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Facing our difficult truths

True meaning of the season

Yielding to a higher self

Good things come in small packages

Not seeing the forest or the trees

Coping with a computer crisis

Going under cover in Monaco

My miracle on Larvotto beach

If I can help somebody as I pass along

Taste of village life in Monaco

The Water's Edge: A fishy tale

Why I choose to be involved
"...I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up."
--Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Like Thoreau, I love the simple life. But while he  left a bustling city to move to the woods, I have taken the opposite route. I have given up life in a tiny town on the edge of the Canadian boreal forest for work that takes me to luxury-loving Monaco, the most densely populated nation in the world. Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days at Walden. I'm giving myself at least three years for this experiment.
--Celia Sankar

Not seeing the forest or the trees

A couple of dear friends from the small Canadian town I've called home for the past decade sent me photos from their recent walk in the surrounding forest. Those autumn leaves almost got me wailing.

My mind travelled back to entire Saturdays spent deep in the woods on my “Great Walks”. It was my custom to pack a lunch and supper and head off mid-morning on a solitary trek, not to reemerge from the bushes until dusk. On weekdays, my mornings invariably began with a dash down to the lake, where the beavers and their babies frolicked, or where I'd come across an occasional blue heron flapping its majestic wings, or catch a glimpse of a little red fox slinking off upon hearing my footsteps on the fallen pine needles.

The forest shut out the noise of modern life and wrapped me in a world that felt...just right to me. It imbued me with a sense of aliveness through its wild nature -- not manicured, not managed or structured my Man's hands, just a chaotic, random juxtaposition of death (rotting trunks, windblown branches, dead leaves) and vibrant life (brilliantly coloured mosses and mushrooms sprouting from those rotting barks; a riot of new shrubs feeding off the decay).

I looked at my friends' photos and began to lament that I had come to this place, to Monaco, where I could no longer walk out my front door and, within five minutes, escape into what I called my cathedral of the woods.

That's when I had to pull up myself. This was an unhelpful game. It's one we can so easily be sucked into and rob ourselves of the fuller joy available to us in life. How often do we find ourselves pining for the good times of the past while neglecting, or worse, denigrating what we have today?

Perhaps it's some misplaced loyalty to those joys that are no longer here that drives us to act this way. But it's an injustice to ourselves.

Certain pleasures may be gone, but we can savour the memory of them and appreciate what we have today at the same time. It simply takes remembering that our hearts are wide and open, and we can love many diverse things, and love in many different ways.

For me in this instance, that meant setting out on a Monaco Great Walk and reminding myself of what makes me feel grateful to live in this place.

No, there were no enchanting woods in these parts, but there was stunning architecture from a time before the reign of today's severe concrete-steel-and-glass structures. Whereas in the forest I would stop to ogle a woodpecker or a squirrel, here, I found myself often marvelling at the frescoes, or snickering at the trompe d'oeil that got me, or gaping at some creative detail which made me appreciate that we humans are evolved creatures who have finessed the task of building our shelters.

In the forest, I had the trails to myself, and that delicious solitude came at a time in my life when I needed it. But here, in the most densely populated country in the world, it is rare that I don't have a conversation or some form of interaction with someone each time I leave home.

It was no different on my recent Monaco Great Walk. I sat on a bench in the Casino garden and enjoyed being chatted up by a fellow from India, whose come on line (and, as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up) went something like, “You are princess of which country? I know in Monaco there are princesses and important people from all over.” Although I'm usually aloof in such situations, I rewarded the fellow's creativity with a smile.

A few minutes later, a lady wearing a cruise ship sticker sat next to me on the bench. “Where did your cruise start?” I asked. From there, we somehow fell into a conversation about the modern theater in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, which I knew about, much to her surprise, as she felt the town was so insignificant nobody outside of it would have heard of it.

Lunch over, I strolled across to the garden's pond, where I found a middle-aged French lady throwing lettuce for the ducks, while an equally wizened Chinese man sprinkled shredded cheese for the ducklings and shooed away the pigeons. We began chatting, and I was engrossed with lady's tale of how she and the man, her husband, had been feeding the ducks every day for the last 19 years.

Later, when I walked down to see the gigantic cruise ship from which my new-found friend from Charlotte had come, I was struck by the sight of a school of hundreds of fish swirling around in a massive, mesmerizing ball in the clear water. An elderly couple marvelling as well at the aquatic ballet spoke to each other using words I couldn't understand. “What language?” I asked, on the chance they might have understood English. They did. And it was Russian. And we continued on in English for another ten minutes or so, with them telling me about their cruise, their experience of Monaco, how expensive they thought it was, how beautiful they thought it was -- and how lucky they thought I was to be based here.

That last comment stayed with me as I ended my Great Walk on an outcrop not far from the Oceanographic museum. I stretched myself out on the rock like an iguana taking a sunning. The warm sea breeze lightly stroked my cheeks. The waves crashed and hissed below me. I looked ahead at miles of dark blue waves and light blue skies.

No, here, I didn't have the forest. But stretched out on that rock, the words came to me that often rang in my mind as I roamed the woods: “How sweet, how very sweet is this journey called Life, indeed.”



Comments to date: 2. Page 1 of 1.

Coral Dinunzio,  Elliot Lake Canada

Posted at 11:35am on Saturday, November 17th, 2007

We miss you and your strolls. I can understand your love for Monaco. Come back soon. Well written article.

Chanel,  Canada

Posted at 2:08pm on Friday, November 9th, 2007

What a beautiful and inspiring story!


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Celia Sankar

by Celia Sankar

Beaches Resorts - Jamaica-Turks & Caicos.