musical christmas countdown - Dec. 21

Another classic by a true Canadian icon... I had originally planned on posting the version recorded by Sarah McLachlin, but Gordon Lightfoot is somewhat irresistable - especially since he wrote the song!

- simply jag


musical christmas countdown - Dec. 19 (today)

There is simply no storyteller like him. Here's a wonderful reminder of the true meaning of the season...

- simply jag

musical christmas countdown - Dec. 18 (yesterday)

Hard to believe this is from almost 20 years ago... I believe the arrangement on these seasonal classics is pure Canadian genius!

- simply jag


musical christmas countdown - Dec. 16

By far, my favourite version of Carol of the Bells.
(I just wish I knew how to get the video to fit! If you double-click, it will bring you directly to the YouTube site...)

- simply jag


musical christmas countdown - Dec. 15

I've decided to count down these last 10 days before Christmas by sharing a seasonal favourite - old and new! Let's begin with a little Mr. A-Z.

-simply jag


protesting perfection...

My name is jag.
I'm a recovering perfectionist.

Seeking perfection has often served me well... however, more often than not, it has robbed me of experience. The true, messy, growth-full kind of experience that allows us to find joy, and satisfaction, and disappointment, and pain, and authenticity.

I have prided myself on being good at what I do. There's nothing inherently wrong with that... however, I have often avoided engaging in things that I didn't think I'd be good at. Things like dancing, or golf, or painting, or roller-blading, or karaoke. I'd try it once, maybe twice. It didn't come naturally, so I'd stop... I'd walk away convincing myself that I didn't really like it anyway.

I'm loving being in my 40s because I've finally decided that perfection is highly overrated. It's simply unattainable and is not mine to behold. I am fully embracing my beautiful imperfection. This is why I've decided to join The Perfect Protest!

If you feel like saying ENOUGH ALREADY!, why don't you join in the protest too? Stand up to the unrealistic expectations imposed by society, others and - most importantly - ourselves.

I'm not perfect, but I am excellent!

Join in the protest - let your imperfection and true-ness shine...

-simply jag


Here's to us, Babe...



"It takes no time to fall in love, but it takes years to know what Love is." - Jason Mraz


august break nos. 30 & 31

backseat spider
(one of gazillions that have been surrounding us this summer)

(celebrating a successful photographic august break!)
- simply jag


august break no. 29

you never know what you'll see on somerset st. w.
- simply jag


august break nos. 25, 26 & 27

window shopping - Rideau Centre

public spaces

sacred oasis
- simply jag


august break no. 22

Faeries who run...
  • photo by Hubby
  • post-processing by jag
- simply jag


august break no. 15

celebrating my heritage
l'acadie dans mon coeur
- simply jag


august break no. 10

...and they'll all come tumblin' down!
(a cherished moment of play with my niece)

- simply jag


august break no. 9

happy birthday
to my niece, megan
welcome to the double-digits!

- simply jag


august break no. 8

a temporary souvenir
from the williamstown fair

a memory
from a lifetime ago

- simply jag



august break no. 6

a moment of inattention
and i would have pressed "OK"
but it seemed to me
there were too many digits
for my simple purchase
i am thankful
for that split second
of presence

-simply jag



gimme a break...

In an effort to support my growing urge to pick up my camera again, I've decided to take part in The August Break. Originally conceived to give bloggers a break from writing throughout the month of August, I am using it instead to kickstart my blogging!

A Simple Focus was intended to be less about writing and more about my photography, so this seems to be a perfect one-month challenge for me.

One. Photo. Per. Day.

C'est tout. No other rules apply.

And so, I present august break #s 1 & 2...

- simply jag xox


highlighting silence...

It's almost impossible to describe all the gifts that I receive when I go on silent retreat. I do these twice a year and they are basically 4 - 5 days of self-directed Silence. Silence. Not necessarily quiet. Although beautifully located, the retreat house remains on a secondary highway and shares the waterway (Madawaska River) with several nearby homes and cottages. The Silence, therefore, is what I attempt to bring to the experience. Never an easy task, but always a worthwhile one! I'll borrow a page from my sister's blog and share with you some of the highlights of my most recent retreat.
  • Going out for a long run on Sunday morning along a dirt road and not encountering a car for an entire 30 minutes. At one point, I heard a rustle in the clearing and saw a flash of white tail. Finally! I had been seeing prints all weekend... As I stopped, so did the deer. We just stood there, looking at each other. That's when I brought my hands in prayer to my heart centre, bowed my head towards her: Namaste. I have nothing but Love for you, Deer. We stared a bit longer, then I turned away and continued my run. Only then did she jump into the forest. Bliss. Pure moment of bliss.

  • The food. The food. The food. I am so very well taken care of at Stillpoint. The cooks pay more attention to my special dietary needs then I do on many days! Phoebe had been experimenting with "sourdough pita" at home and looked forward to sharing it with me. It didn't quite puff up as much as she wanted, but it was delish nonetheless. And those tiny herb biscuits? Please!! Every plate of fruit I received was graced with a sprig of mint and tiny flowers - as always, food that is as enjoyable to look at as it is to eat!

  • Gaining new clarity regarding my chose spiritual path... i am enough... My path asks nothing new of me - no new skills, or knowledge, or training, or abilities, or anything! I have everything I need to continue living a life of sane and happy usefulness. In fact, I tend to carry too much and need to let go. My path is one of subtraction, not addition.

  • The loons! Is there anything more soul-stirringly Canadian than the cry of the lone loon echoing across the water?? (Don't you dare suggest this! :-)) Every evening, I slept with my window wide open so that I could hear the cry of the loons. What began with a single, mournful wail would often be followed up by a veritable toolooloo-ing chorus coming from all directions... a harmonious cacophony that had me smiling in my sleep.
All this, and so much more in four short days. Anyone who believes Silence is an exercise in deprivation has been sorely mislead.

-simply jag


the eyes have it...

Today is the day I see the world anew.

I'm scheduled to undergo corrective laser eye surgery this afternoon. After 35 years of wearing glasses, this represents a BIG change in my life. I am excited... and scared... and apprehensive... and giddy... all that, and more. Unless you've lived a life of blurr and have depended on an external accessory to function in the world, I'm not sure you can fully understand. And that's OK. I've never even worn contact lenses. Not a once. The very idea of sticking my finger in my eye on a daily basis just never appealed to me. Go figure.

As I allow myself to imagine life without glasses, I feel compelled to honour the role they have played. In fact, I kinda wish I had kept them all, as a "this-is-your-life-in-glasses" type thing... then I could hold a thank you & farewell celebration for them ALL!

Ah, glasses... you were:
resented as a child
in the way as a teenager
appreciated and accessorized as an adult
always, and always, miraculous.

As I get closer to the moment of clear, un-aided, eyesight, I offer you a heartfelt "see you later" and a few glimpses into "this-was-my-life-in-glasses".

My first year with glasses - 9 yrs old

Same frame, cooler confidence... 12 yrs

Ahh yesss, the 1980's... high school grad pic

Late 1980's, when lens makers must have charged by surface area... University grad pic

Skipping the wide variety of round, metal frames (mostly due to lack of e-photos) and getting to the uber-chic stage

Who would think that a piece of plastic, distorted to the perfect degree, could become such a part of me, helping to shape my identity? Who will I be without glasses?! I'm trusting that I will continue to be...

-simply jag


journey to the Pure Land...

No human, nor any living thing, survives long under the eternal sky. The most beautiful women, the most learned men, even Mohammed, who heard Allah's own voice, all did wither and die.
All is temporary.
The sky outlives everything.
Even suffering.
- Bowa Johar, Balti poet (form Three Cups of Tea, by Mortenson & Relin)

Last week, I shared about a teacher's final gift. The next day, Janet was gone from this earth. Today, friends & family gathered to share our memories and celebrate her life. She truly was a mountain of a woman and her spiritual generosity knew no bounds.

Her memorial service reflected her Buddhist faith and it was both moving and healing. I feel blessed to have been a part of it.

- simply jag


in love with lent...

We use the single word "faith" to cover a vast range of human experiences. Faith is, fundamentally, the experience of our being grounded in God, rooted in him with absolute sureness and with a confidence that is always deepening because the depths of God can never be measured. This is the experience of prayer.
It is falling into the depths of love with complete trust, with a complete "letting go".

- John Main OSB, Monastery Without Walls

I've said it before, here, here and again here. I love Lent! I really, really do... And although I don't go to church, Lent continues to be a cherished time of the year for me.

Its timing is perfect, and probably not coincidental. (I don't believe in coincidences anyway.) Committing to this 40-day period of reflection and connection prepares us to be "born anew", to come alive with a renewed confidence that, just as the Earth is preparing to explode with the unstoppable force of spring, we too are ripe and ready to emerge from whatever restraints we have become all-too-comfortable with. The Easter story becomes relevant to us today because it reminds us of our limitless potential for growth & transformation.

The cool thing is, when we become rooted in something greater than ourselves, a something I call "God", we don't need to force growth & transformation. In fact, we don't need to "do" anything. It is there, waiting for us on the wings of our next exhale. All we need is to get out of our own way, or as John Main says so well, to let go and to allow ourselves to fall into the depths of love with God.

For this season of Lent, my hope is that I may be able to do just that.
Happy Lent!

-simply jag


read any good books lately...?

A couple of weeks ago, I was inspired by a Facebook friend to post an informal "poll" on FB as a fundraising effort for Haiti. I would donate 1$ for each comment sharing a favourite book. Not only was I able to donate a few dollars for Haiti Relief, but I ended up with a pretty neat list of books! And then I thought... why not?!

And so, in no particular order, I hereby present to you, my...


  1. But Not the Hippopotamus - Sandra Boynton
  2. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
  3. There's Nothing Wrong with You - Cheri Huber
  4. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
  5. Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
  6. The Notebook - Nicholas Sparks
  7. Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
  8. The Soul of a Tree - George Nakashima
  9. A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle
  10. "Otherland" series (Books 1, 2, 3 & 4) - Tad Williams
  11. I Knew You Could - Craig Dorfman
  12. Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
  13. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  14. Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
  15. Haiku Year - Gilroy, Grace, McKay, Martin, Phillips, Roth & Stipe
  16. The Boat Who Wouldn't Float - Farley Mowat
  17. Come, Thou Tortoise - Jessica Grant
  18. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  19. When All You Have is Hope - Frank O'Dea
I had already read a few of these, so I'll focus on the ones that are new to me. Certainly a mix of genres - could be interesting! Thanks friends...

As I finish reading a book, I'll change the colour of the text to pink. As you can see, I've already finished one (Three Cups of Tea)... and what a great book it was! I highly recommend it... On to the next one!

-simply jag


a teacher's final gift...

I looked grace in the eye today.
I looked wisdom in the eye today.
I looked impermanence in the eye today.
I looked love in the eye today.

And although that eye was her only way of communicating, those are the messages I received.

I had the blessing of sitting silently with a friend today.
She is in an end-of-life care facility... in the final stages of her cancer journey.
She has easily had three lifetimes worth of struggles in this one short life, and she has worn them with dignity.

I was nervous about going to see her.
I knew it was to say good-bye ...and thank you.
I was so nervous, I even Googled "what to say to a person who is dying".
(Yes, I actually did that!)
I was reminded that I didn't need to say much.
I could let my presence speak.
I could let my love speak.

As it turned out, that was all I needed.
She is beyond speech now.
Except for that one eye.

My nervousness soon dissipated and I felt...
by the experience
by her presence
by the gift.

She has been a teacher to me...
a companion on the journey of recovery and discovery
and even in these final days,
probably without even knowing it,
she gives.

Thank you, my friend.
Peace to you..

- simply jag


i simply am...

I don't cook.

I am not athletic.

I don't finish what I start.

I am lazy.

I am not domestic.

I have worn all of these labels - and others - for much of my life. I have let them go... and picked them up again, only to release them some time later. They're never very far away. Too often, I have let them define me and determine how I walk in this world.

I have made progress in moving beyond these self-defeating definitions. Can I truly say "I don't cook" as I feast on a Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili that I made from scratch? When I cross the finish line after running 21.1 km, am I still lazy... and non-athletic? And when I take money out of the ATM to pay for our housekeeper, am I... um, well... OK, let's face it. I am not domestic. :-)

I wear other labels too...

I am spiritual.

I am compassionate.

I am a good listener.

I am kind.

I am calm.

These labels seem more appropriate to wear, but they too can work against me. Some days, I am not kind... and I am not calm... and I am not compassionate. On those days, I judge myself harshly and become critical of not living up to the label. I pick up another label: I am a failure.

Just for today, I don't want to wear a label.
Just for today, I am here... I am now... I am enough.
Just for today, I am.

- simply jag


on governance...

In a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, "holds office"; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities.

We, the people, are the boss and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.

- John F. Kennedy

In July 2005, I copied this quote from a wall at the JFK Library & Museum in Boston. It spoke to me then... and it still challenges me today.

Just sayin'...

-simply jag


word. poetry.

in. my. absurd. art. experiment.

the. masterpiece. appears. surreal.

a. sculpture. created. from. purple. smoke.

its. silhouette. smeared. on. white. canvas.

an. aesthetic. metaphor. for. harmony.

and. balance.

- photo & poem by jag


re-committing to my simple focus...

(I'm back - one day at a time...)

I attended a dinner party last weekend and one of the guests - a woman I had never met before - had a bag of scrolls. As I was getting ready to leave, she asked: "Would you like a poem?" I asked her if they were her poems... "No, just poems." OK, why not? So, I thanked her, blindly took a scroll and stuffed it in my purse.

A few days later, I remembered it and discovered this...


Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

(David Whyte, 2003)

She could not have known how much I needed this.
But the Spirit of the Universe knew...
Everything is waiting for me.

- simply jag xox