The Most Glorious Summer of My Life (2015)


Well, the water and the sun were especially beautiful the other day.  This shot was taken at Hawrelak Park.  I have been getting out and doing a lot lately, going for bike rides, going to take photos with my Dad to various parks.  Edmonton is so amazing.  When we were at the park taking this picture, there were conservation officers not a mile away on the same side of a river trying to deal with a black bear that was spotted in our oh so lovely home city.

Yesterday (Sunday) was an especially cool day for me.  Cam Tait, a well known writer for the Edmonton Sun, did a story on me and my book “Inching Back To Sane” (which has just gotten an honorable mention in the New York Book Festival).  It was like having a birthday, only my presents were notices on my phone in text, email, Facebook and voice mail saying that people saw me and congratulations and all that.  I feel a bit nervous about the whole thing because I talked candidly about being mentally ill and I wonder how people will take it.  I am kind of hoping that if I get out to some book signings people will recognize me and the name of my book from the paper and possibly buy more than normal.  For anyone in the Edmonton area by the way, I will be at the Chapters Store on 105 street and 82 (Whyte) avenue for a book signing next Sunday, July 5 from 11:00am to around 4:00pm.

I really liked the article that Cam Tait ran, and he has also been kind enough to agree to post my book signing on his twitter and Facebook accounts, but I felt a bit more pride and happiness later in the day when I found out a short story I wrote was given high praise by a couple of artists working on a project to historically portray a well known (at times infamous) Hotel in downtown Edmonton, the York.  It is so amazing sometimes to see one’s name in print and to see people write things that are positive.  When I was a teenager I used to get that thrill from driving my old Ford Cobra as fast as I could, I was a real show-off and some kids would be amazed at it.  Then later on in life I remember being in a large pool tournament and feeling that incredible rush when you make a difficult shot and a crowd of people applaud for you.  I also had quite a rush from flying a small plane but that wasn’t quite the same.

Now I just love it when I write something and it has substance, people compliment it and even say it touched them.  That is why I have been excited about taking on a greater role as a writing teacher in my community.  So far I have only taught a few classes, but I have this idea in my head that when you take people who are poor or homeless or mentally ill and teach them something that gives them a skill, a way to express themselves and communicate, you empower them to transcend their situation, to improve their lives, even to free themselves from their current difficulties I believe.  So in that vein I am going to try and get funding from a community revitalization grant to teach two classes, bring in guest speakers and hold other events and workshops for people in McCauley and the surrounding areas.  One class will be open to the public but kind of geared toward people who are mentally ill, and the other will be at the Bissel Centre, a drop-in centre for people who are homeless or without means of support.

On a side note, I made kind of a neat purchase the other day, it is a little device the size of a deck of cards and comes as a ‘you build it, you program it’ computer that runs on Linux.  It was so much fun to hook this thing up and add software and all that but I fear that will be where the fun ends.  I got an interesting free software package of office programs and I also installed ‘Doom’ on it.  I love doing things like that to challenge myself, but then the reality is that there is actually little use for it once it is up and running.  When I had my own apartment I had sort of a computer business running in it, I think I had more than ten computers, and I was always doing things like setting it up with Linux, upgrading the Operating systems and all that.  Now that I have a Mac I have gotten a bit lazy about things.  I actually don’t just have a Mac though, I have an iWatch Sport, an iPhone 6, an iPad mini and a desktop Mac Mini.  All in all kind of cool but a little overboard.  I think my iWatch has really enhanced my life though because it can time how many calories you burn and how much motion you undertake each day and I have been doing some serious exercising and feel really good physically.  I have always wondered though what the connection is between people who are extremely fit and people who are extremely smart.  It seems rare to find a bodybuilder who is nerdy, I wonder if it has to do with the amount of time it takes to work out compared to the amount of time it takes to study and work hard academically.  One thing I do know is that when I was around 17 I started to discover how good it felt to be in shape and I started to seriously want to make that my main focus.  My brother was a bodybuilder when we were teens and for most of his adolescent years he did poorly in school but then turned things around in grade 12 and did very well for himself while being very fit.

One of the things I remember was that when I was in Cadets it was almost mandatory to lift weights, it was just what Sergeants did and I used to do a lot of different workouts though by that time I was a smoker.  Then I started to go into what I can only refer to as a pacifist mode and wanted to turn away from everything military.  I remember talking with my gym teacher and I told him that the majority of people who work out or play sports do it with the sole intention of being able to do violence to other people.  I was very wrong, but in school I was really turned off of sports for my grade 11 and 12 years (though I still did a martial arts workout several times a week and had very physically active jobs) because of the way ‘dumb jocks’ had bullied me.  It’s all a question I have no answer for, except to ask that you read my poem which is after the picture below, keep and open mind and feel very free to comment on this blog entry or even send me an email, I would love to hear from you.  My email is


The Way


Once I felt so worthless and forgotten

But I kept my sense of pride

Always thinking of how I hurt so many friends

Who have moved on and even some who died


If I had chosen another path for myself

I will admit I would not be standing here

With new friends and a family I love so much

And the one woman I hold close and dear


It seemed that I had wasted

Such a huge part of my days

But in the end I think I had to

For things to become so good in so many ways


Once there was a light of my life

A young woman beautiful and smart

But she simply would not become mine

Though now I’m glad that we did part


She seemed to think the she has class

So much more than all the rest

I thought she was all I wanted

But now I live among the poor and feel so blessed


I have my true love, I have the words I write

A family all over who I care so much for

I had to learn a lesson to become a man

Always ask for less than others and give more


I can hardly express how my life has become

Living among so many dear friends

Even some I worship on Sundays with

And will hold dear until the bitter end


A strong heart now beats inside of me

And I have so much more than I could ever ask

Who would have thought a thing like love

Is far and above our lives’ most important task


I send these world to the whole world

In the hopes that even a few will see

Only when you give all of yourself

Can you be at peace and truly free


I also ask that you honor those who paved the way

For our present world and now are gone

Be like a bonded servant to all those who need

Care and love to just simply keep on keeping on


Pray for the poor and lonely

Always try to ease their pain

Give all you can and know the truth

What you give will come back again


And as the years melt past before your eyes

Your hair may whiten but your soul will grow

And you will have the joys and memories

That only the good ones ever know


All God’s Creatures and Creations

DSC00103       This is a photo of a poor neglected critter not too far from where I live.  There are scores of these poor guys in Edmonton.  I have heard that rabbits like these are often not wild rabbits, they are rabbits that were adopted as pets for Easter and people decided they didn’t have the resources to take care of them and set them loose.  Australia had a very serious problem with rabbit overpopulation (hey-they breed like rabbits!)  They actually had to release a disease that killed them off by the thousands to cull the population.  Sometimes I wonder, even though it does seem a bit inhumane, why they don’t capture these rabbits and use them for food or even simply their pelts.  As far as food, apparently you don’t want to eat any rabbit that lives within 50 miles of a city, they are full of rancid polluted water and waste.  As for the pelts I don’t know.  I had a friend who worked in leathers and he was able to make gloves and such from rabbit, but that may be different kinds of rabbits than the ones we see around Edmonton.

Well, I don’t really think I have a terrible lot to say today.  There is something I want to address, up until recently I had a problem with two things that made my whole life very difficult.  One was that I had a very hard time getting up and getting going for things I had to do, and the other is that I never seemed to be able to stick to a schedule.  Lately I have gotten a lot better about these things (thankfully-I had a strong feeling that this would doom me to unemployment and even extremely poor health-imagine never being able to keep Doctor’s appointments and such).  One of my problems though was time management and it has been incredibly changed by me buying an iPhone.  I have a friend with one and he is constantly checking it for appointments and adding or removing things.  The iPhone makes things so easy, you just scroll through a few options, type in what you need to do and where and you can even set alerts for a day ahead or an hour ahead, and also a second alert.  I thought just having a phone was a huge difference in my life, but now I am feeling a lot more confident about being able to stay on track, take on different things.  I was never able to keep a  day timer before, but now I took the leap and it is kind of exciting.

So, as many of you may know, I try to keep to a kind of ‘life skills’ theme, focused on people who either have or treat or have family members with mental illness.  I think a lot of what I have to say applies to many types of people though.  What I wanted to address today is pets.  Pets can be so amazing for people, just the other day I met an incredible dog that changed my mind about dogs forever.  I also like cats a lot, but now I see how much fun a dog could be.  I have only had a few pets in my life, a couple of gerbils and a hamster, and it was amazing how much they changed me.  My first pet, a gerbil I named Leo was so much fun.  I would let him out of his cage and he would climb into my hand, run up my arm and either sit on my head if I lowered it, or he would shimmy down and go into my shirt pocket.  It was an amazing experience to have another creature to care for, and having him helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  I will never forget watching a documentary about a senior’s home where a cat they had in common among all the residents would actually know when a person was going to pass away and would go and just sit with them until they were gone.  Dozens of studies have proved that a pet lowers blood pressure and heart rate and other important health indicators.

I can’t remember if I had talked about him before in this blog, but I had a pet once who was pretty incredible.  His name was Lilleven, which was Danish for little friend and he was so loving to each of the five members of our family.  When he died I thought I would never have another pet.  I have had pets since him, but I still like to honor his memory by getting others to name their pets after him and to talk and write about him.  I won’t get too far into that here, I just want to stress that anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue should consider even something small like a gerbil or guinea pig, they can add new meaning to one’s life.  I remember a story I heard when I was a teenager about a woman who was in a serious state of depression and would have tried to kill herself but stopped because she realized that no one would take care of her cat if she were gone.  That is a pretty powerful reason to have a pet, it can actually save your life!

I will lay that topic to rest for now.  Today is my departed cousin’s birthday.  His name was Frank Hansen and he was a very kind and friendly man.  I don’t know for sure if I met him when we were kids and I was in Denmark, but we connected for a time on Facebook and I had made plans to one day go and visit him and his family.  His sons today posted to Facebook a picture of them laying flowers on his grave and it made me feel very sad.  It has been three years since he passed away and they are still having a hard time coping.  I totally understand what they are going through, some years back my mom passed away and not a day, not and hour goes by without me thinking of her.  Every time something good happens, every time I feel like I need to talk to someone who cares no matter what I think of my mom.  What I was told that my grieving process may never end, and that is fine with me.  Over time I have learned to cope with my feelings but I don’t get them out as much as I would like.  Shortly after my mom passed, my Psychiatrist told me with the utmost of compassion that losing your parents is something that happens to all of us.  In a way I thought my mom and I had a special relationship because we both had a mental illness and both knew the state of hopeless desperation, but in reality, a mom is a pretty special person to probably 998 out of a thousand people.  Nothing in the world is more important than being a mother, there would be no people if it weren’t for mothers and there would be a lot more carnage in this world if mothers didn’t teach their kids just about everything about life.  To get in a good word for Catholics, I should mention that Mary, mother of Jesus was the first Saint and is held high above all humans because she was holy enough to carry the son of God in her womb.

Anyhow, I hope people out there have been enjoying this blog.  As I always I welcome your comments, I want to thank the people who have been commenting, though I feel you are all being a little too kind!  🙂  As always, I want to stress that I am writing this blog in the hopes of helping people and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, so feel free to contact me any time at my person email,

IMG_7440This is Pyramid Lake, where my family goes each year around this time.  The small island is where we scattered my mother’s remains a few years ago. 


Peter Hemingway (Coronation)


It was hot today and I was waiting in the sun for another downtown run

I squinted in the bright sunlight admiring pigeon-angels taking flight

They soar in search of usable waste, then glide gracefully down to take a taste

If I had some fries I would share, these are such beautiful creations and I care

I wish I could feed the world and these scavenging birds but all I have is words

In my heart I feel such strong emotion, a feeling not unlike devotion

The animals and trees and grass and sky, they all give me some new kind of high

I wait just long enough then from far off I see my bus

I board the number five and marvel at how in the summer this city is alive

Rabbits, magpies, gulls geese and blue jays, oh God in heaven bless these warm days

The bus takes me along to where I see the river, our provider, our forgiver

A million green and glorious trees swaying gently in a cool north country breeze

But as the route continues all goes dead no more trees just financial towers instead

Soon though I pass downtown and once more trees grass and parks abound

I ring the bell to sound the call I am disembarking at the mall

As I leave the bus the perfume perfection of lilac trees surrounds and enraptures me

What a time in life to walk through a park then write poems until dark

I want to paint for you a picture all in words of these things I’ve seen and heard

How I walked to the swimming pool and dove into water deep, blue and cool

And then I sweated all my cares away in the hot tub to cap off the day

Now I feel as though I were newly born, just a little time left for TV and popcorn

Colder days haven’t escaped all thought, but hey-these summer days were bought

I also have so many awesome friends; cold weather doesn’t mean the fun must end

Edmonton is truly dear to me, here my heart soars like an eagle, strong and free


Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015