Wandering Wayside…

“My friend, wait by the wayside. Linger a while by the wayside and see, I’ll come wandering by there in no time. Wait by the wayside for me.”

I’m so drawn by the call of these lines in the opening of Scott Cook’s song Wayside. I’ve been lying these hot summer nights, staring at the shadow of trees on darkening skies with this song playing over and over.  I am so caught up in the idea of tangents and journeys and what you find when you are drawn aside.

The first time I started an online dating profile I carefully gathered my pictures: showing me in different scenes and activities, aiming to visually tell the story of who I was and what I did. When I got the pictures all posted (along with my clever, vivacious, well written piece of prose) I mentally stepped back and looked at what I was presenting as a whole; it was then I realized in all the pictures I’d chosen, I wasn’t looking straight at the camera in any of them. The electronic equivalent of not making eye contact; I was copping a shy on the internet. Not surprising, and a fair representation of how I was feeling as I dipped my toe into the world of online romance, but stunning to see what your subconscious will do for you when you ain’t even looking.

I’ve noticed my subconscious at it again in the last few weeks: the pictures I’ve been posting on things like my new flickr profile, the image on the Seekers poem – all shots of me looking off to the side or wandering off camera. Like the call of Scott’s song, I’m being drawn wayside – away from the road I’ve been on, willing to linger a while and wait. And finding myself wanting to end sentences with an ellipse, like there’s always more to come…

I haven’t been much for writing these days, I’ve gotten all quiet inside, happy to just look, listen, and wait. I’ve been much more interested in reading the beautiful and fascinating poetic replies to the We Are All Seekers sohbet, the poems and comments arising from the Gift poem, and the deep and heartfelt discussion on the Puberty Ruined Everything thread. So grateful for the conversation, I love the tangents people take from the seeds I start – going places I never expected, and delightfully surprised by the journey of their minds.

I’ve got a giant whiteboard in my livingroom, with all the writing “work” I need to be working on, and I’m not interested in any of it. It’s my heart, my lifeblood, my greatest joy and inspiration, and I’m strangely content to just leave it, to just wait. I’ve got this funny feeling words don’t matter, and it’s hard to write from that space. I don’t mean words don’t matter in a nihilistic “what’s the point” sense, just that words are just words and what can they really say anyway. I remember something The Chink wrote on his cave wall in Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues: everything is important, nothing matters; nothing is important, everything matters. And that makes perfect sense to me when I think about writing these days.

A friend mailed me a newsprint clipping, on it nothing but a single quote from Rumi:

Words are good, but there is so much that is more than words. You can tell someone you love them, and that says something; or you can look them in the eyes, and that says something too.  Right now I’m really digging all the things that are said when you don’t say anything at all.

There are places you go when you go where you think you want to go, and there are places you go when you forget about having to go anywhere. I love the open-ended randomness of that, so ripe with potential and the unknown. Waiting, willing to be sidetracked. So beautifully uncertain. It just feels so right in my soul right now. In the mail with that Rumi quote also came a wall hanging: In the midst of chaos lies creativity. Such a lush idea! Letting go of plans and goals, delving into the churning unknown, what will come of that?

This piece isn’t coming around to any grand answers or conclusions right now, and that feels kinda right too. Open-ended, free to go anywhere. Wandering wayside, we’ll see…

Oh, and Scott Cook is one of the forces of beauty and goodness in this world, he’s travelling all over Canada right now. You should go see him if you can, buy a record, and just say hi – he’s one of the most genuinely friendly people I’ve ever met.

More on the value of doing nothing at: I Quit

12 thoughts on “Wandering Wayside…

  1. Sorry, I haven’t even finished reading the first paragraph and can’t resist posting… I’m wondering where you’ve been that you’ve “been lying these hot summer nights”? Because it’s been bloody cold here in Calgary! Poetic license perhaps? Or wishful thinking? Maybe your furnace is running uncontrollably?

    I promise to now go back and read the rest of Wandering Wayside!


    1. Well Bob, I don’t know what kind of summer you’ve been having, but my nights have been hot (trying not to grin at that sentence…). This post was actually written in that VERY quiet time when I had no internet and I’m just now able to put it on the web site, and up until a couple of days ago my appartment was never below 25 degrees, day OR night.

      You can remember this summer any way you want, but what I’ll remember is: heat, lush greens from all the rain (mosquitos!), and amazing evening skyscapes almost every night.


      1. Well, I do remember the mosquitos – lots of them. But they only bit me; never Dave. Something to do with the herbs I take, and my wine consumption, I suppose… I’m nicely spiced and well marinated.

        The skies have been lovely, indeed, and I photographed a couple of them.

        Rain – yes. Lots and lots of it. And at least 3 huge hail storms, which pounded our flowers and dented the siding on our condo buildings. And caused hail damage to our vehicle (and many other people’s as well, that I know), which I’ve never had before… ever.

        But heat? Nope. Calgary’s weather never went above 28 this year. So pleasantly warm sometimes, yes. But I’m afraid since we never even got close to breaking 30 I can’t say it was ever hot.

        My recollection will be that this was a summer that wasn’t. I only hope the winter doesn’t arrive so early, or with so much force, as it did last year – we still have trees and bushes all over our neighbourhood (and indeed around the city and surrounding areas) that are dead, or severely suffering from winter-kill, from last year’s awful winter.

        Between the long winter, and the spring and fall snows, and the summer hail, is there a single month where we don’t have something frozen falling from the sky? One thing I can say with certainty about Calgary – I don’t live here for the weather!

        But then, I’m longing for our eventual move to Mexico, where it can be really nice and hot, and Calgary’s 6 month winters will be a distant shiver of a memory. And in Mexico there will be lots of time for wandering wayside, exploring, and being open to the potential of where each day can take you… and I’ll be warm!


        1. Dear Bob,
          Someone at work exhorted the rest of us to think sunny thoughts. She continues to be loyal to the sun god by wearing her sandals and capris no matter what the weather until the first snowfall and wanted us all to share her hopes. It doesn’t seem to be working but I told her it may be that God is answering prayers from past years for the drought to end.

          On my wayside wanderings this summer I met a potter and his artist wife who were selling their business and home in Creston BC. They were moving to Mexico. I asked them if they were looking for a different inspiration of colour and design for their pottery but the husband said, “Darn no, I’m going to retire and fish for the rest of my life.” I thought Creston was near paradise but obviously he was looking for paradise somewhere else.

          I guess everything depends on your perspective.


  2. Hi Valerie

    Always like reading your musing when I take the time. You’ve reminded me of something I haven’t thought of for a while (since college). There’s a track in counselling known as meta-communications theory in which they would say “You can’t not say something”. And yes the double negative is intentional. We are always communicating even if we don’t think we are. I’m sure this is nothing new to you, but just wanted to share that. There’s a message in our presence, our subtle body language, our eye contact, our posture, all kinds of things that I am sure I could be better at being mindful of, but in the end it is better to just be yourself I figure. Otherwise we can become actors, trying to change how others perceive us. I don’t think that’s really something we can do anyways.


    1. “There’s a message in our presence”

      THAT, Perry, is one of the most beautiful ideas I’ve encountered in a long time.

      As I was lazing on my patio today I was thinking of a phone message I came home to last week from a frazzled friend wanting to come over and just chill on my patio with me. “Need to soak up some of that Valerie vibe” was how she put it. Your comment reminds me, sometimes we don’t have to DO anything, just BEING can do a lot.

      And I think you’re right, it’s worth being mindful of the subtext we communicate. Not to be duplicitous, but as a way to check in with ourselves, read our own subtle signals to see where we’re at (sometimes surprising!). Illuminating, and helpful as a reminder to actually work to shift into the mental space that backs up what you say. Life is full of saying the right thing, even if you’re not quite feeling it yet (gratitude through gritted teeth). I’m currently working on saying some affirmations without a drip of sarcasm, and the fact I know I’m not entirely buying what I’m saying does help me work on finding a way to say them with sincerity.

      Thanks for such an enriching perspective Perry.


      1. Valerie, Bob, Perry, and all,

        My reply just addresses two trees in the forest. I know that if I choose to relax my body language, to look relaxed, I do feel more relaxed. I’ve been jobhunting for a while, and interviews are one setting where it’s useful to look confident and calm.

        I have been through some good, healing wordless times, Val. Lately I am in more of a finding voice time. I am also in a multilingual time, even though I have a child’s vocabulary (with certain gaps) in a mothertongue, and some complete cluelessness, not even a broken command, of my father’s. Isn’t it tiring to speak English all day?


        1. Good point jyanti, that changing your body can change your state of mind too.

          And on the topic of wordless times v. finding voice: my favourite poem has 3 stanzas 1) being a bee and gathering 2) being a deer and quietly digesting and 3) being a lion and living with fearless passion. So if you’re in a liony phase, then roar my friend, roar!

          Here’s a link to somebody who’s posted the poem: http://ewakening.blogspot.com/2008/02/as-bee-seeks-nectar-from-all-kinds-of.html


      2. an update on my efforts to say my affirmations without sarcasm…

        I nearly killed myself with food posioning last week. 20 minutes after eating the offending substance (my own damn fault) I was doubled over as my body heaved out what could have killed me. In that moment, I could say with utter, heartfelt sincerity:

        “My immune system is working perfectly.”


  3. I’m somewhat new to wayside wanderings, but am entirely grateful for those experiences. I’ve recently taken to being a bit more spontaneous in my travels and these experiences have been some of the most life affirming, joyful moments of my life. I’ve discovered things about myself that I both love and not like so much, but all the same deserve to be celebrated, qualities of fear, risk taking, trust, letting go of control, and above all, acceptance of gifts of fun the universe offers.

    Valerie’s piece affected me so much that it reminded me to listen to my inner voice. I had recently been planning a trip to BC to help my son move and a few weeks ago booked a B&B. Something about the booking bothered me but it wasn’t until I read Valerie’s writing that I decided to cancel it. I’ve decided just to go, and not worry about accommodation. This is a slight risk in that it will be Labour Day weekend but maybe through that risk I will discover a wayside adventure in paradise or a new location for retirement to dream about.

    As to Valerie’s description of noticing how she communicates nonverbally through her photos: I find that fascinating. As a visual artist I’m always drawn to nonverbal messages. This year I’ve been involved with teaching children about body language as a form of social skill and communication. It surprised me how widespread the need for this kind of teaching is. It must stem from our techno world where communication through technology doesn’t rely on body language or visual cues anymore. I’ve been experiencing some health issues of late and a friend of mine referred me to a body talk practitioner. No matter what we say, our bodies know and cannot lie. So by asking questions and light touching this intuitive person may be able to detect what deep rooted causes may be affecting my health.

    Like many of Valerie’s other musings, this one was written with such clarity, simple wisdom, and insight that it was like a bell ringing in a silent room. I couldn’t help but pay attention. Kudos to Scott Cook for inspiring another beautiful piece of artful writing.


    1. Wonderful comment Donna! So much in here, but I think what resonates most is how letting go can open you up for discovery. Good luck on your explorations (geographic AND soulful).


  4. hi all,

    this quote seems relevant here, i particularly like this description of ‘posturing’. it is from a translation of the Dao De Jing by Lafargue.

    “The point an aphorism makes resides not in the contents of what is said, but in the implicit choice made to bring up this image rather than another. This choice in turn conveys the attitude of the speaker. When someone is deciding whether to take a risk, I might choose say “Better safe than sorry” or I might choose to say “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” The crucial issue behind this choice is not which saying is objectively more true, but which saying I think puts this particular situation in the right perspective. A child who says “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is not explaining an objective truth but is “posturing” – assuming a certain posture or attitude toward a situation, insisting on seeing it in a certain perspective. Everyone saying an aphorism is “posturing” – assuming a certain posture or attitude toward the situation and inviting his or her addressee to share this attitude. In bringing up a particular aphorism, one is not primarily conveying information; one is primarily expressing an attitude. The ultimate basis on which an aphorism hopes to persuade is not the objective truth it directly states, but the attractiveness of the attitude or perspective it “acts out” toward the situation it addresses.”


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