Sunday, May 26, 2013

Legacy in Light

Duncan, your spirit captured the room last night.
 I could feel you in every musical note, in every story that held your name, in the twinkle of your Mom’s eyes as she shared the stage with Sean, your remarkable talented older brother and in the warm inclusive gang of pals dancing, toasting you and keeping your memory alive.

Last night’s musical celebration was a tribute to you and all that you held dear. Family, friends, the joy of sharing song and laughter were all values that you playfully embraced. Wrap it all up in a raised shot of your favorite, Jack Daniels, and the room resonated with Duncan.

You know that saying, when life gives you lemons make lemonade, well Dunc’s motto might have been, find someone whose life gave them Jack and let’s make a party.

A scholarship was awarded last night in Duncan’s name to Devon, a talented guitarist/singer. Watching him play I had such a hit that your energy might guide him, perhaps inspire him to be all that he can.  You took risks Duncan. You were a teacher of living large and full out, not afraid to taste it all. You took a big huge bite out of life and you said YES to jumping off cliffs. Your voice is still alive and speaking inside every one of us who knew you. It just takes a moment to listen.

This year ‘the kids’ seemed grown up. I saw maturity and depth in the eyes of the boys that I have watched over the years turn into young men. I saw the ‘girls’ glowing with a deeper knowing. I wondered what you would be like if you had reached this age. Would you be bouncing on the dance floor rocking out with your buds?   I know the answer…it’s a given. Fun was your middle name!

And …I know you were there in energy. Your mom knows it too.

You are missed sweet Duncan. You are missed.

Leaving you with a poem from Hafiz, the 14th century Persian mystic.  He too was a man who knew how to live.

Because this is a food
Our starving world
Because that is the purest

Shine on McPhee!


Branded by love,

Authentically Yours,


Monday, May 20, 2013

Fifty-nine tears.

Wow. What a weekend!  I just spent these past three days at the Vancouver Island Music Business Conference with a Friday-night-showcase set thrown in for good measure.  Fun, informative and casual. My friend Karen and I were there to learn more about the music industry, how we might fit in, and to make connections with the powers that be.  And yes. That happened. It was a great experience and I loved every minute of it – including the chalet we chanced upon through  I will never travel again without consulting this website.  It was perfect.

We ended up staying at this abundantly provisioned hewn-log monstrosity, with comfy beds, fabulous view, big kitchen (although I confess to never having turned on the stove, but rather learning where the corkscrew and wineglasses resided). There was an ample supply of DVDs, slippers and robes, wonderfully-scented linens, and formidable examples of taxidermy in the form of hawks and bobcats. It was quite the place, and I would go back there in a heartbeat.

We were a little off the beaten path, which meant we had to plan our sojourns into town to attend the sessions.  On the recommendation of a friend, we picked up our big Saturday night meal (to go) from the Union Street Grill and Grotto and we were not disappointed. (If you are ever in Courtenay, you should check them out!)

But I digress.  The real point of my story is to share how it felt to be at least thirty years older than the majority of the performers and constituents of the conference. It really brought to the forefront one of my big pieces that I wrestle with constantly… I’m getting old and I’m not sure I like it. What better way to show off my (obvious to me) saggy bits and wrinkles than to be placed next to a beautifully-proportioned waif with the voice of an angel? I had to learn how to just have my experience without torturing myself all weekend through comparison with these lovely young women.  And then there’s the appealing young men who at one point in my life may have paid attention to me. It made me feel sad that I might now be seen as someone to whom this attention didn’t matter any more. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I had a great time.  Laughed hard, played well, and got lots of good comments about our show.

At one point, Karen took a picture of me at a session and tweeted it out (with my permission). When I saw it later, I was horrified at the photo.  Truth is, my abhorrence was actually a form of violence towards myself.  I realized had to learn how to be okay with all of this stuff. And if I’m really honest, I’m in pretty damn good shape for a soon-to-be sexagenarian.  (She said in her outside voice!)

What it comes down to is this.  If I’m worried about how old I look, then it’s just information that I’m not centred.  I’m not in present time.  If I were, this navel gazing wouldn’t even be a part of my experience.  What a relief to figure that out! 

So my new motto is, sixty is the new whatever age I want it to be!

Part of my churning is no doubt fueled by the upcoming memorial birthday celebration that I, along with my girls (Fowl Mouth McPhee), and my son Sean and my wasband-rhymes-with-husband and their band are performing for on Saturday night.  It is a night that I look forward to with much anticipation.  At the same time I ache to know what it might have been like to see Duncan who would now be 28 years old as of this Thursday.

I should be so lucky to have almost 60 years under my belt.

So if you happen to be in town on Saturday night, we are throwing a birthday party, cleverly disguised as a love-fest, in honour of Duncan.  We will be launching a Duncan McPhee Memorial Scholarship through Music BC Charitable Foundation.  Many talented musicians will be on hand to raise the roof, paying homage to a young man who has inspired so many… including me.  His mom.

Come and join us at The Backstage Lounge on Granville Island, from 9 to 1.  You won’t be disappointed!

Branded by life,

Buns.  xo

P.S.  Big thanks to Sharon and Jeff who came out to see us perform last Friday in Courtenay… it was so great to see friendlies in the audience! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Wizard of 'Ah'

Relating is an art form that calls for both an ability to allow differences and a willingness to spark and flow in the name of fun and beauty. Buns and I both live with the desire to cultivate this as well as awareness and so getting together for a night out is a sure invitation to shine.

It’s Friday night and miraculously we both have a free window. Time for catch up! We choose another west end gem Travola and we can barely get seated before the topics bounce from the sacred to the profane Tigger style. I love the rush! I love making art out of nothing.

I must say we seem to be very lucky in our restaurant choices, perhaps more so than our men. Tavola, is sister to the smaller Nook where we had our last lively adventure, and it too is a treasure of taste sensation.

We settle in at the bar, relaxing in the friendly modern ambience and proceed to share lovely plates of crostini with olive tapenade, soft buffalo mozzarella, artisan prosciutto and yummy bites of egg halves with white anchovies, grilled vegetables and salami.

Dennis is our bartender but Buns renames him The Wizard of ‘Ah’ after he selects a perfect wine for us. My response to the first sip of Gavi di Gavi Michele Chiarlo was an exhale of pure pleasure...ahh. For Dennis, I mean the Wizard, that sound signals victory, a successful perfect pairing between man and grape. He loves his job. The fact that his beautiful wife’s name is Ahh only added to the banter. I love a man who includes his partner in his exchanges with other females. To me it’s a sign of integrity. And you have to love a guy who within moments of meeting is talking about what being a true masculine warrior means and how a man of strength would openly cry and be vulnerable. I am impressed. He shares a ridiculous joke which neither of us remember and tempts us with food choices each more delectable than the last.

Buns and I talk nonstop on the merits of brain mapping and neuro-therapy, about her energy practice, about the teachings inherent in death and of course one of our favorites girl topics, understanding ourselves in relationship to men.

Ah yes that quirky variable that generates furrowed brows and bliss in equal measure.

Buns shares details about her date the night before. We marvel at how men think. Actually we have no idea how they think, we just get to witness actions that seem to make no sense and then dissect them. I know it’s a standard cliché that men are from Mars and women from Venus but I prefer George Carlin's perspective when he said, “Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.” We try.

At an earlier breakfast meeting with two lovely gentlemen they both wholeheartedly agreed with a psychological study that said the number one factor that indicated longevity in a relationship was good sex. They bounced with enthusiasm for this proclamation.
And I am sitting back thinking, of course you like that statistic; it fits with your wiring.
 It’s not so simple for women. Great sex does not necessarily equate to long term joy. My last long term relationship was very sexual. I would call the sex great and it was not enough. The missing ingredient for me was consciousness and the willingness to share transparently. I want a marriage of juicy bliss as well as a high degree of interpersonal consciousness.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out this elusive thing called chemistry and men in particular. Understanding my partner, my friends, has always been important to me.
What if I stopped I wondered. What if I give up the quest altogether, this calling to somehow understand another? It was a light bulb moment.

I don’t need to understand men; I just need them to understand themselves.

“Ahhhh,” I say loudly and the Wizard pours more wine into my glass.

Ok, I am stopping. It’s not my job to understand the world at large, only myself. Right, got it. And really, when I give up that focus on others I get to sink more deeply into myself. Without the pressure to ‘get it’ I can rest deep inside my essence and just melt into the deliciousness of being in my core.

Sinking in now…separateness dissolving. Ahh…

And back to the discipline of pleasure, just one more bite of the sticky toffee pudding. I won’t even try to put this divinity into words. Just make the sound yourself. Or better yet go to Tavola, order it and you too will call Dennis by name.

Branded by the exhale,

Authentically Yours,

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dying to live.

Recently I have found myself in the midst of provocative conversation and contemplation about death.  Mine in particular.  What do I fear most between now and then?  What do I hope for?  What are my fears about the actual moment? What do I hope it feels like? What do I fear most after my death?  What do I hope happens after I’m gone?

These are our homework questions for a series on death, dying, and documents.  I was filled with trepidation when I learned this was to be the topic for a few weeks in my long-time meditation practice. I didn’t want to think about it, talk about it, or make plans.  I intend to be around for a long time yet and so was very resistant to sitting with the discomfort around all this. Why now?  Really?  Do I have to?

The truth is, I didn’t want to stir up any unfelt or unexpressed grief for my Dad or Duncan.  We are approaching our 6th annual celebration of Duncan’s life and launching a music scholarship in his name on May 25th.  It is always a wonderful night but leading up to it can be more emotionally charged than usual.  And Dad has only been gone for a few months and that’s still a wee bit tender. I really thought that the timing for this topic to be on my plate could have been a lot better.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When I began to answer the questions about how I wanted to die, I saw clearly how my answers describe how I want to live.

What do I most fear? That I will be a burden. That I won’t have the physical sturdiness to withstand what the rest of my life holds. That I will have left things unsaid. That my bucket list will be long and my f**kit list even longer.

At the moment of my death, I am afraid of pain. I am afraid of leaving a lasting, not-so-pretty picture of what my death looked like to whoever is by my side.  Or that I am alone.

And afterwards? That I am forgotten. That I didn’t make a difference. That I won’t have finished what I came here to do (or that I never figured out what I came here to do…).

So what are my hopes?  Some of them will be written – sooner rather than later, so that when the time comes, I will have had a hand in how I depart, and those who may be with me won’t have to guess what would comfort me most.

Mostly though, I have a rekindled desire to live as Henry Miller so beautifully said…

“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

What began as a fearful exploration of death, has become a joyous beckoning to live.

Branded by living,

Authentically yours,


P.S. In our meditation we were invited to hold these words in mind… they are believed to be what a dying person most would want to hear…

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
I love you.
Thank you.
I will remember you.

I can imagine saying these things now to those I hold dear.