What's a Big Day?

To knock off anything ambitious you generally need two things: unbroken time and sustained focus. But nobody has the first, and we’ve lost the muscle for the second. The solution – one solution, my solution – is Big Days. I’m suggesting you carve out one 24-hour block of time per month and devote it to a single task. When you clock back into your life the next day you’ll have put something significant in the books – be it soul work or work work. And no one will even know you’ve been gone.

One Big Days

Emily Carr Pilgrimage

Deep bow to the artists who were ahead of their time, whose talents were overlooked in their day but whom the zeitgeist is now rounding up. Like: come back, right now. We need you. Emily Carr is so overdue for a second run. I’ve come to think of her as the first real Canadian whose…

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Brian Doyle Day

Since we last spoke, I’ve tried angel dust. Or whatever it is that Brian Doyle sprinkled into his short essays about the natural world. I’m late to the party on this writer, who died of brain cancer in 2017 at age 60. My initiation came this past weekend. I’d stumbled on his hummingbird story while,…

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Sight Singing for Dummies

The best answer I’ve heard to the question “What is one skill we should all learn in quarantine?” was this from the writer Jia Tolentino: How to make someone feel loved from a distance. But here’s a pretty close second: singing. Yes! Who wasn’t inspired by all the Italians belting it out from their apartment…

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Back-Pocket Day

“I thought I was a hoarder. Turns out I’m a prepper.” That New Yorker cartoon captures the spirit of the last three months. Everybody holed up, thinking long thoughts, mentally bracing for what might be coming — while at the same time rueing that we didn’t snap into prep mode sooner. (It’s not like we…

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Stuck in the Airport

Edited Jan 14, 2020 On August 28, 1998, Merhan Nasseri’s plane touched down at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and the Iranian refugee strode into Terminal One. In the departure lounge he found a seat. And there he remained until July of 2006, when he took ill and had to be hospitalized. For 18 years,…

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Make a Killer Halloween Costume

Halloween is like Ocean’s 11: You’re in you’re out, right now. “Half-in” doesn’t really fly. Like wearing sweatpants in public, making a lame last-minute costume broadcasts a depressing lack of both imagination and initiative. Why bother? On the other hand, we’ve all had the experience of going all-in on a great costume that ended up…

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The 10,000 Steps of Leopold Bloom

Lisa Simpson: “Oh, it must be Bloomsday. Every June 16, lovers of James Joyce follow the route traveled by Leopold Bloom in the novel Ulysses.” Bart Simpson: “What you’re saying is, we’ve run out of fun things to do.” … Even if the Irish family vacation planned by that other Homer, the dim one, failed…

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In ‘N Out Surgery

“Count backwards from ten…” The Uber driver rolled to a stop at the co-ordinates he’d been given. It was a strip mall in the Maples district, a subdivision in the north end of Winnipeg, Manitoba. A realtor might charitably describe the neighbourhood as “emerging.” Wait, thought Ron Robinson. Can this be right? He and his…

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Construct a Perfect Day

Is such a thing even possible? Lou Reed thought so, though sinking into a heroin fog probably isn’t the soundest strategy for long-term fulfillment – or even short-term happiness, if remembering what you were happy about is part of the deal. Not long ago, Melbourne-based writer Madeleine Dore wondered if you could construct a Perfect Day by…

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Raise a Ruckus

Certain unwritten rules have governed the Internet. One of them — which the Obama administration actually made a written rule – is Net Neutrality. It means that the Internet should be free. Everyone should have equal access. Think of the Internet as a public good, like clean water. The faucet is your web browser. What…

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Apply for a Grant

Thunk! Her final arrow pierced the foam target across the gym, and my 11-year-old daughter smiled the smile of the just. Then she thanked the member of the local archery club who’d been giving her instruction. This was the end of her free lessons. It was time to join the club. I didn’t know how…

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Assemble a Barbecue

One Saturday morning not long ago, I popped down to Canadian Tire to buy a barbecue. There they all were, out on the floor, in their gleaming stainless steel hoods. I found one that looked pretty good. The cooking surface was huge – like the deck of an aircraft carrier. And the price was right. I thought,…

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Be a Movie Extra

There are a lot of rabid fans of The X Files. They’re probably called X-Files-philes. Jill Gardiner isn’t one of them. Okay, she wouldn’t kick David Duchovny off the pick-up soccer team for removing his shirt. But neither the show nor its star was the big draw on this particular day in September. Jill was…

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Harry Potter Marathon

Imagine you entered a pie-eating contest where each pie is richer and more delicious than the previous one. The last pie is baked by Julia Child. Trouble is, at that point you can’t appreciate the subtleties of the crust. You’re just trying to keep the thing down. This seemed to be what the girls and…

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Ride the Nearest Bone-Rattler

Sometimes we all need a good shakeup. You might argue that life itself does that job quite well on a regular basis, thanks very much. So let’s try again: Sometimes what we need is a controlled shakeup – one we know is coming, can prepare for, and be certain the whole deal will be over…

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Create Your Own “Fearless Challenge”

photo: Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland THE CHALLENGE If you’d asked Franco Scanga five years ago what his number one fear was, he’d have given you the number one answer: speaking in front of strangers. But that was before he watched his father get cancer for the third time. It was a terrifying ordeal, one that put his…

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Read Your First Real Novel

Nine-year-old Lila hadn’t planned to blitz through her first actual, no-pictures novel in a single day. It just kind of happened. It was where it happened that proved a bit awkward. Late July. Thetis Island  — a stupefyingly tranquil haven in the British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. A perfect place to read. Except that, when you’ve…

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One-Room Makeover

  The mission: transform a bedroom from a disaster zone to a handsome and ridiculously functional teen cave. The plan: A three-stage process. First, the purge. Then the deep clean. And finally, as Alex Trebek used to tell Jeopardy contestants who crashed to zero, we “start building.” New paint, new furnishings, new mojo. The reveal…

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Wish Your Country a Happy Birthday

As Americans celebrate their country’s 241st birthday today, in Canada we’re still mopping the streets from our own shindig three days ago. This one meant a lot because it was a big round number. We turned 150. Some of us aren’t likely to be above ground come the bicentennial, so this was definitely the year…

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Stage a Marathon Jam Session

They knew it was a big bite — as big as the bacon-and-egg breakfasts they were enjoying in a London pub as they hatched the plan five years ago. But then, big bites are the whole point of fundraisers — as the three friends well understood. “We wanted the project to be mad in its…

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One Big Day Journal

To do well or to do good?

“What are you raising money for?” Two people asked that question after hearing about the all-day bike ride. I get where they’re coming from: it’s a cultural reflex. From walkathons to telethons to hackathons, we now understand that any quirky, marathon-like undertaking must be raising money for something. Otherwise why do it? It’s kind of…

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A day to remember

Photograph by David Niddrie “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”  — Maya Angelou There’s a certain kind of person who, should he accidentally wander into the self-development section of a bookstore, will recoil like a terrier jolted by the forcefield of a buried electric fence. This guy’s with Seinfeld in…

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Why do people stop trying new stuff?

One grey morning this past May I sat staring out the window at a white van parked outside. At the words “Wet Woof” in big letters on the side. Our retriever pup Penny was inside getting a wash and nail clipping and ear cleaning and scissors-trim. The Wet Woof guy is busy; we were thrilled…

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Winchester for a day

In a memorable episode of M*A*S*H, the harried staff of the 4077 get word that help is on the way: a new surgeon, coming from Boston with fancy credentials. Graduated top of his class from a famous med school. His name is Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III. On his first day in camp, Winchester finds…

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Reinventing Sunday

“Everyone needs a Sunday.”  — Ted Leo My friend Lew was over for dinner the other day, and he shared an insight about Big Days that kind of floored me. “You know what you’re doing here, right?” he said, absently combining a piece of gorgonzola with a slice of pear. “You’re re-inventing Sunday.” Really? The…

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