From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier

From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan" by Andy Couturier

Pages 264-265

“Sooo..” I begin to ask him, a bit apprehensive, not wanting to be insulting, “Gufu-san, why write all this stuff down?”

Unperturbed, he replies simply, “To make a record. If you don’t record things, you start to lose your sense of the place. It’s also interesting when you talk to other people, or when I want to look up something later. But it’s mostly just to make a record, even if I don’t use the information.”

“Yes, but how do you decide which things to write down?”

“Whatever is possible to write down, I write. How much the bus cost. How much the movie was, or how much the hotel was.”

“But why?” I ask.

“I didn’t have any purpose in doing it.”

No purpose? Perhaps I’ve been too attached to all my own actions being done for a reason. Utilitarianism is so deep in my culture I don’t even notice it. Listening to Gufu it occurs to me that it may not be so good to be always reaching ahead in time. Sitting here with my friend in a farmhouse in the mountains of Japan, I find my way of seeing the world start to deepen and change. All these little, unlooked-at details create the fabric of memory. By writing them down, we are refusing to let the experiences of our lives get subsumed in the tsunami of time, the onrush of the next, and the next, and the next. I think of so many travelers (myself included) zipping from one location to the next, taking photos of scenery or a building. Have I been missing the beautiful in the obvious?

Gufu is showing me--not that he’s trying to show me anything--that the whole world can come alive with these tiny details, ephemera, you might call them. But not just a generalized “world,” but a specific world, an India of a particular time, and, as it happens, an India that is disappearing every day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021


 Today dad and I are going to Dave Purewal's office to sign papers. It's a long process of back and forth but it will eventually get done.

In the meantime, dad is having trepidation about moving to the retirement facility but I am being determined. 

I am sympathetic but I am also relieved to be moving dad out. It's a full time job that my husband and I don't want to do. There is no reason why we need to do it either. My brothers don't have the same urge to look after dad. So why is it left to my husband and myself?

I am pretty burnt out as is my husband. I feel that it is time for us to enjoy our own lives.  Our sons will both be independent soon. My dad will be in the retirement home only 7 minutes away from us. My handicapped sister is in her facility. So all things considered, I think it is best for all concerned that they are living their lives and we are living our lives.

Of course this doesn't mean that the work of care taking ends. There will be other jobs to be done associated with both Rebecca and my dad. But we will finally be able to go on holidays together. We can go visit my son in Calgary together. We can have our lives back.  I feel happy about this.  Life is short and my husband and myself are not guaranteed anything.  I won't be robbed of our happy life.  

Could we have taken care of dad inside our home?  Maybe.  But he is increasingly frail. Our house is not suitable for a person with frailty.  We want to sell our house and move ourselves.  So it's a matter of time only when we ourselves will need to downsize and move ourselves into an assisted living placement. 

I don't want to do these transitions the way it's always been done with my extended family - as last minute chaotic moves. Nope. I want to do this intelligently and the first steps are getting my dad into his own placement. Then we downsize our own place. And we move into a new place which has very little stuff in it. 

Transitions are always difficult and emotional. It's best to remove the emotions from it and proceed in a detached fashion.  

Intelligent decisions are required.  Make them while you still are healthy enough to make them. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Care taking jobs to do for September 2021

 I am taking Rebecca soon to Dr. Ehmann soon  for her eye injection.  I will take the vaccine cards for both of us to the appointment.  After the eye injection, I take Rebecca to the big M for her treat. I will take her pull ups and toilet paper today to drop off. 

It is  a hard sunny day outside. Soon will be frosting at night. 

I have to bring in the calla plants soon. And the fig tree but I don't know how to disinfect them so they don't bring in contagion to my indoor plants. 

Sue's house will be on the market soon. I feel sad about this but removing the emotion is essential. These are all just things. Not Sue. They are Sue's things. And Sue is dead. 

Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. The decades where everything was status quo fooled us into believing that the equilibrium of bad health and bad financial decisions would last forever but this isn't the case. Instead of grieving about the loss of a bad status quo let me create a better situation for the present. I don't want to do care giving any longer for my dad; my husband doesn't want to do the baths and care either. So dad has to adjust to strangers doing his care. He would rather have care in his home but this is not financially possible nor is it safe for him to be alone. So I have had to make decisions that he doesn't like which is that he will have to be placed. The place that he picked isn't perfect but for now it will do. I will check out the public system which appears to have 24/7 staff in place for SL4 residents like my dad.

The only way to reduce my confusion about care at the private retirement residence is to ask questions

I have no problems asking questions. If dad is going to be paying big bucks for his care, I want to ensure that the care is appropriate for his needs.

I am getting dad's materials ready for his move. I make a list of the items for the 3 plastic boxes I have for these items:

1) Bed sheets, pillows, blankets, comforters.

2) Bath towels, face cloths, hand towels. Nail clippers, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, liquid soap, conditioner, electric shaver, 

3) Clothes; shirts, dress pants, dress tops- shoes- slippers- white vests, underwear, belts, pyjamas, pull ups, 

4) Food items to take - Coffee, tea, biscuits; his fruit cake, blueberries, apples, brown sugar, milk, porridge, Corn flakes, 

5) Toilet paper, Kleenex, paper towels. 

6) Spoons, knives, forks, plates, bowls, fruit tray for his fruit

There is a lot to do as dad has lost weight and needs new clothes; he won't be going to the store so I will do a back and forth thing to buy clothes, check if they fit and return them if they don't to exchange for other clothes. 

We will take him in person for shoes as he needs a new pair; the old pair seem to be too heavy.

I make lists and checklists to contain chaos.  In my head there isn't much order so I try to establish order with the checklists.

London drugs delivery of my dad's bubble pack has been moved to Friday September 24 now as I might be busy with dad at the lawyers' office before this date and can't be home for the pick up. I have to remember to transfer the delivery of these bubble packs to dad's retirement residence.

So many folks do care taking without whining. I am not in this group.  

As I get older I am now downloading care of extended family members to others. I have done too much of this work to feel elevated by the burden of taking care of them. If they had made some better decisions early on I would not be taking care of them for this long. In any case, my husband and I are now in the process of downloading care of extended family members to other people. In this way we can begin to live our own lives before we ourselves will need care. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

This and That- Sunday September 19, 2021

 I made an apple crisp yesterday as the apples in the fridge were ageing.  The apple crisp was fine. 

We ate half.  I was tired out yesterday and had just enough energy to get through the day.

Today is another day and I feel more peppy.

Like yesterday we are working on Sue's house to empty it.   We still have a few more things to remove from the house and the garage.

The real estate agent wants the house emptied. We went and emptied most of the house and garden/garage except for the table which is still in the house. It was very  heavy. 

I feel a bit sad that my sister's house is on the market. So many dreams are in that house. It is a house of dreams.

But removing the emotion from selling a house is paramount. It's no longer her house. It's a thing. It has to be disposed of. It took most of a year and a half to get it emptied out and now I am ready to let it go. Except for the table of course. That table has to be moved out. I might have to get my brother to help me move it out. 

Right now I am super tired.  I decided to read a book for a bit. It is good to have time to read.

Tomorrow is a day for Rebecca's eye appointment.  I will drop off her pull ups and toilet paper at the same time. 

this is a simple story

 and here is the door
open it      to face what lies beyond the portal

silence and darkness
they aren't to be feared

make sure you leave your words
to tell those you loved  

that you will forever be grateful
for them    and then

when you have done the most important work
which is to love and be loved (for this a reciprocal business)

take yourself off
and just depart

death is a door you open voluntarily
you don't need permission to open this door

you just open it 
and depart

I have seen the chamber that waits for me
I have been there before     there is nothing to fear

for how can you fear obliteration?
see the robin on the field   

that robin was travelling 
and then suddenly     the robin died

this is a simple story 
and the ants devoured his body

when I encountered the robin 
I asked myself    if I was any different than this bird

and it was clear I was not 
so I decided that there is no sort of place 

where I could be reunited with those who have died before me
I decided that it's best to enjoy the time left

and leave respectfully   without whining about the calamity
of mortality

you won't find me amelia curran.wmv


when you arrive to take me

 when you arrive to take me
don't drag it out 

let the blow come swiftly 
so I depart

don't take days as you did
with my sister who died like a leaking ship 

and instead be fierce so that I burn to ashes quickly 
I am cowardly     but I will wait

for you to come
and I will not hesitate when it is time to depart 

the chamber is silent
and the darkness obliterates

I have seen this place before
and I know it's dimensions

I know there is nothingness as the future 
each molecule of the body dissolves there

I understand termination
I understand natural cycles

I have my proof
so when you come as a dream

to stand beside me
to take me to nothingness

I won't hesitate to go with you     when you come 
I have rehearsals done

the real is more important now 
than the delusions of eternity 

I made my life's work in the small items
of family and love

I didn't achieve anything immense
I did what I wanted to do with my life

which is a privilege afforded rarely
and I loved as much as I could

these are the works that I completed
the real is more important now 

than the delusions of eternity
I won't hesitate to go with you     when you come

Amelia Curran- Tiny Glass Houses (with lyrics)


take a moment to praise the time you are given

 and understand that nothing is guaranteed
life itself is a falling leaf that whirls in the wind

you must take the time you have left
as a gift that can be randomly taken back

here is the day that you are given
praise the sun that empties her basket of golden apples

on the earth    praise the sunflowers bursting their golden pockets
and praise the leaves as they rust in the fall

yes     praise all you are given for this can be final
take the time left as the final withdrawals from the bank of your life

here is the day that you are given
feel your life intimately    how you are ageing  and how one day

you will be laid to rest     in the stolen ground where 
your mother and sister lie    in that farmland 

take a moment to praise the time you are given
and praise the aches and pains of your body
that faithful servant that  has served you uncomplainingly 
for decades    as it stumbles and fails towards the end

yes praise the body as it shows itself as friable and damaged
nothing lasts forever and yet it keeps working

yes praise the time left    the sun and the slow decay of summer
into autumn    the winter coming like a blow on the head

praise what you have been given     because nothing is guaranteed
not even this blessed day    which foments the idea

that you are eternal     that life itself is guaranteed to you
surely you understand that it's all ephemeral?    

here is the day that is a gift that is given to you
raise your voice to praise it

Scattered and Small

Jul 21, 2008

Saturday, September 18, 2021

but I missed you

 and tell me your name
so that I might know
the way 

I have waited along the path
for you to arrive
but I missed you

when you come again
slipping through the noose of desire
to stand before me

tell me what the future holds
tell me how to navigate the path
tell me how to endure death and loss

and tell me your name
so that I might know 
the way

I have a small collection of statements
to use as I go 
and a bag full of tricks

to show that I have mastered grief
I have a star at night 
that shines when I can't sleep

I have dust to blow when 
I think I am immortal
and the grasses bow down before me

 and tell me your name
so that I might know
the way 

I have a little time left 
to learn the final lessons
can you come soon so that I might graduate?

I have learnt courtesy     so that I might
pass through the eye of the needle
to thread a poem

and I have endured humiliation    so that I might make
a line like butter on a hot piece of bread
so that I might feed myself 

 and tell me your name
so that I might know
the way

Scattered and Small


I tell myself to go to the end

 and tell me how you will live your life
and I will tell you how you will die

have you been gentle 
with those you have encountered and forgotten the self?

have you trusted your children
to do their very best?

have you spent your time with those you love?
or have you chased the world's desires that abound?

each step you have taken on the path
will determine where you will end 

in the far country of your life
you see it's simple to understand

what you have done will return it's profits ultimately
who you are is what will determine how you will die

will you be surrounded by those who love you?
or will no one be there to claim your name?

it's not the money that determines love
and presence    but time you spent with those you loved

the ego is a hard task maker
and superficially seems to be the way to go

but giving it up might be the best course
where you are now was determined by the choices you made

I take my ego like a glass ball
and I smash it to pieces every single day

the way out of the emptiness is this 
don't serve the ego but instead love freely instead 

I take my glass ball and I destroy it 
as if were a pernicious disease

I tell myself the ego is not my guide
I tell myself to go to the end

as a breeze blowing over the grasses
as the leaves falling in the garden

Amelia Curran- Tiny Glass Houses (with lyrics)


the silver foliage begins to write a poem

 I take my soul
as if it were real
and I work towards a goal
which I dimly conceive as essential

but then I get diverted
the wind blows the leaves
from the Ohio buckeye 
to the grassy knees

the onions dry to yellow shards 
while the peonies learn their final lines
of departing from this last act 
the silver foliage begins to write a poem 

and summer skips out of the doorway
fall arrives in bitter apples and wind smacked pears
you must decide how to live your life
which is so ephemeral 

I take my father to his appointment
I watch him frail and slow
I have been through this before
I see the future that is coming

and unlike with all others I do my due diligence
and prepare for endings
I tell myself to understand
that nothing endures    nothing lasts

we are temporary bags of blood and bones
we walk about as if we are eternal
but frailty decides our deaths
I watch the portal as it opens

Hands on a Grain of Sand - Amelia Curran

Nov 29, 2011

Friday, September 17, 2021

This and That- Friday September 17, 2021

 It has been a busy two days most of which escapes me. I did remember to meet with the sales agent for Sue's house yesterday and today. Sue's house is finally going on the market at a disappointing price but there you go. I will stay optimistic.

Today dad and I met with the community transition coordinator who is sort of the gateway to community care in the public sector. I wanted to have a plan B for dad as private continuing care is very expensive. I have been given several places to look at that I will investigate. Some of them do not appear to be very ritzy.  I complained fruitily to the AHS person about the dough heads we have running our province to the ground while being paid for their idiotic performance. Why aren't they all fired? 

I got the moving truck booked for dad's move to the retirement home. It's very expensive but hubby and I are too knackered to do the move ourselves. Also my brother is very busy and would not be able to help so we will get the work done by others. There is only so much we can do. There isn't a great amount of stuff to take to dad's place in the retirement home but it has to be packed and washed in terms of towels and bed linens. I don't want to over do it as the room itself is small. 

I will also get a few treats, instant coffee and teas ready for him so he can snack if he gets low.

Tomorrow is the appointment with Dr. Krysa. There is the disability tax credit to get done as well. 

I had a long day today which means I am more scattered than usual.

Hubby wanted pizza so we got 2 of them from the Riverbend Dominos pizza place. There was a lot of people ordering pizza so I didn't feel so guilty about wasting money on junk food. 

I didn't eat most of my pizza so it is going to be leftover for tomorrow. 

Right now I think I will go read a book as my brain is fried. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Conversations on Dying Conversations on Dying a Palliative-care Pioneer Faces His Own Death Dwyer, Phil, 1955-

 I went grocery shopping to two places but did not get blueberries. I don't know why dad has to have blueberries and only blueberries for his fruit choice. I got peaches instead. 

I will pick apples from dad's apple trees today. They will be stored in the garage until we need them.

I put a stop order on the missing cheque that TD Direct Investing lost.  I spoke to them about the reimbursement and hopefully they will get it done. I have lost confidence in issuing cheques to banks now.

It is nippy outside which means I need to work on the transplanting of my calla lily today. I also want to get them inside but where will I put the calla lily and the fig tree?

Maybe I should do this now as the evening is booked solid. 

I had a nap before I tackled the lily repotting. She was too big and so I cut her up into 3 parts and repotted her. She is just a big sucker. Decided to pick dad's apples tomorrow. Too tired today. 

I will drink tea now and ignore the laundry.  Maybe finish the library books that I want to return.
I go to the online requests for the library and put a few more requests in even though I have 15 books still to read. Let me go read now. 

So I read a book on dying. It was helpful. We are all going to die. Let us learn what dying is all about and let us prepare for it as much as possible. 

 I read this book and left a review. The useful part of the book was at the end. It had some practical advice for families  Even though I forget, it's productive to get these tips:

1) Page 193: Incompleteness. 

"Have I savoured every moment? No, I've had my tough times but it's really a pleasure to have had the time that I had to be able to do what I did and to get the kids' memory boxes done, to settle things with my family. You never quite finish all of your tasks.  There will be things I'm not going to finish and giving up on those was a big step for me."

Accepting incompleteness is a new idea for me. But maybe I should be used to unfinished work being as it is I do it every day on the blog.

2) Page 199    The inability to do more is something to remember. Towards the end of life, you simply lack the energy to do even small things:

  "My family look at me and think I can do more. Everyone who visits says I look very good.

If only they  could feel what I feel-- that every movement and almost every breath must be taken with some effort. They exhort me ---exercise more, eat more, don't give in.  But I really don't have energy to even think about doing any of those things. It's overwhelming, a pernicious symptom that often lacks external signs except for general wasting that is present. 

3)  Page 201 There are ways to help when faced with this weakness that he provides information on. 

-education of family 

-exercise for strength/ balance 

-physio and OT

-mobility aids

-instruct on how to use them well by an OT

-skin care (bed sore watch)

-use hospital beds, lift chairs 

Conversations on Dying

a Palliative-care Pioneer Faces His Own Death
Title rated 4.5 out of 5 stars, based on 8 ratings
Current format, Book, 2016, Available .
A portrayal of a renowned Toronto palliative care doctor's struggle with death.
5 copies
2 available
0 on hold


About the author

Phil Dwyer's journalism, essays, travel writing, and fiction have been published in over fifteen international titles, including The Financial Times, The Times (of London), and the Globe and Mail. He is an alumnus of the Humber School for…



From the community

comment from jya3
Sep 15, 2021jya3 rated this title 4 out of 5 stars
We are all going to die so we might as well get familiar with the process. This book presented the dying of two people. One had a horrific dying; the other had a more civilised one. In the current situation in Alberta, it's pretty likely that dying horrifically will happen as the doughheads in charge of the province in 2021 appear to lack any sense of medical knowledge and would prefer to push the healthcare system into disarray and downfall rather than tick off their Yahoo supporters. It's unfortunate that our province is run by ignorant political folks but at least the citizens will experience what a Trumpian lack of leadership leads to which is a collapsed health care system. Families best prepare themselves for a non-existent palliative care system and no real home care; the private system will be used by those who can afford it which won't be most of us. But at least this book shows us how to die intelligently; make a will, decide on how you will go through the dying process; it helps of course to be in the medical profession and to have colleagues who will support your decisions. For most of us, we will die in hospitals and in pandemic times this means your family won't be around your bed. You will die with one family member with you as my sister died at the Royal Alexandra Hospital with me by her side. You may die in a stressed system where your physicians, nurses, housekeeping staff, laboratory technologists, respiratory technologists, and other medical specialists will be burnt out and exhausted from almost two years of idiotic management of a pandemic. You may die in an emergency ward waiting for a bed. You may die alone. To prepare for death intelligently requires planning while you are younger and not sick. Do this planning. This book is not a road map of how to intelligently plan for your death. It's a record of the dying of two men. Choose which of these paths you wish to follow. Dying is hard work. Don't wait until the end of your life to prepare for this hard work.Read less of this comment