happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 3 (FGK 94)

My first thought was “If I’d found myself alone for the day in New York in my early 20s, the last thing I’d have done is gone to watch the UN.” But then I realized that I had found myself alone for the day in New York in my mid 20s and I spent the day at the Museum of Natural History – just a different sort of nerd I suppose.

September 22nd

We have been on the ship for a week and there are only 3 more days to go. I have my sea legs and am no longer sea sick but our cabin is a state of chaos.

They are holding a Model United Nations on board this afternoon but I went to sleep instead of going. It would have been fun to compare it to the one in New York —- which reminds me.

I haven’t told you about the first part of our trip yet. We had fabulous flying weather from Calgary to San Francisco. All the changing autumn colours over the mountains were low enough to see all the details. The customs men boarded the plane in Spokane for me, so I didn’t have to leave it once during the trip. It was interesting to see all the country we drove through by air, when we got near San Francisco I could also see the road by which we left.

The jet flight from San Francisco to New York was marvellous, it took us only 5 hours to cross the continent. There was no noise to speak of and no rough weather the entire way. We were up 29,000 feet.

Our boat was delayed by the hurricane (Donna) so we didn’t sail till 10 pm. The university rented part of a hotel and we were let loose in the city from 9am to 7pm. Five of us spent the morning touring lower New York in a bus. We went up to the United Nations building about 11:30 am and I was so fascinated I spent the rest of the day there. We made a fairly complete tour of the building and then attended a Security Council debate on the Congo. It was thrilling to sit there and see history being made. Gail and I got caught in the 5 o’clock rush when we were trying to get back to the hotel. They are really trying to kill off the pedestrians in that city. You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, even on the “walk” signs.

Getting on the boat was chaos. Everyone was screaming at everyone else in a different language. We almost died when we saw the ship. It’s just a little larger than the one we took to Nassau I’m sure. The rooms make that one look like a luxury liner. Nevertheless, we are having all sorts of fun on it since most of the people are students who don’t really care about things like that. We got a wonderful view of the New York Skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we were leaving the harbour. The next day and since then – we have seen only the waves and a few porpoises and birds.

By the way, I haven’t thanked you for my roses! They were just beautiful, and cheer up our little cabin no end. It was so exciting to get mail the next day, far out in the Atlantic.

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happiness

Mom’s Tour de France -2 (FGK 93)

I recall having a conversation with mom when I was an adult where she said something like “you have to remember, I’m essentially a paraplegic” and it completely threw me. Although I knew she’d lost use of her stomach, back, right leg, and most of her left leg muscles due to polio I was so used to seeing her marching around on those crutches it was easy to forget how fragile she was. I was fortunate enough to have taken a 3 day cruise several years ago (ironically to Nassau – which mom references), and navigating the movement of the ship and the small quarters of the cabin was challenging at times – I can’t imagine doing all of that on crutches like mom did. If she fell it was a big deal, she needed help to get back up and often medical assistance as well. It astounds me how brave she was, and how brave my grandparents were because it must have been incredibly frightening knowing their baby was travelling by ship to another part of the world.

We’ve jumped several years from the letters in the hospital, but still it’s amazing how relatively quickly mom went from the letter sent by Grandma asking her if she thought she’d be able to sit up in bed, or be able to learn to walk on her crutches, to letters being sent by mom on her way to Europe to study. No wonder Grandma wanted to let the community know how well mom was doing, they’d all spent years praying for her to get better. While it wasn’t perhaps the full recovery that they’d hoped for, mom was really living an extraordinary life.

Margie left Calgary on September 13, by plane to join her fellow students at San Francisco and fly by jet to New York to catch their boat to sail to France.

Ahoy there:

I am out on the deck sun-bathing and trying to keep my stomach in one place. Why, oh why didn’t I pack my sea-sick pills. We have finally hit upon a cure – always keep something in your stomach, this is very fattening, but it helps.

I wish you could see the “Asconia’ (our ship). I don’t know where they got the pictures for the folder “Burnett’s” gave me but it wasn’t this ship. Actually it has quite a history. It was sunk during the war and remained at the bottom of the ocean for ten years. An Italian company bought it – dragged it up, and fitted it out as a student ship.

There are six girls in my cabin, all going to Tours. The room is about the same size as the one we had in Nassau (very small) and we are all jammed in there with six months of luggage. We take turns dressing.

The crew is just charming. They are all very Italian and when they get excited their gestures and expressions are something to see. Their English is not so good and my Italian is worse so as a result our conversation consists of a little bit of each. The steward and maid for our room are very mischievous and love to play tricks on us. One day we came in and discovered a pair of pyjamas stuffed with a face on it posed to represent one of us when we are sick. They have a terrible time getting us out of bed in the morning as everyone wants to sleep until noon. Gail and I have a French lesson at 9:15 am so we at least have to get up for that. There is always something to do on the ship – language classes, discussion groups, folk singing and dancing, art and music groups, card games, etc, etc. There are students from all over Europe and America on board. I haven’t met very many French students yet, but we have some Swiss girls at our table who are lots of fun and very interesting.

Last night we went to a movie which wasn’t very good at all but the comments made during the show made it hilarious.

They serve a midnight snack of pizza so we decided to go and try it. We had six pieces each!! It was delicious but if we continue this way we won’t be able to waddle off the boat. The meals here are something to behold. I haven’t made it for breakfast yet, but there are a few who say it has everything. Lunch and dinner are both huge. There is always a big dish of hors d’oeuvres and pizza and spaghetti are a must. After all this plus a soup and a salad comes the main meal. Dessert is always some gooey confection which breaks your heart to turn down. Ormando, our waiter, takes great pride in the meals and is just crushed when we turn something down.

This morning in our French class I had to tel them all about Canada, en français. We try to talk French as much as possible in our cabin. I can understand the Americans when they speak French but I can’t understand the French.

Yesterday we attended a discussion on Algeria. There were some French and a Moroccan and Algerian speaking. Feelings really ran high and it turned out to be a very hot discussion. I gained a lot of insight into the problem by seeing how strongly they felt about it. There are so many nationalities abroad, we can get quite a variety of ideas. I’ve found out I’ve had many mistaken concepts of their countries, but on the other hand, they have some odd ideas about America too.

Gail is up learning Swedish. She is part Swedish, so she takes quite an interest in it. I was really lucky to get such a wonderful roommate. She’s the type of person who gets to know others easily and is always in a good mood. She’s always helping me and doing things for me. She’s going to be fun to travel with because she’s always full of energy and eager to see everything.

I’m sitting in the ballroom writing this, there are countless games of bridge going on with a piano at one end and a record player at the other. No one can really hear what the other people are saying.

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happiness

Mom’s Tour de France – 1 (FGK 92)

While mom was attending Stanford, she was chosen to spend a semester studying in France. She sent home letters describing her adventure, and Grandma sent those letters to the newspaper in Cochrane to be published. I remember mom telling me how upset she was with Grandma sending in her private letters for everyone to read. I remember Grandma telling me how happy it made everyone in her community following mom’s story and keeping up with her adventures. I have boxes of letters mom sent home from school which are sitting here waiting for the day my sister and I are ready to read them.

I have never read these letters that were published despite the fact that I remember a box of the printed letters sitting in the sun porch at Grandma’s for most of my childhood. There were two reasons for this. One was because I knew how upset mom was about the letters. The second (and the real reason) was because why would I want to read boring old stories about my boring old mom. Now that I’m older I don’t think her stories are so boring, and I’m grateful that my uncle kept a copy of these letters.

Margaret Copithorne, who is attending Stanford University in California, has just completed her first quarter examinations and has passed very successfully. The University of Stanford has a branch university in Germany, Italy, and France. Twice yearly they pick a number of their better students who have personal qualifications and send them to the country of their choice with parents consent. Margaret was very surprised to be one of the lucky ones chosen and will leave by jet for Tours France in September with a number of her close friends from the university.

Torus Study Centre is part of a growing cultural centre developed by the City and the University of Poitiers. The city is located int he heart of the chateau country only two and a half hours by train from Paris. It is a charming provincial French city of some 85,000 inhabitants which shares the rich historical past of the Loire Valley with its magnificent chateau and monumental cathedrals.

After writing her exams, Margie enjoyed ten days holiday, here is part of her letter describing it:

“I really had a good time at Wendy’s. They have an enormous house next door to Loretta Young at the Ojai Country Club. We spent most of our time at the pool getting a tan. Actually it was a very relaxing vacation which was what I wanted after the hassle of exams. On Friday the 25th (of March), I took a bus from Ventura and went down to see Anne and Dave (Cousin Anne Copithorne Campbell). They have the loveliest apartment with a perfect view of the ocean. I had my best time there. On Saturday we went to Disneyland which was fabulous. Anne and I went on all sorts of rides – the teacups, a submarine, a boat trip through Storybrook Land, the jungle cruise, a trip on the Riverboat, down the well in Alice in Wonderland, through the woods in Snow White, on an old fashioned streetcar drawn by a horse, and on a train around the whole area. I felt just like a little kid again. I wish you could see it – I’d like to go back again because they say every time you do there is something new. Anne and Dave were really great to me and I enjoyed myself no end while I was there. They drove me to the airport Sunday. The plane was quite late but I met a bunch of kids I knew from Stanford and we flew back together.”

On April 28th, General Charles de Gaulle, President of France will make a tour of Stanford University during his visit to America and Margaret is among the group of students chosen to meet him.

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happiness

Holding hands

The other day the girl and I had quite a disturbing experience as we were nearly mowed down crossing a small road in a parking lot in Cochrane. We were halfway across the street in front of Pet Valu heading towards Save On, walking in the cross walk, when a lady came flying down that road that cuts between the stores. It took me a second or so to realize that she wasn’t stopping or slowing down and was heading right towards us. Worse, the girl was the one who was going to be the “buffer” between me and the car when it hit us.

I screamed the girl’s name and grabbed her arm while we both looked towards the car with horrified expressions on our faces. Both our bodies tensed up like we were going to run, and at the same instant realized that we wouldn’t have time to make it.

As I was accepting that this would be how we would die, suddenly I felt the girl’s hand slip into mine. One small movement that in regular times wouldn’t perhaps mean much (although it’s been years since she’s wanted to hold my hand), but in this moment it meant the world. If that was when I was going to die, somehow the thought of holding her hand felt quite comforting.

At the last second the woman veered around us (didn’t slow down though) and threw her car in the parking spot that clearly had captured her attention making her unable to see anything besides that coveted spot.

Scary as crap, but what has stuck with me was that feeling of that little hand in mine as we stood there terrified. It was both her grown up hand, and the hand of the little girl who used to want to hold onto me every second of every day.

I remember when dad was dying, all he wanted was to spend time with us, his family, his loved ones. Nothing that he had accomplished or accumulated seemed to matter, all that did was the love he had in his life. That hand in mine reminded me how important it is to treasure and cherish my loved ones (well and to make sure that people in cars see us when we are crossing the road).

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happiness

Indra’s Net

I woke up at 3am today. Lately I’ve been doing lots of waking up at 3am which means I must be hella stressed. Usually though when I wake up in the middle of the night I lie there and stress about the problems of the world, while lately I just lie there and think about God and where I fit in the universe. Much lighter thinking haha.

This morning (is 3am morning? I feel like it’s still deep night time, or when I was younger it was time to come home) I woke up to a vision of Indra’s Net. Perhaps I’ve been feeling very disconnected lately. I think Covid has a lot of us feeling disconnected and confused. Alberta in particular seems to be filled with anger, confusion, and chaos as we are being divided between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. While I am one of the vaccinated, and strongly believe in it, I don’t like how we are fighting with each other when we would do better to work together.

So anyway, with that I’m feeling a bit separated and confused and waking up to the image of Indra’s Net was kind of perfect.

Indra’s Net is a spider like net that spreads infinitely in all directions. In each “eye” of the net, or where the threads join together, there is a beautiful jewel. Each brilliant jewel reflects every other jewel, which are infinite in number, and every reflected image holds the image of all the other jewels. Infinity to infinity, whatever affects one jewel affects them all. Everything contains everything else, but at the same time every individual jewel is not hindered or confused by the other jewels.

I love this idea because I often get hindered or confused by the other jewels.

In his book Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), Francis Dojun Cook wrote,

“Thus each individual is at once the cause for the whole and is caused by the whole, and what is called existence is a vast body made up of an infinity of individuals all sustaining each other and defining each other. The cosmos is, in short, a self-creating, self-maintaining, and self-defining organism.” (Source here)

Instead of thinking that everything is part of a larger, collective whole, the idea is that everyone is the larger, collective whole, but also simply themselves at the same time.

I find this idea so completely abstract that it actually makes perfect sense to me. And I love the way it allows me to see how we are all connected. What affects one of us affects all of us. We are one being working together, but we are also our individual selves with the freedom to choose who and how we are. Some people I find it easy, and a beautiful privilege to think of being connected with, and some make me want to cut their jewel out of my beautiful web. The challenging ones are probably the most important ones as they probably reflect some unhealed aspect of myself. If their behaviours didn’t trigger something in me, who they are and what they do wouldn’t bother me and so I know there is more internal work for me to do in those areas.

Hopefully the 3am wake up time comes to an end soon, but until it does I find gratitude in the comforting thoughts that are coming to me during this time.

Namaste.

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happiness

More good people in the world than many of us realize (FGK 91)

I had to google the Trend House, I’d never heard of it. You can see it Here if you’re interested. This is the link for photos of the one in Calgary. Who knew?! This lady always seems to be able to put a positive spin on things, as I’ve said before I find her letters quite comforting to read and I wish I’d known her.

Monday, July 19 (1954?)

Dearest Margie

This time I’m answering right smart but I sure won’t promise to be so prompt the next time. Seems as though you are still a little short on mail.

We sure enjoyed your letter. Nice to hear of those people coming to entertain you. More good in the world than many of us realize.

Glad to hear your throat is better. Your mother said last night you had missed your drive again yesterday. That was too bad when it was such a nice day, but it looks as though we are going to have a few of those now.

Your Aunt Marjorie and I went to see the Trend House on Thursday. We weren’t too impressed with it. It had too many windows and steps for we older Janes.

Imagine a North door in your bedroom! Really quite an elaborate affair in some ways.

Bernard and the German boy we have just got moved (mowed? I don’t know – usually I can read her handwriting really easily – but I don’t know what either of these words would mean they’re doing for the next few weeks) on Saturday so you know what will be going on here for the next few weeks.

Hope you are well enough to be out next Saturday Margie.

Best Wishes

The Barkleys!

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happiness

Faith in Divine Healing (FGK 90)

I’m back!!! I decided to take a week long social media break, which turned into two weeks, and then over three weeks. It was kind of nice to cut the noise for a little bit, but I’m finding that since we aren’t socializing much (at all really) that I miss hearing what is going on with the people I care about.

I found today’s letter to be quite timely as I’ve been really seeking my connection to God in these last few months. God and I have had kind of a bumpy road (well, I have – I am pretty sure God’s road stays the same but I keep looking at other paths) and I’ve felt the need to deepen and better understand that relationship. I had the most wonderful Pastor in Virginia who really helped me see God differently. Not that she used different words, but she had this amazing relationship with God that made me curious. And once I started praying there, things started changing and happening in ways that I could not explain – so I’ve decided they must be God’s miracles showing up in my life.

As I’m reading these letters I’m understanding better the deep faith that my grandparents and my parents had with God and in their lives.

Friday Morning – Jenkins Breakfast on Radio

Dear Margie

The breakfast dishes are not done yet so I must hustle- it really keeps me hopping. This deep snow is sure causing Dad lots of grief. 4 little calves came last night, had to take the Jeep up to the field to bring them down, had frozen ears etc.

Last Monday Mary and George quit Nichols and came over so we had to dash around and tear down Marshall’s bed and get things ready for them. I gave them your dresser to take up to the valley. Marsh has Sheila’s bed now. Don’t know when we’ll get around to getting your bedroom suite. I put the little green table in your room where the dresser was and put all your clothes etc from the dresser in Sheila’s big trunk.

When Frank and Georgie were down Sunday night, Georgie said that when her mother was so sick a few years ago Charlie Coolie wrote to her like he did to us and Aunt Georgie really believes in Divine healing. She said her brother-in-law Mr. Costello had cancer and just made up his mind he wasn’t going to have it. He is Catholic, he used to get up early, early in the morning and go down to the church and pray for hours and he just cured himself that way, then he prayed for success in business and he sure is a wealthy man now – owns so much property and takes two long trips each year. I sure get a lot of inspiration from the Unity papers etc. Hope you read them regularly, they guide me so much and are food for the soul.

It must be hard to not ever have any privacy in there, but it is also nice to have company.

I wrote to Annie and Girlie last night and to Casino Carnival and put your name on it, so if you win $600 don’t be surprised. And I wrote to the radio programme so don’t forget to listen Sunday.

Smokey hasn’t been out hardly at all since it snowed and boy is he ever wild – just like a silly little kitten all the time!.

Well I must get to work now, will see you on Sunday eh? Hope to see you sitting up one of these days soon – think it’s possible?

I’m going to town this afternoon, have a hair appointment at the Bay.

Millie there always asks how you are.

Lots and lots of love

Mom xxxxxxx

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happiness

Family Sing-song (FGK 88)

At the bottom of the box of letters were two audio reels. I had no idea what would be on them, or even how to play them. Fortunately a friend of mine directed me to a place in Inglewood where I could get them moved to digital format and could listen to them. One reel was empty, but the other is a real treasure. Talk about “From Grandma’s Kitchen” – we get to hear everyone all here in Grandma’s kitchen (and later the living room where they sing). Grandpa is on here, and he plays his violin while someone else plays piano and the family sings. I LOVE that someone used the word “twitterpated”.

As someone who has had to participate in the awkward family phone calls when either I was away, or when someone else is – I appreciate how difficult it is to think of something to say and make yourself sound interesting. I also know how it feels to be the one away from family, to know they are gathered together, and how loved it made me feel when I would get the big awkward phone call. So, although people don’t maybe sound like they don’t know what to say, the love behind the effort made speaks volumes.

Instead of transcribing this one, I thought it should be played so everyone can hear it. I love it – hopefully it works!

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happiness

The Garden at Braeside (Grandpa Taylor’s Garden) part 1

I am taking a break from Copithorne history to share a story told by my Grandpa Ramsay about his childhood in New Liskeard, Ontario. My aunt sent me a cassette recording he made years ago (over 30 years) of a story he wrote about the gardens at Braeside.

The story my dad told me (and any Ramsay relatives who know the story better please correct me or add what I’ve missed) was that my Grandpa Ramsay was raised as an only child by a single mom in a big house called Braeside in New Liskeard, along with his grandparents who owned the house. So, Grandpa grew up as an only child surrounded by adults, and without a father (my understanding is that the father opted out of family life, not that he died). Dad used to say that Grandpa had told him that as a child he decided that what he wanted more than anything was to have a family of his own, and I have to say he more than accomplished his goal. Although we grew up on the other side of the country in a time when distance meant more than it does now, I have always felt loved by my “eastern family”. The few times we went out there when I was a kid, I remember Grandpa being very engaged with everyone. Us Ramsay cousins even have a “cousin chat” on messenger where we share information and have little catch-up visits.

My Grandpa’s mom (my great grandmother) was named Claire Taylor before she was married. The aunt who sent me Grandpa’s story of the gardens at Braeside has the middle name Claire, as do I. My niece is a Clare (or a Clair I can’t remember) which is close enough to make her part of this “Claire club” as well. My dad’s middle name was Taylor, as is the middle name of my son. We have a photo of Braeside hanging in our kitchen here at the ranch, and I’ve often looked at it and thought of Grandpa and his childhood.

Once upon a time, many many years ago, there was a little boy named Ralph and at the time this story took place he was about 10 years of age. when Ralph was three years old, he lost his father and so his mother Claire left the town where she and his father had been living and returned with Ralph with the home of her father George Taylor and his wife Mary Taylor. Claire’s parents lived in the small town of New Liskeard in Northern Ontario. It was in New Liskeard that Claire lived with her parents before she was married and where she taught school in a little wooden schoolhouse. The little town of New Liskeard lay in a huge wilderness area, only several years before this time had a certain group of people called pioneers com to settle in this new land. They built sawmills and cut down trees to clear off the land for farms. They also came later on to search for minerals because they had heard this land was rich in silver and gold.

New Liskeard was built on the shore of a large lake called Lake Temiskaming. Temiskaming is an Indian word meaning deep waters. Not only was it a deep lake, but also a very long lake, being 90 miles long from end to end. The area around New Liskeard had excellent soil for farming. George Taylor had left his home in Western Canada where he had been given a grant of land as a soldier who had gone to fight some Indians and half Indians and half whites called Metis in the NW territories years and years before. There he married a lady named Mary McGuire who was a daughter of a British soldier. He had to leave the area where he had lived and had his farm, which was near Fort Gary. A Fort which was established in the city which is now Winnipeg. So he returned to London, Ontario to live in order to educate his children. He was able to sell his farm for a good price and he was able to buy a nice home in London, Ontario and to open some businesses there. After he had been in London for quite a number of years and his children were growing up, particularly his boys, he had five boys and five girls, he had decided that he would have to find a place where his boys would have a chance to make a success in a business way. So he left his home in London, Ontario and journeyed up to the area which was later to be called New Liskeard, for he had a grant from the government in an area which was later to be called Ardour Lake. And he wanted to check it out to see if it would be good enough for farming.

After he had been there a short time, he bought a hardware store in the town of New Liskeard, and there he opened up what was called the George Taylor Hardware which was used to supply farmers and pioneers and woodsmen with the materials they needed to carry on their work. George Taylor was a very big, tall man with a black and white beard. He had big shoulders and was very handsome. His parents were born in Scotland and his ancestors had lived there for many, many years. He loved the Scottish words, and so he named the new home which he built in New Liskeard “Braeside” which means “hillside” in Scottish.

The house was very large to accommodate his family of 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls. it was built of red brick with a slate tile roof and contained many bedrooms on the second and third floors. The site of his home was chosen for the rich soil in that area, which would be perfect for gardening.

In front of his home, Braeside, there was a beautiful terraced lawn. Birch trees and Manitoba Maples were planted all around the boundaries of the land. On the south side of the house was a large area for the garden. That’s where the soil was the very best, consisting of sandy loam. His soil was perfect for growing apple trees, cranberry trees, and flowers and vegetables of many kinds. It was in this garden that one would find gooseberries, red currants, black currants, white currants, raspberries, and strawberries, potatoes, and rhubarb, peas, squash, carrots, onions, beets, cabbages, tomatoes, and pumpkins, and swiss chard also grew there.

Not long after Ralph was born, his mother Claire took ill and when she returned to her parent’s home in New Liskeard, she had to go into the hospital for a stay of about 2 years. Ralph was cared for by his Grandpa and Grandma Taylor who were quite old even then.

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