Journal

Happy Winter Solstice

You probably already know that today is the winter solstice and to most people, that means very little. Yes, it does symbolize the beginning of winter, and it is the longest night and shortest day of the year. But as a holiday, it gets lost in the madness of Christmas. While people are driving themselves crazy trying to think of what to buy for someone they know nothing about, this hugely symbolic and richly traditional day will come and go, and most people will never observe it. Solstice is a celebration that includes Eastern philosophy, pagan theology, and new age practices. To my husband and I, the winter solstice is our celebration. We decided to forego the Christian upbringing we had as children and celebrate a general appreciation for the planet.

While the thought that winter is now upon us may cast an image of darkness in the mind, I like to think of it in a positive way. Starting tomorrow, the days will slowly become longer and longer. The sun will flirt with the earth, waking up earlier in the morning and lingering for a few extra moments before it bids the day goodnight.

The key is to keep warm, nourish your soul and feed your spirit with all of the love that you have in your life. Be more mindful, relax and practice patience, and remember that after this beautiful, darker time of the year, spring is just around the corner. But for right now, be present and enjoy the time that winter allows for us to go deep inside, heal and take care of ourselves. Nature naturally provides us with warming foods for the wintertime, foods such as root vegetables. These winter foods help balance out the season, store energy, and strengthen one self. Cooking long and slow meals, like hearty soups and stews can also help seal in warm energy, comfort, and heal yourself.

The earth has spent more time orbiting the sun than all the religions, all superstitions, all of humanity, and even of all life itself. The actual meaning of Winter Solstice is that it signifies the shortest day during the winter, and the lowest point of the sun. As of today, each day grows longer until June 21st. The actual word ‘solstice’ translates to “sun stands still” since during each year’s two solstices (winter and summer) the sun appears to halt in its gradual journey across the sky. Many cultures around the world recognize the Winter Solstice as a rebirth of the sun. Traditionally, people would participate in some sort of nature ceremony to give thanks for the abundance of the summer and fall seasons, as well as celebrate the sun’s return.

Since this day is about celebration, rebirth, and nourishing yourself, I hope you take the time to go within and celebrate your kind journey. Almost any kind of nature based celebration is a great way to honour the return of the light. Take a little hike in the woods or walk along the beach, join a yoga class or take a special bath.

Do you have anything planned in celebration of the solstice? What does it mean to you? What winter dishes do you love?

I love trail running...Scratch that….I breathe trail running.

 Mount Wells

Mount Wells

I could never fully explain what type of perfection I feel when I run hard through the forest. When my feet pound the living earth...when I push so deep I think I’m gonna choke.

I love trail running in the woods.  It is quiet in the woods. I love the sounds of the birds and the leaves rustling against each other. I love the smell of the trees and the earth...fresh mud after a rainfall, pine needles. I love the sunlight peeking through the leaves as your feet softly hit the gently packed soil. Dirt, the more I feel it when I sink my shoes in to it the more awake I become..the farther I run...the more it hurts and I welcome it. 

 Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

Trail running is my therapy, it's my release. I am healed by the rush of endorphins, fresh air and the feeling of being lost and away from it all. I love coming around the corner on a trail only to discover a surprising view. I love trail running because it requires intense focus, you have to pay attention or a root might suddenly leave you with your nose in the dirt.

When you take on a trail run, you know from the start that you will run slower than you do on the road. Navigating the trail simply slows you down. This knowledge equals freedom from pressure. On trail runs, I still track my mileage because I like knowing how far I’ve gone but I don’t pay attention to my pace. I have a hard time doing this when I’m running on roads, but the trail gives me freedom.

Trail running has helped me to become more adventurous and to set more goals. I want to run up mountains and run longer distances and to see new places. I am lucky to be able to share my love of trail running with my best friend. We can run together in  complete silence or talk the entire time even while pushing up big hills and it is fun either way.

If you’re a fan of Pacific North West trails like I am, I don’t need to preach to the converted about the joys of getting outside. There are many reasons, but most notably is that it can open up a whole new world to you, as it did for me. More so than hiking, trail running can get you to new trails and summits you’ve never seen. On Vancouver Island and beyond.

 John Dean Provincial Park

John Dean Provincial Park

I used to love hiking until I found trail running. Now I find hiking slow and cumbersome. Don’t take that as a slag to hiking. But it actually annoys me to go so slow and for it to take, say, five hours to finish a hike I can run in about two instead. And that’s not to say I’m able to run the entire stretch of trail, or I don’t stop and take in the views along the way. At the end of the day, what drew me to hiking is what draws me to trail running, the nature, the cool forest breeze, scrambling over rocks and tree roots, getting dirty, and feeling exhausted at the end of it. Trail running gives us all these things, but just allows us to cover more distance in a shorter time, and while carrying less gear.

On Vancouver Island we are blessed with access to some of the most incredible terrain you can wish for, hiking, walking, mountain biking, or running – its a shame to not explore it. We have it all, from super technical to nice and easy. From climbing 1,000m summits to running at sea level, it’s there, calling you. And for me at least, the best way to see it all is with my legs, running as much as possible.

 Jocelyn Hill, Gowlland Tod

Jocelyn Hill, Gowlland Tod

Clayoquot Sound: A kayak Trip To Remember

Clayoquot Sound
Clayoquot Sound is a place of wonder, one whose beauty takes the breath away. It fills you with a sense of our sacred responsibility as stewards of this very special place.
— Jean Chrétien

Clayoquot Sound is located in British Columbia on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The region, unceded traditional territory and home of Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, is world-renowned for its ancient rainforests, giant cedars, wild salmon, timber wolves, black bears, and whales. Many valleys in Clayoquot Sound remain unlogged only because of committed activism. During the 1980s a blockade kept the loggers off Meares Island until First Nations obtained a court injunction and declared the island a Tribal Park. In 1993, the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience in Canadian history thwarted plans by the BC government to log two-thirds of Clayoquot Sound and in January 2000, Clayoquot Sound was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Today mining proposals, salmon farms, and oil tankers threaten Clayoquot Sound. These corporations offer short-term economic benefits with the price of long-term social and environmental impacts. Instead of industrial development, Clayoquot Sound needs to develop a sustainable culture that allows ecosystems to flourish alongside healthy human communities.

Nuu-chah-nulth have been saying all along: ‘hishuk ish tsawalk – everything is one.'

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Black Bear
Sea Otter
Kayaking Clayoquot Sound

My husband and I spent some time in Tofino this July and were fortunate to have seen much of the wildlife that lives there (black bears, orcas, sea otters, eagles, starfish, and porpoises). We decided to do a five hour kayaking tour this time, exploring the beautiful islands of Clayoquot Sound surrounding Tofino. The sun warmed the back of my neck as I trailed my hand in the clear water, watching the ripples it caused. We stopped paddling and let the kayak glide smoothly through the waters of Clayoquot SoundWe had paused for reflection in one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Mountains and islands rose up in every direction, floating on the haze that covered the sea in the middle distance. Bull kelp floated up from the sea bed and when we looked carefully, we could see kelp crab hiding amongst the kelp leaves.

In the distance, a seal bobbed his head eyeing us curiously and slipping into the water as we paddled too close. Gulls stood in groups on the rocks, silhouetted by the sun, and then commenced flight, skimming low over the water at high speed, so gracefully. I closed my eyes and listened to the lapping of the water while the kayak rocked gently from side to side. An overwhelming sense of peace came with the stillness of that July afternoon. Such moments in life are rare and the memory of that afternoon will stay with me forever. 

Ho Ho Hum...Why I Really, Really Don't Like Christmas

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Besides the fact that I am a humanist and an atheist and that I find the omnipresent, in-your-face, tacky trappings of this time of year insulting to my senses and to my mind. Traditionally Christmas is a Christian holiday and I don't believe in any form of religion. I don’t believe that Jesus existed, and I don’t regard him as having been anyone special. There are a few big reasons why I really, really don’t like Christmas. Here they are:

It’s about caring and sharing and family and peace and goodwill…once a year. Why not prolong this charitable attitude throughout the year? (And even then, as much as people try, they’re never really as festive as they imagine they are around Christmas time.)

Even the most enthusiastic person cannot disagree that Christmas has become a consumerist feeding frenzy. It’s all about the money. All retail stores have to do is to drop a little discount or a shiny new gadget into the water as bait. You certainly don’t see adverts reminding us that it is, after all, the thought that matters.

Christmas really does bring about the worst in people. Jingle-bellers in shops wrestling over things they wanted to buy as gifts for someone else…which really defeats the whole purpose of giving gifts and the whole spirit of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. Not to mention the sulkiness caused by disappointing gifts, the drunken slobbery of the office parties that get out of hand and the skirmishes between clans that only see each other on the Yuletide.

This is the worst thing about Christmas: It makes people feel bad. Even in the midst of a large celebration, people often become depressed. Not all of us have large loving families, not all of us have that special someone in our lives, and not all of us can afford to lavish gifts and food on the people we do love. Christmas makes people miss the things they don’t have, instead of celebrating the things they do.

And what about the mass waste produced during Christmas, discarded gift-wrapping, wasted food, unwanted gifts, redundant cards, and all the packaging that comes with them. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of power needed to keep Christmas lights burning through the night.

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Christmas rituals subject children to a great deal of silly mumbo-jumbo: People hang ornaments on a tree and wait for a fat white man in a red suit to come slidding down the chimney to drop off presents. He is transported to every house in the world by a team of flying reindeer with admirable bowel-control on one single night. Hopefully, once he gets down, he will not upset the nativity scene displayed on the sock-draped mantelpiece. There is nothing about any of this that is even biblically correct. Most adults know this, and go with it for ‘the sake of the children’. And we expect kids to swallow this, while for the rest of the year, their teachers are trying to get them to think critically. It’s creepy having an obese Coca-Cola inspired elf-man end up in your house somehow, especially if you don’t have a chimney. It’s traumatising to many children when they are made to sit on a strange man’s knee and asked to whisper what they want into his fake beard. It’s all a little disturbing, really. I wish people would do their kids a real favour and stop filling their heads with nonsense. Just because they’re young, doesn’t mean they’re stupid. But perhaps people realize that this is a slippery slope, and once they begin talking about what it really all means, they will end up with nothing.

I hate forced fun. Come Christmas time everyone wants to insist that everyone else has a great time. And if you’re too cranky, you need to eat more, and drink more and be merry more. As if by faking it for long enough, you’ll make it real.

I will not, because it isn't real.

Happy Winter Solstice

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Today is officially the shortest day of the year. While that thought may cast an image of darkness in the mind, I like to think of it in a positive way. Starting tomorrow, the days will slowly become longer and longer. The sun will flirt with the earth, waking up earlier in the morning and lingering for a few extra moments before it bids the day goodnight. Winter is upon us, but we know that spring is just around the corner, waiting to warm our skin again. Here’s some inspiration for the winter months you may find useful.

Stretch

When you wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to let your mind and body adjust to being awake before you get out of bed. while breathing deeply, consciously stretch every muscle in your body, starting with your toes and working your way up until you reach the muscles in your face. First stretch yourself out, then begin your day.

Eat Breakfast

This may seem like a given, but oftentimes we’re so rushed in the morning that we don’t get a chance to enjoy a full meal before beginning our day. After fasting for hours while we sleep, our bodies need plenty of nutrients in order to operate at their maximum potential. If you need too, wake up just a little bit earlier, fix yourself a healthy breakfast, and enjoy every bite of it.

Drink Water

Water is crucial for proper functioning of organs in our bodies, which are naturally made of 60% water. Dehydration is a big contributor to feeling fatigued, so make sure you're getting enough water every day.

Laugh

Laughter is the best medicine, it may sound simple but it's so true. Laughter stimulates endorphins much like exercise. Take some time to watch your favourite show or comedy films and let yourself laugh out loud, It's the easiest and most effective way to make yourself feel better.

Aromatherapy

The benefits of aromatherapy are endless and provide you with energy. Exposing your nose to scents like lavender, eucalyptus or vanilla will awaken your senses and keep you alert.

Exercise

Getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat is a sure way to raise serotonin and endorphin levels, this will be especially beneficial if you do it in the morning. 

The Warmth of Colour

Wear and surround yourself with warm colours. Yellow, orange, and red can stimulate your mood greatly.

It’s OK not to vote

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Before I start, though, I should make clear that I love voting. For as long as I could vote I’ve been a self-proclaimed “Political Junkie”. Voting is a big deal for me in my house and I have always looked forward to election time and exercising my “democratic right”. But not voting is as much a democratic right as voting. So it would be wrong to punish people for not casting a ballot in federal, provincial or municipal elections.

Many people who choose not to vote may be attempting to show their discontent with politicians and politics in general, but most are simply apathetic. But what drives their apathy? Is it their fault they don't care enough to go to a polling station or is there something about our politicians and politics that has caused them to tune out?

As voter turnout in recent elections slips to 50% more and more of the hand-wringing, eat-your-peas, poke-noses who dominate our public debates have called for a mandatory voting law, along the lines of the one in Australia, where non-voters are fined and turnout is often over 90%. But why do we automatically assume the problem is with those who chose not to vote, rather than with those who have failed to inspire them to vote?

There’s something that kind of bugs me about the way people criticize those who don’t vote. It feels very sanctimonious, similar to the way some people lecture you to eat healthy, exercise or breastfeed. Democracy is great and voting is a key component of any free society. But people also have a right not to vote and, indeed, I think not voting is a perfectly defensible choice. Here are three reasons why.

1. Voting is irrational. People keep saying that “every vote counts” but the honest truth is that your single vote will almost certainly not make a difference. Even the closest of races are not decided by a single vote. For every voter out there, the outcome in their riding would be identical whether they bothered to vote or not. Voting is something that requires a non-trivial investment of time and effort for which you get no obvious pay off. Of course, if a thousand or a million people thought that way, their decision not to vote would make a difference. But that doesn’t make any one vote more significant, or the decision of any one voter not to bother voting any less rational. The real question is not why so many people don’t vote but why so many people do. The best argument I’ve heard is that we vote not to change the outcome of an election but because it makes us feel good or signals to others that we are smart, engaged citizens. This is why some efforts to make voting easier with mail-in or online voting have actually decreased voter turnout: when no one can see us voting, it’s not so attractive.

2. The major parties aren’t that different. For example, While the New Democrat Party (NDP) and the BC Liberal Party did their best to convince voters that the May 14 Provincial election was a choice between a socialist dystopia and a heartless right-wing regime, the fact is that by any reasonable standard the two parties’ policies just aren’t that different. One way to frame this argument is: “Why bother choosing between the lesser of two evils?” Most Canadians agree on most things and, as a result, neither party was offering a radical platform that would change things that much. Both parties support public health care and public education. Both parties were planning to slightly increase taxes on those earning more than $150,000. And their philosophy on corporate tax rates differed by a single percentage point. Sure, there were some issues on which the parties disagreed, like resource development. But even here the differences weren’t as big as some people made them out to be (both parties support natural gas extraction; neither one seemed likely to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline). For some voters, of course, there were issues they care deeply about on which the parties indeed differ. But most citizens could, quite reasonably, say they’d be fine if either party got in.

3. Low voter turnout may be a signal of contentment. The conventional wisdom of why voter turnout has been dropping for decades is that people are becoming disengaged from the political process and turned off by politics. But there’s an equally likely explanation: people are pretty happy and agree with each other. The highest turnout in recent memory in Canada occurred in 1995, when 93% of Quebecers turned out to vote in that province’s sovereignty referendum. The stakes in that election were huge. Half the voters wanted to create a new country.

A common argument you hear is that if you don’t vote on Election Day, you don’t have a right to complain for the next four years. I don’t actually buy this argument as it presumes that your one vote would make a difference which, as we’ve established, it won’t.  So I say non-voters still have free reign to bitch and moan as much as voters do. The no-complaint point is also, I think, a profoundly weird argument for voting. Are we really saying people should vote not to choose their own government or be politically engaged but so they can whine for four years without guilt?

While I think it’s OK if someone chooses not to vote, I also think we should do everything we can to boost voter turnout. We should want our government to reflect the will of the people. I think projects like the mock Student Vote are a great idea. And it’s worth thinking about whether switching to a different style of voting, like proportional representation, might encourage more people to take part.

But people who choose not to vote aren’t bad people. They’re not undermining democracy. And they shouldn’t be ashamed of themselves. The right to vote includes the right not to vote. And we need to respect that.

In my opinion it would be wrong to bribe or threaten citizens to cast ballots.

My name is Genevieve, and I’m a Starbucks addict.

They say that the first step is admitting that you have a problem, so here goes.

My name is Genevieve, and I’m a Starbucks addict.

I wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I would roll my eyes at people who would patiently stand in line multiple times a day to order drinks with names like “Grande No-Whip Java Chip Frappuccino” (that’s basically coffee, some ice and a bag of cookies thrown into a blender).

I’m not that bad; my standing order is a Tall Vanilla Soy Latte.

But, it’s no secret that I love Starbucks. Having a bad day? Go to Starbucks. Coffee addict? Go to Starbucks. It’s 2pm? Go to Starbucks. I go there so frequently I have a gold card.

But if you plan on downloading the pay by phone Starbucks app you better check in to your local SA (Starbucks Anonymous) immediately.

There are a handful of signs below that prove you are an addict.

  1. The Barista knows your drink.
  2. You bring your laptop to Starbucks and pretend you actually have work to do.
  3. You'll wait in a 20 minute line to order a tall drip.
  4. The Barista knows your name.
  5. You downloaded an app specifically to make your Starbucks experience more personal.
  6. You know every Starbucks location within a 20 mile radius of your home.
  7. You visit multiple Starbucks during the week for no other reason, but to switch it up.
  8. You tweet about your Starbucks addiction.
  9. Your Instagram feed contains multiple pictures of a Starbucks coffee and your feet.

It’s a problem, but I’m not interested in disassociating myself just yet.

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Modern Nepotism

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The essential ingredient of politics is timing
— Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Dynasties based on ruling families are best left behind in the past with kings, emperors and pharaohs. It is a sad comment on North American democracies that people are judged based more on how famous they are, rather than the policies they stand behind. It makes us look superficial. 

I believe it is time for a young Prime Minister who can reach out and give the youth of Canada some hope when they have such a bleak future ahead them. It will be young ideas that will change the face of Canada for the better. 

Justin Trudeau has announced his bid for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, the same one his legendary father led. So for the mainstream media, this is the political story not only of the day but maybe the year. He’ll probably win the nomination. The Liberals losing with him is one thing, but losing without him would make them, the party that turned their back on a Trudeau, and that would be the sole reason given for the loss, no matter what actually happened. If he becomes the leader, expect stories on the rebirth of the Liberal Party and how they’re galvanizing the youth.

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Yes, at 40, Trudeau would be young for a major federal party leader. But he knows how to use the Internet, beat a conservative senator in a boxing match and has a great head of hair. Take a look beyond him, though, and you get a Liberal Party that is as old-school as they come. The New Democratic Party has by far more young Members of Parliament and young organizers and volunteers. These liberals are the same people who pulled for Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion.

The media will eat it up as they never got over “Canada’s Natural Governing Party.” They will, though, mention constantly that Justin is not his father and bring up Pierre Elliott Trudeau every time they do. It’s true, he’s not his dad. But what’s more significant is that this is also not the 1970s. Canada is now a polarized nation. On one side we have Prime Minister Harper and his Conservatives who are moving us to the right in unprecedented ways and changing how we’re seen around the world, and how we treat people here at home. The polar opposite of this is not the Liberals clearly but it’s also not the NDP.  It is social movements like Occupy, now spreading its message across the country. If the Liberals want to be the party of youth and revolution, they’ll have to compete with the existing movements and those on the way. And they will lose.

Sure, Trudeau’s young looking, good looking and  sure the liberals can inject a bunch of money into making themselves appear hip, but they will never be able to capture the authenticity of real grassroots activism. People are more politically savvy now than they were just a couple of years ago. They now have a choice and a voice outside of the political establishment.  I doubt pitching someone who grew up in wealth and a highly political culture as a maverick will work anymore in Canada. Even President Obama has gone from Hope to Change. But the badly broken Liberals will look to the past while claiming they’re thinking of the future. They’ll try and re-popularize one of their old hits "Trudeaumania". The problem is that Justin has the Trudeau, but the mania has to come from the people.

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The new Liberal Party should focus on crafting policies that appeal to those in the social movements without trying to mimic their style and theatrics  while still thinking of the population as a whole, leaving the cult of personality stuff in the past and accept that the concept of politician-as-celebrity ended with Jack Layton. They need to focus on the substance of their policies and why they're better than Prime Minister Harper’s. If they don't we could be looking at Prime Minister Mulcair with the Conservative Party a very close second. 

Either way, the liberals will once again be left to pick up the pieces. They’ll have to admit that Trudeaumania died a long time ago and they just let some trust fund kid with limited political experience and a great head of hair lead their once grand party.


Geneviève