Whisps, Ghosts and the young Ninja Padawan

My young padawan Chatterbox has been on a mission to sneak up on me to scare the living daylights out of. So far it has been a total fail.

I don’t scare easily. I use to be a school bus driver…I have nerves of steel.

This mission started a few weeks back when I came home from running errands. Chatterbox was just home from school and assumed I was upstairs studying. She heard a noise from the back door and immediately became scared. I walked into the hall and said “Hey! How was your day?”

She was making a run for the front door because she thought I was a burglar. Chatterbox flipped around and fell on the floor in a heap, gasping for breath. I had given her the fright of her life. I love that feeling. Apparently, she does not.

When I was young and regularly skipped school with my brother (Hi Mom!!!) we were deciding if this one particular day if we were going to skip school. The house was empty because my parents had already left for work, and ME being the responsible child, was to make sure my brother and I left for school on time. We were standing at the front door without our shoes on when we heard my dad cough.

The hair on the back of my neck to up and I tentatively asked my brother if he heard that. His eyes were the size of saucers. I called out nervously, “Dad???” The house was silent. My heart started racing. If it wasn’t dad then who was it? Sounded like the perfect day for me to go to school. So my brother and I grabbed our shoes and ran in sock feet all the way to school (we lived 3 house away). I can tell you that was one of the most frightening moments of my life. My heart was in my throat.

The next time I recall being that scared I was travelling through Europe with the ex, who I lovingly refer to as Idiot Stick. We were camping in York. Earlier in the evening, we had gone on a ghost walk through the streets and back alleys of Olde York. Creepy doesn’t even begin to describe our host. The end of the 3 hour tour lead us to a dark back alley that smelled dank. Our host thanked us and warned us to be careful finding our way back because the streets were not safe at night for tourists. HA! – Creepy host, you can’t scare me. I know this is a line you always use. I am WISE to your tactics!

Well… It was dark and I was thinking about some of the stories he told. I am a big believer in ghosts, spirits and the supernatural. My mind was racing by the time we made it back to the campsite..in the little pup tent…in the dark… with no camp light… and wind… and stupid owls…

Idiot Stick went for a shower and I was getting some gear out of the boot of the car (trunk for those of you who are not as international as me). Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted what I thought to be a blue bag rolling towards me. When I looked at it head on, I realized it was not a bag because it was transparent. Then I figured it was a reflection so I waved my hand trying to refract the light. It kept coming towards me. It then stopped, turned and rolled through my tent.

HOLY HELL! What was that thing? (I have since learned they are common sightings called Whisps) Whisps are known to lead travelers to a save place. IT WENT IN MY TENT! I went in my car. I was too scared to go anywhere near my tent. Idiot Stick returned, I told him the story and he proceeded to laugh at me. I crawled into the tent and laid there WIDE AWAKE until sunrise. I promptly sat up and packed up the tent – which is shocking for anyone who knows me. I enjoy a long lie in when camping. Something about the warm sun on the tent making me feel all cozy until it is too hot and I seek the cooler air outside. Well, I didn’t even wait for breakfast. I packed the car and said I was leaving with or without him. I drove far away from York as fast as I possibly could. I have NEVER been that scared since.

Not even when I saw a Blue Lady standing at the end of my bed in Scotland – yes I was scared. Yes I felt her touch my feet. Yes I slept in the car that night. But by then, I was use to Great Britan scaring the crap out of me and I started to like having the scared heart pounding feelings.

Chatterbox needs to work on her scaring skills if she thinks I will get a fright from her. Now that Halloween is coming, maybe I will go on a ghost walk in Old Strathcona or come upon another Whisp that will scare the living daylights out of me. But until then…she has work to do.



Today was one of the days that felt like a week. It made me tired in the back of my eyes. I told my team I was leaving the room to visit the bathroom and if anyone was going to offer me a job between my classroom and the ladies room, I was taking it.

No one did, so I guess I go back to the same routine tomorrow.

My drive home today I was listening to CBC radio – that’s right I have become THAT person, the old crotchety non-NDPer (non- New Democratic Party) who listens to CBC radio. Why? It’s calm and unusual. They played k.d. Lang and interviewed Laurie Greenwood from Greenwoods Books. I love hearing about new books I might want to read. Today she talked about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It is  Longlisted  for the Man Booker Prize. I want to read it.

It is about a fellow in England who retires and has nothing to do. He sits in his chair while his bitter wife does the chores and he wonders what is he going to do with the rest of his like. He gets a letter from an old friend he hasn’t seen or thought of in 20 years. The note says the this friends was dying from cancer and she wanted to say good bye. He writes a note and goes to the post office to mail it. He decides to go to the next post office instead. He ends up several post offices away and stops at a gas station for a cup of coffee. He meets a punk-rocker and tells her his story. She tells him the power of thought can heal. So Harold decides to send a postcard to his friend saying he is coming for a visit and just wait for him. Harold then begins to walk 600 miles across England, to meet his friend thinking this might heal them.

Sounds like an amazing journey. It made me think about other journeys and stories I have heard. I know several New Yorkers who have shared with me their story of 9/11 11 years ago. That made me think of the journey of the survivors and the victim’s loved ones. That made me think about the millions of people in New York. Then I thought about Harold Fry and his metaphoric journey.

I remember this day, 11 years ago very clearly. I was still in bed listening to the news when the unthinkable happened. A plane hit one of the towers. I got up and turned on CNN. I then watched the second plane hit the second tower. I couldn’t process what I was seeing. I went to work and my brother was listening to the news, eager to hear what was going on. Were we at war? What was going to happen?

I drove out past the airport to make deliveries for our business. These were the days of still working in the family owned business. I had stopped teaching for a while. I looked at the hundreds of airplanes that were parked at the airport. Flights had been re-routed from the States and brought to Canada. The passengers where sheltered and nurtured here in Canada while they worried frantically about their country, friends and family.

Eventually the world got back to business and airplanes went back into the sky. Travel became a hassle and people began to complain about the pain in the ass travel had become. Life went back to normal and people hated their jobs, their lives, their situation once again.

I remember thinking, I need to be more intentional about gratitude.

I also am on a journey. Mine is not the same as Harold, I am not walking 600 miles to see a dying friend. My journey is simply to understand why I am not satisfied with fine. I feel an inner pull leading somewhere and I have no idea where it is taking me. I don’t understand it, I am frustrated with it, yet I follow that pull as it leads me to destinations unknown. I think it is called faith. I have faith that I will figure it out at the end, since I haven’t figured it out yet, I can’t possibly be at the end. I have faith things will work out the way they are suppose to. In the mean time I feel the pull pushing me into finishing my degree, I feel the pull pushing outside to run, I feel the pull to be compassionate and understanding, and I feel the pull to help pick up the pieces and put them back together to support those who need the help.

I need to remember that this is my journey and excess body fluids may be part of it. I don’t have to like it, but I have to keep moving forward. Perhaps I will end  up walking 600 miles to meet my friend who needs me. But I am lucky, because I am here being needed, unlike the thousands of people who went to work that day 11 years ago and never went home to finish their journey.

I need to remember to be grateful.

Hola! And other words I don’t really know

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in  another city or country? I do, all the time. Of course none of my fantasies include practical things, like work, or finances or cultural difference. No, why worry about that stuff in a fantasy? No, I dream about the fabulous home, overlooking Central Park, or the country side estate in Kent, or the glass fronted home in Malibu or the south of France. In every fantasy I am thin, have gorgeous hair and a fantastic wardrobe. I pop out and meet friends for lunch and have my nails done. Take long walks and visit local site-seeing spots and speak several languages. It sounds so fantastic! Meet new people who would embrace me and find me interesting and of course we would become life long friends. Sounds just like a Maeve Binchy novel.

My parents always wanted to do an exchange with another family in some other country. I remember them talking about it when I was younger. All I could think was HOW COULD THEY DO THAT TO ME?! Of course it was always about ME and how it would affect ME! Looking back now, it is a shame we never got a chance to do that. Yet, it is within my power to do it now. But could I? Even if it was for a year, could I let someone else live in my home? Could I live in theirs? I don’t even like to stay with relatives on vacation. I like my own space. I suppose I wouldn’t be living with them, but still, their bed, their taste in wall colour, and me powerless to change it.The flip side would be immigration.I live in Canada where people immigrate to everyday. That I understand. That makes sense! Of course people want to live here. It is an amazing country with breathtaking beauty and very polite inhabitants. But why would I move to another country ?

I met a lady the other day, she immigrated from Eritrea, Africa to London, England. She was visiting her brother and his family here in Canada. Understanding the political and religious oppressions that occur in Africa, it is easy to understand why they wish to leave. Their dream is to have a better life for their children. To give them the freedoms that one could only dream about in Africa. So to me, that makes perfect sense.

I love listening to people’s stories about why they chose Canada over another Western Country. Or what made them leave their family and communities to start over. I even understand the need to live in communities where people from the “home country” are currently residing. There is something so comforting in SAME. At the same time, I love that my city is so diverse! I know an Italian bus driver who has lived in Edmonton for 30 years. He has a thick Italian accent and speaks with his hands they way you see in movies. When I talk to him, I get the whole Italian infatuation thing. He is colourful and interesting, speaking to him makes me feel like I am sitting in a piazza in Florence. Or listening to a co-worker from Argentina. She has stories that would curl your hair! Between her and my Cuban friend, I am slowly some Spanish words. I understand way more than I thought I could and that surprises me. My best friends are from Scotland. We share the same dark and twisted humor. When speaking to them, lots of people haven’t a clue what they are saying because even though they speak English, their slang and vocabulary is quite different from the local vernacular. I find myself “translating” every now and then. Although I am not multilingual, I guess in a sense I am.

The thought of having to leave Edmonton to live a new life is daunting. I couldn’t leave my mom & dad or sister or even my brother. I would miss my aunt and my gran too much. We share a closeness that I would miss like I would miss my left leg if it was taken from me. I watched Up in the Air last night and was fascinated by George Clooney’s character ( I know! I was watching the movie and not just him!) He had no ties, claimed he didn’t want them – yet he really did. I know people like that. I have family like that. They have their own life separate from their family. I some ways I am envious, maybe jealous even. But when it comes down to it, family is just to important to me. They would have to come with me. If I moved to a new country or even just a new city, I would have to fulfill my grandpa’s dream to have a home with several wings to house the different families so we could all live together. Just like on Dynasty or Dallas! Complete with the wardrobe and lifestyle! HA! Now that is starting to sound creepy even to me.

Maybe I need to pursue the learning of language. Visiting other countries would be easier. Touring other countries is something that I am not going to give up. So maybe that can be my own way of experiencing new cultures. Living in a country for a month or so and submerging myself into the culture. Italian appeals to me because of my Italian friend and because of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, come on, after reading the food part how could you NOT want to speak Italian and live there for a while? Spanish makes more sense to me as a language to learn. I have several Spanish-speaking friends, and lots of different countries speak the language.

So maybe that is my next challenge on the Edmonton Tourist Express. I’ll take one order of Spanish with a side of Spain for a month thanks. Now… the question is when?