional seal or sea lion.

So it is highly probable that the two wolves we saw are sea wolves, permanent residents of Hurst Isle. And when we saw them, they were most likely out looking for something to eat at the shore.

For readers interested in geeking out a bit more, here are several links:
• A link to the story about the DNA research and First Nations’ knowledge of marine wolves (it is a quick read):

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/wolves-on-b-c-s-islands-mainland-genetically-different-1.2669964

• A link to a CBC story about a National Geographic story on sea wolves that includes some great (composite) video footage of the animals:

National Geographic puts spotlight on B.C.’s enigmatic sea wolves

And last but not least for even more amazing pictures and video of the sea wolf as well as bear, orca and other marine life, a link to PacificWild.org, a Canadian non-profit that does great work to protect and preserve the BC coastal environment.

http://www.pacificwild.org

The sea wolf that lives in coastal British Columbia doesn’t yet have its subspecies designation or latin name. So today, I’m taking the liberty of bestowing a proper name in honor of the two we were lucky enough to see: canis lupus mare reginae charlotte, also known as the Queen Charlotte Sea Wolf.

With love,

Susan

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Tucked Into God’s Pocket

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We drove out of San Francisco during a break in the rain on Sunday, January 10, and arrived in Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, British Columbia on Wednesday, January 13, our car so full we couldn’t see out the back. Just how much gear and food do you need for two people for more than a month by yourselves on an small island? Certainly the rain gear will come in handy!

We’re tucked into God’s Pocket (here), a scuba and kayak resort in a Canadian marine provincial park, closed for the winter. Except for the day we arrived, when the sunset sky was streaked with pink and purple, the clouds have been low on the water and rain has been frequent. I have dreamed of this time for several years: time to find my own rhythm, to sleep as long as I need or want, to read without deadlines or guilt, and to eat clean and to move as my body asks. I felt sure that after my last day of work on January 8 that sleep would overtake me; I was ready to be bed-bound for weeks. And while we are cozy in the main house, feeding a wood stove, and taking our time about everything, we are also slowly finding some routine, some structure in our days. The generator has to be run twice a day, we check that the docks are all still tethered daily, and have decided that our mornings feel best after yoga.

As I transitioned from from my last career, a decision five years in the making, I was surprised that the gremlins of self-doubt still came around occasionally.  Sometimes they called me to doubt my contributions at work and my decision to leave. Every so often, they seemed to be especially mean, mocking my vision of a more creative, heart-centered life and profession. Then the whirlwind of packing up my office, saying goodbye to colleagues and friends, and organizing that darn car full of stuff overtook the gremlins: too little sleep and too much to do to doubt. All good, right?  I’ve had this idea for a blog about my transition and this journey for more than a year, and yet just today have I found some courage in (maybe) getting out my very first post…I wanted to believe that way up and away here, with few responsibilities, no formal role to play, no people to please, that the gremlins would lose their wind and be calmed. Gremlins, indeed, follow you where ever you go — noticing them, however, does seem to rob them of their insidious power – as does recognizing their role in urging us forward. So here it is, my first post on Dancing On The Way Home. Apparently, I’ve been dancing with the gremlins all day!

Time now to go outside and see which water fowl are paddling the waters near the dock, count the number of cormorants on the breakwater, and see if I can spot the great blue heron that has made the cove his favorite hangout before I scare him into flight.

With love,

Susan

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