Switching Lanes

By Judee Fong

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Kahtleen Arnason considers her Camino hike one of the most important things she has done for herself.

Kathleen Arnason’s life has always been focused on family, writing projects, publications, art, marketing, social media, motivational coach and much more. Active in new projects, she laughingly says, “Busy people always find time to do more.”

Kathleen recognizes opportunities that come her way and is bold enough to grab them. She recalls, “I wanted to be a builder and I am. I built my life. I build books and help others build books. I build projects and that’s never done alone because building with others is sharing a dream, a goal.”

One night, Kathleen dreamt a vision that made a lasting impression. “I remembered a fountain made of stones with seven towers on it and the dream message was, ‘If you want peace, you have to start with the children.’” Talented friends designed and built a small replica of her fountain for her “Peace Fountain” tour in 2010. Supportive friends helped with food and lodging as Kathleen crossed Canada and spoke to numerous schools.

Four hundred children were interviewed on their thoughts for world peace. As a researcher, Kathleen wanted to know where children go to find their personal peace, especially in times of poverty, stress, strife and survival. She emphasizes, “I wanted the children to understand personal peace.”

With the help of sponsors like National Trust for Land and Culture Canada, For a Greener Planet and Sierra Club BC, plus volunteers and experts, Kathleen will chair the first “World Children’s Summit on Peace and Nature,” taking place in Victoria on May 19-22, 2015. The Summit will provide opportunities for children from different cultures and backgrounds to share their stories with each other; to explore new ways of finding their peace in nature; and to teach other children what they learn.

The conference will be streamed live to the rest of the world. All the participating children, ages 10-14 years, will meet again on September 21, 2015 at Alix Goolden Hall to present what they have learned from experts generous in sharing their knowledge and skills: Vice-chairperson Renee Lindstrom on contemplative movement; David Bouchard on culture/ storytelling; Frances Litman, nature/photography and Molly Rahner Newman, music/ukulele.

Embracing life with enthusiasm and joy, Kathleen continues to forge ahead. March 2015 will unveil Kathleen’s Bee Happy Clothing line, designed for infants, toddlers and young children.

“I’m so excited about Bee Happy Clothing because they’re wearable ‘fun’ pieces that make children want to dance and be happy.”

Kathleen’s cherished storybook characters such as her Icelandic elves Snorrie and Snaebjorn, faeries Ocean and Janey will be imprinted on her Bee Happy clothing. A Bee Happy Pillow with a cheerful bee sitting in the middle of this big, plump pillow will also be available to comfort and help a small child understand his/her feelings and actions. Kathleen explains, “Rather than a ‘time-out’ in isolation, a child has the chance to calm down, to talk about his/her feelings, to have a voice and share his feelings with a parent who listens.”

Kathleen was working at a gallery when she saw a painting brought in by a young artist. It was a scene from the Camino and the artist’s story of her pilgrimage appealed to Kathleen’s adventurous spirit. Seven years later, Kathleen’s 800-kilometre journey on the El Camino Napoleon route began in France from St. Jean Pied de Port and ended in Spain at Santiago de Compostela.

“My two sons rank first, but walking the Camino ranks second as one of the most important things I have ever done for myself.”

This Camino route had the most challenging start by walking over the Pyrenees, and Kathleen almost changed her mind. She vividly recalls, “I couldn’t do this and turning around, I walked straight into a man’s chest. It was a man I knew when I did the Fountain of Peace tour. He was climbing the Pyrenees, too, and I was too embarrassed to tell him I was about to quit. I started walking with him. Eventually, I told him how I felt and he said, ‘No, you must do it. I will see you over this mountain.’ And I said, ‘Even if you have to carry my backpack?’ And he replied, ‘Even if I carry your backpack because you need to do this.’ I did.”

“I’m from the Prairies, and I got to the top of this mountain thinking going down would be easier, but it was even steeper. All I could think was, ‘Only God would play a trick like that on a Prairie girl!’”

Kathleen remembers two days before completing the walk, she was sitting in a Spanish café. “A young woman looked at me and said how much she admired my walking stick. I said, ‘Thank you, it’s from Vancouver Island.’ She replied, ‘I’m from Vancouver Island, too.’ She continued, ‘I like your walking stick because I’m an artist.’ I said, ‘Oh, I use to work in a gallery.’ And she said, ‘I use to hang in that gallery’ and then the penny dropped. This was the artist who first told me about the Camino. She was doing the walk again. When she heard I would be writing about my experiences, she offered to do the cover for my book. *Life is a Camino* debuts this month and the cover shows three people going up the Camino — my artist friend, myself and the third person is a woman we met who had cancer surgery a few months before and was also doing the walk for the second time.”

Thinking about life, Kathleen muses, “Everything you’ve done before retiring is part of who you are today. Today is the day you can be as great as you want to be. You don’t ‘retire,’ you just ‘switch lanes’ and have a blast doing it!”

For more information, volunteering and/or donations to the World Children’s Summit, Katherine Arnason is reachable at 250-298-4115; online at www.worldchildrenssummit.com
Co-chairperson, Renee Lindstrom at renee@worldchildrenssummit.com
For Kathleen’s books and Bee Happy Clothing line, email beehappyclothing@gmail.com




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