mountains.

“The mountains are calling, and I must go…”

~John Muir~

What a way to spend a day! I love the mountains

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~me with my baby sis on Yamnuska~

What is it about hiking in the mountains…? It just feels so good, even when it’s hard trekking uphill. I’m breathing hard, sweating hard, and have to take lots of little breaks along the way. In all honesty, the little moments when I pause to just breathe (read: catch my breath) and look around me might just be the best part.

I’ve never been athletic, and I’m not super fit, so I like going pretty slow and soaking in all the sights and sounds and smells of the mountains. Sometimes a brisk breeze refreshes me and keeps me cool, and then minutes later I’m between a rock face and some fir trees, feeling waves of heat wafting through the scented air.

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“Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.”

~John Muir~

One thing I notice when I’m hiking, especially on a mountain trail, is that I’m mindful of every step. I have to be; there are roots and stones and twists and turns all along the path. It’s the only way to stay vertical. And that’s a gift. Everyone’s heard of the health benefits of mindfulness, and taking a hike in the mountains is one of my favourite ways to enjoy a mindful walk.

I’m fairly sure that at least a part of my sense of euphoria while hiking comes from just being in the woods. Trees have been shown to emit a healing energy, as evidenced by the increasingly popular practice of forest-bathing. I realize the science is pretty compelling here, but with or without the proven metrics, I’m a believer.

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So blessed,

Leah

hiking.

See that little wee blip on the horizon? That’s the skyscrapers in downtown Calgary!

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We went for a gorgeous hike today, about an hour from home. It was pretty amazing to get this perspective on our city. This picture was taken from the road up to the Moose Mountain trailhead, where we’d planned to start a hike going up above the tree line. Alas, there were at least a couple feet of snow covering the trail, and we weren’t equipped with snowshoes, so we had to come up with a Plan B. I mean, I guess we could have forced our way through, but other hikers had tried this and ended up coming back down after a few minutes of wading through thigh-deep snow. No, thank you.

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Not far off, we found a lovely ‘walk-in-the-woods’ hike. There was almost no snow left on these trails, and it was so warm that we found this very spring-y butterfly perching prettily atop a pussy-willow tree next to our path. We hiked up and down hills in a peaceful pine forest, enjoying a little extra spring in our step, courtesy of the mossy, pine-needle carpeted trails.

The moral of the story is, a change of plans can be a wonderful thing. Serendipitous.

So blessed,

Leah

 

city parks.

“In merging nature and culture the most successful cities combine such universal needs as maintaining or restoring contact with the cycles of nature, with specific, local characteristics.”
― Sally A. Kitt Chappell, Chicago’s Urban Nature: A Guide to the City’s Architecture + Landscape

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This afternoon my love and I took our bikes out for a beautiful ride along the river… It wasn’t as warm outside on the cycling path as I’d optimistically hoped, so I stopped after a few minutes to put on my light sweater jacket. And zip it up. A bit breezy. But that’s ok; I’m still feeling celebratory about venturing outdoors without mittens, or even gloves.

We pedalled east, along with the flow of the beautiful blue-green Bow River… and it didn’t take us too long (maybe half an hour?) to arrive at our destination; Prince’s Island Park. It’s actually right downtown, and all the people were out enjoying the spring weather along with the two of us today. Well-spaced out. (Thanks, COVID-19.)

We saw Canada geese (some of our nation’s most unfriendly inhabitants), other cyclists, dogs (making us wish harder for one), and people in bikinis (seriously) and hammocks, walking, sitting, and lying on the grass. I had a sudden urge to feel my bare feet in the warm grass, which is starting to show signs of turning green. It felt SO good!

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Country living is a dreamy ideal, a memory from my childhood, but not realistic for me now. Clearly, I’m not alone; most people live in cities. I really appreciate city parks that give us beautiful and free access to nature, even in the middle of urban places.

So blessed,

Leah 

bicycles.

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”

~H.G.Wells~

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Freedom. Like being a kid again, just pedalling, going wherever I wish…

Somehow whenever I push off on a bike ride, I just feel a flood of happiness. That feeling of being able to go anywhere, on my own steam. It’s wonderful to me.

Judging by the number of people out riding bicycles on any given day with even half-decent weather, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one who feels this way. I suspect there are more of us cycling this spring because of COVID-19 keeping kids out of school, and lots of adults home from work.

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Honestly, that’s part of the beauty of a bicycle; this sweet  sense of independence. Without interpersonal contact (COVID), without a team, a gym, a schedule, or a ball, I can just get out and go for miles. I can go as fast or as slow as I like, start and stop as often as I want to, and it just feels so good.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” 

~Albert Einstein~

By the way, my bike was a birthday gift from my husband several years ago. It’s got to be one of the best presents of all time. How many happy hours has it given me? And I live in hope that it will help me build some muscles on my thighs one of these days. It’s got to- right?

So blessed,

Leah

this man of mine.

I love him. Can’t help it; he’s a lovable guy. His name is Kirby, and I’ve been married to him for almost 24 years…

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This is us out for our first bike ride of the season, yesterday. It was his birthday! After he finished his work (at home, thank you COVID-19) we couldn’t wait to get out and cycle for a while in the warm spring sunshine. It was the warmest day of the year so far; so nice for his special day. I say that with a wee tinge of jealousy; on my birthday, just a couple weeks ago, the temperature ranged between about -4 and +5 degrees celsius. But my jealousy is the nice kind; I wouldn’t have the weather on his birthday be any worse. I just wouldn’t have complained if mine had felt a bit more like spring.

So back to our bike ride. Kirby suggested that I ride ahead of him, since I am not especially athletic, and therefore a slow rider. He was nice enough to not put it quite like that when he offered to keep behind me. Being considerate enough to cycle at my pace is a little thing that says a lot about the kind of guy he is.

He also has a great sense of humour; this is one of the first things that attracted me to him back in the day. He’s a talented and innovative teacher, and has a way of connecting really well with older kids and teens that seems like an inborn superpower to me. (I specialize in babies and very small children.) Kirby also has a knack for technology. This is something else I really appreciate; he just laughs when I say that the printer and the remote controls etc behave better when he comes in to help me with them, but I know in my heart that it’s true.

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Again, it’s my intention to make my blessings blog posts as relatable as possible. I do realize I’m the only person who has this strong and sweet husband, but so many of us have people in our lives who love us and are always there- for better or for worse. It’s sometimes easy to get used to these loved ones; almost a form of hedonic adaptation… I’m writing to remind myself, and my dear readers, how good we really have it.

So blessed,

Leah 

sunshine for my soul.

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I’ve never been one to go to a gym. Never in my life, ever, have I driven to a gym and paid for a membership, or even a one-time use. This is not only because I’m not especially athletic or co-ordinated. There are other reasons; mainly that I couldn’t be bothered, to be honest.

But then, last summer, we moved to a condo with a nice gym (including a salt-water pool, hot tub, and steam rooms) downstairs. At first we felt sometimes like we lived in a hotel. And when we stay in a hotel, we generally find we can work up the motivation to make our way down to enjoy the facilities. So, naturally, we signed up for gym memberships. And it’s been great. All through the long, dark, cold winter (we live in Alberta, Canada- not commonly celebrated for balmy temperatures) we’ve exercised. More than ever before.

Now, of course, the gym is closed, like most other things. Thank you, COVID-19.

Thankfully, it’s spring. Our version of spring involves a lot of snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures, but I’ll take what I can get. The sun shines longer and longer every day. And sometimes, like today, the temperatures are above freezing, and the snow and ice are melting. There’s mud!

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And I’m so grateful that the beautiful Bow River is just outside. I can decide to look past the thick (gradually melting) ice on the riverbanks, and notice instead the gorgeous glacial colour of the water.

I took these photos just before writing this little post for you, and I’m aware that not everyone has lots of nature right outside their door. While I want to be real and specific about the blessings I appreciate from day to day in my real life, I don’t ever want anyone to feel sad if you don’t have the same good things to cheer your hearts as well. This really matters to me. So that’s why I titled this, ‘sunshine for my soul’. Because whoever you are, and wherever you live, the sun is always up there above us in the sky. Even when there are clouds in the way, and we can’t really see it shining in a blue sky, it’s there. That’s how we can see anything at all.

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Yesterday I wore fuzzy mittens on my walk, and today my hands were bare. Tomorrow, there is snow in the forecast yet again. But, look- see the sun on the water? It was there today, and I felt it bright on my face, and warm on my hands.

So blessed,

Leah 

yoga with adriene.

I’ve never met her, but I think I love this wonderful human. She’s an incredible yoga teacher, and makes her high-quality lessons available for free on the internet. Plus she has a quirky personality, which makes trying to follow her moves fun, even when I can’t always do what she does.

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I found her classes a couple years ago, when I was searching YouTube for good exercise videos. As lovely as it is to go to an in-person class, it’s not always feasible for me. And I don’t feel like I’m ‘settling’ for what Adriene offers. I can honestly say I enjoy my yoga practice more with her than with anyone else I’ve found online, including paid sites.

In a perfect world, I would always have my incredible sister, Sara, here with me as my personal yoga instructor. I like how she really helps and coaches me individually through the poses. She’s so comforting and I feel extra reassured knowing I’m practicing under her watchful eye and nurturing hands. But in the real world, she lives hundreds of kilometres away form me, so this is a rare treat.

I wish I could say I always make the time, every day, for this soul-feeding exercise. But in real life, I don’t. Sometimes I enjoy soaking in the idea of yoga as much as the actual process of moving onto the mat. One of my sweet sisters gave me a beautiful yoga magazine/book for my birthday. Yesterday, I’m happy to say I took time to lie on the couch and page through it, feeling inspired by the beautiful images of calm, mindfulness, and healthy beauty.

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Yoga in a time of COVID19 is especially valuable, because it hits a lot of life’s current pressure points:

  • physical-distancing-friendly indoor exercise
  • free- no cost
  • mindfulness-enhancing
  • no equipment needed (though a mat is helpful)
  • calm, cheerful instructor
  • can be enjoyed alone, or with others

I know I’m not the only one who’s more or less home all the time these days. If any of you are interested, here’s where you can find this upbeat and comforting resource…

Yoga With Adriene (her website)

Yoga With Adriene (her videos on YouTube)

Thankfully, this pandemic didn’t hit us 25 years ago, before the internet.

So blessed,

Leah