Posts Tagged: canada

warmed

Two days in and I already figured out why Vancouverites are happy to live here in all this rain and dampness.  It's not the clean mountain air.  It's not the breathtaking vistas.

It's Beer Soup.

Beer Soup!

remarkable

The other evening I’m walking home.  It’s not late but it’s after dark.  I look unremarkable in Monday office wear – the kind of clothes you drag yourself into in that seven o’clock Monday morning sigh.  I haven’t washed my hair, it looks unremarkable too.  I’m wearing a casual fleece jacket over top of the Monday office clothes and a favourite scarf in reds and greens.  If anything, the colours of the red jacket and scarf are the only things not unremarkable about my aspect on an autumn Monday evening in which I just want to get home.

I’m walking fast.  At that time of the evening, the office tower crowds have left the sidewalks and got onto their trains and I’m free to hoof it as fast as a like.  I cut down from King Street and through a parking lot and round south onto Blue Jays Way and as I get around the corner a young guy materializes on my left jolting me to awareness with a sudden “WOW.”  

“Wow!” he exclaims again, beholding me with his arms held out at his sides.  

I’m not particularly surprised, there are animated people everywhere in the city, and I give him the, albeit amused, attention he’s looking for without breaking my stride.  He beholds my unremarkable aspect, held to his spot by some perceived marvellousness.

“You look GREAT!” he says, maintaining a respectful distance and I don’t feel threatened by him.  I smirk, to let him know I’m on to his play for a handout or a trick even.  He backs off a little, acting bowled over by the aspect of me:

“The way you rounded that corner, that was gorgeous!”

I don’t break my stride but I give him a little laugh, appreciating his original delivery but I’m not falling for it and I’m not going to give him any money. 

As I walk south toward home, I carry with me the enjoyment of his in-the-moment earnestness, and what seemed to me an artistic perspective of an otherwise unremarkable woman rounding a corner in a red jacket and pretty scarf.  

And I wonder if, really, he maybe did see something in that woman that betrayed recent events he couldn’t have known about; those kind that, despite her unremarkable approach to Monday‘s workday in a city office, had her feeling just as beautiful as the person he created in his clever appeal.

 

Wherever it came from, the fella's creative perspective is beautiful thing number seventy.

pissing people off with peace love and understanding

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm sorry to be bringing this up again, because I know that to most of the rest of the world, Canadian national concerns are not sexy.  I mean, we don’t have leadership candidates feeding us crazy-interesting sound bites like: hurricane Irene is god’s wrath at our spending too much money on our people.  (Seriously, I read that today.  Is that true?)  Our leaders are just not that interesting, even when they lie.  Anyway, for the most part, we don't care about your disinterest.

But I am compelled to write about the events of the last week because I think they're really significant. These events have triggered an expression of the desire in us to know a different public reality.  In this video you'll see the power of a message perpetuating that desire, from the only politician in the room who was dead.

Find in the video below a former politician and current humanitarian delivering that powerful message of hope and encouragement.  The message pissed a whole bunch of people off, but it inspired a whole bunch more.  

If you’re not Canadian, there are some things you should know before you watch:

This was a state funeral.  Jack Layton was the leader of Canada's official opposition to the government.  Our biggest dignitaries are all there. The Queen is represented by the Governor General. I make note that it's a state funeral because you might not think so seeing all that clapping and standing and cheering.

You also need to know that the reaction in that room is not just representative of Layton's party supporters who were present.  Thousands had collected outside and along the route of the funeral procession.  People showed up to City Hall in Toronto and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and other cities to pay personal tribute all week. 

You need to know that everybody knew how sick Jack was, but when he died everybody was shocked anyway. Nobody anticipated the reaction to this loss because Canadians just don't act this way. 

What I see in this eulogy, and in the response to it, and in the response to Jack's death in general, is that I am not alone in my rejection of the anger and ugliness that has permeated our social and political realms.  What I see are people that are finished with it; we don't want to be held apart anymore.

Please watch; it’s Stephen Lewis, one of the most gifted and passionate orators alive, paying homage to a man's life work and ideals.  You'll be glad you did.

(And if you do I promise to shut up about it.)

(The Canadian politcs part, not the peace love and understanding part.)

 

if you had one last thing to say to the world and you knew a lot of people would listen, what would you say?

I don’t let politics get on my blog much.  Once in awhile I might let go a little rant on this space, because in real life I have strong opinions about social and political concerns, and everyone who knows me knows pretty much what my stand on things is.  That stand hasn’t changed much in the 40 or so years since I started to pay attention.

But I decided a long time ago that this space isn’t going to be about people I don’t like.  And I’m sorry to say, I don’t like most politicians, and I sure as hell don’t like what politics has become.

Public service is an honourable calling.  Politicking turned it ugly.  These days you rarely see an elite politician behaving honourably; it’s all about the win.  Politics has become a tool of power, and those who get it will do anything to hang on to it, even if it means fucking over the people who have hired them to govern.  The recent debacle over the debt ceiling in the US is a spectacular example of that. 

For one day here at home today it wasn’t ugly.  Today politicians of all stripes and people of all beliefs mourned the loss of Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party, who died of cancer early this morning.  Despite that he looked emaciated and weak last time he showed up on TV a month ago, everyone was shocked. 

Jack was widely liked and respected for his principles and determination.  He was fearless and unrelenting in his message and people were inspired by that.  You never felt like he was playing you.  Don’t think this popularity came up in his death; in the past four years, he took a party that clung to a few measly seats, hanging on the brink of irrelevance, to one that swept past the most dominant party in our history to become the official opposition for the first time in history.

Jack made us remember people like Tommy Douglas and Ed Broadbent and how they connected to people; he made us look past the conservative rhetoric and think “well yeah, it CAN be done.”  Jack made us remember that it was the NDP that shaped a large part of who we believe we are.  He was another feisty NDP leader who rose up out of seemingly nothing against the bigger, older, louder, more moneyed old school parties.  The right and extreme right parties in this country might have merged their money and forces and won a majority, but we yeah we also got an opposition with balls to keep them in check.  We sure felt a lot better than we would have if the lamo liberals had taken that spot. 

This afternoon my dear New York pal Sheryl posted on my facebook: “I wish we had more like him here.”  I replied that I thought it was sad that politicians who actually inspire people are rare anywhere. 

Jack’s not getting on my blog because he’s dead.  He’s getting on my blog because of the message he left with Canadians in life, and in a letter he wrote in these last dying days:

“…consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

That’s the kind of political messaging that gets on my blog.

Now go say something nice to your neighbour.

Jack 
 
(A country coming together to celebrate a true public servant and inspiring leader: beautiful thing number fifty nine.) 

dinner and stars

Tonight I had dinner with Kels.  There was chicken, simmered slow with mushrooms and barley, which we had with roasted beets and steamed asparagus and wine.  And talking, mostly.  Before dinner I put on the movie No Direction Home and we listened to it and glanced at it and chatted about it in between conversation about real life. 

These videos aren't from the movie, but the movie got us talking about these songs, and the writer…


 


 

a haiku wish on a mean december day

 

Sled, swoop down and whisk
me ahead of Mad Wind’s rage,
thrashing icy whips.

 

Magpie sled 
 
This is a Magpie Tale.  For more creative takes on this and other beautiful visual prompts, click here.

a magpie tale: kicking and screaming toward a fanciful season

the year drags me
kicking and screaming
toward winter
never ready to stand on cold feet
slush sprayed over me by lurching taxi cabs
I still haven’t found my red gloves
and I don’t want to wear that
serviceable warm coat
I’d rather wear the one with the flattering cut
and the not serviceable boots
the kind that men turn to look at
and well I never much liked being cold and
I’ve slipped on sidewalks
more times than I'd like to remember
winter steals my dignity

though when I was a kid I didn't care about dignity
much
or the cold
forgotten
in the fervour of intense play
outside so long
your legs would sting like a thousand pins were pricking them when you came in
but mom would have hot chocolate in the cupboard
the kind made with milk in a pan on the stove
in the stove light and
you got new flannel pyjamas
with that sweet smell that went away after the first wash
but they got softer
and Mr. P. on the corner would put up Christmas lights all over his yard

I never went for such an ostentatious show
when I grew up
but man could my old house get pretty
smelling like pine
cedar
and cinnamon
all that oak trim aglow
against the frost laced windows and indigo tinted atmosphere in the street
the furnace would kick in
like a benevolent grandpa
when you came in the front door
after chatting with the neighbours
while we shovelled the sidewalks
and the walks of the old people
a job I loved
it made me feel strong and capable – that most satisfying exercise
and full of that proverbial good cheer
I think it's the pink cheeks
dreamy
under the descending flakes
under the incandescent street lights
later I’d sit by the pretty old windows
admiring the street and generous porches and warm lights coming from the windows behind them
recalling life in the country
when the snowstorms that bound everyone in for a few days
were the best ones

I am always kicking and screaming
going toward winter
but

I fancy it when I get there

Magpie snow
 

This is a Magpie Tale.  To find more creative responses to Willow's weekly photo prompt, visit here.

remembrance day, and a Park who lived

I wrote this post a year ago.  So many of us have stories – of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers – and first cousins once removed…  Find the stories – tell the stories.  We mustn't ever stop telling the stories.  If we stop telling the stories, these events will never stop.

When my sisters and I came into this world, my mother had no parents, one sister and one first cousin.  Her cousin Allan Park was a half generation older than her.  Like most of our family, he was known to us more in story than life.  That scar on his head was legendary.  It was from a war.

World War II  was mythology to us kids born in the sixties.  I have fuzzy recollections of my dad watching the news on tv and seeing footage from Viet Nam but that wasn’t real, it was on tv. 

Allan’s war, to us, was a story wrapped up in that scarred head we saw a few times over our lifetimes.  All we knew was that we were lucky he was with us, that his injury very nearly killed him and if it had everything would be different. 

In 1979, the story of that scar revealed itself via the words of national favourite storyteller, Farley Mowat, in his novel And No Birds Sang.  It was a different story than the one any of us had known.

The blanket that screened the shattered cellar door was thrust aside and a party of stretcher bearers pushed in amongst us.  Al Park lay on one of the stretchers.  He was alive, though barely so… unconscious, with a bullet in his head.

As I looked down at his faded, empty face under its crimson bandages, I began to weep.

I wonder now… were my tears for Alex and Al and all the others who had gone and who were yet to go?

Or was I weeping for myself… and those who would remain?

 - Excerpt: And No Birds Sang, Farley Mowat

You want to talk about how a story can bring new light to a family?

To a nation on Remembrance Day?

Poppies
 

a lunchtime walk in autumn

Today I went for a walk at lunch, exploring the settings on a new phone camera app.  It was very blustery, and I sacrificed a good hair day in the quest of trying to capture some of the colours.

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a magpie ode to a season grown up

Magpie watering can 

August I want to hide in you; to bathe alone in your ethereal yellows and purples and greens; and then float away with the Queen Anne’s Lace on the side of the dirt road.

I want to crawl into your burgeoning ditches and sleep away long nights while you tread slow, waving breezes with your arms, making soft kisses on my skin.

I want to awaken with your dew in the grass in morning and find that the new pears and apples and rhubarb and gooseberry and tomato upstarts have already started the coffee and breakfast which we will of course have outside.

Rubbing my eyes I’m begging now, don’t leave August.

I need you with your lolling boats in the pendulum waters; your mellow and rich demeanour bewitching, casting sunshine diamonds on the water and pulling warm breath from the rocks.

August, you are summer grown up; I have caught up with you.

I think.

But don’t go.

This is a Magpie Tale.  For more creative responses to Willow’s wonderful visual creative writing prompts, visit here.  Go ahead – give it a try!  Stretching your creative muscles is good for you.