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Pathways To Parenting: Couples
Dreams Destiny or Determination: Your Career Choice
Career Quest: Career Planning As A Heroic Journey
Journal to the Self®
Good Goddess: Feminine Archetypes
Mad Women: What Are You Mad About?


Therapeutic Writing Network

Are You In Your Right Mind?

Posted by Joanne Martin
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on Wednesday, 13 February 2013
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Wheels Are Turning - CopyWhat is keeping you awake at night, or is waking you up in the wee hours of the morning? Do you toss and turn as you try to think your way through the questions, problems, or decisions that are weighing on your mind? Day after day, or should I say - night after night – you are getting increasingly exhausted; but you are no closer to a solution. Do you feel like you are losing your mind!? You’re not. You’re just using the wrong part of your brain.

Now, if you’re a scientist or other left-brain dominant individual, what I’m about to suggest may not make a lot of sense to you. It may not fit well with the way you see the world, or the way you operate in the world. Nevertheless, we know that you’re clever enough to understand that not everyone processes information or makes decisions in the same way. Oops! Did that sound condescending? Apologies! Because, of course, we right-brained folk know what that feels like; and it was not our intention.

“Left-brain? Right-brain?” If you’re a “leftie”, you are already saying, “Hogwash!” Because, of course, neuroscientists consider the “Left/Right Brain” dominance theory to be simplistic, at best, an exaggeration and a distortion of scientific fact. Nevertheless, these terms do provide a common - if metaphorical – short-hand understanding of mental processing styles and preferences. Naturally, every healthy individual uses both “hemispheres” of their brain but, according to the theory, each of us has a natural preference for one “side” or the other.

The left-side (L) of the brain is considered to be most adept at tasks that involve language, logic, numbers, reasoning, and analytical or critical thinking. The right side (R) of the brain is considered to be best at expressive and creative tasks including: recognizing faces, reading and expressing emotions, music, color, images, intuition, and creativity. These so-called “right brain” or “intuitive” methods may not work for you L-types. We get that! But that doesn’t mean they don’t work! Moreover, when we’re “stuck”, it’s often advisable – even for you - to get out of our preferred way of processing, and try something different. Indeed, that is how some of the most creative ideas are born!

So, whatever issue you’re wrestling with, if you’re lying awake at night, trying to “think” your way to a solution, stop! Try something different!   Try writing, drawing, painting, storytelling, myth, metaphor, or collage. For more information, read our blog at ; and for help getting into your “Right Mind”, contact C-Change. Let us take you on a voyage of self-discovery.

Joanne Martin is the Creator of the Therapeutic Writing Network, and Director of C-Change Counselling.   She has over 30 years’ experience in human resources and professional and career development in industry and higher education, and in personal growth and development as a counsellor, educator, trainer and facilitator.   Joanne now specializes in therapeutic and/or expressive writing and story-telling, offering a variety of fun, imaginative, and developmental writing workshops – both in person and online.

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Transforming Bad Habits Into Good Ones

Posted by Joanne Martin
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on Thursday, 04 October 2012
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Kicking Bad Habits“Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters” ~ Nathaniel Emmons 

You know that tingly feeling you get when you brush your teeth? And that nice, rich foam you get when you shampoo your hair? Well, it turns out that, for those products to work effectively, neither the tingle nor the foam is really necessary. In fact, the chemicals that create the tingle in toothpaste, and the foam in shampoo, were added to these products solely for marketing purposes! And then the marketing campaigns for those products were designed in such a way that we would crave the tingle, and crave the foam, and such that we would not be satisfied until we had experienced them! As a result, marketers were more successful in changing dental hygiene habits than dentists were, and consequently, were responsible for vastly improved dental health. Marketers know an awful lot about human behaviour. Specifically they know how habits are formed. And that’s what I learned recently, by reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It by Charles Duhigg .

Habits develop because the brain is always looking for ways to save effort. And they’re not all bad!   Without habits, our brains would be overwhelmed by the minutia of daily life. When routines become habits, our minds become more efficient. We don’t have to stop and think about whether to brush our teeth before or after our shower, or which shoe to put on first. We can divert that mental energy to more creative purposes.

The trouble is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits. That’s why it’s so hard to create exercise routines, for instance, or to change what we eat. If we’ve already developed a routine of sitting on the couch instead of running, or snacking every time we pass a donut box, those patterns are stuck in our heads.   The good news is that habits are not destiny. Once you take control, and create a new pattern, you can transform those bad habits into good ones. Going for a jog or ignoring the donuts can become just as automatic as any other habit. These behaviours are easier to control once we understanding the “habit loop”.

What is the “habit loop”? Every habit has three components:

1.  The Cue: This is a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use

2.  The Routine: What follows can be a physical, mental, or emotional routine.

3.  The Reward: The reward is what helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time the cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of craving emerges, which triggers the response. It’s those cravings that drive habits; and figuring out what creates the cravings is the secret to creating new habits. Use the same cues, and get the same reward, but shift the routines.

That’s how AA and other 12-step programs work. The meetings and sponsors form a structure that forces alcoholics to identify the cues and rewards for drinking; and they provide the same rewards as drinking. However, they create new routines. Instead of drinking, members relax and talk through their anxieties. The pay-offs are the same, but the behaviours have changed.

If it works for them, it can work for you! What habit would you like to transform? Start by being more conscious. (Journaling can help here!) Break your habit down into the various components of the “habit loop”:

1.  What are the cues or triggers that slip your brain into automatic?

2.  What are the physical, mental or emotional rewards you crave? Note that these “rewards” may include “escape” or diversion!

3.  What are the habitual routines you want to change? What routine can you substitute that will provide the same rewards?

Transforming a habit isn’t necessarily easy or quick; it isn’t always simple. But it is possible. And now we understand how.

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How’s Your Penmanship?

Posted by Joanne Martin
Joanne Martin
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on Tuesday, 04 September 2012
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I have always felt that September was much more like “New Year’s Day” than January 1st. Going back to school, I had a pile of brand new notebooks, all of their pages blank with potential. Pencils and crayons of all colours were sharpened to a fine point. I was ready and motivated to make my mark.   Of course, I had a brand new eraser too, should there happen to be any false starts. But as I sat in a classroom with a new teacher, and new classmates, anything I had done or not done in the past no longer counted. I had the chance to start over from scratch, establishing brand new relationships. Here was a new beginning! 

So, while we all hate to see summer slip past us, the way I see it, September is not the end. It’s actually the time to plan for the next cycle. Does September mark the start of something new for you? Maybe your “baby” has just started school? Or, with your “baby” now in college or university, you may be “empty-nesting”. Maybe you’re going back to school yourself, or would like to. What are the new beginnings you would like to make in your life right now? Imagine you have a brand new notebook, filled with blank pages; and that it represents the next chapter of your life. How would you like to fill it? How will you write that story? 

While you’re out buying the kids’ school supplies, why not pick up a scribbler for yourself! Start jotting down your dreams, daydreams, ideas, wishes, hopes, goals, plans. Reach back and recapture those bits of you that you may have let go of earlier in your life, but for which you just might have room now. Start exploring what it is that may have got in the way. What can you do about that? What’s different now?  

Thoughts like these can get tangled up in the tedium of day-to-day life and, in that confusion, may not seem worth exploring. But that would be a mistake! Capture them on paper, where it’s so much easier to sort out the threads. Use your pen to spin those threads. And, in time, that’s where you’ll find the gold! 

If you’d like some help with that “journaling” process, some new techniques to help you get to the gold, join us for a Journal to the Self ® workshop, starting soon! 

Journal to the Self ® Workshops
at The Black Goose restaurant in Wallaceburg
4 weeks: Your choice: evening or daytime:
6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Sept. 12 to Oct. 3, or
1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays, Sept. 13 to Oct. 4 

Due to the "intimate" nature of this workshop, the group will be small. Don't wait too long! Sign up now! For more info, contact C-Change at (519) 436-6214 or e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Olympic Reflections

Posted by Joanne Martin
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on Wednesday, 22 August 2012
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Olympic PhoenixThe Olympic Games are over now; and the athletes of the world are returning to their homes. Whether they won a medal or not, we hope they will all be treated as heroes. For, according to the Olympic Creed: 

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most import thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.   The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

Some of them will compete again in four years, at the games in Brazil. But for many of these young athletes, the end of the 2012 Olympic Games may also be the end of an athletic career. After years of extremely focused, dedicated, and disciplined training, their lives will be changed forever.   Those who have won medals may begin new careers as sports celebrities, commentators, media stars, or doing product endorsements. Others may have to forge new beginnings in entirely different fields. Having lived by the Olympic motto for so long – “Faster, Higher, Stronger” – it may not be easy to come to terms with these transitions, whichever way they lead. And so it goes. Personal growth and self-development are not always easy.

That is why I felt that the Phoenix was a most apt symbol for the Closing Ceremonies. The Phoenix is described as a bird with a colourful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet. Near the end of its life cycle, the Phoenix builds itself a nest of twigs and then ignites it. After burning fiercely, both the nest and the bird are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises, reborn to live again. It is an act of Creative Destruction, an alchemical process. In alchemy, common metals are transformed by fire into gold.  Symbolically, fire represents light, enlightenment, and illumination. When the Phoenix gives up its old and completed self, it does so because it is ready to be transformed and reborn into a higher realm.

It’s easy to be cynical about the Olympics. Indeed there is no shortage of reasons to be cynical. But if you choose to, you could focus on the more positive aspects of the Olympic Games, and to be inspired by the symbolism of what they represent. And remember the Olympic Creed: “The most import thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.   The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” And when one stage is ended, be ready to be enlightened, illuminated and transformed by what you have learned.

Write about that!

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What Makes You Mad?

Posted by Joanne Martin
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on Wednesday, 22 August 2012
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What Makes You Mad

All it took for me today was a headline in the morning newspaper. It read, “Low-income mothers prone to anxiety”. “Anxiety”. That is what they call it today. What I’m talking about is that dis-ease that women get when they are simply overwhelmed.   In Freud’s day it was called “hysteria”. When I was still a child, my mother had a bad case of it. They called hers “a nervous breakdown”. She had several, in fact. They treated her with shock treatment. Not surprisingly, it didn’t help. Because it didn’t address the cause! The woman had eight children for heaven’s sake, one every two years. (She literally had them “for heaven’s sake” since she had tried the then new “birth control pill” but flushed it down the toilet because she was Roman Catholic, and the Pope had called it sinful.) Meanwhile, she had no family support. She was isolated, frustrated, exhausted, and broke!   “Breakdown”? Well, duh!

Psychology was a young science back then - in the 50s - and it still is! Shock treatments are much less common now though. And there are many more women in medicine now. But the majority of doctors are still diagnosing this dis-ease that women suffer as though it were a mental illness, or a psychological disorder. And, for the most part, they are treating it with pharmaceuticals. But medication is never enough. And it certainly does not address the cause. Which is? In my opinion, and it is one shared by others, the problem is that for many women, her roles tend to subsume her very self. In those feminine roles she loses the opportunity to express herself and, with the exception of childbirth, to be creative. She becomes like a “caged bird”.

A woman’s psychological development requires integration of many facets of herself in order for her to become a whole and healthy human being. When a woman is limited to only one or two roles, she can feel or act mad because the unactualized parts of herself are struggling to express themselves. If she is not aware of her frustration, her anger at her unlived life is likely to be directed unconsciously at her children, her husband, her parents, her friends, or even herself. This accounts for the inexplicable moodiness of many mothers who seem “mad” to their children.

                                                   ~ Linda Schierse Leonard, Meeting the Madwoman

Doctors don’t have time to address this need; and pharmaceuticals certainly won’t do it. “Talk” therapy is expensive, and beyond the reach of most women. What is the answer? Other women! You need to know that while you might be angry, you are not “mad”, not if “mad” means crazy.   You are not crazy; and you are not alone. Talk with your “sisters”.   Join a book club. Or join a writing group! Go where your voice will be heard. Express yourself!

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Fertile Soil

Posted by Joanne Martin
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on Wednesday, 22 August 2012
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Aussie LandscapeThe landscape near my Australian home is breathtakingly beautiful! We live on a mountain, from which we have a lovely view of Broken Bay, named by Captain James Cook when he and the First Fleet arrived in Australia in 1789. Below us, there are some beautiful beaches. Around us, the landscape is rugged limestone, with ancient, rounded rock formations, and hardy, drought-resistant vegetation. There are even some ancient aboriginal rock carvings within a 15-minute walk of our home. Many a time have I sat, in the stillness of a sunrise, or listening to the night noises, and felt that I was in the presence of something sacred. And it nurtured my soul.

Daisies  ButterflyHow different is my Canadian home, in South-Western Ontario, where I am currently. Here I live in a farming community; and the landscape is very, very flat. But how I love to drive down country roads in the northern summer! As far as the eye can see, in various shades of green, the fields are lush, and bountiful. Even in the City, homes are surrounded by thick, green lawns and riotously colourful flower gardens. And above it all, unlike those in Australia, Canadian trees provide a soft, green canopy, and welcome shade.   This environment too, is nurturing of spirit.

But what does it take to really flourish? Some plants grow well in acidic soil; others would wither and die. Some needs lots of bright sunlight; others need the shade. Every acorn has the potential to become a mighty oak, and some will; others won’t.  

For you, what constitutes “fertile soil”?   What are the conditions you need to grow and flourish? Are you getting enough light? Perhaps you need some time in the shade?   Are your roots strong enough? Could you use more support? Are there rocks or weeds that may need to be removed? What is it you want to harvest? These are perhaps some things to think about while you’re lying on the beach, or looking into the campfire. I hope you’re enjoying your summer!

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The Wrong Ones Are Writing!

Posted by Joanne Martin
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on Tuesday, 22 May 2012
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May is Mental Health Month. Did you know that more than 2.5 million Ontarians live with a mental illness and/or addiction? [1] Millions more – family members, friends and co-workers – are also affected by the devastation, which often results in job loss, financial losses, domestic violence and child abuse, birth defects, brain damage, family breakdown, crime, homelessness, concurrent health problems, road and industrial accidents, and suicide.

Still many sufferers go undiagnosed. Some suffer silently; others self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. They overwhelm family doctors or jam emergency wards which, of course, are ill-suited to their needs. And, even where counselling is available, clients face long waits for it, and it’s too time-limited to be useful. Most psychological care is paid privately, putting it well beyond the financial reach of many.

What can be done about it? Well, the drug companies believe the answer is in the scrawled handwriting of a doctor’s on a prescription pad. And, let’s face it, with the state of health care in Ontario, doctors often have neither the time nor the resources to offer their patients anything else but a prescription! And so they keep writing!

In March 2011, IMS Brogan[2], a company that tracks such things, reported that in 2010 the sales of pharmaceutical drugs in Canada totalled $22.4 billion. The number of retail prescriptions filled by Canadians (including new and refills) totalled 505 million.

And, by the way, the Canadian population in 2010 was 34 million. So that’s about 15 prescriptions per person, including about 8 million who were under the age of 20.

I don’t know about you, but I found those numbers alarmingly high; and I wondered: What were these prescriptions for?

Again, I cite IMS Brogan, who reported that the top three therapeutic classes of drugs being used by Canadians are as follows:

Most Widely Dispensed Retail Prescription Medications in 2010



Therapeutic Class




Dollar value of



Cardiovasculars: (heart)
medications for the treatment and prevention of heart disease and stroke (does not include lipid-lowering agents or diuretics)

77.1 million

$3.1 billion


Psychotherapeutics: (head)

drugs that are prescribed for their effects in relieving symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders

64.9 million

$2.5 billion






Gastrointestinal/Genito-urinary: (stomach)

medications used for problems with stomach, intestines, kidney, bladder etc.

36.3 million

$1.9 billion

Heart. Head. Stomach. Knowing what I know about the body-mind connection, it occurred to me that there is a good way to reduce these numbers significantly. The problem is that it’s not the doctor, but it’s the patient who should be doing the writing - expressive writing!

Expressive writing is personal writing. It expresses and explores the personal feelings of the writer. It may attempt to answer a question, state an opinion or recount the writer's personal experiences. Often, it does all of that. Expressive writing isn't focused on proper spelling, punctuation and grammar. It’s not about the product of the writing. It’s certainly not about producing a best-seller. Rather, it’s about the process of writing, and the impact of that process on the writer. According to the research, it has a very positive impact!

Expressive writing sets off a cascade of positive effects, not the least of which is an improvement in physical health. Perhaps best of all, considering the rise in health care costs, writing reduces the number of visits to the doctor (Pennebaker and Susman 1988)!

Well over 200 studies published in English language journals, over the past twenty years have demonstrated that expressive writing produces a number of very positive outcomes, including:

  • Better sleep, enhanced immune function, reduced alcohol consumption, smoking, etc.
  • General enhancement in immune function, including t-cell growth and antibody response (Lepore and Smyth, 2002; Pennebaker & Graybeal, 2001; Sloan & Marx, 2004)
  • Better lung function among asthma patients (Smyth, Stone, Hurewitz, et al., 1999)
  • Lower pain and disease severity among arthritis sufferers (Smyth, Stone, Hurewitz, et al., 1999),
  • Higher white blood cell counts among AIDS patients (Petrie, Fontanilla, Thomas, et al. In press)
  • Less sleep disruption among patients with metastatic cancers (De Moor, Sterner, Hall, et al., 2002)
  • Reduction in blood pressure levels and heart rate (Crow 2000; mcguire, Greneberg, and Gevirtz, 2005; Pennebaker, Hughes, & O’Heeron, 1987), and
  • Improved liver enzyme levels often associated with excessive drinking (Francis and Pennebaker 1992).

Expressive writing is not only a powerful tool for healing; it changes people’s lives!  

Researchers have also found that, after people write about troubling events, they:

  • Spend less time ruminating on them, freeing up working memory (Klein and Boals 2001;
  • Become more socially comfortable, better listeners, better friends(Pennebaker and Graybeal 2001);
  • Feel happier, have fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety (Lepore 1997);
  • Earn higher grades (Cameron and Nicholls 1998 Lumley and Provenzano 2003; Pennebaker, Colder, and Sharp 1990); and
  • Achieve better employment results (Spera, Burhrfeind, and Pennebaker 1994).

Commenting on this research in the April 14, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD, said:

“Were the authors to have provided similar outcome evidence about a new drug, it likely would be in widespread use within a short time…(T)he authors have provided evidence that medical treatment is more effective when standard pharmacological intervention is combined with the management of emotional distress.”

But expressive writing is not a new drug! Rather, it’s a highly effective, inexpensive, drug-free alternative!

Now I’m not saying that you should stop taking the medicine that has been prescribed for you. Certainly not!   Writing is not a panacea; and of course, you should continue to seek the medical care you need.  

But I do say that it’s not the doctors who should be doing the writing; it’s all of us. This is about prevention, and about healing the “dis-ease” before it gets to the critical stage.   And with a shortage of doctors, and the high price of therapy, what have you got to lose? Pick up a scribbler at the Dollar Store, and get writing!

And to the doctors I say, “Before you reach for that prescription pad, why not log on to my website, or reach for my card!   And give it to your patients!

[2]Madeline Gareau IMS Brogan, a Unit of IMS, March 29, 2011 Operating in more than 100 countries, IMS Health is the world’s leading provider of market intelligence to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

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Therapeutic Writing Erases Bad Moods

Posted by Mari L. M cCarthy
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A bad mood can be tough to shake. Maybe you woke up with a headache or had an unpleasant conversation with your boss, and you haven’t quite been able to regain your positive, cheerful disposition. Maybe you are simply cranky for no real reason.

Don’t worry; your journal is here to help. Take a breather, find a quiet spot away from the madness and make time for some therapeutic writing. Even 10 minutes can rejuvenate you and help you transform a yucky day.

Try these Therapeutic Writing Tips:

1. Spend a few moments reflecting on how you are feeling right now. What adjectives would you use to describe your mood? Irritable, frustrated, tired, angry? Are there circumstances or events that caused your bad mood? What people are involved?

Write a paragraph in your journal that sums up your mental state. Be as raw and honest as you want – no one is going to see this but you, so let it all out! (If that means you rant and swear for several pages, that’s perfectly fine.) For example:

I am exhausted and annoyed and generally ticked off at everyone and everything. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and it seems that every little thing that has happened today has made my bad mood worse. It doesn’t help that I got into an argument with my mom on the phone last night before I went to bed and keep thinking, thinking, thinking about it today.

2. Read what you wrote, and ask yourself, “Do I have control over any of these factors? If yes, which?” Tell your journal what circumstances you can realistically have an effect on, and which are out of your control. Actively try to accept that you won’t be able to change everything you want. For example:

I can’t control the way my mom sometimes criticizes me and interferes with certain aspects of my life, but I can control how I react to her behavior. I do get really defensive and upset with her as a knee-jerk reaction. I can change that.

3. Think about what you would say to a friend or partner who was having a bad day. What words of encouragement, support or humor would you share with him or her? What do you most want to hear when you are in a cranky mood? Channel your inner coach and write those words down in your journal. For example:

I’m sorry you’re having a tough time right now. That’s no fun, and you deserve much better. Don’t let the little things get to you. You can smooth things over with your mom tomorrow, and it will all be fine. Read a good book, watch a funny TV show and go to bed early. And do some Night Notes so you can clear your head and get a good night’s sleep.4. Follow your own advice, and remember that tomorrow is another day! Also remember that everything gets renewed and refreshed with a good night’s post therapeutic writing sleep.

What therapeutic writing strategies do you use to turn your bad moods into glad moods?

Mari McCarthy with bio


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December 21, 2012: What if….?

Posted by Joanne Martin
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on Tuesday, 01 May 2012
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Cosmic Event  300x200
Where will you be on December 21, 2012? How will you spend the day, and with whom? You might say: December 21st!? Why, who knows!? That’s a long way off. Why ask? What is the significance of that date?  

Well, it’s winter solstice, for one thing. But it is not your regular annual winter solstice. Scientists and modern computers have been able to confirm what Mayan, Hopi and Hindu elders had predicted, that on that on December 21, 2012, Earth and our entire solar system will move into an astronomical configuration so rare, that the last humans to experience such a phenomenon lived in the year 3114 B.C. That’s 1800 years before Moses!

What does it mean? Depending on whom you listen to, it will be either the end of the world, or the end of a World Age. Which do you think it is?

Personally, I don’t share the view that this is a “Doomsday” scenario.   I do see this event as the end of a cycle. There is evidence that our ancestors have endured four such cycles, possibly five, which have included changes in global magnetic fields and climate, diminished resources, and the rising sea levels that come with the end of time. Our ancestors lived to tell the story.   And that is what interests me. How will we tell the story of our time?

Just imagine. What would we know of the life of pioneers who settled this continent, if it were not for the journals they left behind? That was mere decades ago. How much more important is it, if we are truly approching the end of a world age, for us to tell our descendants about our time? What would you want them to know?

In her book Storycatcher, Christina Baldwin describes how, in October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, she feared it was the end of the world.   Even at age sixteen, she felt the link between story and history. Accordingly, she felt an urgent need at that time, to bury a time capsule, to tell future generations something about the time in which she had lived:

I had found this file box in our basement, full of my parents’ old tax records. Considering that death might come before taxes came again, I stashed their papers and replaced them with my own contents: a recent issue of Life magazine, photos of myself and my family, a map, a copy of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, my own diary, a small Bible, and a brief, dramatic note. “Dear future, if there is one, this is who I was before the Bomb. This is what life looked like. Here are the faces of those I loved. Here is the girl who inspired me to write. Here is the basis for a religion we did not follow. Remember me.

What book(s) and magazine(s) would you put in your time capsule? What photos? Who would you like the future to know was your source of inspiration? Why? What texts would you offer the future, as evidence of the beliefs and values of our time? What would you write in a letter to the future? December 21st will be here before we know it. Why not write that letter? And when you have written and reflected upon it, will it change the way you live today and over the next few months? I know that I feel much more aware!

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Remember the Magnolias

Posted by Joanne Martin
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on Tuesday, 10 April 2012
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For once the groundhog was right. Or was he? It wasn’t so much that spring had come early, but more like summer had! How could it possibly be 28C – in March – in Ontario, Canada!? The first day of spring, 2012 felt like the first day of summer. It was so warm, in fact, that in some areas night-time low temperatures exceeded the previous record daytime highs! Is it because of “global warming”? Some did acknowledge concern. Nevertheless, we all enjoyed it!

Of course everyone was caught unprepared by this unseasonable weather. Summer clothes were still in storage. “Snowbirds” were still in Florida – where it was now cooler than in Ontario! Farmers quickly readied their equipment and began to plant seed. Nurseries had no product available yet for those - like me - who suddenly had the urge to garden. Yes, yes, I know, you should never plant anything here before the 24th of May weekend, or at least not before Mother’s Day. But I couldn’t resist planting at least some patio boxes. In the event of frost, I can always tuck them into the garage for the night. After all, everything else was blooming!

The forsythia is always first, dazzling with its yellow boughs. It is soon followed by the brilliant splashes of colour as crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths seemed to be opening everywhere! From the bare, brown branches of fruit trees, emerged blossoms that would one day bring fruit, now just delicate petals of white, pink and red. And oh, the magnolias! They were magnificent this year! Here in Ontario, the creamy pink magnolia buds usually begin to open in late April and will last right through May. But this year, they bloomed in March; and they were awesome! Ah, spring! It’s what we Canadians look forward to so much after a long winter.

But, of course, it was early, ahead of schedule; and it was too good to last. After only a few glorious days, temperatures dropped back down to more normal seasonal levels. Unsurprised, I tucked my patio boxes into the garage. Fruit farmers erected huge fans in their orchards, and reportedly lost only about 5% of their potential fruit. But what of the magnolia? Overnight those beautiful creamy pink and white blooms withered and turned an ugly brown, bitten by the sudden, but not unseasonal, frost. The magnolia trees, of course, are fine; and they will bloom again. But it won’t happen this season.

And I was reminded: I had launched a new project myself recently; and I did it with great fanfare. But, like the magnolia blossoms, it was just a little bit premature. And so, after a brief blaze of glory, things quickly cooled off, and it withered. But it is certainly not dead. The source is still solid, the roots firm, and the soil fertile. So I may just pull it in for a bit, give it more time, allow the seeds to germinate fully, allow the environment to warm a bit more, tend to it a bit more carefully, nurture the growth of tender branches, and ensure that is very well established before we enter the next season.

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted…


Happy gardening! But remember the magnolias; and don’t rush it!


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