The Story of Ray Lamontagne

I never learned to count my blessings / I choose instead to dwell in my disasters

I never learned to count my blessings / I choose instead to dwell in my disasters

Friends are awesome.

And friends who share your love for Ray Lamontagne? That’s just the icing on the cake. For your enjoyment, here’s an online conversation between a friend and I about the beautiful gentle soul, singer/songwriter Ray Lamontagne.

BJH: there’s a lotta things that can kill a man / there’s a lotta ways to die / yes, and, some already did / and walk beside me

Alison: i looked my demons in the eye

Alison: said “do your worst, destroy me”

BJH: awesome

Alison: gentle ray

Alison: i always picture him in this romantic little Victorian shoe shop in a quaint village and he’s the poor shoemaker of the fairytale

Alison: who possesses this otherworldly voice, the only thing that gets him through the drudgery of fashioning shoes for the grotesquely elite

BJH: Yeah… me too

Alison: One day, he’s visited by a traveling trickster who offers him a bag of coin which would allow Ray to retire comfortably in a seaside cottage with his loyal mutt Boots … but for a price

BJH: well written, btw

Alison: Ray must sing into a box and give away his voice forever.

BJH: lulz

BJH: he chose well

Alison: Ray is faced with a choice: give away his voice, or retire rich and alone

Alison: He chooses the drudgery and singing, knowing that it is better to be poor and keep your voice than to be rich and lose it forever

BJH: OR he has to sell his voice and retire, rich and with his dog OR sing for no one and retire, old and alone in anonymity. He does sing into a box and he has ‘retired’ some shoemaking

BJH: and he’s rich beyond my imagination, i would assume

BJH: he’s also young enough that his dog may still be alive

Alison: i think so

Alison: Boots!

BJH: yes, boots

BJH: and not the yelling-dora-style boots, neither…

Alison: nope

Alison: i like our story

Alison: we should get it illustrated



All You Need is Love

Last night I dreamt that I was pushing my nephew in a stroller around the mall. I would say to him, “I love you!” and he would say back to me, “I love you too!”

I woke up feeling drenched in love and the feeling has not left me.

photo courtesy of google image search — “surrounded by love”

As today marks the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I’m reminded of how short life is and how important friends and family are.

If you’re in my life, you’re there for a reason, and today, and every day, I thank God for you.

You are valuable.

Every moment we spend together is valuable, and I treasure your precious time, the present of your presence.

I think I lose sight of it sometimes, and I get so ensnared in pettiness and fears and busyness and I don’t remember what matters.

People matter. You matter, and without your friendship and your love I wouldn’t have much of a life at all.

I love you.

photo courtesy of google image search

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in)]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go, you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

— e.e cummings, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962

We Need Each Other

I have my books and my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armor

I am a rock, I am an island.

I’ve built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate.

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain


I have my books and my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb

I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock, I am an island

–from “I Am A Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel

One year when I was in high school, I taped the words I AM A ROCK, I AM AN ISLAND to the inside of my locker door. Rest assured I was teased for that, but I was making a statement in that turbulent time, both to myself every time I got something from my locker and whomever happened to pass by and see the sign:

I am impenetrable. No one can get to me. I don’t need anyone and as long as I keep these walls up around myself, I’ll be safe and I’ll never get hurt. You can’t get to me!

Over the years I saw the futility of this message. Unless you’re a hermit and living in seclusion, you can’t help but have relationships with other people. And being human, we hurt each other. It just happens. We fail each other and hurt each other and no amount of self-protection is going to stop that.

And yet I would still build and rebuild the walls. I’d let someone in–sometimes even before trust was established–and inevitably get hurt or disappointed in some way or the other because that’s just what happens. Each time I’d look at all the broken pieces of the relationship and make a vow that I’d never let that happen to me again. It’s my fault for letting someone get that close to me, for being vulnerable, for being intimate with someone and letting them see the real me.

Up and up the walls would go. Up went the defences that signalled danger at the slightest sign of rejection, real or imagined; up went the false strength and self-preservation … and I’d wonder why people didn’t know how to approach me or why some brave souls would tell me I was a closed book and hard to get to know …

I was a sensitive little crab that would retreat to the safety of my shell anytime things got tough or personal.

But the truth is that hiding behind your walls for fear of getting hurt can be just as hurtful, if not more so, than putting yourself out there.

No (wo)man is an island.

Better when we're together

Yes, it’s important to tap into the wells of your own being in solitude and find peace in being alone. Trust me, as an introvert (albeit a highly social one), I know this all too well (and have blogged about it often). But like most things in life, it’s all about balance, and something I’ve been learning lately (especially whilst in Ireland) is that we need each other.

We were created for community.

It’s why Adam needed Eve. Why dynamic duos tend to get more done (and have more fun) than soloists. Why even the Lone Ranger needed his Tonto. We are social animals and we need to have community with other human beings if we want to survive.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be careful and establish healthy boundaries in our relationships. There’s a fine line between cowering behind our walls and being wise about whom you trust and decide to let in. Let God guide you, and be as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove. Also realize that your time is valuable and a gift to whomever is truly deserving of it.

I’m learning this and it’s a work in progress. I can’t be friends with everyone and that’s okay. I’m blessed to have many anam cara friendships, a small and intimate church family, and a tight-knit blood family. I’m learning that the premium our culture places on independence and individualism is somewhat flawed.

I’m so blessed to have spent that time
With my family and the friends
I love with my short life I have met
So many people I deeply care for

–from “Red Cave” by Yeasayer
We need each other, and we depend on each other. Not for esteem and validation and to meet all our needs, but for support. Encouragement. To share in our joy and in our sorrows (as my cousin put it so beautifully in her blog).

"However rare true love may be, it is less so than true friendship" -- La Rouchefoucauld

To my kindred spirit friends, my family, and those in my community:

I need you. I’m sorry if I have, in the past, pushed you away or let my fears of getting hurt impede our relationship. I’m sorry if I’ve shut you out and withdrawn when things have gotten difficult. I’m telling you now that I need you. I need your friendship as you need mine. I need your stories, your laughter, your tears, your triumphs, your sorrows, and your time. You are so highly valuable and precious to me and have helped shape who I am today and who I am yet becoming.

I love you.

Beauty of Love

“there is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see the beauty of love as it was made to be”

The purpose of Love is to find a partner we can grow with, through the barriers that keep love at bay, to the centre of the universe that exists inside of us all […] We must work to find God, not to find men. Women must stop trying to be good enough, except for God […] We learn from God that we’re absolutely glorious–in his image, for his sake.

Ultimately, we learn to stop trying so hard. We no longer try to get a guy when we remember we’re only here to bless him. There is a difference between getting a partner and attracting a partner. Getting implies that our hooks work; attracting means that our light is bright and appears like a beacon to one who is meant to see it. When we try to get a partner, we increase our chances of getting the wrong one. Yes, we can hook one perhaps, but a hook in him is a hook in us. We either end up neurotically obsessed, or he figures out it’s a hook and does his own casting off.

[…] Surrender of the partner obsession is a great release and allows much greater room for real love to enter. Be friends with a person. Don’t underestimate the grace of true friendship.

–from A Woman’s Worth, Marianne Williamson. Random House Publishing Group, 1993.

A Christmas Full of Thanksgiving

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

The last few days have been tough for my family with the sudden passing of my uncle. When something like this happens so close to a season when you’re supposed to be jubilant and jolly, you really begin to see that for many people, “the most wonderful time of the year” is more like “the most difficult time of the year.”

Grief is a complex and interesting thing, and in that state of fragility, many emotions come to the surface when you’re least expecting them. Standing in the checkout line at Dollarama. Driving along a country road listening to Christmas carols on the radio. You’re more sensitive to the smallest of slights, whether real or imagined, and sifting through the myriad feelings of hurt, anger, relief, hope, resentment, shock, and peace can leave you feeling exhausted. It’s hard to keep the tears from spilling over when someone cuts you off in traffic or bumps into you in a crowded store and doesn’t apologize or deletes your comments on Facebook, and to remind yourself that–like all things–this too shall pass

Despite everything, my heart is overflowing with gratitude for all of the many gifts and blessings in my life, both big and small. Even though Thanksgiving is traditionally the holiday for counting one’s blessings, I think it’s even more important to be grateful in the midst of loss and pain. As a friend used to ask, “Are your hurts going to make you bitter or better?

In no particular order, I am thankful for:

  • Amazing friends. You know who you are, and whether we see each other on a regular basis or hardly at all, I love you and keep you in my thoughts. Thanks for the encouraging text messages, coffee dates, listening ears, prayers, and most importantly, the gift of your friendship. Some of you have really helped me through some difficult things especially this past year, and I’m eternally grateful for your unconditional support. A special shout-out to both my Book Club and Writing Circle. Cheers to dovetailing interests!
  • The best family ever. We may be small, but we’ve got a heck of a lot of love for each other and have dealt with more than our fair share of death! However, we’re stronger than ever and continue to prove that blood is thicker than water. I have incredibly strong, spiritual, powerhouse parents who are still as much in love as they were in the 1970s and my mom is my best friend who knows me better than anyone. I have an inspiring big sister who has followed her heart and is carving her own path in Alberta. I have a loving and sensitive big brother, a wise and beautiful sister-in-law, and the sweetest little nephew who has captured my heart. I have a hilarious little brother who is 20 going on 25, and an affectionate and loyal pet schnauzer. I have a handful of pretty amazing aunts and uncles and the best cousins ever, one of whom feels more like a pal who just so happens to have had a very similar upbringing. Whew … I could write a novel about how fantastic my family is, but I mean every word of it!
  • Music, always and forever. I don’t know you personally, Marcus Mumford and Sufjan Stevens, but your beautiful music has especially spoken to me in the past few months (and you’re both rumoured Anglicans. Interesting.) Your faith is inspiring and something reflected so creatively in your art. As you sing in “Thistle & Weeds,” Marcus, I will hold on hope. For your listening pleasure, here’s my favourite band of 2010 by far:
  • Beautiful books. Specifically this year, I think of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, both of which have had a profound effect on me.
  • The simple, everyday moments that take your breath away with their perfect orchestration. The other day, I was sitting in the coffee  shop waiting for my friends to arrive and drinking a chai latte. For a brief moment, no one in the coffee shop spoke any louder than a whisper, if at all. No milk was being steamed and no smoothies were being blended. “Dream a Little Dream of Me” was playing on the radio. Sun was streaming through the window. In the words of Stephen Chbosky, and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

it goes without saying, but most of all, i'm thankful for this--the fount of every blessing

  • Favourite hymn + favourite band =

On that lovely note, let this be my bloggish Christmas card to you: my friends, my family, and the wild and wonderful blogosphere which has provided me with some great friends.

Wishing you comfort and joy this holiday season.

Sigh No More

and my heart told my head, "let love grow"


And there will come a time, you see, with no more tears

And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears.

Get over your hill and see what you find there

with grace in your heart

and flowers in your hair.

“After the Storm” by Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons is awesome. Friends that leave special handmade books with song lyrics and scriptures that speak directly to your heart in your mailbox for you to find after work … are also awesome.

When it comes to incredible, life-giving friendships with kindred spirits, I struck gold. You know who you are, and I’m so happy God brought us together.