Wednesday, December 30, 2015


I have to get out of the store.  If I don’t, my integrity will succomb to the pre-Christmas sale at Pier Imports.  Maybe the poinsetta tableware with gold edges, or the cushions embroidered with a red, green, and gold Merry Christmas.  Why not a burlap angel to add to my collection, or a table centre, or another seasonal runner to alternate with the decades old model I purchased in the Christmas store in Chemainus, British Columbia, in 1987.  Scented candles would be nice, in tall, staggered holders as sentinels next to the fireplace.  Why don’t I have these things, I wonder.  Surely, I must need them to have a great Christmas. 

“I have to get out,” I tell my husband, who looks relieved.  “Otherwise, I’ll buy something I don’t need.”  Almost suffocated in the density of Christmas, I head to the till with the object that drew me to the store in the first place,  a Christmas card holder (well, a photo holder, actually), not the original reindeer floor model I saw at a colleague’s home a few days before, with filigreed antlers that pinned  Christmas card artistry, but a workable wall-mounted alternative that I could use year round.  Less of a conversation piece, but practical, without storage challenges.  Outside, on the store steps, gulping the preternaturally balmy air on a December day in Saskatchewan with temperatures above freezing,  I realize that my own Christmas essentials do not much resemble the look in the store. 

In the spirit of year-end lists, then, the keys to my Christmas are :

·      making music, mostly for liturgy, with unbelievable musicians and singers, over the decades, including my husband and my children; now, I make music on the harp, too!

·      family close, on the years that we can all be together, and on the off years, closeness in spirit always;

·      Christmas spirit that imbues the entire year;  like summer, Christmas is also a state of mind and spirit that can permeate our actions and thoughts every single day;

·      contact with friends far away through cards, email, social media; one of the gifts of technology is the ease of keeping in touch with people who mean so much to us, but live far away;

·      a pretty table, with seasonal linens, a table centre, candles, my forty-year old  china 
      and my mother’s silver;

·      comfort food, pared down to the core items and each person’s favorites:  crêpes, tourtière (now handed down to my daughter, who prepares it better than I do), salmon mousse, my mother’s butter tarts, my daughter’s birthday trifle,  turkey with my mother’s meat stuffing and gravy, and, just recently, an addition—chocolate mascarpone crêpes with cherry sauce.

·      games that can involve everyone, no matter what their predilections might be, when the joy of playing eclipses winning or losing, especially laughing with our adult children until our bellies hurt as they reconstruct a game our son and his friends developed more than a decade ago;

·      the timelessness of Christmas, as weekdays crumble like dry cookies and hours meld in delight especially during

·      the interval between Christmas and New Year, reserved for visits, hours on the harp or with books, and, always, the writing, with a fire and tree lights in the background.

That December day, engulfed in the periphery of Christmas,  the reminder of the essence of the season for me anchors me.  I share that experience with you, and thank you for reading.     

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Until I heard the Canada Talks radio host introduce end of the year lists last week on the road trip home,  I had let the above zero temperatures, the bare fields and the patches of grass on the lawn seduce me into eternal fall.  Six centimetres of snow the other day ended those delusions.   The end of the year approaches, along with  totals, summaries, syntheses, and rankings of all kinds.  I got to thinking, what would be some of my year-end lists or rankings for 2015?

Let’s start with first-time experiences.  Without ranking,

·      I was the mother-of-the-bride.
·      I spent entire work days with my grandson.
·      I am connected to a person who has ties to an Oscar-shortlisted animation.  Julian Beutel composed and produced the score for animator Seth Boyden’s short animation, “An Object at Rest,” shortlisted for an Oscar in the animated shorts category.
·      I attended the Grey Cup.
·      I received remuneration for a piece of original writing.
·      I gave my first ever public performance on the harp.
·      I endorsed a political candidate with a sign on my lawn.

One might say, “So what?”   Well, my firsts point to my hopes for getting older.

·      A deeper connection to family.  We live a ten-hour drive from our grandson, so we see him only every five or six weeks.  The privilege of spending entire days with him over a stretch of more than a week enabled us to strengthen any bond we have already established.  Family, always the cornerstone of life, has never been more important.  Being with our children brings unparalleled joy, as did the week we spent at our daughter’s before her wedding.  Beyond pride in our children and pure gladness in their presence, we are caught up in a generational shift in the role of supportive older people we once associated with our own parents.  Now, it’s our turn.  For a time, as we age, we are free to be useful.  

·      Links to a world I don’t know a lot about.  Although I love football, I’m not a sports enthusiast, and I had never been to a Grey Cup game before the children surprised me for my birthday.  I needed to consult experienced friends to learn how to dress for an outdoor football game in Winnipeg at the end of November.  Now, I have more of an insider perspective that will help me understand future championship games, whether or not I ever get to return in person:  the challenges the players face, anticipation in the stands, the social fans, the minute organization.

·      Validation of initiatives in my life.   The lawn sign is only the beginning of a new level of political involvement.  Writing will be invaluable to that end, to add to points of view already in play.  Through writing, another passion whose layers I peel away, my knowledge, perspectives, and experience in both the personal and professional realms are accessible to others.

·      Life-long learning.  We are never too old to learn.  In fact, learning might be easier as we age.  For one thing, we have so much prior knowledge and experience to bring to new skills.  For another, we are able to shake off awareness of what other people think like drops of rain from a coat.  So it is with me and my harp—the thrill of a new skill, and the excitement to share it without fear.

These 2015 firsts are, I hope, predictors of what I might be able to build in the years ahead—support for other people, especially family; windows into worlds and perspectives; engagement in issues affecting my community; and a deliberate decision to continue to learn and take risks.  Oh, my!  I have as much potential as a retired person as I did at twenty!

Saturday, November 21, 2015


I know that I cannot express my thoughts on the attacks in Paris one week ago more eloquently than many who have already spoken.  How much more simply and honestly can fear be expressed and then reconciled than in the conversation between Angel Le and his son?  How much more determination and grief can be conveyed than in the letter to ISIS of Antoine Leiris, who lost his wife at Bataclan?   Still, I am compelled to go on record.

Like the rest of the world, I have been appalled and grief-stricken.  What could ever spur any human being to execute scores of innocent people defies any explanation I can find.  Religious zeal, feigned or real, cannot account for it.  Nor can idealogical indoctrination explain acts that display the worst in humanity.  Left with incomprehension, I am trying to sift through the commentaires as well as the emotions, the values, the information and the misinformation shrouded therein.  Responses fall into three categories.

On one front, I hear aggression.  More violence.  French President François Hollande says France is at war.  His words remind me of the “war on terror” George W. Bush declared after the 9/11 attacks of 2001.  Fourteen years later, that war continues.   

In response to terrorist acts like the murders in Paris,  some individuals have opted to circle the wagons.  If suicide bombers killed Parisians, some conclude, then Syrian refugees are suspect, and immigration needs to be curtailed, if not stopped altogether.  Thirty-one American states will refuse refuge to Syrians.  Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has called on Prime Minister Trudeau to “suspend your current plan to bring 25 000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year” and indicates that “Saskatchewan will be fully supportive of any delays in resettling Syrian refugees in order to ensure appropriate screening and security checks.”    Yet, two of the attackers are from Belgium, three from France, and one is a French resident of Belgium.   One may be a Syrian—a Syrian passport, yet to be authenticated,  was found next to his body.    The association of Syrians with terrorists contributes to xenophobia, however unwittingly.    In Canada, a mosque was set afire in Peterborough, and a Muslim woman attacked in Toronto.   Aggression elicits aggression in an infinite cycle of violence.

In contrast, rather than fear, I see courage and hope.  Parisians continue to frequent sidewalk cafés, and gather in public places.  A father tells his son that peace prevails:  terrorists might have guns, but others have flowers and candles.  In Regina, seventy-five people demonstrate in front of the Saskatchewan legislature in support of Syrian refugees.  A couple scales down their wedding so they can help strangers.   Calgary mayor Nenshi says the city is ready to accept up to 2 300 refugees.   Community and religious organizations moblilize to welcome groups of refugees in their midst.  These people refuse to allow the violence of deranged individuals to compromise their own values and ideals.  They refuse to become what they despise.    They realize that self-imposed restrictions on their way of life and their view of the world as a result of terror play right into the hands of ISIS, as Adam Taylor of the Washington Post writes in his column.  Like Antoine Leiris, they refuse to give ISIS that satisfaction.

Just yesterday, in a novel and lucid analysis on “Q”, Samira Ouadi, a Parisian social scientist, expressed her own views on terrorism.  She is particularly focused on the common traits of jihadists.  Not Islam, she says, nor culture.  Youth, she emphasizes.  The jidhadists are all young, very young.  The question, she says, is this:  “What are we doing to our youth so that a part of it feels that, to express its identity, it has to go that far?”   Disaffected youth, she suggests, neglected by their own societies, seek a future in terrorist groups.  Jihad is the new drug culture.

Out of all these sometimes disparate thoughts, a few things are clear.  I, too, must act.  So far, I have allowed my work as a teacher and my investment in my children to carry my duty to society.  Now, though, as a retired person, I must do more.  What can “more” look like?

·      Continue to invest in people:    youth, people in my own community facing challenges, and the refugee from abroad. 

·      Speak out.  Provide a perspective, share information, point out fallacies, remind myself and others of essential truths as I perceive them, whether  people agree or not.

·      Stay the course.  Choose trust tempered with awareness, not naiveté.  Be kind.  Be inclusive.  Stick to my travel plans.  Refuse to become hateful, or vengeful, or suspicious as a result of actions whose purpose is exactly to make me hateful, vengeful, and suspicious, and to use examples of that hate, vengeance and suspicion as evidence to support horror.

I have a voice.  I have time.  I have abilities.  To be on record, my actions must complement my words. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I can’t tell anymore whether I’m at a concert or a play.  Drinks in hand and clustered around round tables dispersed through the auditorium, the audience is rapt.  I, too, am spellbound.  Ken Lavigne’s sonorous tenor voice captivates me.

The voice certainly works its magic through mellow and tender renditions of “Loch Lomond” or “Bring Him Home.”  It forges a bond with the audience just as much, however,  through sincere and dramatic accounts of challenges and epic moments in the singer’s career, accents and modulation included.  The music might make time stand still, but the stories create the relationship that freezes the moment.

Narrative has power.  Examples abound. 

·      After his election as Liberal leader in 2012, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to the stories of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, in church basements, living rooms, and small halls.  The sense of the country’s pulse the stories of Canadians give him serve him well in the campaign.

·      Students tell a vice-principal how much they value the early morning pre-class conversation time they have with their teacher.

·      The father of a teen hockey star lost to a drug overdose retells the story to as many groups of adolescents as he can manage.

·      Siblings of a suicide victim  share their healing process with grieving families who can benefit from the experience of others.

·      A First Nations Elder teaches with stories of his own life and that of his people. 

·      An aspiring quarterback seeks out the stories of his star mentor, stories that might be his own one day.

·      A refugee recounts his harrowing flight from Eritrea at age seventeen.    Sent away with his brother by a mother fearful for her sons’ lives, he journeyed through Sudan and Libya before arriving in Canada.  Although the events occurred thirty years ago, the protection and welcome he came to know here in Saskatchewan still move him to tears.

·      First Nations men, hands in their pockets, meet the gaze of the folk in their small audience. Intent and matter-of-fact, they share the story of their imprisonment and their resolve to redirect their lives.

·      At a social justice conference, a speaker reminds his audience that the core of social justice is making time to listen to people’s stories.   And, really, why would it not be?  The act of listening tells another that he/she matters.

So what is it about stories that gives them such power?

Stories console.  They remind us that others have trod the path we are on, that they emphathize, and that we can benefit from their experience.

Stories affirm, and on many levels.  That someone will take the time to listen to our story recognizes our worth as persons.  We matter.    In our own listening, we affirm them as persons.   They matter.  In addition, their stories can be a mirror of our own experiences as well as a window into worlds we might never otherwise know as intimately or at all. 

Stories teach.  They honour the ability of people to draw their own conclusions.  They honour the dignity of the individual.

Stories heal.  Their subtlety is balm for soul.   The listener finds community.  For the teller, the experience, like that of Samuel Tayler Coleridger’s mariner, is cathartic :

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched
With a woful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale;
And then it left me free.

The confession restores the soul.

Stories build relationships.   When they recount experiences, people offer each other the most precious possessions they have—their time and their selves.  The more personal the anecdote, the more intimate and lasting the bond, especially in the case of a confidence safeguarded.   

It should come as no surprise, then, that a singer’s storytelling talents would captivate an audience as much as the music.  For both the storyteller and the listener, stories mesmerize and heal.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


I am sleeping much better since Monday night.  My heart is light, and I am infused with hope.  I smile with pride in my fellow citizens.

Canadians asserted themselves.  Almost twelve million Canadians (11 813 091 according to CBC), 67.4 % of those who cast ballots, voted against the incumbent government.  They reminded any future governments that they are an informed electorate not to be underestimated or manipulated, and that they attack ads and negativity cannot dupe them.   Nor will they succomb to fearmongering.  As for distortions about balanced budgets, Canadians  have long memories; they did not forget the deficits in the first eight years of the Conservative mandate.   Even more important, they refused to turn against each other. 

Macleans journalist Scott Gilmore crystalizes the quandary many Canadians faced in their determination to reclaim their country.   In his article,  “How Stephen Harper Led Me to Do the Unthinkable,” Gilmore tells the story of how he came to vote Liberal despite a family tradition of voting only Conservative.  Although Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism legislation that impinges on individual rights, and the mounting deficits disconcerted him, in the end, the Islamophobia was the turning point.    A snitch line on barbaric cultural pratices was the last straw. 

Now that millions of Scott Gilmores across Canada have elected a majority Liberal government, what role can we play as Justin Trudeau forms a cabinet and prepares to assume the reins on November 4?  In my view, we must support this government as it finds its legs.   Let’s send it information and opinions, but not vitriol; let’s impart fair critiques and suggestions, but not attacks.   We must give our new government the opportunity to succeed.  After all, an effective government benefits us all.

Will the government have to shelve some of its election promises?  Of course.  I consider that normal—not because I am cynical of the election process, but because that’s how life works.  Things never go as planned.  Imagine a home renovation without surprises as walls come down and carpets are rolled away, or a vacation without interventions from weather or illness or just bad luck.  So, I fully expect Mr. Trudeau and company to have to put some plans on the back burner and to alter others. 

On key points, however, I expect Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals to be true to their campaign pledges:

·      collaboration with all members of Parliament to govern well for all Canadians;
·      a positive, inclusive approach;
·      availability to journalists, so they can do their job keeping the Canadian electorate informed and thinking about issues;
·      increase in funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation;
·      increase in funding for research and innovation;
·      increase in protected wilderness lands;
·      action on protection of the environment;
·      respect for scientific research and its role in shaping public policy and direction.

More even than economic decisions, these points set the tone for our country.  They orient us toward a positive, collaborative, respectful society that values information for decision-making, especially dissenting information, and that acknowleges the role of sharing information in keeping the citizenry engaged in the political life of the country.

I am relieved that the government has changed.  I am so proud of Canada as a nation.  The disillusionment I have experienced since 2011 has galvanized me as never before.  Now, though, I must be positive, and remain engaged in the process.  That is a two-pronged approach:  support the new government as it begins its mandate, and communicate to my elected representatives my opinions and suggestions.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


It’s only when I got to the last third of Steven Galloway’s novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo, that I realized the parallelism between that story and the Canadian election, 2015.

The novel is based on actual events that occurred during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990’s.  On May 27, 1990, at 4 :00 p.m., a rain of mortar shells from the hills above Sarajevo killed twenty-two people who had lined up behind a market to buy bread.  For the next twenty-two days, Vedran Smailović, a local cellist of note, played Albinoni’s Adagio in C Minor on the very spot, in hommage to the dead.  The odds were that he, too, would be killed.  After all, the snipers that lurked in the hills and in the shelled buildings picked people off every day.  But he lived.

The bodies of the dead and injured, though, were gone—the factions made sure of that—and the bombed out, disintegrating infrastructure was not enough to incite action.  As a result, the perpetrators of the war continued without reprisal. Galloway says:

When people die, they’re removed, taken to hospitals and graveyards, and before the bodies are  healed or cold the spot where they were shattered is unrecognizable as a place where anything out of the ordinary happened.  That is why the men on the hills are able to kill with impunity.  If there were bodies in the streets, rotting where they fell,
. .  .  then maybe the men would be forced to stop, maybe they would want to stop (164). 

The cellist, then, is a visible symbol of the senseless destruction.  Every day, his act reminds his fellow citizens that people have died.  The other characters in the novel see in his courageous act the resolve of one person not to live in fear, but rather to make a statement to the snipers and the forces all around intent on destruction.  They may kill him, but they cannot control him.

As a result, characters in the novel initiate actions that make a statement of hope in the future of their city, that it can once again be what it was before the war.  They realize that if their city is to die, it won’t be the attackers in the hills that will have killed it.  “If this city is to die, . . .” the author says, “it will be because of the people in the valley.  When they’re content to live with death, to become what the men on the hills want them to be, then Sarajevo will die.”

Our own country has also been eviscerated.   Information necessary for future planning has been systematically destroyed (Macleans, Vanishing Canada, September 18, 2015).  Indeed, in a passage that echoes the Cellist quotation, the article continues: “Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them.” Scientists are muzzled. Studies from the 1970’s on the potential impact of tar sands development have disappeared. The number of protected wilderness areas dwindles. Our public broadcaster gasps for air. Parks Canada funding has eroded. Canadians are pitted against each other on the basis of race. We are being manipulated to be fearful. Fear will not protect us; fear will destroy us in the end.

That’s why we have to vote tomorrow. And that’s why we have to vote for change. No party that purchases a front page ad in the bright yellow of Elections Canada, without a drop of representative ink on the page, to confuse people while that party reminds them to be afraid, deserves to govern.  No party that can create a tip line to encourage citizens to rat on each other for “barbaric cultural practices ” deserves to govern.  This is not Canada.

The lesson Galloway explores in his novel is that powerful forces that would make us afraid cannot control us.  Ultimately, our actions speak for us, as did those of the cellist and the characters his courage influenced.  Although the circumstances are much safer for us individually than they were for the cellist, the consequences of our actions are no less serious.  We are in danger of losing the Canada we have known.  We must neutralize tactics of manipulation and fear.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


My grandson’s eyes hold the essence of life.  In the changing phases of his twelve-month-old eyes, I see the unfiltered purity of what it means to live.  They connect me to core traits I want to find in myself.

His eyes trust.  They meet mine for extended seconds, and in that freeze-framed moment, tell me that he feels safe and knows he is loved.

They return the unbridled joy his parents have in him. 

They share the wonder of minute-by-minute discovery—the cold sweetness of ice cream, the crash of a tower of wooden cube blocks,   

They reflect the delight of a shared activity.  They invite me to play peek-a-boo, to catch the bouncy ball he has thrown me, and send it back to him, to imitate his movements, and, as I do, they scintillate.

They focus attention on the task that consumes him.  He circles a bath tub faucet with hair elastics.  He nests two containers over and over, to be sure the result will be the same.  First a water-filled teether and then a plastic cup,  resonate on the laminate floor, and, seconds later, thud on the carpeted stair.

His eyes declare a mission: let go of Mommy’s finger or the drawer pull to take off on his own, walking down the hall, negotiating a turn, and heading toward the office chair.

His eyes express pride:  I can walk!

They convey his uncertainty around the dried leaves that crunch as he moves in the pile he’s sitting in, and then

they channel the resolve to move through that newness to Daddy waiting on the other side.

They narrow into mischievous intent just before the hand that has grabbed the slice of cooked chicken slides over the side of the high chair and releases.  

I figure if I hang around him enough, some of those very precious traits will rub off on me, and I will be redirected toward the essence of life.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


It’s a month since I last posted.  Where have I been? Well, I’ve been writing.  How paradoxical is that!  Not that I haven’t had a lot to say.  Those stories have been dormant, asleep in the pages of my writer’s notebook or tucked into a secure corner of my mind.  The stories in which I have been immersed, though, and to which I’ve given voice in the last month, have targeted a professional audience rather than a diverse readership.

To reach their public and attain their goal, those stories needed a particular voice, and voice needs time.  I finished the draft of a book chapter a former colleague asked me to contribute to a collection of pedagogical essays she is editing for pre-service teachers in French.  The challenge here was to synthesize my knowledge and experience on the subject, ground that how-to in the professional literature that gave it life, and connect the parts to a practical narrative that could subsume the whole.    At the same time, another writing job surfaced.  I needed to summarize a two-year project that would illustrate its impact to an audience in the field but unfamiliar with that specific work.  Here, a professional, factual, and neutral voice would want to capture the energy inherent in the project.  Yet another concurrent writing job demanded that I create examples of written texts that would correspond to writing prompts provided to students.  Both teachers and students could use the examples to clarify criteria and discuss approaches to the task.  In this case, the prompt dictated the voice, and my writing purpose the appropriate choice of language register.  When I add to the mix the assortment of emails that have been necessary during the past month, I am comforted that I have been writing a lot, just for a variety of purposes and audiences.

I’ve missed the gifts that the regular articulation of sometimes disparate ideas can bring:
·  a loose chronology of the big ideas and events in my life at the time;
·  the reflection on those ideas and events that records who I am at that moment;
·  the discipline, at first, and later the habit, of paying attention to details in life  moments that are easy to miss, or worse, to dismiss;
·  the challenge to make connections between my lived experienced and those of others and what I might be reading at the time, and weave those threads into a coherent whole that not only makes sense to someone else but could even inspire reflection in its turn.

So, although I’ve mind-mapped ideas and connections onto the pages of my notebook, scratched facts into the margins and spaces of existing pages, and found comfort in details and scenes  my fountain pen has inscribed, I haven’t posted for more than a month.  In that time, I’ve also read, made music, interacted with wonderful people.  My soul feels nourished and replenished.  Time to wake up!

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I will remember 2015 as the year I became politicized.
Not that I have been apathetic.  That would not be true, or even fair.

I have always been interested in politics and followed the actions of governments at all levels closely.  I listen to the news, I read, and, from time to time, I discuss politics with family and trusted friends.  I’m careful with people I don’t know well, just because politics doesn’t always bring out the best in people.  On occasion, I have voiced my approbation or my displeasure of government actions in letters to the premier or prime minister, and my MLA or MP.  And, I always vote.  Always.  But—that’s been the extent of my political involvement.

I haven’t ever taken the next step to take a public stand and get my hands dirty.  I’ve never been a card-carrying member of a political party, nor have I ever volunteered to work on behalf of a candidate or a party.  I’ve kept my opinions mostly to myself.

This time, though, for me, circumstances are different.    Many things bother me.  Decisions made in government are changing the very face of Canada, and not for the better.     The gap between rich and poor widens.  Bill C-51 curtails human rights in the name of security.  Protected wilderness areas shrink.  Canada lags on stewardship of the environment.  The CBC, our national broadcaster, who, through the century, has nurtured political dialogue and showcased Canadian artists, is being strangled.   First Nations struggle.  We are building more prisons, even as crime rates fall.  Scientists have been muzzled, under threat of losing their jobs.  Handlers vet reporters who have access to the Prime Minister, and the questions they are permitted to ask--all two of them.  Politicians are more adversarial than collaborative.   As a nation, we are losing our social consciousness.

Changes in the electoral process worry me, too.  They undermine the focus on governing that elected representatives need to have to be effective.   Prior to a fixed election date, politicians could concentrate on government for a few years of a new mandate, anyway.  Now, the election cycle has lengthened, and the unofficial campaign begins long before the formal election call.  This year, under this format, politicians shifted into hustings mode more than a full year before any election announcement.  Furthermore, the party in power has initiated an eleven-week campaign, the longest in one hundred years.  The long campaign is advantageous to them.  First, the ceiling for election expenses is pro-rated to adjust from six to eleven weeks, and, conveniently, the party in power has twice as much money as the opposition parties.  In addition, long campaigns tend to focus on the economy, another perceived asset from the perspective of the Conservative Party of Canada, that wants to promote the party as good managers and to make the citizenry afraid.   Steps have been taken, then, to give the incumbent an advantage.

The question is, as Stephen Marche asks in "The Closing of the Canadian Mind" from The New York Times, do we like our country like this?

Well, I don’t.  So, it’s time to mobilize.  The eleven-week campaign will be good for me.  I will have time to become more knowledgeable about all the issues, not just the ones that are important to me (Maclean's has prepared election primers on many issues).  Rather than complain about political ads and become so weary of election talk that I disengage,  I can do the opposite.   I can watch, analyze, remain vigilant, and, with a critical eye, make sense of what I see and hear for myself.  Even more important, however, I have to act.  I must refuse to be a victim of fear-mongering.  I can’t let anyone make me afraid of change. 

So much for the quiet involvement.  This time, I need to make my voice heard.  I must discuss, write, post, contribute, work, and not just in a partisan way to promote a particular view.  I want to urge all Canadians to be vigilant, to be informed, to dialogue, and, most of all, to get out and vote.  The stakes are so high, especially for the young.  We cannot leave the decisions to others.  This election is critical.  I must get involved.  All of us must get involved.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Friday afternoon at the national park campground check-in window,  we nose our old camper van behind six other rigs.  I have time to take in the new surroundings as, one by slow-minute-one, the attendant processes the reservations.  I see the park motto:  Leave no trace.  

I understand what the sign means—clean up after yourself, don’t leave a mess at the campsite or anywhere else, be wary of the bears and store your food in the vehicle and garbage in the steel bins provided.  Most of the time, I file the recommendations away to be pulled out of that compartment in my brain when I need them.   Today, though, the guilt feelings that have festered since the shopping trip the day before to stock the camper break the skin in bulbous postules.    True, if we are careful, the campsite and park may not be be scarred with pockmarks of our passage, but other sites in time and space will surely be.


We are camping without electricity this round, and convenience has won out.  I tucked 30 bottles of water into the camper closet  (unable, as well, to resist 30 bottles for $6.00).  At the very least, those bottles will consume energy to recycle, if indeed they make it that far.  Ditto for the plastic cups, plates, and cutlery we will be using to offset indirect access to hot water.  Five meals for four people:  at least twenty plates and corresponding utensils.   Add in the foil broil pans to cover the grill of the campsite fire spot.  Although I could technically reuse those a limited number of times, chances are, again for convenience, I will pitch them this time.  Factor in the Lysol wipes I have in stock to mitigate hot water issues, and the environmental toll mounts.

To that total, I could add the footprints from other moments in the day.  I start the morning with a shower.  As I scrub down, I wonder about the homes and hotels running multiple showers multiple times a day.  At the filling station where we stop to check the tire pressure, I have a clear view of the touchless car-wash.   One vehicle has entered, and a black half-ton waits its turn, on a non-descript Friday morning of summer, albeit after a torrential rain.  Pressurized hot water sprays every crevice of the vehicle.  I don’t want to estimate the gallons / litres consumed for vehicles that might use the service that day in our city times the number of touchless car-washes in our country, never mind on the planet. 

On the way to the park, we stop for a sandwich.  The travel stop is a busy place—line-ups at both food outlets.  To the garbage, my husband and I contribute two plastic bags,  two plastic cups, two waxed papers and a wad of napkins.  You used a tub and cloth bags for your shopping yesterday, I tell myself.  You just about never use disposable dishware.  Okay, true enough.  Still, somehow, that rationale just doesn’t seem to cut it.

I am overwhelmed by the toll our own lifestyle is taking on the planet, and how little a difference our efforts to be responsible might make in the grand scheme of things.  I am not surprised that animals whose habitat is compromised stalk landfills and campgrounds, that the oceans vomit garbage, that the carbon levels in the atmosphere confuse weather patterns, or that the earth cries out in death throes.  Frankly, I am amazed at the earth’s resilience over the four hundred brutal years since industrialization.  I am astounded—that the earth has endured for this long, that it has taken this long for its screams to be heard, and that the collective will to change our lifestyle paradigms is not yet galvanized.