It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.
A few days ago, with the temperature soaring in the high twenties, I stopped by the Canadian Tulip Festival at Dow’s Lake for a few hours with a good friend.
I’ve lived in and around Ottawa (Canada’s capital city) for more than 30 years and I’ve always eagerly awaited this vibrant festival and the wide swaths of colour that adorn the city for weeks while the 1 million tulips are in bloom.
2017 is the 65th anniversary of the festival — one of the largest events of its kind in the world — and this year it coincides with Canada’s 150th birthday. The festival celebrates Ottawa’s official flower as a symbol of international friendship and peace.
As well as tulip displays, the festival also includes music performances, speakers and exhibits of international cuisine as well as fireworks.
In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa to thank Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War. The festival started as a way to showcase this wonderful gift.
The tulips — over 300,000 of them planted by the lake alone — were incredibly diverse in colour and appearance, so much so that some did not even look like tulips. A special feature this year is the Canada 150 tulip bred to look like the Canadian flag.
The people out enjoying the tulip displays were enthusiastic, light-hearted and equally diverse. As well as Ottawans, more than a half a million visitors are drawn to the festival every year. Almost everyone was snapping pictures of the tulips and having their pictures taken among the tulips. It was a joy to behold.
I live in a little town called Almonte, Ontario. I moved here six years ago, from Canada’s capital, Ottawa, but I’ve never really lived here. Why? Because for these last several years we’ve always been away for the winter and spring, down south on our sailboat, Windsong II, which I adored, and which we have now sold.
You may have seen a few of my pictures and posts (smile) of our adventures crossing to the Bahamas from Florida and enjoying an active, exciting and relaxing life on the water. I feel so alive when I am always outside, feeling the warm sun and wind on my skin. I hate the expression “living the dream,” but it kinda was…
I make no secret of the fact that I am NOT a winter person. I do not enjoy being cold and I’m not really into outdoor sports. I used to skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, but after a nasty experience with an icy bump and a broken elbow and another with bruised knees my enthusiasm for skating came to an end.
When we decided to spend this winter in Almonte, I wondered how I might survive this period. Then I stopped thinking about it. Christmas was coming and there was much to be done and lots to occupy my thoughts. The grandkids were back from the North and this was the first Christmas we would get to spend with them in a good while. Then my family arrived to spend a few delicious days.
When my sister and I get together, we always try to get out together and do some photography. This time it was friggin’ cold! And there was an Alberta Clipper that arrived on December 31. We decided to go out anyway to see what we could see. We started by checking out the Almonte Falls, which were coated in ice. Then we drove around the back roads to see what this picturesque area looks like under a blanket of white snow. We came upon the Auld Kirk, a church established in 1836. It’s a beautiful stone building that I have photographed at other times of the year. But in a snowstorm it was magical.
My sister says that my time in the south has softened me up for winter. (I think I was always pretty soft.) I admit I wore the wrong gloves and was cursing my frozen fingers the whole time. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting out there with my camera, so much so that I went out again a few days later when it was a bit warmer.
So what inspired this change of attitude? A realization that has been dawning lately that opening to life means opening to what we don’t like and what we resist as much as what we do like.
As Jack Kornfield says:
True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things. Equanimity embraces the loved and the unloved, the agreeable and the disagreeable, the pleasure and pain. It eliminates clinging and aversion.
I’m not saying this is easy, just that it feels necessary.
Also, I’ve been deeply influenced by John O’Donohue, so these words of his rang true:
At the heart of things is a secret law of balance and when our approach is respectful, sensitive and worthy, gifts of healing, challenge and creativity open to us. A gracious approach is the key that unlocks the treasure of encounter… A reverence of approach awakens depth and enables us to be truly present where we are. When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty of things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and the arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace. Beauty is mysterious, a slow presence who waits for the ready, expectant heart.
Maybe if I walk on the earth with greater reverence, including in winter — being truly present to where I am — the concealed beauty of things will be revealed to me. I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out…
From A Radiant Inventory by Christopher Dewdney
In loving memory of Donald Gordon (1930 – 2016)