Like the spider…

Yesterday the day got away from me. It started with a run to the post office, then downtown, a few café stops. It also included a chance meeting with somebody whom I had not seen in years. He is special in my life. I was sitting by the lake taking a break from life, watching the ducks on the lake, and then I hear this distinct voice. I got up and walked towards the voice. I would not have recognized him without the voice. He would not have recognized me. Period. In the years past we have both changed, gotten older mostly. His expressions have gotten softer, and his rheumatism gotten worse. We talked about his wife and our families, we are family friends. We chatted for about ten minutes before I had to go.

After so many years this chance meeting was bound to happen. We live in the same neighborhood. It was bound to happen. Finally it did. The joy of such a chance meeting is always double. First there is fact that one finally gets to see somebody who is important in your life but for a multitude of reasons you have been out of touch. Second there is the joy and sobering experience of catching up with what has happened in the last few years since you lost touch. It makes me think that it is not all that bad when you loose touch with people you esteem. When you meet again, the joy is immense. 

Still my day was far from being over. I dropped by at the dojo as there is seminar going on this weekend. I am not yet back up to being on the tatami, but I did try it briefly yesterday and it seems that it is still all there. At least I can still roll on both sides without killing my ailing shoulders. After the seminar I joined my Aikido colleagues for dinner and had interesting chats with Sensei Chris Mooney and Sensei Barbara Imboden and most of those around the table.

With Sensei Chris we ended up on the subject of writing, and I thought that somehow the most sound advice on being a writer is the one that Bukowski has penned. I particularly like the poem ‘how to be a great writer’ vernacular language and all.  Now, how is it that a woman can read Bukowski? I find that behind his macho veneer, there is one sensitive and screaming human as frail as any other. I am not offended by his vernacular language or the sexist clichés, and there are lines in some of his poems that might set your head spinning. Advice is like food. You eat it, chew it, swallow it, digest it, and the parts that your metabolism does not keep, are expelled and rarely, if ever, does excrement smell like roses.

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Open Letter

It is an intense week, however I can safely make that claim on most weeks. This week is a bit different in that I have been busy with both family and work, neither of which I can live without. Last night I went up to my neighbour, a retired botanist who has given paleoecology (1) quite a lot of time and research attention, and she gave me a lecture on the Carbon-cycle; it was a much needed lecture. This latter preoccupation with climate change was prompted by a rather open discussion yesterday with a visiting law scholar involved in issues of climate change. Our discussions evidently pointed out to me that I was much too ignorant on the subject and that I ought to seek professional help so to say. In this case professional help meant asking all the dumb questions to somebody who actually has worked in climate change issues within disciplines that dovetail into my own knowledge bank. All I can say is that it is good to air out one’s own ignorance and talk openly about it; there is great value in asking all the dumb questions in the presence of an expert. When the expert is as knowledgeable and a talented teacher as is my neighbour, then I am in heaven!

However this morning I looked into my schedule and realized that there is no way that I will make it to the Aikido summer camp this month at the Gen Nei Kan as my schedule just cleared last week and that week of the summer camp – 18 to 24 of July – is already booked otherwise. I thought of writing Joël an open letter, however what is on my mind are two books that I am reading, one by Paul Feyerabend Against Method, and the other by Hugh G Gauch, Jr Scientific Method in Practice. It turns out that I easily get bothered by the use of the word scientific, especially when it is coming out of the mouth of sociologists, statisticians or lawyers. Of course reconciling Feyerabend and Gauch is not an easy task, however given the fact that at this point I am having a serious intellectual wrestling match with research methods, there is no way to avoid this. I do love action research!

(1)  The branch of ecology that deals with extinct and fossil plants and animals. (OED)

fremdgehen II

It has been a fantastic week. Fantastic with capital F, and with capital everything. Then there was today, one of those days that I got little accomplished of what I had wanted to get done. Still, today I went to the hairdresser, made some important calls, and…

But my research papers database crashed with the new update and all through the day I exchanged emails with support in trying to resurrect my database from the dead. I am a bit at a loss for some parts of my work without this database; the issue is not yet resolved, but both the software people and I have a good idea as to where to be looking for a solution, so I am not worried at this point although the whole thing did eat up most of the day. I also attended a seminar on intellectual property over lunch and that did me some good, or at least it reminded me of how much work there is to do in that area. Then as I was heading out of the office to go to the dojo to teach the pre-schoolers class, I bumped into a colleague and we had a wonderful exchange that somehow rounded the day. We talked about our kids and decisions, and had what was an emotional interaction. Just yesterday as I was reviewing a document and needed an authoritative reference on an item, at the library I bumped into him, and since that was an issue we had discussed previously I asked if he knew where I could look, he did, and it saved a whole lot of time for me.

We have this library where conversation is allowed. It is in the offices that conversation is not part of the etiquette, but we do have conference rooms. Even when we have phone calls, we go to the library to hold our calls. I like this system, phones are time killers, like email is a time killer, and one does need to deal with these killers in a rather loving and efficient way. Did i mention email? Forget the zero inbox principle. For me, it just does not work, but I am a fan of turning on flags, archiving, and turning off all the bells and whistles. I get bored with smart boxes and other systems and explaining my system, that too bores me.

However it was the kids at the dojo that somehow brought what has been a fantastic week to a brilliant finish. When I started teaching Aikido for pre-schoolers all that I knew was that this was a huge challenge for me. Somehow something about that challenge was too great for me to let it pass. Right now I am starting to suspect that I get more out it than anybody else, but judging by how the kids are doing and how they are developing, it looks like there is something wonderful happening on the tatami with these kids. It could also be that I am compensating for my unfulfilled desire to have had more children, and that somehow these five kids are giving me that gift. Today one of them had a gift for me. She could hardly wait to give it to me and her whole face and demeanor was pure excitement. After I had changed into my training gi and was still tying my belt, she comes to me with her hands behind her back and asks me which hand I want. Precious! She had painted a mug and was giving it to me as a gift. I asked to what I owed such honour, and she said it was because I teach them Aikido. It was a group gift, but she had been the one doing the art work. Precious was the expression on her face! Such joy!

With the Aikido kids I am learning a lot about leadership… but that is one long story. I am learning and I am teaching about leadership, and along the way they are picking up something about respect, contact, courtesy and how to fall to the floor without hurting oneself. They learn to move like elephants and to be light like the wind…