The GrovesLine

just a place where i hang my thoughts out to dry


Give Green a Chance

It’s not every day you get an email from Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon

Imagine my surprise then, as I found myself, on the eve of my Calgary Bed-In for Sustainability, rolling over the 14th green in a golf cart at the recent Right To Play charity golf tournament in Canmore, when I answered a phone call from my friend Russell asking if I’d checked my email recently. I replied that, no, of course I hadn’t checked my email, and, that if he didn’t mind, I was putting for triple bogey, so could we talk later?

The surprise came when he told me excitedly that I’d just received an email from the mother of the Bed-In herself: the one and only Yoko Ono. I didn’t make the putt.

Somewhere, in that mysterious place where all the ones and zeros line up, Yoko Ono caught wind of what I was planning to do and her assistant tracked me down to pass on this note:

“Kristina, Congratulations for your courage and wisdom. I love you! yoko”

Considering the apprehension I felt in sticking my neck out for something I care about in such an unusual fashion, this email, from someone rather well versed in sticking one’s neck out, gave me a feeling of confidence and relief that this was indeed a good idea.

But I was still nervous that it might not go well, or that Calgary wasn’t interested or ready to hear what we wanted to talk about. And having just motored out to Canmore for a grand round of 18, even if in support of my other favourite cause, Right To Play, I was worried people might start to dissect my every move, ready to pounce on anything I’ve ever done that could be attributed to environmental destruction of some sort to which they could claim any degree of hypocrisy. Well, unfortunately I think just being born in Canada takes care of that.

Friends from the Coalition for a Healthy Calgary dropped by in some interesting costumes.

It ended up being one of the most interesting days of my life. You might think that after a full day in bed I would feel rested and relaxed, but the non-stop conversation and activity left me feeling utterly exhausted. I was, however, also left feeling inspired, informed and encouraged. In spite of the seemingly impossible task of tackling the colossal environmental issues present throughout this city, everyone I met throughout the day was a shining example of someone striving to make change happen, no matter how big or small.

After spending the better part of my life striving to simply skate faster, it was illuminating to learn about the work people all around me are doing to improve their neighbourhoods, challenge their local officials, and clean up some of the mess we have made. My world grew just a little bit. But then, it was not a day about me, rather it was a day about connecting with the community and having huge conversations with people I have never met about something that affects every single one of us, whether we care to admit it or not.

My first question to most people was what they thought the word ‘sustainability’ means. It was generally agreed upon by everyone I spoke with that the word ‘sustainability’ is not the best word we could use to inspire people to listen or act. It has been claimed by everyone from big government to the oil industry and environmental groups to economists. It’s the sustainability bandwagon and everyone is jumping on.

The problem is that the word can be used in so many ways, both in terms of its definition and the broad range of topics it can describe. Dr. Noel Keough, a professor from the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design, conceded that we’ve developed a tendency to gloss over when we hear the word. It’s a catchphrase, a buzzword, a misnomer even, that seems to have lost it’s meaning. We’ve heard it so often we don’t even know what it means anymore.

What exactly are we sustaining? Should we sustain infinite economic growth or infinite oil and gas exploration? Should we sustain where we are at or should we be striving to change direction? Many people defined it as using only what you really need, but then the problem becomes thinking we need more than we actually do. We need a better word.

Another question I asked each guest was: What is the biggest challenge that Calgary is facing in trying to become a more sustainable city? Here’s what we’re facing:

  • poor urban planning and the endless annexation of new land for suburban development
  • too much provincial control over municipal finances
  • car centred infrastructure
  • excessive energy usage
  • lack of concern or sense of urgency from governments and individuals
  • cynicism
  • my personal favourite: nimble minds promoting rational inaction

Gary Beaton from the Calgary tour de nuit Society shows examples of cars vs. bikes vs. bus. Which takes up the least amount of space?!

This is a complex issue of course, and the challenges start with governments who are either diabolically opposed to the climate change issue or too afraid to take risks and end with individuals who either don’t care at all or have given up thinking they can make a difference. Not very inspiring is it?

My next question was: What are some solutions to these problems? A little snapshot of the responses:

  • have the courage to get involved in politics
  • use social media and marketing to inspire individual behavioural change
  • lead by example
  • start small: leave the car at home one day a month
  • retrofit your home to reduce energy costs
  • bike lanes please!
  • provide an incentive for the better option
  • be more thoughtful about the choices you make

A lot of us know these things inside and out, but we don’t always do it. Why is that? According to Gerald Wheatley from Bow River flow, it’s because the carrot hanging in front of us to do the wrong things is HUGE. For many of us energy is too cheap, the train is too inconvenient, biking is too hard, we want huge houses that need to be filled with stuff, and we’ve been conditioned from day one to believe that this is all normal and okay. The lack of any sense of urgency is rooted in the fact that day to day we don’t really see the problem and this attitude is continually perpetuated by the ‘willful ignorance of the wealthy’. Pretty harsh words, but not without reason.

In bed with Dr. David Swann, leader of the Alberta Liberal Party

Although everyone I spoke with had amazing things to say, the conversation I had with one person who was particularly memorable and inspiring was Dr. David Swann, the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party. I haven’t met many politicians in my day and I’d have to say that, like many people, I’ve grown a little disheartened by many I’ve seen on tv. But Dr. Swann, who is a soft-spoken, thoughtful, brilliant man, was about as genuine and passionate as it gets about the work he is doing. Although he is endlessly paddling against the current and rarely heard amid the sea of blue that washes over this province during every provincial election, he is doggedly determined to make change happen. See part of our conversation here and here.

I have a good deal more thinking to do about this day, and a lot more information to comb through to fully appreciate what I experienced and what can come of it. The end game of this event is to present a report to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Dr. Swann said, ‘why stop there? You should send this to Stelmach and Harper. You need to think big.’ It never occurred to me to think big. I thought it would be best to start small. I guess it’s both. New to do list: leave car at home once a month and send report to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Stay tuned!

My last question to each guest was: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of this city? Everyone was enthusiastically optimistic about the future because they’ve seen first hand the change they themselves have inspired. I’m increasingly optimistic that change is possible, over decades likely, because now I’ve met many of the people working down in the trenches, doing the work, making a difference.

So, did we change the world in a day? In a word, no. But in some ways, the world changed a little for me. And that’s a start.


Bringing Back the Bed-In

In 1969, during the Vietnam War, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace in Amsterdam and Montreal, which were their non-violent ways of protesting wars and promoting peace. It was a memorable event, iconic even, representative of how one voice can be the voice of millions, heard by millions. The success and impact of the event is debatable, but one thing is certain, their voice was heard.

The Bed-In has since been re-created, re-interpreted and re-used by many over the years, in protests of various kinds by a number of artists since 1969. Well, I’m no artist and I’m not making a protest but the opportunity to take a stand and raise my voice for something I care about is what this event is all about.

In the spirit of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, I’m bringing the Bed-In to Calgary. I’m not protesting war, or promoting peace, instead I’m using the Bed-In to highlight another issue that affects us all: the future of our city and our world.

On June 24th I’ll be hosting the Bed-In for Sustainability with my friends at the Obasan Mattress shop in Kensington.  Obasan has graciously allowed me to use their beautiful new store with the bed in the window to stage this Bed-In for Sustainability. Joining me will be several community leaders in the sustainability movement to share their insights and ideas about making Calgary a more sustainable city.

You’re welcome to join us too. Stop by the Obasan store at 106A 10th St. NW in Kensington anytime in the afternoon to see what it’s all about.

In the 16 years years I’ve been living and training in Calgary I’ve seen it transformed from a small-ish city in the West to a mega-sprawl, cosmopolitan, traffic-ridden, smoggy and congested, yet prosperous, dynamic, vibrant and innovative city with loads of potential. With the recent election of Mayor Naheed Nenshi I feel more optimistic than ever that Calgary can remain prosperous, dynamic and vibrant while tackling the issue of sustainability. I look at massive cities like Chicago, Seattle and Copenhagen and see the amazing things they have accomplished in such a short time, like inner city on-street bike lanes, green roofs on office towers, city-wide composting, green space revitalization and so much more, and I know that we can do the same in Calgary.

We’ve been slow to start, but the potential is there.

I’ve made some progress in reducing my own personal impact; by installing a new high-efficiency furnace, low-flush toilets, energy star windows, a front-load washer, and a smaller energy efficient refrigerator, by composting, ditching the clothes dryer, replacing light bulbs with CFLs, riding my bike, buying local meat and produce when possible, choosing Bullfrog Power, and a low-flow shower head… with much success.  Our little house only uses on average 170 kWh of electricity, 4-6 cubic metres of water and 2-7 GJ of natural gas each month, significantly below the national household averages of 800 kWh, 26 cubic metres and 3-23 GJ of natural gas each month.

And I joined up with Clean Air Champions to reach school kids and deliver the message about the issue of climate change and air quality. I signed up to David Suzuki’s Play it Cool program for athletes to offset carbon emissions from travel.  I helped establish a Sustainability Committee for Speed Skating Canada.

But lest you think I’m tooting my own horn, let me tell you, I’m no saint. Far from it in fact. I’m well aware of the impact my occupation has on the planet. I fly all over the world to race in circles inside massive, artificially refrigerated indoor speed skating arenas. I sometimes drive to places when I know I could bike or take the train. When I renovated the bathroom some of the leftovers went to the dump. I buy stuff I don’t always need. And why do I make these choices? Because it’s often just plain easier to jump in the car, throw stuff out or throw down the plastic. Somehow, no matter how little I drive, what improvements I make to my little house, or what kind of food I buy, none make up for the massive toll my lifestyle has on the world around me.

But what if became easier to make a better choice? Where jumping on the train is easier, faster and cheaper than taking the car, or renovating an old bathroom means having easy places to recycle or reuse old materials, or where the things you buy last forever? The great thing about Calgary is that it is constantly changing. There is so much potential for this city to grow in a sustainable, intelligent and progressive way that will make it easy for people to choose sustainability.  Complete streets, bike lanes, work where you live, community shared agriculture, public transit and so much more can, and should, become a natural part of our lives – where you don’t even question car vs. bike because it’s so obviously bike.

So, the Bed-In. The idea is to have a conversation. A conversation about ideas and solutions. A conversation to determine a vision and establish a goal for what we think this city could become. A conversation about how we can choose to make that choice so easy it’s not even a choice anymore.

When I first started speed skating I was terrible. I mean really terrible. I was a skinny, weak, awkward little kid with gangly limbs. But I had potential. And over the next twenty years I transformed myself into one of the best speed skaters in the world. You have to start somewhere, and to you, Calgary, I say let’s start today. It may take twenty years but we just might end up being one of the best cities in the world.


You're invited on June 2nd!

And now, some good news. As an antidote to all the self-pity and public navel gazing of late, you are hereby cordially invited to attend this annual University of Calgary event which promises to be a good time! If you’re in Calgary on June 2nd and are up for a little soiree, stop by the University of Calgary ARCH Awards Celebration. There will be minimal ‘official stuff’, strictly short speeches, and plenty of schmoozing and fun instead.

Please RSVP here or click on the photo below if you plan to do so.  Hope to see you there!


Dear Sidney Crosby,

Dear Sidney Crosby,

I read in the paper last week that you’ve encountered a setback on the road to recovery from your concussion. I knew that you’d been back on the ice with your teammates and that things were going pretty well. Then one day you pushed it a little too hard and unfortunately slid back into ‘symptom-land’. I felt really bad for you when I read the article because it seemed like you were getting there and it’s really hard to accept that you’re not. I feel your pain, believe me.  I’ve been a regular visitor to the mysterious and unpredictable ‘symptom-land’ recently. I’m surprised I haven’t seen you there, as we have tended to arrive at the same time. Maybe you’re staying at a different hotel!

We’ve never met, you and I, although I feel like I know you because, well, you’re a famous Canadian hockey star. And I watched with pure joy as you scored the OT winner at the Olympics in Vancouver, which instantly and forever connected you with every beating Canadian heart alive at that moment. Thank you for that goal!

We did cross paths once though, quite literally in fact, after the closing ceremonies in Vancouver in the Athletes Village. I was walking to the food tent, you were walking back.  Me, gushing in whispers to my BF that it was you. You, simply walking by nonchalantly with one of your teammates. Our jacket sleeves almost touched. Sorry if that sounded creepy.

I’ve followed the numerous updates on your status with more interest than I might normally have for a hockey player, partly because I’m a fan, but mostly because I know what you’re going through and I somehow take comfort in the fact that someone else out there is having a tough go with the old head.  I feel less crazy knowing that someone like you is having setbacks like me.

Now it seems as though we are on the same path, albeit under somewhat different levels of scrutiny. Your every move is noted and analyzed in the hopes that you might be back to scoring goals ASAP. Me, not so much, although I do spend a fair bit of time scrutinizing myself and how I feel in the hopes that I might be back to something fun ASAP.  It must have been disappointing for you to watch your team be eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, but there is a little part of me that suspects that a little part of you felt a bit relieved that maybe now you can disappear to recover in peace and quiet.

I bet you love hockey a whole lot, and although I can’t relate to your life on most levels, I do understand the absolute joy of sport and love of competition quite intimately. I’ve been speed skating for as long as you’ve been alive! But the sheer injustice of having that yanked out from under you, and the pull of your heart to reach the pinnacle of what you are so passionate about halted in cold blood, that hurts. I know. But then, you’re young, you have so much time!  And I’m glad for you that you are being smart about the whole thing, not rushing back to play and ‘be tough’.  Your sport is unforgiving and brutal at times, and you are wise to recover fully before re-entering that arena.

Me, I don’t have so much time.  To recover yes, of course I’ve got reams of time for that.  But re-entering the arena, well, that I don’t know about. I’m old you know! I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that up until now I’ve had a pretty great go of it and I accomplished a great deal, much of which seemed unlikely at times. I sure miss it though. But then I miss just simply feeling good and normal even more.

Did you ever think it would take so long? I sure didn’t and somehow I doubt you did either. Being an athlete, it’s in your bones, and you just want to GO! It’s hard to have to stop. And when you start again and it feels okay you think, ‘alright, I’m getting there’ and it feels so great!  Then you go a little longer next time, maybe just a tiny bit harder and bam, you’re right back to where you started.

I guess the thing about it is you just don’t know how it’s going to go.  With anything really; life, sport, that play, that shot, that goal, that hit…  I guess it keeps things interesting. The best we can do is remain hopeful that it will get better, that we’ll be back on the ice someday soon, ripping it up. As tough as it is, I like to think that I’ll come out of this somehow better than I went in. I don’t always believe that but knowing that eventually I will be fine is some consolation to the daily ups and downs.

Thanks for being such a great Canadian hero, for being a smart athlete and for helping me get through this tough time. Maybe we’ll cross paths again someday and be able to share a laugh or two over the ‘dark days’ of concussions and how great it is to be healthy.

I hope I don’t read any more articles about you in the paper about setbacks. I sincerely hope you are back on the ice soon feeling good and doing what you love to do.


Kristina Groves

p.s. I looked up your famous goal on you tube and found this gem. It’s just like it was being there.  Look what you did for Canada!

1 Comment

Go Do!

So, leave it to a Ford commercial to make me feel like doing stuff.  Like fun stuff, canoeing, camping, hiking, skiing, living… Watching TV the other night I saw a commercial for a new Ford Explorer. At the time I didn’t notice what car it was but I remember the feeling I had watching it. I wanted to do everything in it, it all looked like so much fun.  I guess it’s not enough to just try and sell you the car anymore, now they’re trying to sell you the life to go with it. Well, I don’t need the car, but man, I need a life!! After four months of sitting around feeling lousy I’m seriously so freakin’ ready to go outside and do something. I’m up to brisk walks and ten minute rides around the block but I want more!

The song for this commercial really caught my ear, you know, to go with the life I was being sold. Thanks to google, my fingertips and the words “new ford commercial song” I instantly found the song I’d heard just moments earlier. The name? Go Do. If ever I needed a mantra that time would be NOW, and these simple words blew through me like a gust of wind on a mountaintop. Go! Do! Yes Please! I could use a lot more going and doing these days, and although I’m not quite there yet, I am bursting with just wanting to go and do!

Of course I bought the song by singer Jonsi on iTunes and I’ve listened to it many times.  It’s a feel-good song.  It’s also nearly impossible to understand the words he is singing.  So I googled that too and found the lyrics:

Go Do by Jonsi

Go sing too loud
Make your voice break – Sing it out
Go scream do shout
Make an earthquake…

You wish fire would die and turn colder
You wish your love could see you grow older
We should always know that we can do anything

Go drum do go out
Make your hands ache – Play it out
Go march through crowds
Make your day break…

You wish silence released noise in tremors
You wish I know it surrender to summers
We should always know that we can do everything

Go do you´ll know how to
Just let yourself fall into landslide

Go do you´ll know how to
Just let yourself give into low tide

Go do!

Tie strings to clouds
Make your own lake – Let it flow
Throw seeds to sprout
Make your own break – Let them grow

Let them grow (Endless summers)
Let them grow (Endless summers)

(Go do endless summers)

You will survive we´ll never stop wonders
You and sunrise will never fall under

You will survive we´ll never stop wonders
You and sunrise will never fall under
We should always know that we can do anything

Go do!

Sounds like fun to me.  I think I’m going to buy a drum.



My favourite place to be in the world is a tiny little cottage on Lady Lake in Papineau-Labelle Provincial Park, Quebec, about 90km northeast of my childhood home in Ottawa.  I used to say it was in my top three favourite places of all time, but without really having a sense of what the other two were it has since become the de facto leader by virtue of being uncontested. Built, for the most part, by my father’s hands, with the help of many others, my brother in particular, but also my Mom and me, and numerous other friends, neighbours and family members, it is reminiscent, purposely so, of the traditional ‘hyttes’ found in my mother’s native Norway.

It sits nestled among expanses of crown land populated by endless maple, birch, and pine and several crystal clear freshwater lakes. Through the back window, strategically pruned trees offer a small glimpse of little Lady Lake, which is just two kilometres long by one kilometre wide. Several other cottages are lucky enough to find themselves perched on the side of this lake, but few enough that it often feels like we have it all to ourselves. Boats are limited to a maximum of 7 hp, eliminating any chance of water skiing, jet skiing or power boating. We have a canoe, two kayaks and a dock. It is blissfully quiet, save for the haunting calls of the common loon at dawn and dusk.

It’s not so much the physical place I adore, although I admit it tends to take my breath away each time I walk through the door, but instead it’s a feeling, a time, a history of shared experience with the people I love that makes it so special.  No other place in the world can induce this sensation of sustained joy.  Indeed the love affair was occasionally on the rocks during my teenage years, when I succumbed to mall surfing and peer pressure, occasionally opting out of weekends at the cottage. Thankfully, I outgrew that.

Perhaps it has attained such high status in my mind because I am not able to visit as often or as freely as I would like, having lived in Calgary  for the last 15 years, pursuing Other Fun Things.  I have the great fortune of being there on occasion, at least once a year, sometimes more, for a few days here and there, but it never seems often enough or long enough. As such, its allure has grown stronger with every passing season that I do not set foot inside that door. When I come home to Ottawa now, it is usually the only place I want to go.  I have even driven straight from the airport to the cottage and back, without so much as a thought of stopping at home, although I only did this when my parents were out of town!

One bright light amid the frustrating darkness of recovering from this concussion has been the freedom to do as I choose. And I chose to go home, and to the cottage, in February. I’m usually in Europe in February, racing, where the cottage seems like an absolute impossibility; its very existence just a figment of my imagination.  So to be there in February, with snow on the ground, the woodstove on and the wind howling outside was heavenly, and a little surreal.

Having initially hoped that I could go home and ski to my heart’s content in both Gatineau Park and at the cottage, it was a little disappointing that I had not yet recovered sufficiently to do so.  But still, a rare gift to be at the cottage in February. Somehow, no matter the circumstance, being in that little corner of the world gives me the opportunity, concussion or not, to eliminate all the bustle around me and in my mind and just enjoy the calm.

One afternoon I ventured out for a short, painfully slow snowshoe.  Ever careful of the need to go easy, a concept in sharp contradiction with every fibre of my being, it was, at the very least, an opportunity to be outside in the fresh air just doing something.  Stopping to take a rest, or to take a picture, I enjoyed so much the moments of quiet that enveloped me then. Being there, doing that, I felt for a moment or two that my mind matched my surroundings: all those trees, just standing there, being still.  If there is anything I can aspire to at the moment, it is simply to find that place in my mind where I feel… stillness.

As usual, packing up and leaving felt too soon, especially not knowing when I’ll make it back again.  I’ve actually timed the trip, door to door, from the moment I leave my house in Calgary to the moment I jump in the lake, and it runs roughly 7 1/2 hours, give or take.  Not bad if you don’t mind the carbon emissions.  Maybe I’ll be back in the summertime, when the sun is hot, the lake is outrageously refreshing, the paddles are dripping and the loons are calling, and everyone is there.  Sometimes, when I’m far away, I think of those trees, the water, that feeling of being there, and it all seems timeless and unchanging; still.  I love that place.

On my last day at home I went skating on the Rideau Canal for the first time in at least 15 years.  Several times during the week I’d driven up and down Colonel By Drive, looking wistfully at the throngs of skaters out to enjoy the final days of Winterlude.  It is impossible for me to drive by the canal, frozen or not, without thinking of the day I tried speed skating for the very first time.

It was a blustery, cold day in the middle of February, circa 1988, and my Mom brought me down to the canal to give it a try. I stuffed my feet into some old speed skates, with the long steel runners, three sizes too small. I happily jumped onto the ice and into that glorious place where children go to discover something new; to attempt something they’ve never done before without fear or apprehension but rather with enthusiasm and an innocent sense of possibility.  That moment transformed and defined my future.

So, in addition to the joy of being at the cottage, I was thrilled to be able to lace up and skate again on the Rideau Canal.  Funnily enough, this time around in my Dad’s 30+ year-old hockey skates, with the old steel runners, three sizes too big.  Contrary to my first foray onto that ice some 23 years ago, my excitement was tempered slightly with fearful thoughts of hitting a crack and smacking my head and apprehension that I might suffer the effects of the exercise later on.  Truly the most debilitating symptom I’ve suffered with this injury is the sudden disappearance of any confidence I have in my ability to freely engage in the thing I love most, simply put – physical activity of any kind and the joy I feel when doing it.  Sore neck, the fog, and fatigue aside, it is the loss of that feeling that breaks my heart in two.

As I stepped onto the ice some of that apprehension slowly melted away and I loosened up a little.  Of course I did not forget how to skate!  Cracks be damned, I was out there skating and it was fun.  For a short while I felt really really happy.  I calculated that in my prime, on my speed skates, I could be able to cover the entire length of the canal, 7.8km, in roughly 10 minutes. Probably a ridiculous prediction considering there are no corners with which to gain valuable speed through centrifugal force, and not taking into account wind or lots of friction from what is likely pretty slow ice, but then, physics never really was my strong suit.

In my heart of hearts I do believe that sometime soon, or a little less soon, but sometime nonetheless, all of this will seem like a bad dream and I’ll be back to doing the things I love to do. Sometimes it seems unlikely, especially on days where I randomly feel worse than the day before and occasionally spiral downwards, but deep down there is a little root keeping me grounded and optimistic that I will get better.  It’s kind of like I’ve once again unwillingly left the cottage, and even though I’m gone, all those trees are still there, just being still.  But I leave knowing that some way, somehow, I will always find a way back to Lady Lake again, no matter what.