Posted by: kathrinlake | November 15, 2014

Magic 8 Ball: My Relationship with the Future

2KathrinAsFortunetellerI have an uneasy relationship with the future. I am not the only one. If I were, there would be no such thing as divination in the form of astrology, tarot cards, chicken bones and of course the Magic 8 Ball.

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Last week, I bought a Magic 8 Ball. Why? Because I never had one before and it held for me mystery and nostalgia. Everyone else around me seemed to have had one at some point. Can anyone ever forget the episode of Friends where Ross repeatedly consults his Magic 8 Ball in regards to Rachel?

The Magic 8 Ball has been around since the fifties thanks to Mattel, but I don’t recall it being in vogue in my ‘hood until the late 70s (we were still lost in our Ouija boards).

So, I wanted a Magic 8 Ball, but not urgently just curiously.  I even asked for one for my birthday to my sensible husband, who promptly ignored the request and got me a pedicure, a meal out and flowers. I didn’t miss the Magic 8 Ball. But, suddenly I was invited to a grand opening party of my friend Gary’s newest toy store, The Toy Box (Toy Jungle chain) and the opportunity presented itself.

The way the Magic 8 Ball is packaged you can use it in the store and test it before you buy it. So, I decide to ask a stupid test question: will it still be raining when I leave the store? Its answer: all indications pointed to yes. I realized right there that this was a stupid question because since I was at a party I wasn’t sure when I was going to be leaving, so it was not a question I could verify a correct answer to right away. It also meant I would have to buy the Magic 8 Ball in order to see if the question was correct or be caught for shoplifting. So I buy it. I leave the store an hour later and it is still raining. All things look good, except for the fact that it really is raining hard and I have no umbrella. However, I do live in Vancouver and the weather forecast is probably about as accurate as a Magic 8 Ball and rain is always a good bet. A better bet is to carry an umbrella.???????????????????????????????

As I took my treasure home, the quintessential adult kid with a new toy to play with, I start to ruminate on my first, big, important question. My first thought was I’d ask: will my screenplay be bought? It is currently under option so it’s important to me to go to the next step and sell it and see it produced. My next thought is, what if the answer is negative and the answer influences me negatively and I give up on trying to sell the screenplay. Better not ask that question. I should ask questions where I have little influence over the subject.

So I went down that path, trying to find a question that was important to me but I have very little control over the outcome so if the answer is negative I won’t be influenced to change my ways, possibly in a self-fulfilling prophesy kind of way.  If you are following this, I salute you. Now, I suddenly realize how many things I actually have influence over.
Will my book sell well?
Will I have a good meeting next week?
Will I be able to help my family with their present problems?
All of these kinds of questions I have a lot of influence over and I wanted to think positively about them and keep that power. I did not want the Magic 8 BaMagic8Ballll to come out with an answer that may affect  my thoughts or actions in a detrimental way. Clearly these questions were off the table.

So I moved to questions where I had absolutely no control over. At least I was thinking I did. If you ask, for example, will I win the lottery, the very minimum you have to do is buy a lottery ticket. And, don’t you have to buy the ticket first to ask a question? You again have influence, or an active role at least in the outcome. Was I going to rush out and buy a lottery ticket just to ask the Magic 8 Ball if I was going to win it? No. Truth be told I don’t even think I want to win a lottery. That is not my idea of fulfillment.

Other things that were both important to me and I thought I might not have influence over the outcomes, were for other people. Will my friend, who has the big “C,” ‘s health return? Do I really want to ask that question? Would the answer influence how I talk to them, or even if I wanted to talk to them? Would they know on the phone by the tone in my voice that I had a psychic indication positive or negative? Was I supposed to put my friends health in the frivolity of the Magic 8 Ball?

Pretty soon after going through all the questions that really make a difference to me, but I have no control over, I came back to one. The one I started with. The weather. Anything considered an act of God. Once again, I was pretty sure we had weather forecasts for this exact reason. And even if forecasts weren’t always correct, they weren’t vague either. That’s right, I went all the way from desiring the Magic 8 Ball, to finally getting one and realizing I could not use it.

The silver lining was seeing, not into the future, but seeing that I do have an influence in life, however great or subtle it is, over, many, many things and I use it everyday without even thinking. And you do too.

Maybe I always knew the Magic 8 Ball was going to be too good to be true, because I never took it out of its package. I will not take it back to the store. It is not defective. But perhaps I will give it to someone who needs to learn that the future is at their feet more than they realized.

cropped-a556288-r2-023-10.jpgKathrin Lake is the author of Writing with Cold Feet, and leads Writing Retreats in Mexico every January and February through the Vancouver School of Writing http://vancouverschoolofwriting.com/events/writing-retreats/. She also teaches Yoga for Writers at her retreats. See http://kathrinlake.com for more information.

Posted by: kathrinlake | August 1, 2014

The Unlikely Yoga Teacher

I am leading my yoga class in my version of “the tree” and as I balance, I look out at two dozen students at various stages of balance and imbalance. Is this a dream? Me, a yoga teacher? It doesn’t seem possible.

Three years ago I would be hard pressed to remember the last time I attempted yoga. I always hated going to a new yoga class. Why? Because inevitably the same thing would happen. At the first forward bend, the yoga teacher would come running over quite distressed at what she saw me doing, while the rest of the class – in sexy, spectacular forward bends – looked at me with pity.

You see, I have spectacularly short hamstrings. I cannot do a forward bend without bending my knees, a lot, really a lot. I discovered this in my first gym classes where I started a history of humiliations. Although quite normal for a lot of men to have short hamstrings, women usually have longer hamstrings, shorter legs and often no problem kissing their knees. Whereas I can’t even sit up straight on the floor with legs flat out in front of me without needing to lay back like a backwards jack-knife.

Yet, everything else about yoga I really enjoyed, so over the years I wandered in and out of classes and built a wall around my ego every time the forward bend, straight legs, upright back came up and the yoga teacher would come running over. If I had a few dollars every time a teacher would look at me and say, “you know, you can improve on that if you work at it.” To all those yoga teachers, I would like to say, “You were wrong.”Yoga Over 50 WE Kathrin

What happened three years ago was, I developed a “frozen shoulder.” I had never heard of this mysterious, painful condition before. My therapies were both expensive and not working, until I spotted a “Yoga for Over 50” class at my local rec centre. I had just turned 50, so technically, eligible. It was there that I started my new love affair with a gentler yoga.

First, nearly everyone in this class was, on average, 20 years my senior, so it didn’t matter what I physically did in that class, I looked great! Second, technically, there wasn’t any teacher to come running over. There was only Nan, a senior student in her 86th year with a brash Scottish brogue, who took over for the teacher “temporarily.” Lilo had left in her 90s unable to feel up to teaching twice a week. The class has been going for over three decades! I started to wonder if I had stumbled onto a fountain of youth class.

Age differences aside, I developed a great fondness for everyone in the class. Not only that, but the gentler yoga cured my frozen shoulder within a month. Yet there was a problem, the rec centre was saying they needed a teacher who was certified. So they found us one, Sandra Leigh. We gently schooled her on how we did things and she listened, compromised and she was great; we lucked out.

The trouble was, she was always in need of a substitute from time to time and particularly over summer. I found myself drawn to the idea of leading the class. The fact that I had short hamstrings no longer bothered me. The fact that I was quite dyslexic however, made me think twice. Could you get a more unlikely yoga teacher?IMG_0485

An opportunity to do a Chair Yoga certification came up for me, and with Sandra’s blessing and mentorship I did it. Of course, my husband, friends and family were as shocked as I when I started teaching yoga classes.

“Really?” They’d say when I told them what I was up to now. I still enjoy the look on their faces. Yet, here I am, the dyslexic yoga teacher who doesn’t really care if knees are straight or bent, whether you wear sweats or LuLu Lemon, or whether we are all doing the left side at the same time. Now you hear my joyous voice in the studio saying, “Now the other side!”

Who knows? Stay open and maybe you too can be an unlikely… whatever you want!

Kathrin Lake is the author of Writing with Cold Feet, and leads Writing Retreats in Mexico every January and February through the Vancouver School of Writing. She also teaches Yoga for Writers at her retreats. See http://kathrinlake.com for more information or http://vswonline.org  to sign up for Writing Retreats in Mexico and other writing and publishing classes in Canada, United States and Online Classes in writing and publishing available worldwide.

 

Posted by: kathrinlake | November 8, 2013

An Argument for Thinking

rodin_thinkerRodin's Thinker

 

    “To Think or Not to Think”

Over the past decade or so, it has become fashionable to talk about “being in the present,” or “being in the now” and “not thinking.” Some of this is for meditation, some of it is for performance enhancement, some of it is for better awareness and some of it is for active listening. This all came to a peak with Eckhart Tolle‘s ground breaking book, The Power of Now, which was a guide for spiritual enlightenment but became the layman’s mantra for “being present.”

Much of this new revelation about being in the present (which has long been a Zen Buddhist ideal), is to stop the epidemic tide of “worrying” thanks partly to our world of information overload. Even I recommend meditation in my book, Putting Fear in Reverse Gear to help thwart worrying,  and included links to a site where you can hear my voice delivering guided audio meditations and visualizations (one I called The Power of Wow – sorry Eckhart) 

No one knows better the damage worrying has wrought on our frail systems. Worrying is anxiety. It is stress. It overtaxes our adrenalin reserves and puts us into fight or flight responses that were meant only for life threatening scenarios that lasted only minutes (not days and weeks). Some of you have trouble sleeping because of worry. Worry doesn’t work for us. It is a very bad, nasty habit that doesn’t even have the highs that other bad, nasty habits have.  So what’s up with that?

But through all this fascination with the idea that we should exorcise our worry by meditating, staying in the”here and now” and “not thinking,” I have a concern.

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A yoga instructor recently cooed to her students, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could reincarnate as animals and stop thinking?” To which my instant response was: “Hell, no!”

I don’t think people should stop thinking. Thinking, is one of the things that put us at the top of the food chain in the first place. Let me give you my take about the joys and treasury of thinking and why we should be thinking, and even at appropriate times, daydreaming, to better all of our lives.

Point 1:  Those of us who sit and think are happy

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When asked to ruminate and reflect on the happiest moments of your life, you may go to specific events, and happy milestones, but, I confess, some of my happiest moments are when I just had time to sit and think.  Just look at all those people lined at street side cafes and you will notice that some are reading papers, some are on the inevitable electronic device and some are just sitting there, sipping a coffee quietly, perhaps people watching and thinking. I would have to say that person is me, when I am at my happiest.  It doesn’t matter where I am, Paris, New York, Mexico or Vancouver, this sitting and thinking is blissful.  And, I am not alone. We don’t have to be at a cafe, we can be walking on a beach, sitting on a porch or bench, or laying in bed staring at the ceiling. These moments are not only soothing and warm but they are also when some of our best ideas come to us … which leads me to argument two.

Point 2:  Thinking and great ideas go together.

napkin_ideaThis may seem obvious to say you have to think to get great ideas but many of us don’t have time to think. We have to get away, stop and allow ourselves to have a time and space to think and for our brain to meander as it were. Perhaps we are in a semi-dream state too as sometimes great ideas come when we are thinking before bed, or when we get up. But it is thinking. I knew of several great thinkers that liked to go on a drive and get away in order to think. This is more than a meditation. It is thinking in a relaxed state. The true inventor of the modern computer, John Vincent Atanasoff, was said to have been trying to work out the details that had confounded him to make it work when he decided to go on a drive. He ended up crossing a number of state lines and kept driving for over 12 hours, but by the end he had figured it all out.  This idea of a relaxed state and thinking is important and brings me to another argument.

Point 3: What if day dreaming (or positive visualizations), are in truth, a high form of thinking?

I was always accused by my mother of being a daydreamer. Especially in the mornings over breakfast. I would be lost in thought and she would ask me questions and I would always answer, “yes.” Then she would put another piece of toast on my plate and I would say, “why are you giving me more toast?” She would say, in an exasperated voice, that she had just asked me and I had said “yes.”  Well, that’s about as un-present and unaware as you can get. My mother called me a daydreamer and made it clear it was something to be ashamed of. Now, however, I see that day dreaming may be the best form of positive visualization and creative thought that you can get. Granted, you don’t want to be doing it while doing something that should take your focus. No heavy machinery, or brain surgery, or any of those small tasks in anyone’s jobs where you have to “pay attention.” However, it has also been proven that visualizations are critical to success. From entrepreneurs, artists, generals and sports legends have all projected their thoughts into the future to see a positive outcome. Wayne Gretzky said that he would see the puck going where he wanted it to go. Walt Disney visualized his famous theme park. Performers and speakers take time before they go on-stage to visualize a fabulous performance. And it works. I have done it, and many others. You can dream your success. So next time you shame a day dreamer, and I admit, I have done this myself, be careful. It begs the inquiry, what is poor dreaming and what is good dreaming? To me, poor dreaming is unthinking. It is not grounded in some plausible reality. One has only to see the auditions of some of the more humorous and heartbreaking American Idol contestants to know some people are not that grounded and are only dreaming without the thinking part, which is the prudent and judicious part. I applaud their courage, but to get the stupendous benefits of dreaming you have to balance your dreaming, or positive visualizations, with a thinking or critical mind, beyond mindless faith. Which brings me to my next argument.

Point 4:  Critical thinking is what we need on this planet to thrivecritical_thinking

Maybe it is easier to do as the yoga teacher wished and be an unthinking animal, only focused on survival, but to thrive personally, communally and globally we sure the heck need to be thinking. When we embrace not thinking, or mindless faith, we do not have a curious and open mind. When we do not explore and make connections for problem solving it can have horrible political results where there is much suffering. The antics of the Tea Party on the American political scene is a case in point. There are so many prejudices, pat beliefs and blind religious dogma being touted that they are willing to let their people suffer rather than listen to reason. Canadians watch this in horror. Beyond Tea Party members embracing unthinking, partisan beliefs (beliefs not arguments), we actually see Americans going against their noble Declarations and censoring people who are challenging thought and shedding light on real issues. People like Michael Moore and Bill Maher. Why have these people been censored? Why do my American friends tell me they have never been able to find any of Michael Moore’s films in U.S. theatres when they come out? Why did Bill Maher get kicked off public networks to finally go to the paid HBO channel? This is censorship. Argument and dialogue is something everyone says they want, but you will also want it to be grounded in logical and reasonable facts to ensure health. We need to have interaction and a “group think” to really get cooking. This group thinking should be based on informed, thinking arguments and dialogue. What is the opposite? Well, terrorism depends on unthinking  intimidation. To be afraid to speak “your mind” because it might be either unpopular or punished is very much like the environments in Nazi Germany or in China, or other places where freedom of speech is curbed and threatened.  Yes thinking is not easy; it may even be dangerous, but worth it. 

So here are some tenets on great thinking:

  1. Make sure you are thinking not worrying. You will be able to tell by how it feels. If it stresses you, it’s worry, if it soothes you, and gives you relief or solves some problems, then you are likely thinking. Avoid worry, embrace thinking.
  2. Find out how and where you can go to get away and just think. Give yourself time and space. Is it in the bathtub, on a walk, at a cafe or going on a full retreat? Keep returning to this; if you don’t have enough of this time to think, you are missing something special.
  3. When you have the time, place and space, give yourself lots of permission to day dream.
  4. Use positive visualizations to dream your way to success.
  5. Let your thoughts wander and meander.
  6. Interact with others and apply your critical thinking skills.
  7. Open your mind and say yes to someone else’s well thought out argument, or debate using some of your own. This is freedom of speech for all.
  8. Be proud to be a thinker.

Get into the glorious mud of thinking and make yourself happy. Your next great idea awaits, or perhaps your next best dialogue (or a good blog post), and who knows, you may even save the planet, just by thinking both freely and well.

Posted by: kathrinlake | October 17, 2013

My Secret Passion is …the Movies

I have some good news to crow about that goes along with my secret passion. Okay, maybe it’s not so secret but it is real. It’s the Movies.

If you are one of those people who have been practicing their Oscar award-winning speech for years (secretly of course), you will relate to this dream.

Many of you don’t know that my degree is in Film and then later, Theatre. I love the Theatre; it’s where I really learned about dialogue and character development, and improved my writing in leaps and bounds. But, as with most people, I haven’t seen near as many plays as I have movies.

My Dad gave me a super 8 film camera when I was about 14.  At that time, my less than secret passion was still horses. Yes, it had not switched to boys completely, and it was fueled by my best friend, Tracy, who had a horse. A black horse. Her friend, had a white horse, or mostly white. And thus, my first short film was born. A Western, entitled, “Good Guy, Bad Guy”

shootoutIt had a less than subtle moral theme, and used the iconic music from Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns.  The story line is two gunslingers (played by Tracy and her friend, with their horses), who meet for a shoot out.  The gunslinger all in white on the white horse rides down into the valley. Then the gunslinger all in black rides down the opposite side of the valley at high noon. They meet and dismount for the classic shootout quick draw. They fire! For several seconds you don’t know who has been killed until the gunslinger in black falls over. Now, the moral resolution to the film: the gunslinger in white, having killed, goes over to the dead gunslinger in black, takes his black hat and gets on the black horse and rides off.

Well maybe a filmmaker was not born but I did get two films out of it. It seems when you put a camera in front of experienced horsewomen, suddenly they don’t know how to get on and off their horses. The horses themselves also added some clever and hysterical moves and we had enough out-takes to have a second film that got much more interest than the first.  Since then, it seems all my plays, screenplays and films were imbued with a sense of humor.

I did have some humble successes in plays, small screen, large screen attempts, including co-writing with others, but I had to pay the bills too, so I put a hold to that pursuit to do the happy day job while on the side, I wrote articles, edited and contributed to newspapers, and taught writing in night schools. Eventually, I left the day job to write non-fiction books, give writing coaching and workshops, and run the Vancouver School of Writing (VSW). But, those plots for movies kept running in my head and so earlier this year I wrote a screenplay for the first time in many years and started to immerse myself in that craft, and find the online communities for screenwriters.  My friend and author, Eileen Cook, who read it, suggested Praxis and I remembered that several years ago me and my writing partner at the time, the very funny, late, great Irwin Barker ( who passed away 3 years ago RIP Irwin), had been shortlisted in the annual Praxis competition. I looked online and realized the deadline for this year’s competition was a week away. Eileen gave me some fast notes, but there was no time to get beta readers and, as the screenwriters call it, “coverage” (notes from readers), so I registered it with the WGA and tossed it in on the last day of the deadline.

Recently it was announced that my screenplay, The Princess and the Thief, was a semi-finalist and ranked in the top 8% of entrants.

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Some feedback was:

“Witty dialogue, charming story, classic fairy tale characters. A script that leaves you

feeling like you’ve just been read a beautiful bedtime story. Magical realism raises it to
the level of The Princess Bride. Caveats: Feels a bit long at times.

 “Completely charming and whimsical. Fun set ups, good interweaving of stories.
Clever problems and solutions along the journey.”

Gee, what if I had had more time before putting it in?!  Although I missed the big prizes, one of the anonymous judges asked if they could contact me. That judge was very complimentary and may be helpful for the next steps, a redraft and on to selling, and I may have a great new relationship or even a collaborator, so I am thrilled. It seems I am back into my passion again and coming out of the closet.  I have since gotten a great deal of constructive feedback from some excellent readers to whom I am most thankful, so I have to schedule some writing redraft time, and start making some serious Hollywood connections. The truth is, I am already working on another screenplay that I like a lot, but as usual, will probably not get to it in any depth until the Writing Retreat in Mexico in January (where do you think I did the bulk of my writing on the Princess screenplay?)

PS – When I started this post, I noticed this WP report that I had been hanging onto since New Year’s that WordPress.com gives you about your blog in the past year, and thought, Wow, that’s an awesome and prophetic parallel! Was this an omen that I missed? Or perhaps it is still an omen of things to come? My advice, as always, is… just keep writing.

Here’s an excerpt from the WordPress report:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 21,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see and read a sample of Kathrin’s newest book Writing with Cold Feet or click on the cover below. Read Kathrin’s writing blog here. Or the Blog for VSW here.

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Posted by: kathrinlake | January 29, 2013

The Community that Cooks Chilli Together…

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Yes, Jim and I are in Mexico once again. Theoretically, I am preparing for facilitating my writing retreat here in February, but let’s face it we are here to get out of the cold and rain of Vancouver and come home to our southern community.

I love it here for multiple reasons and Jim and I are starting to get inquiries of how we pull this off every year and how they can do it to, so maybe we will have to create a fun seminar about this.

DSCN3159Meanwhile, here we are in our little winter paradise, but this year is hotter than usual. Lucky me that this just happens to coincide with my getting hot flashes. I have both our ceiling fans going right now, but it’s not bad enough to want air conditioning on, but thankfully it is cooler this week than last. It forced me to learn my latest Spanish word, abanico, which is a hand fan. I tend to fall in love with 4-syllable Spanish words. My first year here it was desayuno, which means breakfast. Right now, my mantra during my hot flashes is abanico, abanico, abanico. I now have a few pretty Mexican Abanicos for 30 pesos each.

So, amid all this heat you wouldn’t think I would be looking forward to eating a ton of chilli, right? But I always am. Let DSCN3121me tell you a little bit about one of the events of the season here, The Annual Chilli Cook Off.

The cook-off is run by the Rotary Club here as a fundraiser for needed projects, mostly for improvements to local schools; children and literacy being a concern, but it is also one of the town social events for the season and brings together both Mexicans and Gringos, mostly Canadians and Americans or ex-pats now living here.

DSCN3154The competition itself brings in 30 competitors for two coveted prizes for the Best Chilli Awards, one for the professional restauranteurs, and one for the amateurs. There are also awards for the Best Salsa and the Best Decorated Booth.

These awards are given by the crowds who come and cast their ballots, not by professional judges, so it does become a bit of a sales and marketing and popularity contest too. But lets face it if your Chilli sucks, no one but your family will vote for it and they might lie about who they really voted for to your face as the ballots are secret and only one ballot per person.DSCN3141

So there are 30 Chillis to taste and this year Jim and I tasted a record 17 (that’s right you don’t have to taste them all to vote… hey folks it’s a fundraiser). Wow they were good, and so different, so I had to keep track on my notes and we developed a rating system. However, not to alienate any of our friends who had entered pots this year, who we voted for will remain unstated.

DSCN3134-001There always seems to be one person who does the fatal mistake of burning the bottom. Anyone who has made chilli knows that if you burn the bottom, even a  little bit, it will taste like someone threw cigarette butts into your precious pot.  Ugh!

The chilli tent row is a cave of booths and when they start serving it is so crowded you can barely move. Jim and I luck out as one competitor never showed up for their booth and we nab the table and chairs and start a tag team system, of one holding our great spot while the other brings in more sample cups of chilli.

Most are in styrofoam cups but some are in more creative containers, tortilla shell cups, Mexican clay pots (see the ballot photo above) and one comes with the chilli on a chilli dog. Yummy!DSCN3150

Sure this is about the Chilli competition, but really its about the community and a lot of gabbing and socializing goes on, and of course the musica, from a great Mexican band this year. Later on a duo from B.C. will keep us dancing all night long.

I love the MC brother and sister pair this year. His sister speaks the Spanish and he  translates to English or vice versa. After a barrage of Spanish the translation becomes, “same in English.” And we all laugh.

Later at the dance, I find myself as one of the ones initiating a conga line with my real estate friend, Sara, her employee, Alfredo, and our favourite maid, Nana.  In no time we have dozens lined up behind us trying to reproduce our crazy moves. It was hysterical and a great work out too.

Yes, mi Amigos, the sign of a healthy community is food, music and dancing.DSCN3136-001DSCN3143DSCN3152DSCN3149 With a little cerveza and margaritas thrown in for fun.

Posted by: kathrinlake | December 12, 2012

My Husband Jim Gets Romantic on National TV

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PLAY TO GET TO HUFFPOSTLIVE RECORDED TV BROADCAST:

Mid-Life Marriage

NOTE: Turn off the volume on the live feed and then play the video or you will get both audios simultaneously.

A spin off of my blog post and wedding speech video, Why I got Married at 50, was that Huffington Post Live wanted to interview my husband, Jim, in a panel about Mid-Life Marriage.  I was poised to jump in but, alas, unwanted. They already had too many women on the panel. So they quickly phoned him in. He had an hour’s notice.  I think he is the most romantic one of the bunch and was all too flattering to me. Kudos and kisses, to Jim.

Posted by: kathrinlake | October 25, 2012

Why I Got Married at 50

If you want some fun, laughs and new thoughts on marriage you will love this. After this introduction you should watch this video of the speech I gave at my own wedding on September 8, 2012. It is a humourous and personal account, but I glossed over some important points in this speech in making the decision to get married (at 50), so if you want even more insight on Why I Got Married at 50, you can read below and see the other photos as well, but speech first; if nothing else it gives you a little sample of personal speech writing by moi. Let me know your own thoughts. Enjoy!

Why I Got Married at 50

So, I read about it, thought about it, and in my personal journals wrote about it. I’ll start with the reading. Articles of all kinds, too numerous to mention, were perused but one of my favourites was in the NY Times and about a couple whose families were living in India, though they settled in the USA, who had an arranged marriage. Looking at their North American counterparts struggling with marriages and relationships, they came to the conclusion that our expectations of marriage were very romantic and unreal. Having started with very little getting-to-know-each-other time themselves, they felt it kept their expectations realistic and had taught this couple that they just had to work things out, there was no magic formula, they were already committed to highs and lows, committed to finding some differences, but they felt that they, and their family, had already chosen a partner with basic common grounds: religion, proximity of families, education, similar upbringing. It is enough. All that was required was willingness and committment.  The article struck a chord with me as I too was feeling like the expectations of people for relationships were often out of whack and just as likely, if not more likely to throw the relationship off as any character flaws each individual had. So that was where I had evolved to regarding monogamy and long-term relationships, but why marriage?

I once read an astrological chart that said my sign was never quite comfortable until in a marriage. I remember having an immediate gut response to this that I would never admit to my cool feminist friends. The response was yes, this was true of me. Underneath I like traditions, I like structure, I believe in spelling things out. I believe in community recognition. So, again I went looking for more in-depth reading and found it in Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Committed.

You could not get a more reluctant bride than Gilbert who was forced to wed, or her life partner, Felipe, would never be allowed into her country (U.S.). I

 
Yes the cake went down the aisle too… the top anyway.

could also not ask for a person more articulate, intelligent and relatable for me than Gilbert. Though I had never had a “failed” marriage before, unlike herself and Felipe, who both suffered from traumatic divorces, I did listen to Gilbert’s struggle in interviews, articles and finally her book and it was a fascinating journey. It also gave me the new take on the often quoted over 50% divorce rate statistic. The real evidence is that those that get married at 45 or older have an extremely low rate of divorce. Logical. But there were many other things in Gilbert’s book that made me think a great deal. I usually think by writing in my journal. Figuring things out on paper has always worked for me. That’s when I really made the decision that I did in fact want to be married, and I now knew who I wanted to be married to. That took a long time to happen as you heard in my speech about unconditional and conditional love.

After trying to get on the same expectations page with my intended groom, I really appreciated more and more the person who was so willing to go through that process with me, my now husband, Jim (aside–my first book, From Survival to Thrival, was dedicated to Jim as my dancing partner and my life partner).  Now we only had to decide together, after much talk, how we wanted to be married, and find our own way with our own reasons.  In my next blog post I may reveal, if they let me, either Jim’s speech, and no it is not traditional for the Bride or Groom to give speeches to one another, or my best friend and maid of honor, Elektra’s speech.  This wedding put a twist on old traditions all over the place, and we can truly say we did this wedding our way, with our communities.

SHOULD PEOPLE STILL GET MARRIED?

What do you think? How do we thrive in love? I’d love to hear your feedback, so…

PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS!

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Kathrin is looking forward to her retreat in Mexico in February (every February 15),  where she will be guiding others in their writing. Please contact her for more information about the retreat and other programs through the Vancouver School of Writing.

Posted by: kathrinlake | May 4, 2012

Granny Yoga Heals Frozen Shoulder…

A year and a half ago I was afflicted with the mysterious condition known as frozen shoulder.  It does exactly what it sounds like. It freezes a shoulder to the degree you can’t raise your arm over your head. It is painful.  This condition is commonly (but not always), found in women who are entering menopause, however replacing their hormonal loss doesn’t seem to help. Once it’s got you, it’s got you.

My doctor sadly shakes her head and says to me, “I know this is hard to take, but its going to take two years to recover.”

What! I don’t believe her. I go online and see some places where it takes three years. I also meet someone who had it for three years. Some others were quicker, a few had it in one shoulder and then once they finished that shoulder it went to the other, another common occurrence. The whole time I am thinking, wait a second here, I am no wimp, I dance swing and tango every week. This isn’t going to be me.

Then I start the process. The process that becomes familiar to every person who gets this. You start the therapies, one by one, with hope, and optimism, slowly melting to absolute pessimism. I go through physiotherapists, acupunturists, massage therapists, Bowen Therapy experts, naturopathics, craniosacral people, ostepathy, infra red therapy, on and on. I thank the lord that Jim has a great benefits plan, but nothing is working and I have spent $1000 dollars of my own money beyond the benefits plan. And these therapies cost me more than money, they take a great deal of time. Time I don’t want to give up.

I interject all these therapies with both prescribed exercises at home and with my own exercises. Some days I think it’s working and other days nada. I am thankful it is my left shoulder and not my right, being right-handed. I know I am completely at risk with my profession as a writer by being on the confounding computer so much. I have to slow down and take long rests from the computer. I get some help from volunteers I can delegate to, and I waste more time and money trying both voice-to-text software and handwriting recognition software. Nothing suffices. I have to slow down and listen to the body. It wants a break. It wants gentle unrepetitive, un computer-like movement.

Some people start to say swimming works, others say yoga. Of course, the health plan doesn’t cover these (which I have always thought of as very short-sighted towards health). Though I love swimming, I can no longer stand getting into cold pools, especially in a cold climate (they say they are heated but it’s never enough). The only swimming I ever do now is in Mexico.  Having done yoga on and off for years I know that there is a variety to choose from but with the shoulder, my downward facing dog is going to look like a downward falling three-legged dog.

I try a course given by Kyra, a woman who teaches what she calls Yoga Therapy. The participants in this class have their own afflictions which make my frozen shoulder look like Tai Chi in the park.  Comparatively speaking, I can consider myself lucky.  There are many people struggling through many kinds of physical challenges and recoveries and my heart goes out to them. I am tickled with Yoga Therapy but after the four sessions I get in on, Kyra is going away for several months. Now what?

With little progress, less money, and less energy, I feel like a shut in and get into a mental funk that yo-yos until I spot an ad in the Spring Guide for our local rec centre. Yoga Over 50. It promises gentle yoga two days a week in the a.m. and the drop-in cost is $1… wait, am I seeing that right. One dollar!  As it turns out, it is $1 for over 60 and $2.50 for over 50. Didn’t I just turn 50?  Well then I guess I can just squeak in. I try it.

Thus starts my dedication to a very unexpected and amazing group that I have come to call Granny Yoga.  I call it this because the women (although a few men come and go), are twenty years my senior.  The one who leads the exercises is Nan. She is 86. We can’t properly call her a leader since she is not trained in Yoga, she just took over for Lilo, the original teacher, who is now well into her 90′s and no longer able to come to class, though a number of the grannies still visit her at home. I get the idea it is her mind more than her body that took Lilo out of the picture. However, you perhaps get what I’m thinking here. Is this a fountain of youth class or what. Well, perhaps, though true Yoga aficionados have been saying this for years haven’t they.

Nan, who has a wonderfully loud Scottish brogue, is also a little deaf and that’s why she talks loudly and everyone can hear her directions clearly. And I’m thinking how wonderful a world is it when you can take Yoga instructions in a Scottish accent from a feisty octogenarian.

The Yoga is perfectly gentle for my injured shoulder. Enough to stretch it but not too much, meanwhile the rest of the body is really enjoying getting its fair share of movement, and I realize that I used to do this a lot, and got out of it somehow. My favourite exercises are for the areas we forget, like the eyes (I later find out Paul McCartney is all over Yoga eye exercises See here). Your whole body needs movement and benefits from a regime. After all, all of it is going to have to get you through this life. All around the room I have a testament to this. But these grannies dish up Yoga class their style. There is a walk and sing segment and they stop in the middle for “comments” better known as yack.

During the comment time, we hear from Rebel Granny who is making us aware of the evils of the new proposal to let more oil tankers into our harbour that destroy the Indian Arm and the bay area (see petition here).  There is Canucks Granny who reminds us to cheer on our boys on the ice trying fo the Stanley Cup (sorry boys). There is the Singing Grannies who lead us in a chorus of “When the Saints Come Marching In.” There is Nature Granny who tells us about the birds and flowers to watch for, “Doesn’t our parks board do a great job!”

There is also Eastern European Granny who talks about her grandkids and all the Easter eggs they painted, over 100. And of course there was the Easter egg hunt itself. “They found one from last year,” she tells us.  She is always the one to know the holidays and bring in treats. To instill on me the importance of coming regularly to Yoga she tells me, “If I miss one day, I am stiff.”

Then a familiar male face comes in, a man I know. It is Micheal who I met years ago at Toastmasters and we had bonded as fellow writers.  Michael had written a fabulous memoir of his time in India he spent working with Mother Theresa.

“Did you practice Yoga in India?” I ask him.

“Heavens, no,” he says, “I could never do that.” I’m not sure if that was because they were too good or it was too authentic, but I do know that Michael likes to come to yoga to socialize with the gals.

I am starting to become self-conscious in this class. They start to call me the purple lady because I continually come in my favourite purple exercise suit, but that’s not why.  I know they are all wondering why “the kid” (I’m only 50), is coming to this class during the day.  So I take a chance and on the next comment time and decide to pipe up. I try to explain that I am in menopause and experiencing the phenomenon of a frozen shoulder and ask if any of them have had it. I get interrupted early with, “Speak up dear, we can’t hear you.”

“What’s she saying?”

“She says she’s going through menopause!” Nan’s buddy yells loudly into her ear and across the room and down the hall. “She says she has a frozen shoulder!”

“Oooh.”

During this comment session none of them seem familiar with my condition, but afterward a few of them, including Nan, comes up to me with stories of others and what they did.

Four weeks after I have told them why I am there, my arm starts to unlock by itself, so after a year and a half I can raise my arm over my head. You can’t imagine how nice that feels.  It’s not perfectly okay yet, but it is really a relief to see great progress

I start to believe that I owe a lot of it to Granny Yoga, and perhaps some diet shifts I made as well, but mostly Yoga. I am now a Yoga believer in a way I never have been before. Yoga will keep me young.  I decide to drop into another yoga class on the weekend where I can actually practice a downward facing dog. So I do and it’s nice and certainly more challenging, but they don’t give me eye exercises. And, even if they did, there ain’t no way I am giving up my Granny Yoga classes.

For more writing and teaching by Kathrin Lake go to kathrinlake.com or Vancouver School of Writing.com

Try this Video for further Yoga inspiration.  Thanks to Matt:

YOGA HELPS 47  YEAR OLD MAN WALK UNASSISTED AGAIN – CLICK PHOTO FOR VIDEO LINK

 

FINALLY, FINALLY I have the VIDEO of Lilo Pederman – the original instructor –  showing her Yoga routine!

(Sorry for the poor quality)

avideoofliloperderman

Posted by: kathrinlake | November 25, 2011

The Mystery of Mom

I am always telling my writing students that when they write their own stories they have to be prepared to get personal. Why? Because it is where Truth with a capital “T” resides, and because it is often their best work. So, given that, I suppose that I have to practice what I preach. I have a very personal story I want to share.  It is humorous in some parts, in some parts a little sad, but mostly it is happy, mysterious, and life affirming. I’ll let you decide if it is also a decent piece of writing, or a good story.

___________________________________________________

My mother died in 2008.  At the time, I organized a wake as that is what my mother had always told me she wanted.

 “Have a party…” she said, “…and make sure the undertaker doesn’t get my gold teeth.”

Well, one out of two isn’t bad. My mother was cremated and we did have the wake with her ashes present and many stories were told and toasts with Glen Livet were downed. The day after the wake, I had a conversation with my brother about what to do with her ashes. I was reasonably sure that neither of my sisters wanted anything to do with keeping her ashes.  My brother suggested that we take a pilgrimage up the Capilano Canyon and put her ashes somewhere there, where she walked, weekly, for most of her adult life.

“Then you can take the beautiful, wood burl chest you bought for her ashes, and put all the photos, cards and letters we received at the wake into it.”

I thought that was a truly great idea. Mom was a true nature lover – hence the unconventional burl chest instead of an urn — and she would have loved this. However, my brother went back to his home far away and life got busy as it usually does.

Three years later, it is summer, and we were coming up to the anniversary of my mother’s death and birth, as it happens, as the dates were only five days apart, and I have a dream about struggling with a body in a coffin.

I have a dream about struggling with a body in a coffin.

The remains are supposed to be of someone in my family, who, was not clear in the dream. I tell my good friend Karen about it and suggest that I am a little guilty that I have not done what I intended with Mum’s ashes, and maybe this is what the dream is about. I decide my reluctance has been that I know that my aunts and any friends Mom had are too old for the journey up the Canyon, and I am doubtful that my busy sisters are going to have the time or show any enthusiasm for the idea, and my brother is too far away.

But Karen smiles and says, “I’ll go with you!”

And so we make arrangements to go one afternoon to the Capilano Dam and plan to hike down the canyon to where I knew there would be a good spot.  I packed the burl chest and the additional plastic sealed container which together held all of Mum’s ashes.  I tell Karen I am torn about whether the ashes should go in the river or in the woods by the river. She suggests that since I have two containers, maybe I should do both. Karen always has simple solutions that I have come to depend on. That’s it then, we pack a little picnic for later and we are done.

It is a beautiful late summer afternoon and even going over the Lion’s Gate bridge, I get that nostalgic feeling of returning home. For me, North Vancouver is the land of play, where I was born and raised, often playing in the woods, and riding our bikes up those demanding Grouse Mountain foothills of suburbia to the Cleveland Dam on the Capilano river.

This is the first symbol I have of returning home or cycle. The second is that I remember that the salmon are running up the Capilano River at this time, returning to spawn. I recall that we are going to walk right past the salmon ladder and will see the salmon going through all their struggles to come home, and pass on their life.  We start out on our pilgrimage by walking on the dam and I begin to tell Karen a few of my memories of Mum, almost working backward in time.

The first memory is at the dam itself, not too long after we discovered my Mother, like her own mother, was a victim of Alzheimer’s. She was still living independently at the time, but we soon had care workers in for her and had her on the long waiting list for a care home. At this time we would frequently ask my mother questions cautiously and her answers would always be:

“I know that!” and she’d look at us like we were crazy, when in fact we rather suspected the truth was she had no idea what we were talking about. We were all testing the waters at the time, unsure of what she really knew and didn’t know.

We were all testing the waters at the time, unsure of what she really knew and didn’t know.

It was at this time, my two sisters and I decided to take her up to Capilano Dam one day to the picnic area. We had each brought a little something for the picnic including some prepared sushi we had picked up. My sister carefully explained to my mother that this was sushi, and in this dish was soya sauce, and this was wasabi (very hot horse-radish), and this is how you put them together. This was something she would have known before she started telling us stories about raccoons as big as men and laser beams bouncing through her apartment.

Inevitably she said, “I knew that,” as she grabbed the chopsticks and expertly started picking up the sushi. Okay, we all thought, and relaxed until we looked over moments later and saw the entire blob of green wasabi on the end of her chopsticks rapidly heading into her open mouth. We simultaneously let out a cry of warning and lunged across the picnic blanket to stop the impending mouth-burning culinary disaster in progress. She was rescued just in the nick of time, to her dumb founded looks and our relief and laughter.

“My mother really did not suffer fools easily and was quite brilliant,” I told Karen.

We often didn’t need to look things up in a dictionary or encyclopedia because we would just ask Mum and she knew it. Sometimes I would try to stump her.

 “Mum, what can you tell me about the Byzantine empire?”

She’d launch into everything she knew about it, which was as much as the encyclopedia and a damn sight faster.  She was like our own personal internet long before the internet was around. She always knew a little or a lot about everything.  Not your typical Skippy peanut butter Mom. She was, in fact, the quiet, book-worm brains behind many a local left-leaning politician in the area.

I would see them come over to the house all through my teen years and pick my introverted yet brilliant mother’s brains about all the political issues on the table. She gave them the best arguments to thwart their opponents and all the nitty-gritty details of any issue they were a little foggy on. They thanked her kindly and forgot her promptly. My mother was just happy to serve.

By the time I tell these stories to Karen we have reached the fish ladder and we watch the salmon make their remarkable leaps and I am moved.  I don’t think I have been to the salmon ladder since my teenage years.  I have a flashback of going there on a school field trip. Young, giggling and full of fun.  The struggle of the salmon meant little to us then, happy to get a reprieve from sitting indoors, but now I look with older eyes. I see in the salmon’s struggle to advance up the ladder as a parallel to our own human struggles to advance in this mysterious thing called life.

My mother was timid in life. The opposite of ambition. I once asked my father about my mother’s introversion and why she was so timid. He admitted that he suspected that there had been some damage done to her in her early life.

“I never found out what it was,” he said somberly.

Our real struggles are often hidden I think, and yet my mother had carefully set her adult life up for safety and security with as little struggle as possible. She spectated at the folly of human politics, safely behind the scenes. And as much as she knew about art, culture, and western civilization, she remained an armchair traveller, vacationing safely in books, never to walk the piazza’s of Italy or the rues of Paris. Instead, she walked in nature with true reverence, but always keeping to the walking path. Of course, as much as one thinks they have protected themselves, life seems to defy absolute ease. Her divorce took her by surprise more than it did her children. Yet, even that went as easily as any divorce I have ever heard of.

Initially, one could say I emulated her in trying to set up a safe life, but it was not in my ultimate nature. By the time I was in my later twenties, I quickly started to question all and everything, and explore it in art, humour and writing. I even swam away from that for a time, but I returned to it just like the salmon are compelled to return to their nature.

After the salmon hatchery, I take Karen across the first bridge across the Capilano river. It is beautiful and peaceful. Golden afternoon sun hitting moss caked rocks over deep pools of water. We can peer down into the liquid and see the shapes of the salmon hovering there, perhaps resting for the next leg of their journey. My mind is set on a place for her ashes that I remember a little further on from the first bridge and before a second one.  I realize I am happy and light of heart and start to remember how my mother had this quirky sense of humour that always came out of left field.  It is always twice as funny when the unexpected introvert lets fly some funny remark and takes everyone unawares.  I have this recollection of her giving us this hilarious imitation of an answering machine experience she had. I was just thinking I should have told Karen what a good sense of humour my Mum had when I see the place that I had in mind. Mossy, soft peat, and even some wild flowers, it looks exactly as I remembered it, even decades later, giving me again this sense of return and eternalness.  I let Karen know that this was it.

Karen backs off respectfully and stays on the path to watch from a short distance away as I find a nice spot on the hill overlooking the pools. I kneel down with the burl box and silently start to say my last homage to Mom, whose ashes have been living in my apartment for three years.  I pick up the burl chest, open the lid to see the ashes and turn it upside down over the hill. Except… nothing comes out. I start to shake it, first tentatively and then emphatically. Behind me, I hear Karen start to titter. No ashes are coming out. 

“Do you not like this place Mum?” I ask aloud, as Karen is now guffawing.

I realize that the burl chest has been an imperfect receptacle and the ashes have dried out and somewhat solidified in the box. I am now laughing with Karen and using a stick to break up the ashes back to a scattering state.

Let’s try again. This time the ashes do come out of the burl chest, but only some of it goes where intended. The other part rises in the air as a fine, dry cloud. I watch as the cloud rapidly and inevitably drifts toward Karen on the path. I stifle an impulse to quickly say,

“Karen, meet Mom, Mom, meet Karen.”

We laugh it off and brush off the fine Mom dust we have on us. And, Karen says, the perfect thing.

“By any chance did your Mother have a sense of humour?”

“I was just going to tell you about that,” I say.

We walk ahead to the next bridge still giggling and as we approach that bridge Karen comments about the beauty.  She has never been this far down the canyon before. The pool that the second bridge is over is much deeper and darker than the other pools, the water looks almost black, and although they might be there, you cannot see any salmon in it at all. We walk to the middle of the bridge and I kneel down to the edge with the plastic container. It’s a clear container, and this time I can see the white-gray ashes are moving easily inside, but just in case the dust comes back up I am careful to reach below the edge of the bridge.  I let it go and it careens down to the river, falling in a line.  What happens next startles us both.

The white ashes hit the black water but they do not disappear. They swirl into the pond like a huge nebula, and move like they are playing and dancing in the black water, spreading out like a dragon’s tail, and from above making an awe inspiring white design in the black water.  They keeping moving too, in a mesmerizing way, giving us a mysterious performance of a life lived.  As humourous as our last ash experience, this is as profound, and then some. From Mom dust to Star dust.

Karen and I are simultaneously making exclamations while this is happening, like,

“Do you see that!”

“Isn’t that amazing!”

“Look, look at them go! They are beautiful.”

We start to notice that they are not moving downstream in the direction we expected, but instead move back upstream. They are moving exactly toward the side of the river where we had just deposited the first of Mum’s ashes. We are both filled with a wonderful, life affirming feeling as if we have been privy to an unfathomable once-in-a lifetime experience.

Karen and I talk about this for the rest of the hike back. We return to the picnic area where Mum once ate sushi. We share a glass of wine and toast my mother’s final and complete return to the cosmos. Or maybe it is just back to nature.

I will treasure this experience and Karen told me she will as well, as her own mother discusses her “plans” with her daughters for her remains. But as we let go of our parents I know that myself and many others have left no children behind, so what are we passing on?  What are we creating?

For myself, I hope that whatever it is, and whatever it looks like, it is from the best of my true nature. I want to believe it is a unique gift to the universe, however humble, and whatever small part it has, or I have, in the mystery of life I am grateful for.  I do believe that this life is not final, but a fabric of cycles which are in perpetual renewal. It accepts gifts and and gives them back to whoever is supposed to have them. Call it God, the Universe or Nature, but be grateful you are apart of it. Goodbye Mum. Hello nature. Thanks for the mystery.

Kathrin is looking forward to her retreat in Mexico in February where she will be guiding others in their writing. Please contact her for more information about the retreat and other programs through the Vancouver School of Writing.

Posted by: kathrinlake | November 1, 2011

Dining in the Dark

How was your Halloween? Scary, frightening or fun? Most of us are going to say fun, including myself, but it was also an adventure because I dined in the dark. No, that doesn’t mean that there was a power outage, or a forgotten electric bill, this was a very constructed experience lead by a good friend of mine, Kerry Ward, who is an adventure trainer.  This was not a “eating Big Macs with the lights out” kind of experience, but a posh, gourmet dining experience that was preceded by other “adventures.”

I love learning in two ways. The obvious one for me is by being told a story. The next way I like to learn is by doing it myself. Then it becomes my story. This is experiential learning, and whenever I can, I try to use this to teach others.  It might even be fun. But, sometimes you do things to expand your horizons and perceptions and get yourself out of your humdrumness. This is essential for writers and artists so they can tap that creative side that likes playfulness, where all rules go out the window.

The first part of our Halloween evening was a masked storytelling.  We were instructed to wear masks and dress in black. I preferred to remain anonymous and give myself a mask name, but most people gave their real name and told a personal story of something that frightened them and could be described as an adventure.

In the past, I have hosted ghost story sessions on Halloween, where we told our scary stories with nothing but Jack O’ lanterns lighting the room.  The stories were so spooky that they sometimes really freaked people out, but this night’s  storytelling was with the lights on and more about our experiences with adrenaline rushes, from near-drownings to being held up at gunpoint, from wild animals to black ice car slides. The scares of our lives. We were then asked to think about our future adventure.

So, that was all very nice and safe.  Myself and my 30 masked companions were now ready to sit down and have a gourmet meal brought to us, even if it was in the dark. That’s what we expected.  But like our real-life stories that is not exactly what we had signed up for. The plot thickens.

We were sent out on a bogus scavenger hunt to a hotel two blocks away. The package we received at the concierge was a bag of blindfolds. Oh! I thought to myself, I guess our dining is going to happen at this hotel. Wrong-o. We were taken back outside and blindfolded and put in a conga-line formation, with only our leader at the head of the line being fully sighted.

The adventure began as the blind lead the blind through our downtown waterfront spaces, across crosswalks, into car parks, up stairs and through lobbies.

“Slow down!” “Stairs!”Door” “Incline, going down.”

This was an exercise in communication, trust, teamwork and using your other senses that we would need later for the main event. But for now, we shuffled along, and by the honks we received from traffic, our human chain-gang of blindfolded diners made quite an unusual sight. But, hey, it’s Halloween. (Never mind that Kerry does this all year round). In any case, we arrived at our destination completely disoriented. Still blindfolded and now in a blacker darkness than outside. We were lead to our chairs to sit down at round banquet tables. Long before we got there, the smell of food was all around us and we had now built an appetite.

Unlike my expectations, where I thought that each course would be delivered as it was ready, as in traditional dining, here we were told that a three course meal with all utensils and accoutrements had already been laid out in front of us. We were allowed to eat it anyway we wanted to.

Once again, communication and teamwork was essential.

“Found a scallop at ten o’clock!”

“Beware the shot glass on the left.”

“Hurray, we’ve got ribs!” “Yippee, we’ve got chicken to the left!” “Oh joy, we’ve found chocolate on the right!” “Oh, oh, we’ve got liver.”

“I’ve got the butter, who’s found the bread?”

“I’ve got the bread and I’ll pass it clockwise, and you can follow it clockwise with the butter.”

Then there was the guess work, as in “what was that creamy stuff, next to the crunchy stuff?” It was both a collective detective experience and a primitive fumbling, yet sensual exploration. Some people admitted that they went to fingers pretty early, but I tried to stick to the knife and fork as much as I could, but the way I ate would have made my mother turn over in her grave. Thank God no one could see us in the dark.

For once the talk was completely about our experience in the moment, no polite dinner conversations. But, there was plenty of laughter and funny comments. It was to the point that I didn’t want to take the blindfold off when asked to at the end of the meal and they gradually brought the lights up.

Now this is where the dead chicken meets the road. What were we actually eating?  The chef and sous chef came out to show us the absolutely elegantly plated dishes that we had demolished like a bunch of vikings. The visual was totally lost on us, obviously, but did we guess our flavours right…

At first, I knew it was a taste I hated, and I had to go way back in my memory banks for the last time I ate it, because I have been studiously avoiding it for decades. Liver. Other than that, I actually knew surprisingly little for sure. I had no idea I had downed a quail egg with my fingers, for example, and that thing we thought was chicken… sweetbreads.  What are sweetbreads? Someone told me it was calf gonads! OMG! But I Googled it later and it is the thymus gland or pancreas of a young calf or lamb. As my vegan friends retch, I am only glad it wasn’t what my dining companion originally suggested. But there were also wonderful things like muscles in gaspacho, olive brioche, a yummy ravioli, bacon and scallops, chocolate mousse, orange ganache, as well as standards like lovely mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls with butter (served clockwise).

I think the chef really enjoyed challenging us and seeing our reactions at his reveal. Partly sadistic perhaps, but more out of curiosity I think. He really thought about textures as well as taste for us. Personally, I was amazed at how my sense of taste was not what I thought it was. We marvelled at how pretty the meal was that we had destroyed so unconsciously. We applauded him and his sous chef for the wonderful job.

So we sat with our dining table and dissected the adventure of the meal all over again, and all our crazy manoeuvers. Like when I took a scallop from a woman who was not able to eat shellfish (she had been pre-warned), and then later I thought how weird it was to negotiate that in the dark having never even seen her face, and having a scallop passed to me by hand. Rules out the window. And that was the true adventure of the evening, not how we interact with food, but how we interact with people. Isn’t that most of our adventure in life, in fact?

I love my ghost stories, but I would not have missed this scary Halloween adventure for all the scallops in the world. If you get a chance, try it!

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