Follow The Rainbow Road

Saltspring Island is one of the most unique and beautiful places on Earth. Today on our morning ramble, we discovered a pathway of poppies glittering in the sun. Is there a better way to begin a day?
p.s. The Rainbow Road is where I’m staying;)
 

The Day After…

The Day After…

This feels like the day after…
The day after the smoke from B.C’s forest fires finally cleared Metro Vancouver. Crouching over the coast like an apocalpytic dragon for the past two weeks, the heat and smoke kept us hiding in our caves. This is the worst fire season since 1958 when 8,560 square km of forest burned; which means, ironically, that this might be “normal” and not a consequence of global warming (though it probably is). Almost 5,000 square km of forest have burned and continue to burn as 148 fires rage throughout the province.
 


But for the moment, where I stand, the smoke has cleared. White clouds dapple blue skies and I can breathe clean air. I can open my doors and windows, sit outside, and wander the forest and beach. And, for this, I am grateful.
 
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It also feels like the day after an illness dissipates that’s had you curled and crawling. Like the day after a really bad hangover or a rampaging flu. The day when you feel a sense of hope and everything is just that much sweeter and brighter and richer.
This is the first day in over a week that I’ve felt like myself. I’m still trying to sort out what happened. Was it the final purging of an overwrought nervous system taxed from travel? Fish poisoning from dodgy tuna at Montreal airport? Severe anxiety coupled with a sensitive sensory system? Or all of it combined? All I know is that I feel like I’ve been through an Initiation, like I’ve walked through burning coals and emerged on the other side.
The smoke in my brain is lifting. I can eat and sleep and my anxiety level is dropping. I feel calm and comforted.
And, for this, I am grateful.
 
 
 

Travelling with MCS

Travelling with MCS

This trip to Ireland has been challenging for me because I suffer with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). If you don’t know what that is, Dr. Campbell offers this page. At home, I can control my environment and stay balanced, but on the road every environment comes with hazards. The city is rife with toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke to perfume to diesel exhaust. While every B&B is a potential bomb of scented laundry detergent, fabric softener, perfumes or air fresheners. The symptoms lessen when I leave the area but are persistant; for example, I can taste perfume almost constantly now. I’ve experienced new symptoms over the last couple of weeks: tingling tongue, tremors, fatigue, insomnia, and brain fog. I now carry antihistamines which help with some symptoms and an epi-pen, just in case.
Sadly, this may be my last road trip.
Some folks have been amazingly kind and understanding, especially women who’ve reacted themselves to different chemicals. One woman rewashed all the sheets before I arrived in hot water with no soap. But, let’s face it, anyone accommodating guests has to wash their sheets with detergent and a business can’t afford to use “natural” unscented soaps. Some places that I’ve queried send their laundry out so have no control over what the commercial laundry uses. My daughter says that I should open a B&B for people with sensitivities and allergies.
All of this creates stress and anxiety. I power on, but the threat is always looming.

 What can you do in this situation?

Avoid. This is number one and also the biggest challenge. You never know what’s coming around the corner.
Spend as much time as possible outside in the fresh air. I’ve done lots of walking in the pastures and fields of rural Ireland. In Dublin, I had to reverse this process because the downtown core is loaded with smokers, diesel buses, and perfumes. Boys, your cologne and after shave is the worst! One family I met at Uisneach, who have lived in Ireland for thirteen years, moved to the country when their children were born because the particulate level is so high in Dublin.
Communicate. Phone ahead, explain the situation, ask if they use scented fabric softener, and warn your hosts. Airbnb was good enough to refund two nights accommodation when I had to leave because the scents made me sick. Sometimes I feel like a whiner, but health is your priority. If you suffer in silence you will only get worse. Ask if you can see (smell) the room, and if it’s scented, walk away.
Hotels might be slightly better than B&Bs but not always. We checked into a hotel in Waterford because we were unable to find any other accommodation, went to the room, and had to leave within the hour. We both reacted to the old carpets, dust, and smoke in the hallways. That was our worst day yet. We drove another two hours and tried three other B&Bs before we found one that was suitable in another town. Even then we had to make some adjustments.
Air out the room as soon as you can and leave the windows open at night. A couple of places I slept in socks, slippers, pjs, sweaters, and wrapped in blankets, but the country air was fresh. At one location, we were able to find another duvet that had not been freshly washed in fabric softener. Cover the pillow with your clothes, then remember to wash your clothes and hang them out in the fresh air; otherwise, you’ll be packing the scent with you.
Be an advocate. I think that people with MCS have to talk about it. The truth is: these chemicals hurt everyone. People with MCS are just the canaries.
Try and stay balanced. This is difficult at times. I’m also food sensitive (gluten and dairy intolerant) so keeping myself fed is an ongoing challenge. Ireland is quite hip when it comes to food allergies. I saw this sign at the surf shack at Curracloe Beach.
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Some restaurants are excellent. One server said, “What would you like? I’ll make you up a plate.”
Another host, left us almond milk, butter substitute, gluten free bread, and fresh free range duck eggs; then brought us fresh zucchini and cucumbers from her greenhouse!
On the other hand, in one small town, after scouting three restaurants, the only thing we could find for supper was french fries and salad. Everything else was breaded, buttered, or cheesed. Tonight we were fortunate to find a Malaysian place in Kinsale (near Cork) and feasted on pad thai and curry!
Take vitamins, meditate, and sleep when you can.

The Outcome?

Despite all of this, I’ve undertaken loads of research, which is why I came here. I’ve learned much about myself and my subject. I’ve met wonderful folks and made new friends. And I still love Ireland, the landscape, the culture, and the people. If you’re planning a trip to this beautiful island, message me and I’ll recommend some people that will look after you.
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I Do Believe in Faeries

I Do Believe in Faeries

I do believe in Faeries. It’s true. And not just because I am named after Wendy Darling in Peter Pan. Or because I write urban fantasy. Faeries or Spirits or Angels (whatever you want to call them) exist beside and around and between us. They see and hear us, and sometimes answer our prayers.
This is a true story.
I arrived at my AirBnB late on Saturday after a full day. I’d driven from Jampa Ling in the north of Co Cavan, down to Uisneach (which is the naval of Ireland and close to Athlone). After touring the site with Marty, the amazing storyteller, I drove on to Navan and finally found my BnB (4+ hours of driving and it was only my second day driving on the left, seated on the right–a tad stressful).
The host was lovely and accommodating and the room looked lovely. But I suffer (and I mean suffer) from multiple chemical sensities/allergies and the house was awash with scented products. I lay in bed all night, taking Benadryl, terrified that I was going to need my epipen. I dozed off around five or six for maybe an hour. I mentioned the problem to him the next morning but there wasn’t much that could be done. The chemicals from scented laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and plug-in air fresheners cannot be magically removed. So, I went off to explore the Hill of Tara wondering what to do. I’d booked three nights there, you see.
Now, Tara is a magical place, the Seat of 142 High Kings of Ireland. The entrance to the Otherworld. The Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny brought to Eiru by the Tuatha de Danaan (the Sidhe) rests here. And beneath the Faerie mounds are carved Neolithic stones with ancient symbols.

I wandered the fields as long as I could feeling horrible. My tongue was swelled and tingling and the antihistamines weren’t alleviating it at all. I was frightened, to tell you the truth–anaphyalaxis is terrifying. It also creates brain fog, so I can’t think straight. This happened to me a few weeks ago and it took days to go away. I was afraid to go back to the BnB, yet I was supposed to stay there again that night and the next. I breathed in the wind and sun, hoping it would magically cleanse me. Tara is largely pasture lands and mounds, a dog-walkers dream, and it’s still run like a farm, so you can wander the grassy vales for hours.

At last, I saw a few people off in a far corner of a field. They were photographing a Faerie Tree.

I took the only scrap of fabric I had in my bag–which happened to be a dark red lens cleaner–and tied it to the branch asking with my all heart for the angels or the spirits of this sacred place to help me with my health…to please just help me feel well. And then I left.
On the way home, I passed a restaurant/motel called Tara House and thought… hmmmm. I turned the car around, went back and inquired about a room. They had a room, but it wasn’t quite right either. You have to understand that once my immune system goes berserk, I react to everything. What a “normal” person might smell as a two, I smell as a TWENTY! On top of all the chemicals, I am allergic to dust and mold. I told the woman what was happening and she said, “Ah you’re suffering. Have you tried Josey’s across the way?” “Where?” I said. “Show me.” And she did.
I left my car there and walked across the road. Josey was out in the driveway. She had a room for two nights. She took me upstairs and showed it to me. Suddenly, I felt like a princess in a faerie tale. She understood all about chemical sensitivity and said she’d cook me an Irish fry-up in the morning that was gluten and dairy free. Oh my! I almost cried. I told her that she was my angel.
I couldn’t believe it. And yet… Manifestation is rapid-fire magic!
I went back, packed up my things, and left a note to explain. And then I came back to Bothar Alainn

Today I am much better. The swelling’s gone down and I was able to explore Newgrange and Knowth…two other places made sacred by the faeries. So, remember, when you need them, the spirits really do come through. But you must believe.
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Eden Robinson and the Son of a Trickster

Eden Robinson and the Son of a Trickster

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Eden Robinson

I met Eden Robinson in August 2010, when I attended a gathering of educators in Kamloops, B.C. I was working in Aboriginal Education at the time, and the English First Peoples 10-12 courses were coming available in our province. We gathered to search for understanding, share experiences, and explore ways to promote the courses in our communities.

English First Peoples 10-12

These are wonderful courses that feature authentic First Peoples texts and Principals of LearningFirst Peoples Principles-of-Learning-page-001 to fulfil the required secondary language course requirements. This means that a student can choose to experience First Peoples words and cultures, rather than the usual standbys in the book room like Lord of the Flies and Shakespeare. In communities where there is a significant Indigenous population, Elders enhance the experience, and the curriculum can be personalized and flexed into any number of learning experiences.

Monkey Beach

Eden Robinson joined the circle of provincial educators and spoke about her experiences. Her novel, Monkey Beach, is a recommended text for English First Peoples 12. I haven’t read it for a few years. It’s time for a reread and a review. It’s always good to know exactly where the risky bits are located, so in the Teacher Resource Guide, you’ll find the following page-numbered cautions:

throughout – underage smoking, profanity, fighting and violence
specific:
52 – drug use, violence
65 – violence (fight)
93 – underage drinking
108 – recalling experiences in a residential school
127-128 – verbal abuse
144 – disturbing imagery (describing a death)
156 – fighting
157 – joyriding
204 – drug use
210-211 – adultery, murder
220-221 – mockery and stereotypes of voodoo and witchcraft 230 – use of an Ouija board in a joking manner
251-251 – use of racial slurs and verbal abuse
255 – reference to abuse occurring in residential schools
258 – rape scene
272 – sexual content, disturbing imagery
286 – sexual content
293 – disturbing description of dead body
296 – drinking and drug use
365 – disturbing reference to an abortion
368-69 – disturbing imagery
369 – violence (murder)

MonkeyBeachAs always, Eden Robinson takes risks and opens windows. What do I love about this woman? She tells the truth.
She’s real.
Her characters are real.
And her delivery is real.
She’s also charming, witty, funny, and an amazing storyteller.
And she signed my copy of Monkey Beach with this:
Yowtz Wendy. May good spirits guide you.
Thank you, Eden Robinson. They do. And may good spirits continue to guide you too.

Son of a Trickster

Eden’s latest novel, Son of a Trickster, was released this year. You can read my review online at the Ottawa Review of Books.
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Witches are…

Witches are…

Witchcraft has long been sensationalized and misunderstood.
This negative campaign reaches its pinnacle each Halloween with the image of the black-robed, black-pointy hat wearing crone. Old, ugly, evil. But…
Samhain is the witches’ new year. It is our time. A night the veils are thin between the worlds and the mind ripe for reflection.

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Witches are not EVIL. They LIVE…deep.
Witches are:
Sometimes silent; sometimes not.
Often apolitical, until pushed. Fierce proponents of social justice.
Reverent of Nature. Celebrate her, cry for her and fight for her; understanding that without her, we are nothing. Witches sing and dance for joy, appreciate her bounty and her beauty, and raise power in her divine goodness.
Observant. Revelling in the revolving wheel of the seasons.
Realistic. Accepting the certainty of death and rebirth; acknowledging the elements and appreciating their power.
Mindful. Witches meditate, craft, and heal. And seek to do no harm.
Energy-workers. They know that energy is mutable, can be bent and shaped by vibration, by words. They understand the power of manifestation, and know that thoughts cast out, come back three strong.
Healers of body, mind, and spirit.
Enamoured by numbers, symbols, myth and story.
Truth-Seekers. Casting ancestral memories back through time, they search their mother’s remedies for simpler, less invasive ways to heal and to live well.
Nurturers. Witches grow clean simple food, work with animals, herbs, and stones.
Creators of art, music…children. And so, envision a better future.
Intuitive. Listen to their internal voices and trust their feelings.
Strong and loving. Witches are not just women and not just men, but creatures whose sexual identities shift and shimmer in the changing winds.
Hopeful. Finding strength in each other, witches send hope into the world.