Friday, November 10, 2017

Gettin' "hygge" wid it!

Note: Just this once, "Hygge" is be pronounced as I read it the first time I saw it = "higgie". (Will Smith would be proud of me.)

I do believe that winter will come to us soon. It's about 4℃ today (39℉), grey and overcast with the threat of rain. But temperatures will drop this weekend to 1 degree and continue that way for all of next week. Thank goodness my studded winter tires are already on the car.  We get a lot of snow here on the west coast of Newfoundland.

Since moving back home, finding this amazing job and deciding to rent rather than own, my life has become more simple and less stressful. My job allows that when the schools are closed, the office is closed as well; so I've no pressure to get to work on storm days. Also, in true chivalrous manner, my landlord shovels and plows which leaves me with the easier task of just cleaning off my car. Driving is quite tricky here in winter; city streets are plowed but they're never really clean; there's just too much snow falling too often. But I drive slowly and calmly and don't worry about going anywhere quickly. I'm pretty laid back about the winter thing.

Living alone can be lonely, especially when winter forces most people inside. But I'm discovering all the time that living alone has so many unforeseen perks. And these are what I choose to embrace rather than think of possible days of grey, emptyness. Apparently, I've been practicing the Danish art of "Hygge". 

Hygge (pronounced "HUE-gah") is a Danish and Norwegian word which can be described as a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture). 

When I became a single parent of 3 small children, I realized the need to take care of myself first -- to try to create a place of quiet and peace so I could be a better mother, friend and employee. Candlelight bubble baths with soothing music (and wine 'n' chocolate) were a necessity for me. Now that I'm on my own, Hygge is something that I practice daily.
I come home to my (sometimes) neat, quiet home and greet my apartment with a "Hello honey! I'm home!" I turn on my TV to the Spa Music channel, and as I take off my work clothes, I relax and attempt to "take off" the cares of the day. I prepare dinner and try to be mindful as I eat. I don't answer my phone while I'm doing this.

Depending on the day of the week, most evenings I have a relaxing bath in dim light, listening to quiet music OR I'll sit in my PJs and revive my tootsies in a Eucalyptus soak. Candles are lit, tea or mint water is poured, magazines and my crossword puzzle book is by my elbow, and I already know my lineup of favorite TV shows for the evening. I have a lovely faux fur throw nearby when the evening turns cooler, and I spend a few moments just being grateful for the NOW. I only answer or make phone calls when I feel I'm ready. 
Weekends I take a walk outside in the crisp air. And if I want a fire, I turn on the fireplace channel on my TV; I don't have to worry about ashes or embers on my floor AND I swear to you, the apartment feels warmer. Hahaha!
So, all these years, I've been gettin' "hygge" wid it without realizing there was a name for what I viewed as an indulgent necessity.
I hope you practice Hygge! It's good for the soul!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Yeah! This makes me feel better!

Ah, the joys of aging! 

Have I mentioned the issue I have with scent? For the past 3-4 years, I've slowly developed a severe sensitivity (allergy?) to scent: perfume, after-shave, hand creams, etc; detergent, cigarette smoke, gas and diesel. I can actually feel those things in my nose and throat and at times, all the way down to my lungs. I get an immediate headache and stomach ache; and if I'm exposed too long or the scent is very strong, my sight will be affected and I will develop a migraine that could last for days. It's a serious issue.

I've also been developing noticable respiratory problems over the past 2 years - wheezing in my chest, persistent cough and clearing of my throat (which is never fully cleared), and recently, some added difficulty in breathing. But after 6 or 7 years, I finally have a family doctor. I'm on the list to see a specialist; but in the meantime, he's prescribed asthma meds; one for emergencies (like when I climb mountains) and a daily puffer, Symbicort.

By Day 2, I had to cut the Symbicort dose in half to 1 puff 2x a day. The side effects are more tolerable then. AND it's working already! I can breathe easier, no chest congestion, even my singing voice has improved. (Now I only have what I call the old lady tremolo, so I only sing in the car with the windows up!)

Side effects, you say? 

Well, there's the headache, nausea, leg cramps, heart palpatations, constipation, flu-like aches, terrible back ache (additional to what I already experience from my injury), constipation, killer heartburn and bloating. AND I hear I'm in for some additional weight gain! Ain't that grand!

(If anyone has any advice to pass on, please do so.)

So, while for my body to adjust to the meds and come into greater balance, I search for more natural ways to deal with the above and ways to make myself feel better. This week's weather has been a bonus: we've had sunshine and high temperatures (for the region and season). I've been taking extra care with my diet; practicing mindfulness, prayer and meditation; and trying to get enough sleep. (My sleep patterns are also affected!) And I'm being more careful about my dress; we all know how wearing something we love can alter our mood. 

Yesterday, I put on my comfy thrifted leopard print shoes, my double strand of sparkly purple glass beads, and a newly acquired, thrifted floaty top in a rusty-red color. 

The color helped to brighten my day and put a smile on my face. You can't even tell that my head hurts, my arms ache and my bloaty belly hurts.

After all, it was 18 deg C (64 deg F) and sunny. 
What's not to be happy about?

  • So, how do you deal with those downer days?

(Now excuse me: I have to go drink my daily glass of prune juice.)
Ahhhhh! The joys of aging!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Just Breathe!

Yes. It's important to work at taking care of one's self, especially if you are an aging woman such as myself and no longer enjoy the resiliency and vigor of youth.

But it's equally important to not do it all; to stop sometimes and make a conscious effort to hear what your body and your mind are really saying.

These are the times we need to actively rest. (Is that an oxymoron?)  Times when we need to block out the rest of the world - the news media, social media, TV, even friends and family - and find a quiet place of sanctuary -- rest, read, whatever relaxes you and feeds your soul -- and just breathe. 

Stay there as long as is necessary. Treat yourself well. Allow yourself to "be" without criticism or negativity of any kind.

PS - I shall be breathing all weekend! 
        And cleaning my home because that brings a sense of calm 
        and order to my sometimes overwhelming life.
        But mostly breathing!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I have a Man in my Mountain!

Autumn is in full swing here in Western Newfoundland. And even though Friday night's heavy rains brought a lot of leaves down (especially the gorgeous reds), my world is still ablaze with color. It's no wonder so many people love this season.

I took part in what may be my last hike of the season. I climbed the "Man in the Mountain" trail just outside Corner Brook. I've hiked worse (Hello Coppermines!), but this one was still quite challenging. You began by climbing (lots of roots, rocks, fallen trees and rotting leaves underfoot), then mercifully it levelled out. We hiked round #1 of 3 ponds that we'd pass until we reached the biggest challenge, an area called The Switchback. This was a steep, hillside climb (as opposed to hill-slide down into that pond); it was slippery and there were no ropes to grab; you had to hope that tree branch would hold! But look where you came out at the top.  
See the parking lot in the center?
We're only half way there!

 But this is just the top of a small mountain. We have to continue hiking .... and climbing .... and thankfully, stopping to rest at conveniently placed benches and natural stone seats. There were partridgeberries growing along the way -- a tart, cranberry-like berry which is a favorite with Newfoundlanders. 

The path was sometimes a riot of fall colors; and then there was this small clearing which was surrounded by beautiful red foliage. And the smells were unbelievable! It almost smelled like partridgeberry jam cooking, this sweet, tart, juicy fragrance! Yum!  

But finally we reached the top -- 984 feet up! Wow!

On my right is the Humber River and the highway leading to Corner Brook and the outer Bay of Islands.

And on my left is again the Humber River (showing Shellbird Island) and the TCH (Trans Canada Highway) which leads across the Island, past Marble Mountain Ski Resort, through the lovely Humber Valley.  

There's only one man in this mountain. The smaller circle shows the location of the "Man"
 and the larger circle shows the "man" in greater detail. 

Yep! We were at the very top of this mountain. And if I had been dangled off the side, I could have seen the actual "man in the mountain"!
 ..... but I just took my hiking guide's word for it! 

I defeated the Man in the Mountain, 
and I have battle wounds to prove it!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

All this Change (Jangling 'round in my Pocket)

This was a non-hiking weekend:  #1 because my knees were still a little sore and #2 because it was my birthday weekend. I ALWAYS have a whole weekend rather than the traditional 1 day birthday. I'm an adult -- I can do what I want!

Friday, I went thrifting in a little town 45 min away and scored some great deals. Saturday, 2 girlfriends and I went to an awesome yard sale and had coffee and treats afterwards. Then we dog walked for almost an hour and a half. Sunday, I had an amazing prime rib dinner with my Dad and brother. Because we'd done a turkey dinner just 3 weeks ago for my Dad's birthday, he and I decided against having a family Thanksgiving dinner. I'd have had to do all the work anyway, so I reasoned that I wouldn't miss it at all. 

But come Monday when I was home alone watching the rain and seeing FB posts of golden turkeys (the people and the fowl!), I was sad. I longed to be sitting with a large, happy, grateful group, overeating traditional Thanksgiving fare, comparing stuffing notes and setting up for a game of Skip-Bo afterwards. But I remind myself that this was MY traditional Thanksgiving get-together; it is NOT my NL family's traditional Thanksgiving get-together. (There's much more cussing and snarling at my NL family's traditional Thanksgiving get-together!)

It's mostly on holidays that I find myself torn: torn between being happy that I'm home in NL with my family and yet desperately missing the wonderful traditions I had built-up with my extended family in Nova Scotia. I miss knowing what to expect. I miss the familiar. I miss the closeness.

The jury is still out on whether moving home was a good choice. The transition is very difficult -- for me as well as for my family,  I would imagine! During my 41 years in NS finding my own way, my family were here in NL chipping away a comfortable spot to function in it's disfunction; then I come home with my Norman Rockwell ideals and all these wonderful ways of how we can love each other more and get along better! How dare I disturb the status quo!

(Many of my prayers are for acceptance and perserverance and the wisdom to know when each is needed.)

Yes, the jury may still be out, but I made a choice to move home a year ago. And although I will allow myself the sadness that comes with the occasional nostalgic memory, and I will not waste my time focusing on what I miss about NS. 

I will focus on all the great things that are to be had here with family and old friends. I will focus on how fortunate I am to have this opportunity to connect once again and the beauty that can come from change. 

PS - I got to eat Thanksgiving leftovers yesterday with my dear friends Ed and Judy. It was delicious!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Coppermine Mountain Trail

Autumn has not only reached us here in western Newfoundland, we are experiencing quite cold mornings and evenings; so the leaves are changing color rapidly. It sure is getting pretty(ier) outside. 

This weekend's hike was up another mountain; and apparently 3.5 km straight up the side of a mountain on a narrow, root 'n rock filled muddy path is it! My limit, I mean. This hike was a killer! 
We hiked the red line.
Now, don't get me wrong: I loved it! But I'm sure if you were anywhere near me on the last leg of the climb you could hear my brain repeating my climbing mantra: "Just one foot in front of the other, Sandy. Just one more foot." We started the morning early in roughly 4 deg C (about 39 deg F) temperatures with the vague threat of a shower in the afternoon. There were plenty of rest stops and lookouts to take advantage of. And as is usual here in NL, we went from forest to bracken to barrens until we finally reached the top. 

We've reached the top, right?

What do you mean, no?

We have to cross that other field of bracken and climb the hill to the top of THAT mountain? 

"One foot in front of the other, Sandy. One in front of the other!"

On one side of us was the mouth of the Bay of Islands looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. And the other three sides were hills and trees and mountain and ponds: it was spectacular, even in the overcast weather. We did experience intermittent misty showers; and when we finally reached the cairn at the top of Copper Mine Mountain, we were tired and hungry, ready for our lunch rest.

But man! It was cold up there! Probably only about 2 deg C. And as we huddled behind the cairn munching on our sandwiches (and dreaming of hot tea), tiny flakes of white stuff fell momentarily from the sky and landed on my backpack!

The return 3.5 km took just as long as climbing up did because it was so steep, muddy, rocky/rooty and narrow. But oh what bliss to finally reach the bottom and exchange my hiking boots for sneakers.

When I finally got back home, extra time was given to my aftercare; lots of stretching and a huge mug of warm tea in my fragrant scented epsom salts bath. I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening relaxing and napping. I need to regain my strength!

Hmmmm? I wonder where we'll hike next weekend?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hey! My feet hurt!

Yes. Tis' the cry of the aging hiker: "My feet hurt!" But what a great time I'm having doing it. 

Last weekend, our hike was 10.5 km (6.5 mi) return and one of the most popular hikes in Gros Morne National Park because of it's variety and beauty. We began across from The Tablelands, a majestic flat-topped mountain range where you are actually walking on the earth's mantle (normally found under the earth's crust)! (Haven't done that one yet as they recommend a guide. $$$) But we were walking towards the ocean; so our walk progressed quickly from the earth's mantle to scrubland. 

We were walking on a steady descent, through scrubland to forest, over barrens, down wooden "steps" and footpaths full of tree roots, with the occasional break of flat surface.

Finally, we could see the water! Through more forest, down more "steps", and then we reached our destination at Green Gardens  overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence.  The sea was full of wonderful rock formation. There was also a motorized dory in the water which we were all curious about as there are no fish that close to shore.

We had to walk down that staircase (75 steps total) to reach the beach below where we had lunch. It had warmed up considerably by then; and the sound of the surf was magnificant!

This is the reason the hike is called Green Gardens. At the top of the cliff beyond the beach area there are several connected fields, green and lush. We were told that farmers still graze sheep here in the summer; and indeed, the evidence was underfoot!

Remember that dory we saw in the Gulf? Well, while we were in the last field, we heard the tinkle of little bells and 2 young men came through the back of the field with half a dozen sheep. They herded the sheep to the steps ..... led those sheep down those 75 steps!!! ...... then along the beach to the very end where they carried the sheep into the dory and off they went .... out to sea and onto (I assume) the farm where they belong! What a sight to see! 

That last green field was the end of the path unfortunately. What is actually an 18 km hike is cut in half because of erosion which has happened on the seaside trail. So, being now fed, watered and rested, it was time to begin our uphill return journey.

These are the "steps" I mentioned: 4x4s filled with dirt and rocks; and you really need to high-step it to get from one to the other. The foliage is beginning to change already here in NL; and you can see the amazing orange colors from the dying ferns. 

The Pitcher Plant is a
carnarvous plant
As we walked, we passed lots of mushrooms, ate juniper berries right off the branch (bitter with a peppery-medicinal taste but very beneficial to one's immune system), saw bunnies (but no moose), went through clouds of black flies and saw lots of NLs provincial flower, the Pitcher Plant.

The return trip required lots of rests and water breaks. But we finally made it back to our cars; and then continued to enjoy one another's company at dinner in Rocky Harbour again. 

While the rest of Canada and the U.S. are enjoying very high temperatures, the weather here in Newfoundland is seasonal. And as we have a very short summer season, the leaves are changing already and mornings and nights are actually cold. The group hopes to hike at least until the end of October. And if the weather cooperates, that will make for some spectacular hikes.

Let me at those mountains!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Was this your last summer "Hurrah" Newfoundland?

Last week, my friends and I took a mid-week day off work and drove the 6 hr return trip to one of the ONLY sandy beaches on the west coast of Newfoundland. We have miles and miles and miles of rocky coastline; my childhood swims always included wearing a pair of worn sneakers to walk into the water. So sandy beaches are much revered.  

We travelled to Burgeo. First you're on the highway, then you're driving through the forest; but the last third of the trip takes you through the barrens which are quite beautiful; every corner brought a new, magnificant vista --- mountains and hills, fjords and ponds, boulders and meadows; and so many shades of green!

When we reached the village of Burgeo, we headed straight for the beach which is part of Sandbanks Provincial Park. The map showed 6 separate beaches divided by rocks, dunes and an interwoven 7 km trail: we visited 3 of these beaches. 

It was a lovely day; sunny, with temps around the 22 C (72 F) mark. I was reminded of beach walks in Nova Scotia with my international students. I didn't realize how much I missed that until I saw the long expanse of sand and heard the waves. I must confess, I did tear up a little. I miss my second home. :( 

Off came our sandals and into the cold north Atlantic went our feet as we waded through the waves.  We walked and walked and walked. At one point, I just lay down on the sand and let the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean envelop me. Heaven! 

Up and over dunes; climbing the rocks was a little more difficult, especially coming down. But we did it rather than climb the wooden stairs. I felt like a kid again. The bay was full of rocks and islands; you can actually take a ferry to one of the larger islands, Ramea, where people still live. And because it was a mid-week September, the area was almost entirely ours. 

We drove around this pretty little village and found a steep, high set of steps leading to a lookoff where you can get a 360 view of Burgeo. Spectacular view!

By this time, the day was getting late. We found a little restaurant and ate a relaxing dinner of fish 'n' chips (local cod, so fresh, I almost slapped it!) Yum yum!

Then we headed back to Corner Brook, tired and satiated.  On the return trip, we saw a moose eating dinner in one of the bogs; we saw an eagle in flight; then we met this little guy. 
We slowed the car and pulled over. Mr Fox walked to our car and said (Yes, I'm sure I heard him): "Please sir! I want more!" 

So, I gave him the leftover pieces of fish to take home to his family as I'm sure they needed it much more than I did.