Sharing our Wedding Photos!

My friends!  It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I share some of our favourite wedding photos with you!

Here we are walking down the boardwalk “aisle” to a deck on the inlet side of Tofino, where our family and friends waited, overlooking the mountains, the water, and the incredible west coast wildlife.  It was 10 am on the beautiful and sunny June 17th.

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Why yes, my wedding shoes ARE Birkenstocks!  I highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes for this wedding – PLUS, I still wear them every day and enjoy them!

We walked down the aisle to a local musician playing an acoustic version of “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns n Roses.  We chose this because it’s one of our road trip songs, and because the acoustic version is really beautiful!

Okay, time to tell the story about my wedding dress.

Last year, in June, I flew home to visit my family.  I wanted to tell them in person that Sweetie and I were getting married.  It was a great decision, because the hugs I received in spontaneous joy were so much better than an excited voice over the phone!

I spent a couple of days with my sister, and when she asked what I wanted to do, I asked her to help me shop for a wedding dress.  This was particularly special because we knew it was unlikely she would be able to attend the wedding, so buying the dress with her was a great way to have her be a part of the wedding.

We went to The Bay, which, for non-Canadians, is kind of like our Nordstrom.  My sister actually picked this dress out, and when I put it on, I *knew* it was the right one.  It fit beautifully, it flattered me, it felt fantastic.  It was a bit pricey, but my mother used to tell me if I ever got married, to not try and save money on the dress, the flowers, or the photos, because the dress and the flowers made the photos beautiful, and your photos were what you had to keep in memory of your wedding day for the rest of your life.  So I bit the bullet and decided it was better to get this dress, on this day, with my sister.

We went to the checkout… and the dress rang through at 50% off.  This was a brand new dress at the time, *not* on sale, but for some reason the last-season discount was being applied to it.  Actually, the last season discount was only 30% off, so where on earth was this 50% discount coming from!?

My sister elbowed me and pointed to the price.  I elbowed her back, with a wide-eyed “I KNOW!  SHHHH!”  They took my money and we left – absolutely giddy with the massive “deal” we had just been granted!

My sister said, “I think that was Mom.”  I agreed.  “I think you’re right.”  For most of our childhood, if we *reeeeealllly* wanted something “luxurious” like a designer pair of jeans or a Northern Reflections sweatshirt (it was the 90s in Northern Ontario, and that’s what was cool) our mother would pay half.

Were she still alive and with us on that shopping trip, she surely would have paid half the cost of my dress.  It’s wonderful how our family in spirit can still participate in our lives, in these miraculous, unexpected ways!

So that’s the story of my dress.

Here we are at the driftwood “alter”.  That’s Judy, our officiant, who has married hundreds of people over the years and is in thousands of wedding photos.  She also worked at the hospital here, so she was my co-worker for a few years before she retired, and she has married several other hospital couples!  Judy is truly a part of our Tofino family!

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Sweetie is so unbelievably photogenic, I can’t even believe it.  She had those little blush roses braided into her hair that morning.

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Here we are!  Married!  Each with our mothers’ wedding rings.

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Immediately after the ceremony, we went out on to the inlet for some couple’s photos.  These are two of our favorites:

This one I had just told Sweetie a silly joke, probably a pun.

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This photo we had enlarged and framed for our living room:

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Doesn’t she just GLOW!?  I’m so grateful to our photographer, Marnie Recker.

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Here I am.  I really love the effect of our bouquets.  Sweetie and I have the same flowers in our bouquets, but different colors to coordinate with our dress.  If you can see the little red berries in them, those are huckleberries and edible!  They grow wild all over here.

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The peonies in our bouquets are similar to the ones my mother used to grow in her garden at our house in North Bay.  Hygrangea and cala lillies are my favourites, Sweetie picked the tiny roses, the eucalyptus, and the huckleberries.  The broad green leaves are salal, which also grows wild here and produces lovely blueberry-like fruit.

The same flowers decorated our wedding cake:

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This is one of our favorite candid moments.

The cake turned out beautifully.  It is milk-free because Sweetie has a milk allergy, so this resulted in a LOT of time and discussion going into our wedding cake options.  In the end, we went with a chocolate ganash, and the florist provided the flowers to coordinate with our boquets.

We also provided cupcakes for our gluten-free guests, and just for funsies.  The cupcakes had little bits of gold leaf and cute johnny jump-up pansies on them… also flowers which remind me of my mother!  (Sweetie let me pretty much dominate the flower game – she picked most of the music.)

Oh music!  Our dear friend who spend years as a professional DJ, and who has MC’d at most of our friends’ weddings, took Sweetie’s spotify wedding playlist and put together a compilation which played in the background during brunch.

Here is Sweetie’s “Oh Honey,” face.

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After brunch, we received an urgent message from Marnie the photographer.  There was a *sundog* on the beach!!!  Could we get there NOW!?

This is another story.

See, I was really hoping to see a rainbow on our wedding day.  I asked for it, but I wasn’t going to be sad or disappointing if it didn’t happen.  My mother told me she saw a rainbow after her mother’s funeral, and I saw one the day of my mother’s funeral.  I also saw an incredible rainbow display the first time I saw orcas, and I was sure that my own spirit family was there that day.  I wrote about that here.

June 17, 2018 was a HOT day, and miraculously sunny considering we live in the rainforest.  As soon as I saw the weather and felt the heat, I let go of the idea of seeing a rainbow on my wedding day.  Rainbows happen when it’s misty, or rainy, not when it’s 25 C for the first time that year.

And that’s why I consider this sundog to be our private miracle.  We did get a rainbow.  We got a RARE rainbow made from ice crystals in the atmosphere… on a 25 C day!

We got a giant orb in the sky!

I believe this wasn’t only my family, I believe it was both of our families who collaborated to create this incredible atmospheric phenomenon in the sky on our wedding day.  A rainbow, the symbol of gay pride, a ring, the symbol of infinity and marriage, in the sky in time for our beach photos.

Absolutely incredible!

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We had this photo enlarged and framed it too:

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We danced to the sound of the waves and our laughter.

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And every year we take a photo of ourselves wearing sunglasses on the beach.  We took a photo similar to this and posted it to facebook when we changed our status to “in a relationship” and we’ve been collecting sunglasses on the beach photos ever since!

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To the rest of our lives together!  Thank you my blog friends for sharing in our happiness!

 

Ep. 70 ~ Freddie Mercury Afterlife Interview!

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Hey everyone!  It’s Freddie Mercury!

When a documentary popped up on YouTube shortly after the ad for the new movie, Queen, I clicked.  My wife and I watched together, and before long, I was talking to Freddie Mercury!

I decided to run upstairs and grab my MP3 recorder, so that we could capture this conversation.

Here, my friends, is our conversation with the late, great, Freddie Mercury!

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Freddie Mercury – PODCAST EPISODE is coming!

Friends! Something really cool happened last week: Sweetie and I actually had a day off together, so we were relaxing together on the couch, in the morning, drinking tea, and I was on YouTube, when an ad came up promoting a movie about Queen.

Well, I was excited. I didn’t know much about Freddie Mercury before I met Sweetie, indeed, like John Lennon and several other celebrity musicians we’ve spoken to together, my general ignorance of pop culture has been a great source of entertainment for my wife. But *unlike* most other celebrities, I actually have an emotional investment in the music of Queen.

The lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody was the very first non-choir, non-nursery rhyme song I ever memorized. It was introduced to me by my childhood best friend, who may even be reading this one day as we’re still in each other’s social media circles. Crystal (not her real name) and I were friends from grade 1 through grade 7, even after she moved two hours away. So many of my cherished childhood memories are with Crystal and her family, as they kindly took me along on some of their family vacations. One summer, they took me on a two-week road trip which included Prince Edward Island! It was the first time I saw the ocean, the first time I travelled far enough to see the landscape change, and the first time I was introduced to music outside of my school and home.

So, enter Queen. Two weeks on the road was a long time to be in the Buick with two pre-teen girls, so we went through a LOT of music in that time. I was introduced not only to Queen, but to musicals like Les Misérables (still a favourite today, and also memorized on this trip) as well as Guns n’ Roses (an acoustic version of Sweet Child O’ Mine was played at our wedding as we walked down the boardwalk “aisle”.) It took several days of listening to Bohemian Rhapsody on rotation through province after province until Crystal and I were able to sing along with Queen, “I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me…”

Whenever I hear (or sing) this song, I’m transported to the back seat of the Buick, behind Crystal’s parents who seemed endlessly patient and tolerant of our backseat shenanigans, belting out with words as quickly as they came from the speakers – “Nooooo! We will not let you go!”

Being as young as we were, and they lyrics being as interpretable as they are, despite the numerous repetitions, Bohemian Rhapsody seemed to create new visions in my imagination with every run through, unlike Master of the House, or Don’t Cry, which evoked the same mental images every time. Because of this, I *loved* this song, despite its melancholy overtones.

More than any other musician from any other band we’ve spoken to, I am actually emotionally to tied to Freddie Mercury.

When a documentary popped up on YouTube shortly after the ad for the new movie, I clicked. We watched. And before long, I was talking to Freddie Mercury. I decided to run upstairs and grab my MP3 recorder, so that we could capture this conversation.

Coming soon, my friends, is our conversation with the late, great, Freddie Mercury.

Our Wedding Photos Have Arrived!!!

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More to come! Here is one of my favourites! LOOK at that crazy sundog! That’s not just one family member, smiling down on our wedding – that’s everyone from both sides, working together to create atmospheric ice crystals on a 25C day!

EDIT: I can’t believe I just realized this… it’s a RING in the sky! Like a wedding ring! A RAINBOW RING in the SKY! It’s very literally a symbol of our wedding!

Amazing!

It’ll take us a while to go through the photos and decide which ones to share publically – so MORE TO COME!

To Shave or NOT to Shave? The Buzz from Pups about their Haircuts!

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This image has been circulating social media again.  Every summer there’s a similar debate – should I shave my dog, or is shaving doing more harm than good?

Cutting to the chase here – it really depends on the situation.  Your dog: what breed and coat type, what activities is she doing, does she prefer to keep her coat or have it shaved?  And your environment:  do you live in Texas or the Pacific Northwest, like me?  Do you get the occasional heatwave, or is it 35C and above for months at a time?

The easy answer is to just ask your dog, (perhaps by booking a session) how their body feels after they have a shave.  In many cases, the dog will go out of her way to show you how she feels about her haircut, and here are some of the behaviors you may see:

Wildly running about after grooming!  This is a celebration of freedom, getting groomed is a tiresome chore for most dogs, and the initial running around is usually a celebration that the grooming is over and she’s free to move around and do what she wants again!  This doesn’t necessarily mean she likes her haircut, only that she’s happy to be able to run around – don’t mind if I do!

The thing to pay attention to is:  does her activity increase in the days after the haircut?  Is she able to play longer?  Run further?  This is the cue that most tuned-in dog parents take to determine whether they *should* continue to shave their dog in the summer months.  Is my dog happier when shaved?

A good indication that your dog could benefit from a shave is when you notice their activity steadily decreasing as the weather gets hotter.  Contrary to what the image above indicates, a huge coat of fur does not magically cool your dog!  Of course the tips of the long hairs are a cooler temperature than the skin exposed by a shave – the skin UNDER the long fur is even HOTTER than the shaved portion!

The real trick with shaving isn’t whether or not to shave, but whether to consider it as a part of your overall grooming routine!  If all you do to groom your double-coated dog is shave her once a year after it has matted, well, that’s better than nothing, but you’re really not doing your dog any favors.  Even before it mats, dogs with heavy double coats get horribly itchy close to the skin during a shedding cycle.  In the wild, double-coated canines are running through a lot of undergrowth, getting groomed by their environment several times a day.

Our domestic dogs have possibly been bred to look fluffy, have more undercoat than they would strictly require in the wild, are never exposed to the environmental extremes of wild canines, and often live longer, healthier lives than wild animals (depending on the species and region.  So you can’t beg off of grooming your big fluffy dog by pretending she’s a wolf.

The point of grooming is really about how the dog FEELS.  Most double-coated dogs don’t need daily brushing (though some do enjoy it), but weekly brushing will go a long way to prevent the itchy skin and stinky “dog smell” of a big hairy dog.

I love big hairy dogs.  My friend Ellie has two great ones.

We’re not just talking about double-coated shedding dogs though, I will get to the non-shedding dogs in a minute.

This idea that double-coated dogs should NEVER be shaved because the fur regulates their body temperature and protects them from the sun is too simplistic.  Fur is insulation.  Insulation can keep cool things cool and hot things hot.  But a dog is a living being, and when a dog runs around, she is generating her internal heat.

A dog regulates her temperature not through her coat, but through panting, and my moderating her activity.  Hot dogs love mud and water because it breaks the insulation of their fut and draws the heat off their skin, rapidly through their fur!  Getting wet and muddy is the natural way for dogs with big coats to regulate their body temperature.

As a last resort, dogs will reduce their physical activity.  This doesn’t mean your dog is content.  Very often your dog is bored and miserable.  It is not kind to leave a big fluffy coat on your dog, and let them lay on the tile floor in the air conditioned house all day.  If she perks up when you shave her, and can spend more time doing the activities she loves, by all means SHAVE HER!

I’m going to address this info-graphic from the dog’s perspective:

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Shaving does not increase exposure for heat stroke if the owner is doing his job.  A newly shaved dog may feel so much lighter and happier after a haircut that they overdo it, and their body hasn’t adapted yet to regulating their temperature with an extremely short coat.  Solution?  Don’t shave them bald!  Leave two inches of fur.  In the case of a Newfoundlander, whose long guard hairs don’t grow back at the same rate as the undercoat, you have good reason to simply brush her daily, and provide a wading pool.

Risk for sunburn – yes, if you’ve shaved so much the skin is exposed.  With a Newfie, their skin is darkly pigmented, so it may not be obvious if the pup is trimmed too short.  Honestly, this particular breed has a softer, finer coat than a rough-coated dog, and it isn’t quite as hot as a husky, a collie, a shepherd.  Remember that dogs coats were originally designed to protect them from the elements while doing their job – in the Newfie’s case, doing heavy pack work in driving rain and snow.  These days, pet Newfoundlanders are not exposed to the harsh winter elements, their breeding has opted for a more aesthetically pleasing, shinier silkier coat, and the human should not be allowing a freshly shaved dog to play recklessly in the sun all day.  If the coat has been trimmed too short, throw a t-shirt on her until it grows out a bit.  Bonus points if it’s a wet t-shirt on a hot day.

Biting insects – really?  Well, maybe horseflies and mosquitoes will now have more access to your dog, but fleas and black flies will get through the fur no matter what kind of haircut the dog has.  Unless you live in the North, land of the killer mosquito, it’s unlikely biting insects are going to post more of a threat to your dog once she has a shave.

Alopecia – certain breeds of dogs should never be shaved.  Talk to your breeder, and talk to other people with breeds similar to your pup to find out whether shaving ruins their coat.  This is not true for many dogs.

Scratching – Dogs who scratch after a shave have not been properly groomed BEFORE the shave.  Dogs should always be bathed, thoroughly dried, de-shedded with a furminator or similar brush, and THEN shaved only if necessary. Shaving should never be a grooming short cut!

Just be sure not to shave her too short.  I do see a few dogs shaved far too short, and this is a very uncomfortable sensation.  You’re not shearing a sheep (and I wish they didn’t shear sheep as close as they do, but that’s another discussion.)  The goal is to make your dog more comfortable, so start by leaving two INCHES of fur all over.  Two inches is enough to protect the sensitive skin from cold floors, cool breezes, drops of water, the careless teeth of other playing dogs, and the pokes of plant life on walks.

If your dog’s coat is very dense, and the pup is clearly still very hot, then try a one inch shave.  You should NOT be able to see a dog’s pink skin through a shave.  If you can see the skin shining through, you’ve cut it too short.  Throw a white cotton t-shirt over her when you go outside to protect her from the sun until the coat grows back enough to cover the skin.

You should not have a mentality of shaving only once.  This is why some people shave far too short – they want the shave to “last”.  This is insane!  Do you shave your own head so your haircut will “last”?  I suggest that everyone shave their head at least once, buzz it down to a ¼ inch, and you’ll experience the sensations that an over-shaved dog experiences.  Sweetie and I used to shave our heads in the summer, and this resulted in us wearing beanie caps in the evenings… in AUGUST!

Don’t over-shave your dog.  But!  Don’t think you can only shave your dog once!

I suggest you consider shaving your dog once every two months in the hot season – and leave the coat at least two inches long at first.  You can always go shorter if the pup is obviously still hot.

Checklist:  Should I shave my double-coated dog?

  1. Is my dog uncomfortably hot?  Has her behavior changed in the hot weather?

A hot dog is a miserable dog.  Dogs who are too hot in the summer feel like they’re wasting their lives!  They can smell all the smells, hear all the sounds, they still WANT to play and explore, but if they’re too hot for most of the day, they can get frustrated, irritable, and can get destructive or vocal when things cool down at night.

  1. Have I recently bathed and brushed out my dog?

If not, do this first.  I suggest you bathe on a Saturday, let the coat dry completely overnight, and go at the coat with a furminator on Sunday… outside… wearing an outfit you can immediately throw into the wash!

3.  Does my dog have access to cooling areas?

A kiddy pool?  Frozen Kong treats?  Ice cubes to play with?  A cool tile floor?  A patch of dirt in the shade?  If not, create a cooling area, and if so, does she spend more time in the cooling area than moving around enjoying herself?

4.  Does my dog tolerate shaving? Does she feel better or worse after a shave?

You can book a session with me to help answer this question if you’re not sure.  (Use the coupon code ILoveMyPet).

If she hangs her head and hides after a shave, then never shave her.  Provide a kiddy pool, wet cool towels, an ice pack collar or vest – there are many different things you can do to help your fluffy dog stay cool without stressing her out.  NEVER laugh at or point at a shaved dog!

Always admire her, tell her what a good girl she was, have everyone in the house say how beautiful she looks, and give her a special treat to celebrate her haircut!  Even if your dog doesn’t understand the words you say (many of them do!) she will definitely understand your intention and the energy behind your words.

  1. Evaluate: has my dog’s behavior changed for the better, after being shaved?

If she is doing well after a two inch shave, fantastic!  It is much more comfortable for a dog to be shaved to a reasonable coat length so they can self-regulate more easily!  Your dog will still run around to warm up when she’s too cool, and she’ll still reduce her activity when she’s too warm, but for the summer months, she shouldn’t be getting too cold, and if you left her enough fur, she won’t be sunburned or overheat as long as she has access to water and shade.

Again, I strongly encourage you to opt for a longer shave, and shave twice as often to keep the coat at an optimally cool length for the summer months!

My dogs.

Back in the days when I had dogs, my big dog Mocha, and my little dog Happy, our summer grooming routine for each of them was unique.

Mocha was a cattle dog shepherd mix.

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She had a double-coat, and she was a wash-n-wear dog, requiring very little grooming.  She was not a fluffy dog like a husky or a collie, but she did have a thick undercoat that protected her 20C below freezing and she did just fine up to 30C in the heat… as long as I took care of her coat.

Mocha, being a cattle dog, tended to “blow” her coat twice a year, with the big blow being in the spring.  The only time I ever bathed her was when she rolled in something too offensive to wipe off, or twice a year when she blew her coat.  When I was washing her in preparation to brush her the next day, I always used lots of shampoo, because the shampoo would strip away all the oil in her coat.  That oil is important for weather-resistance, but the oil also prevents the shed fur from falling out, by clumping it next to it’s neighbors.  If I put off grooming her in the spring, her hind end pantaloons would begin to mat, would smell, and would get itchy.

So just twice a year I’d give her a good shampoo.  The next day, I’d go at her coat with a Furminator.  Furminator brushes are excellent for double-coated dogs, but it really works best on a freshly bathed and thoroughly dried dog, so the hair does not get caught in the tool, and the threads of the Furminator does not get clogged with oil and begin to pull painfully on the coat.  Only use the furminator on the back, tail and pantaloons (top thighs) of your dog, not her head, belly or legs.

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The furminator works by sliding over the fur that’s still attached to your dog, while grabbing on to the fur that’s loose and pulling it through.  If the tool becomes clogged with hair and oil, the tool will start to drag on *all* the fur, and the dog will find the process irritating and potentially painful.

Speaking of painful, reconsider your wire slicker brush, if you have one.

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Now that we have the furminator, we need to consider whether this tool is still the right one for the job.  Mocha found slicker brushes to be painful and scratchy – and this is the most common complaint from dogs about grooming, aside from shampoo stinging their eyes or water getting into their ears or nose.  Those corners are sharp, the ends of the bristles are sharp, and too much pressure  – or the bristles being too long – are a common reason for dogs and cats to learn to hate this tool.

If you do use a slicker brush, be mindful of how you use it.  Be certain you’re not pressing it right down on to the dog’s skin, and take care not to bang those corners into her face or limps.  Brush only her back, chest and tail with it – never her ears, head, belly or legs.

Whether you use a Furminator or a slicker, or some other de-shedding tool, never use it on the sensitive areas and limps.  Instead, use a soft brush for those, or a plastic comb.  (Metal combs popular with groomers and in shows are quite pokey, and there’s no reason for us regular pet people to use them.  Most cats and dogs prefer plastic combs to metal ones.)

I would consider de-shedding to be phase one of every double-coated dog’s summer grooming routine – even if you still plan on shaving her.

A good de-shedding can make all the difference, and you may even find you don’t need to shave her until it gets REALLY hot!  Without all that excess undercoat, the air can move freely between the dog’s top coat and her skin, she will dry faster when she gets wet, dirt will fall off of her more easily, and sun will be able to penetrate much of the coat, preventing bacteria and moisture from building up next to the skin, causing hot spots and encouraging ring worm.

All my Mocha dog every needed was a good de-shedding twice a year, and a wipe with a damp cloth after a muddy walk.  She wasn’t thrilled with her grooming days, but she was so much more comfortable afterwards.  In Mocha’s case, it would have been detrimental to shave her coat.  Her top coat did not grow as quickly as her undercoat, and her top coat is what protected her from the elements.  Mocha would have been made very uncomfortable if I had shaved her just because it was faster than de-shedding her.

Shaving Mocha would not have helped her skin – the unshed undercoat would still have been next to her skin, being smelly and itchier than ever.  Without the guard hairs, the undercoat would fall out in some places and mat in other places.  She would have been itchy, too hot, and too cold most days.

So you can see how understanding your dog and her coat is what really determines her grooming needs.

If you’re not sure, take the checklist in stages.

This brings me to non-shedding dogs, whose grooming needs are completely different than double-coated dogs.

The easy answer for non-shedding dogs is take them to a professional groomer four times per year.  Be sure your dog is happy to see her groomer, and remind the groomer not to cut her too short.  Many groomers opt for a closer shave because they believe the owners will be happier with a cut that “lasts longer”.  Assure them you want the experience to be positive for the dog, and you want her feeling lighter, fresher and happier, not exposed after her grooming.  If your dog is used to feeling everything from the chill of the seat belt buckle to the heat of your hand a second before you touch her because her coat is too short after the groomer, she’ll come to hate going to the groomer!  So make it a positive experience, and always be sure she feels great about herself and in her own skin every time she visits the groomer.

Again though, you need to consider the coat of your dog.  With my little dog Happy, I had a couple of challenges.  He didn’t tolerate being handled by strangers without a muzzle, he didn’t enjoy car rides, and we didn’t have a groomer within 2 hours of our home.  For a few years there, we didn’t even have a car!

So I groomed Happy all on my own.  I even wrote a post about it.  

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Happy needed grooming every six weeks because his coat was incredibly fine as well as fast growing, and partially non-shedding.

What?  Partially non-shedding?  Yep, that’s a thing.  It happens with designer cross-breeds like Happy, who was a papillion crossed with a toy poodle.  Happy enjoyed none of the weather-resistance of the papillion’s undercoat, but none of the skin-protection of the curry poodle coat.  His non-shedding fur was long and silky, and his shedding fur was short, curly-ish and prone to matting in his armpits and crotch.  Oh, and his belly fur grew long very quickly, and if it grew too long, he would pee on it.  I discovered this the second day I had him, when I realized he smelled like pee and that his first Mom must have just bathed him right before handing him over to me.  Oh Happy, this little dog taught me so much, including how to groom a cantankerous little fear-biter!

I had to desensitize Happy to grooming, by working on it with him every day for the first six months I had him.  It literally started with me showing him the scissors and then giving him a treat.  Then placing the scissors next to him, and giving him a treat.  I did have to muzzle him and restrain him once to cut his belly fur that he was peeing on, for hygiene’s sake, but that was only necessary once.   By the time I needed to trim his fur the next time, he tolerated my ministrations with grudging acceptance, and no longer bothered to growl or snap.

Happy would *never* tolerate a shave.  It terrified him.  I don’t know who groomed him before I got him, or how they did it, but the sound of a shaver sent him into a blind panic.  So Happy got scissors.

The other reason I only ever scissor-cut Happy was that he was an *extemely sensitive* dog who needed at least three inches of fur on his back to feel safe.  His coat was very fine, even with the undercoat, and he needed the extra inch of protection from the wind, the sand, and just his general environment.  He was the kind of dog your could pet with a couple of fingers, not your whole hand, because he was so sensitive to touch pressure.

I would keep him trimmed quite short on his legs, as he didn’t really feel cold on his legs as much, as long as his body was warm, and his leg fur loved to pick up every leaf, stick, and clump of dirt he encountered.  Happy’s haircut was determined mainly by hygiene and his sensory needs.

If you have a dog that really hates grooming, I *strongly* encourage you to book a session with me to get to the bottom of it.  Maybe your dog is sensitive like Happy and just needs a scissor grooming, maybe a part of it is hurting her, or maybe there is something simple you can do to make things better for her!

Grooming is such an important piece of a dog’s quality of life – and whether you have a pup who needs grooming every six weeks, or only twice per year, it’s so important for your dog’s comfort and enjoyment to get it right!

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And hey, if you’re interested in learning how to communicate with animals yourself, you can join my growing class! 

I already have a few one-to-one mentoring sessions booked for September and I’m *so* looking forward to hearing how my friends in learning are progressing!

If you have any questions about shaving your pup in summer, please post a comment!

Happy summer to you and your animal friends!

With this ghost ring…

The most common greeting I’m receiving these days is, “How’s married life!”  I usually respond with “Fabulous!” or “Wonderful!”  but occasionally the cheeky, “Fantastic – we’ve finally consummated our relationship after 11 years!”  I have difficult to shock friends, so this response always gets a laugh!

I am still anxiously awaiting our wedding photos, and I know they’ll be brilliant!  Our photographer is one of the best, and I’m so glad we booked her.  I’ve had a couple of people come up to me since our wedding, expressing regret that they didn’t invest a bit more into their photos.  If you’re one of those people, remember, it’s never too late – and you can always renew your vows if your photos or memories of your first wedding was less than ideal.  My own parents renewed their vows and I remember the ceremony, as I and my sister attended, with my best friend’s father officiating.  To me, *that* was my parent’s wedding, even though I know that technically, they were married before I was born.

So remember, if you wish you’d had more flowers or eloped and wish you had invited a few friends and family – you still can!  It’s never too late, until you’re dead.  Even then, sometimes it’s not too late!

We have all these funny little social rules, don’t we?  They’re good things when they keep our society rubbing along with a minimum of conflict.  I’m a firm believer in manners, courtesy, and consideration, for example.  But I’m the first to throw convention in the garbage if it’s damaging or simply useless!

I had an interesting dream visitation last week.  That alone is unusual; as a medium, spirit folks don’t have to wait until I’m asleep to get my attention.  They’ll just pop in as soon as I think of them, or when I am talking about something connected to them that they care about.

Here’s the backstory:

Sweetie and have both inherited our mother’s wedding rings.  I, after my mother passed away, and Sweetie, after her father passed away and her own mother wanted Sweetie to have them.  We are *so grateful* and humbled to have been able to each take our mother’s wedding rings, which lived on their hands for decades during their own lifelong marriages.

We call them our “fancy” rings, meaning, we don’t wear them to work.  Both rings have diamonds, and I am simply not allowed to wear rings with stones to my work at the hospital, and Sweetie doesn’t want to wear her fancy ring to her job flipping B&Bs, which is physical and very dirty.

Instead, we wear placeholder rings made from silicone.  Sweetie likes hers quite a bit, but I’m not in love with mine.  I want my everyday wedding ring to be a permanent fixture, and my mother’s diamond to be something I can add to my hand on my non-hospital days – but I want my wedding band to stay on my hand all the time.

When did I become a traditionalist?  Well, I guess since our ceremony held so much meaning for me, I don’t want a cheaper-feeling ring to symbolize it.

I think that’s the part that bothers me – I know this ring will eventually wear out.  If the company is still around, they’ll replace it, but the point is I don’t want to be wearing a wedding band that will need replacement.

As I write this, a realized that silicone does not hold any sort of energy, either.  With many objects, wood, metal, even some plastic, I pick it up and immediately flash back to the last time I handled it, what I was thinking about, how I was feeling, who I was with.

I *want* my wedding band to hold on to the energy of my day-to-day.  You know, MY MARRIAGE.

So I decided that I don’t really like this silicone band, and I’m going to buy a gold wedding band to compliment my mother’s ring.

Then I had a brainwave.

My mother’s ring is pink gold, custom-made from a goldsmith in North Bay, Ontario, from a huge Russian rose-gold ring, before rose gold was popular or easily attainable.  The diamond in my ring is the same one I remember from her yellow gold ring in my childhood, I think my mother went through a couple of versions of her wedding ring, upgrading over the years on major anniversaries.  My father had communicated with the local jeweler my mother’s desire for a pink gold wedding ring, and the jeweler had kept his eyes open for months before he’d procured this large ring with enough metal to work with.

Remembering the story my father had told me about the making of the ring that would become my own wedding ring, I realized that I too had an unused pink gold ring sitting in my jewelry box.  It’s engraved with the initials of my great-grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother.

Her ring was passed down to me, a teenager at the time of her death, through my mother and grandmother.  (The ladies in our family tend to live a *very* long time.)

As a teenager and in my early 20s, I LOVED this ring.  It is hand-engraved with details, it’s unique pink gold, (even more unusual when it was made, possibly in the early or mid 1900s) and it made me feel connected with the woman my great-grandmother was, when she was in her teens and twenties.  I met her a handful of times before her death in the 80s, but I honestly don’t remember much about those meetings.  I would have been 5 years old or younger, when I did meet her.

I wore the ring consistently for fifteen years, and have not worn it much in my 30s at all, mainly because in my maturity, the ring will need to be resized.  It’s too small for my ring finger, but too large for my pinky.

So I had this thought – why not remake this ring into my wedding band?  It seemed like a great solution!

Well, that night, I had a vivid dream.  I was visiting a place which was familiar to me, but also felt like I hadn’t visited in decades.  It was a two-storey stone cottage with a stone wall surrounding the comfortable yard.  The enclosed gardens were lush and well-established, and a pink climbing rose had overtaken most of the cottage roof.  The cottage itself was clean, whitewashed inside, and was quite warm and comfortable.  There was no glass in the windows, just open air.  Intuitively, I know it never gets cold there, and the rains are gentle, never blowing inside the house.  The air is fresh and cool, not damp or chilly, and there was a small, low fire in the kitchen, and a wood stove in the livingroom.  Polished wood plank floors throughout.  No electricity, but neither was it needed.  The land surrounding the house was rolling green beauty, with a forest visible a few miles away, and waving grass, wheat and flax in the fields close by.

A woman similar to my own age welcomed me inside.  We had tea (the best tea!) out of well-used and well-cared-for china cups, with soft ginger cookies.  We chatted for what seemed like an afternoon, in the kitchen.  I visited her dog, either a large spaniel or a small retriever, and her large and black pet rabbit, in her walled garden.  It was a lovely visit, like meeting a friend of a friend for the first time.

When I woke up, I realized who it was – my brain connected the dots.  It took the rest of the day for the realization to really sink it – I no longer felt good about remaking my great-grandmother’s ring into a wedding band!  This lovely lady was my maternal great-grandmother, kindly, politely impressing upon me that she did not want me to do anything to the ring that would cause the engravings to be altered.  It’s not that she objected to it being resized or remade, but if the engravings were lost, the history of the piece would be lost too.  Looking at it, no one would know the ring was unusual, there would be nothing to hint at its history, and the knowledge of that history very well might die with me.

I became obsessed with my great-grandmother for nearly two days – and then I was invited to view a family tree on Ancestry – I tree I was connected with after having my DNA processed and connecting with a third cousin who has an incredibly detailed online family tree.  There, I found this:

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A photo of my great-grandmother, looking very much like she did in my dream!  I don’t believe I had ever seen a photo of her when she was this young!  Although you can’t see her hands, I think she may even be wearing the ring in this photo.  I wonder if I’ll ever find out?

It’s very unusual for a relative to care what happens to their belongings after they die.  In sessions, this is not an uncommon question: Is it alright if I sell grandmother’s house?  Is it okay with her if I remake her ring into a necklace?  Or even, Does grandmother mind if I trade in her car?  She loved that car.

I had frankly assumed it would be okay with my great-grandmother that it would be just fine with her to remake her ring.  I had even assumed that her practical Scottish heritage would be pleased at my practicality!  She wasn’t upset, but she certainly wanted it known that she does, very much still care what happens to her ring!

So I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with my great grandmother’s ring.  I could have it resized to wear it again, but I could not wear it as a wedding band as long as it has engravings (as it’s not infection prevention kosher at the hospital.)  Part of me wonders if I should pass it along to one of her great-great-great granddaughters, when one of them becomes a teenager.  I certainly should specify this in my own will, as it’s clear that my ancestor in spirit actually IS still invested in the physical object she left behind!

Do Animals Have Spirit Guides???

Hello my Blog Friends!

Last month, I received a stellar question from one of my students: Carrie has asked:

“Do Animals Have Spirit Guides?”

This was such a great question I was kicking myself under my desk – I couldn’t BELIEVE I hadn’t thought to address this before!

But that’s why I LOVE teaching so much – because my wonderful students come back with these beautiful, insightful questions which expands the learning and teaching experience for ALL of us!

This is very exciting for me, because with the posting of this update, it means the *interactive* phase of the learning has begun – and this is my favourite part of teaching!

Carrie sent in three questions, and I will post all three answers to the subscription feed for those who have enrolled in the complete course.

But this question was just too great to keep within the class circle!

Do Animals Have

This was such a wonderful question, I’m sharing it publically.  
I have posted the answer to this question only on the Joyful Telepathy Podcast!

You can listen to it for free, here.

If you would like to join my class, Telepathic Communication with Animals and Spirit, you can enroll here:

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I hope you enjoy this week’s episode of the Joyful Telepathy Podcast!

Now, for a personal life update:

I am a MARRIED LADY, y’all!  Sweetie and I had an absolutely *perfect* wedding day.  I’m talking *obscenely perfect*.  We would have no business hoping for a day as perfect as our wedding day turned out to be!

The weather, for one thing, was amazing.  It RARELY climbs higher than 15C here on the coast, which I personally prefer, but many people feel like they just don’t get summer unless it’s good and HOT outside.  Well Sunday June 17th 2018 was 24C!  Sunny and perfect!  It was crazy!  We didn’t need anything over our shoulders, our guests were comfortable and happy, and best of all we got to have our ceremony outside on the beautiful platform overlooking the Tofino Inlet!

I can’t wait to share some of the photos with you folks, but I have to WAIT (ugh!  the waiting!) for our photographer to process the photos she took that day.

It was a day of complete unconditional support from every person we know.  Both of our families were in attendance, our friends from Ontario had come out to join us (with their delightful daughter who was also our flower girl!)  Our family and friends got to meet our Tofino / Ucluelet Community – everyone special to us was all together, celebrating, and supporting our relationship!

It was a whole day of joy, support, and celebration!

I said to Sweetie that night, “We have been blessed with an absolutely perfect day.  If I never get another perfect day, I will die happy, remembering that we are luckier than I ever could have hoped or dreamed.”

One of the craziest things that day was a little wish of mine which came true.  I have connected rainbows with my loved ones in spirit.  I saw a rainbow the day of my mother’s funeral, and the day of my grandmother’s funeral (although I couldn’t be there in person, I say one here.)  I asked / wished for a rainbow on our wedding day, if they could pull it off.

Well, our wedding day was so perfect, bright and clear, I thought, “There’s no way I’ll see a rainbow today – it’s so dry and clear!”

I did not expect a rainbow, and I wasn’t attached to it.  I knew they were with us, I didn’t need the proof.

The ceremony went beautifully, (I may have cried!) there was hugs and music and the flower girl throwing her pink rose petals in celebration!  We did some family photos in the forest, and then everyone went to join us for brunch in the “Salal Room” – a private dining room.

Our photographer was Marnie Recker, who, by the way, is the photographer who captured this infamous shot of our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau photobombing a different wedding last year:

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Justin didn’t photobomb our wedding, no one did, which was FINE with us!  It was so quiet and secluded on the inlet side.  Anyway, Marnie texted us after brunch with this message:

“There is a SUN DOG down at Chesterman Beach!  Can you come down here now?”

A sun dog is this:

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There was a freaking RAINBOW AROUND THE SUN for our couples photos!!!  And not just any rainbow – a rare, atmospheric rainbow!

HOW CRAZY AND AMAZING WAS THAT!?!

I cannot WAIT to see our wedding photos!

When I realized I was going to see a rainbow on our wedding day after all, I really had to suck it up and hold it together!  (I had professional makeup, after all!)  I couldn’t believe it.  On this too dry to have a rainbow perfect summer day, we STILL got a rainbow!

The sundog really signifies the rarity and joy of the entire day.

You know, there was a time when I believed I would never get married, and when I thought I wouldn’t need or want a wedding.  It’s hard to describe how amazing, how transformative a day it was for us.

We are married ladies now!  I will share some of our couple photos when they arrive!

I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer!

 

 

We’re Getting Married June 17th!

We're Getting Married!

Tomorrow is the day!  Please think of Sweetie and me as we tie the knot after 11 wonderful years together!

I am very far behind on emails at this point, as I made the fatal error of using my tofinopsychic@gmail.com address to organize the wedding.  *So many emails*.  It’s a small wedding, who knew there would be so many last-minute details?

It will take me some time after the wedding to catch up on everything, and I’m concerned I may miss some people, so if you have emailed me recently, please do feel free to email me again in a week.

Wish us luck on our big day tomorrow!  Thank you so much to everyone for all your well-wishes and words of support.

 

 

 

Why I no longer smudge

Hi all! I’m thinking of getting into youtube – is that something y’all would be interested in seeing from me? I recorded myself talking about this, and think I’m going to noodle around with lighting and such before I start doing more videos. But! I didn’t want you to wait for this one.

Smudging.

You know what that is, right? You’ve probably seen it on TV, or in youtube videos, and on blogs that are perhaps similar to mine. So, I know I have a few First Nations readers, and if there is anything you’d like to add to this, please feel free to comment, or you can email me if you’d prefer to remain anonymous and I will post it on your behalf.

I’ve talked about how important it is to clear your energetic space – your personal space, and your environment – especially if you’re becoming more sensitive to energy. Old energy that hangs around from past conversations, thoughts and worries, even heavier emotions from big life events – the aroma of that, the impressions it makes in the energetic sand that surrounds us, it affects how we feel. It can affect whether we feel energized and happy ourselves, or if we just feel like shutting down when we come home, as though it were winter, even though it’s high summer.

When I talked about Dear David on the Joyful Telepathy Podcast, I may have mentioned that some of Adam’s followers suggested he burn sage or “smudge” in order to rid his apartment of the ghost of Dear David who was bothering him. (Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure there’s no haunting there, however it never hurts to do an energetic clearing.)

In that episode I also talked about how my mother and I did a clearing on a house my parents were living in that was actively and aggressively haunted by something fairly nasty. It would wake me up at night, surrounding me with freezing cold air even though we had a large oil heater cranked in the basement room, it killed my cell phone, my electric toothbrush, and my watch, it flung the light fixture outside of the basement guest room down on to the floor, so the carpet was littered with hazardous shattered fluorescent bulbs, and on Christmas Eve, which is our family’s time to celebrate Christmas, the septic tank backed up and all of the sinks, toilets and tubs, upstairs, downstairs and in the kitchen, started belching liquid human waste.

My mother and I did not smudge, this was before I’d heard of that particular ceremony. We used techniques involving salt, blessed water, and smoking matches. That house and land had deep-seated problems, so of course our single clearing didn’t fix it entirely, but it improved things for a while.

Smudging is not necessary to release or banish a destructive entity from a home. Humans have been dealing with sticky low vibrational energy for thousands of years, and every culture has an effective way of dealing with it.

 

(I talk about this in a lot more detail in my course, by the way.)

Smudging is a First Nations ritual which has been kidnapped by spiritualist white folks. I didn’t actually understand this until I started to experiment with the elements of smudging myself.

You may have seen Theresa Caputo smudging a haunted building with either a sage bundle, or what is being *packaged and sold on amazon* as a “smudge kit” – a shell, individual smoking sage leaves, and a feather fan.

Folks, if you can buy it on amazon, all of the spiritual significance has been sucked out of it. You’re not going to have much luck trying to deal with a haunting with a kit you got off the internet.

Dealing with hauntings is so much more about what *YOU* bring to the table, not the tools you use. I have dealt with hauntings using an *apple*. That’s a story for another time.

As I’d had experience with other tools and I’m always interested in the “universal truths” which brings different cultures all over the world to similar spiritual conclusions, I decided to try this specific smudging technique. Out here in BC, “smudging” is really the thing. Sage bundles are everywhere, so are abalone, mussel, and clam shells – and feathers are abundant too.

I am a firm believer in the sacred found object. The sage bundles I have used I either made myself, were given to me friends who travel between the Rockies and the ocean and gently harvest wild sage, or I purchased these wild harvest bundles to support a friend’s art (same friend who gave them to me previously.)

I am lucky enough to live in an area where I can find abalone shells on the beach, and I have quite a rotating collection of bald eagle feathers which I hold very dear.

Why not bring these elements together and play with the energy, see what I can accomplish?

Well, it never felt quite right. It was just a lateral step from the effective techniques I’d used previously, I knew it was potentially powerful, and it did work – but something lingered. I didn’t feel quite right, as I said.

I had been schooled previously on First Nations cultural appropriation a high school drama club friend of mine who is Ojibwa, and completely reamed out our drama teacher for asking us to make a dreamcatcher on stage (it was a performance about dreams). She was right, of course, and we cut the dreamcatcher scene from the play.

That was my first education / exposure to the spiritual harm that’s caused by cultural appropriation. I think that I was tapping into this when I felt uneasy replicating elements of a traditional ceremony that has been kidnapped by spiritual white people. I didn’t completely understand it at the time, and I *wanted* to like this elegant ritual. But it never felt comfortable.

Because it was never mine.

Here is what I have come to understand: When we perpetuate cultural appropriation in new age spiritualism, we are committing spiritual harm. First Nations folks have actually been very clear on this: they have been polite, they have been assertive, they have yelled, they have joked. (Joking about what white folks do in ignorance does bring a bit of sad brevity to the situation.) They’ve said stop using dream catchers. Stop stealing parts of our ceremonies. Stop wearing imitations of our sacred regalia.

If you’re new to the idea of cultural appropriation, what you need to know right now is that I am talking about this in the context of North America. On this continent, we were probably taught in school that our ancestors “built this country”, as though there was no one here when our colonizing ancestors arrived. My own ancestors have been colonizers for CENTURIES! I’m literally descended from the Nordic / Germanic Viking type people who have invaded, conquered, killed, enslaved, then farmed / settled Europe, the UK, and North America. I have inherited this history – I didn’t end up in Canada by accident. None of us did – we are all the products of, and live in the context of, the history of our ancestors.

That is huge. The energy of who we are and where we are right now resonates back for centuries – even if you’re disconnected from your family and heritage – that’s energetically significant too!

So there I was, daughter of survivors and settlers, here on the beautiful Vancouver Island, playing with elements of a sacred ritual on the *unceeded territory* of the Tla-o-qui-aht people. Elements of a ritual that has been BANNED by other white colonizers. It is only in the past couple of years that I have come to recognize my hideous entitlement in that moment.

I felt it subtly, through time. I think that my future self was screaming back at my past self, PUT THE ABALONE SHELL DOWN!

Even though I was using found objects, gifts from nature and in particular, an eagle friend we used to live close to, gifts from my own garden grown with love, the effort of clearing my own space was subtly tainted by the spiritual crime of cultural appropriation.

I look back and realize I had *no business* attempting to play with elements of a ritual which has been so attacked, devalued, stolen, and exploited for profit.

The proper smudging ritual is held sacred by many different First Nations tribes out here, and I am not going to speak as an authority about this ceremony. I have only twice witnessed a *real* and proper ritual performed in the tradition of one of the local people. It’s performed by spiritual leaders and their apprentice(s), with willing participants following the leaders. Right there. Bang.

That’s why I don’t smudge, my friends.

As a daughter of survivors and settlers, as someone who can claim ancestors in ancient Europe, I have rituals of my own which I am spiritually and energetically tied to, and entitled to. I was using brooms to energetically cleanse my space before I fully understood their significance. Brooms are just as powerful as feathers, and I can use brooms with joy and rightful entitlement, knowing it ties me to a culture that connects with nature and survived centuries of persecution. I swear, when I do my ritual spring sweeping, I can feel my ancestors smile. My partner (future wife!) Sweetie has had powerful dreams involving joyful spiritual gatherings of her own Scottish ancestors, who reminded her she has a home in her ancient Clan, even though she may feel alienated at times, in life. Through her spiritual heritage, she is heard, seen, respected, revered, and deeply loved by all those who walked her spiritual path before her.

I mentioned before that I’ve studied wiccan ritual, though I was never indoctrinated in that faith, just like I’ve studied Zen Buddhist meditation (I was introduced to the faith as a teen by my mother who was indoctrinated after decades of practice). Neither my mother nor I proactively renounced Christianity, because it’s not about throwing something away. Christianity is a part of our background too, and also a living piece of history to be reckoned with.

Buddhism is subject to a lot of cultural appropriation too. It’s not cultural appropriation to study under willing Buddhist teachers, to accept invitations to meditations and teachings, to accept a Buddhist name or bring Buddhist elements into your home when you actively participate I the faith.

It is appropriation to decorate your bathroom with a Buddha head. Would you put a Madonna on top of the toilet? No? Let’s not do that to the Buddha then.

It’s about context. As well, Buddhism is actively and openly practiced in South East Asia. It gets complicated to compare oppressions, so I just want to shine a light on how different it is for people to have the freedom to openly practice this faith all over the world, versus the continuing oppression and outright ban of First Nations spiritual rituals here in Canada and in North America at large.

In living memory, people remember having to interrupt their spiritual gatherings and hide the regalia from the RCMP who came demanding they stop, arresting those who refused. These are the same police forces who literally hunted the children with dogs to take them to residential schools, some of which had a death rate of 30 – 50%.

(I was looking for some art to link to in order to invoke some of the emotions around the history between settlers and FN people, and I found this artist, Kent Monkman, a Cree man living in Canada whose art is incredibly compelling, subversive, confrontational and beautiful. It’s powerful. I encourage you to check it out here.)

That’s the history I was tapping when I handled the elements of the smudging ritual. That’s whose shoulders we stand on when we appropriate this beautiful ritual for ourselves. When a First Nations person practices this beautiful and ancient right, she is tapping into her ancestors, her strength and survival. She is the living embodiment of her ancestors’ will to exist despite centuries of genocide. That’s powerful.

Those spirits don’t come for me, descendant of the settlers. That ritual is not mine. They may show up, they may understand that I mean no offense or harm, they may even lend a gentle and tolerant hand if I’m having problems with a nagging or negative entity, but the spiritual power connected to the elements of the smudging ritual is not mine to claim.

A part of what makes ritual powerful is the repetition. Who has done the repetition before you? What is your connection to them?

I know this is a big moment for some people, and many white folks claim First Nations ancestors. Heck, there are rumours of Dakota blood in my family, resulting from conflict between early settlers and defending native people. I grew up in a majority white culture, something I didn’t realize until I moved out here to the coast, where the majority of people here are First Nations. I didn’t realize that I was raised to feel entitled to First Nations things, even as I was being educated by First Nations folks about their culture.

So to honour them, to avoid perpetuating spiritual harm, and to protect myself from the terrible connection that exists white spiritualism actually causing spiritual harm to others, I abstain from any hint of First Nation ritual in my own spiritual practice.

My abalone shells sit on my bookshelf, being beautiful. My eagle feathers sit appreciated in cedar baskets which I wove at a culture-sharing workshop, but do not use in spiritual practice. My sage thrives in my garden, which I use in ritual thanksgiving dinners. I have returned to my broom, my candles and matches, my water and salt.

That’s the right choice for me, and it’s something for you to consider.