Sandra – a breath of kindness.*

“But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”*

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I am always very thankful for generous, thoughtful, loyal and kind friends. Sandy is exactly such a friend and today, we bid a tearful goodbye to each other.  Sandy begins her move to Vancouver Island tomorrow.

Can you pinpoint the exact time you made a friend?  For Cam and I, that moment with Sandy and Paul was in the evening of a hospital Auxiliary recruitment fair fourteen years ago.  All four of us were volunteers, all four of us worked the fair which ran through the afternoon and resumed in the evening.  One of us (???) suggested we grab Swiss Chick for our supper, take it to their home and relax before we had to return for the evening session.  We did, a friendship was born and the rest, as they say…   Since that evening Sandy and I have been like peas and carrots and I know I shall feel like one of my limbs has been severed when she is living clear across our vast country.

It is not easy for me to expose my flaws to someone I cherish for fear of irreparably destroying our friendship and sending them running to the hills. I’ve always been able to present my unvarnished self to Sandy, which speaks directly to her innate goodness and understanding. Sandy has seen me completely exposed (literally – think bra shopping, and more importantly, figuratively).  She gently and kindly accepted my mess, pieced together the truth of me and stuck around.  

In my books, that is absolutely the purest, truest demonstration of friendship.  Sandy gave me the gift of being able to trust that my friend – even amidst my thoughtless words, my silences (turtling), my mistakes and my selfishness – would sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Even though our lives have changed dramatically during the past fourteen years, nothing ever changed between the two us. That’s one of the greatest treasures of life, those forever friends who are always part of one’s life, no matter the distance, no matter how often or seldom we’re able to get together and I hope and pray that never changes.  Even when one is in Nanaimo and the other in Cobourg.

But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely.

Conversations with Sandy are the absolute best. Sandy is the friend to whom I can speak fearlessly, to whom I run when my health goes pear-shaped, when  I need to vent or when I want to celebrate or when I need sage advice or when I simply want to have fun.  Sandy has been a mentor to me through this season of my life. There’s a thread woven between us, connecting our hearts and because of it, we stay in touch almost daily, sharing our triumphs, our failures, our happiness and our sorrows.

Sandy has a generous heart, a gentle soul, the most genuine spirit, and the patience to endure the the mess that is me. Her decency, her values, courage, and ability shine through the moment you meet her.  Friends who feel like family are the best kind of friends.  There is nothing more important than family.  Sandy, you are a part of our family and we love you so, so much!

We are two lucky ducks to have found, shared and sustained such a strong friendship – a true sisterhood.

‘Til next time, y’all…

*Dinah Craik, A Life For A Life

 

Are your reading choices ever skewed by a random quote?

A number of years ago we planned a dream vacation to the panhandle (coastal) region of Florida – far away from the theme parks and crowds.  We found the perfect, townhouse-style condominium on the beach near Destin.  Our plan was for an early spring getaway, to cheat the end of winter and speed the arrival of spring.  Plus, both working, there were few times when our vacation opportunities synced and this was one of them.

Shortly prior to this planning process I had upgraded to my first digital SLR camera (I’d been using a digital point-and-shoot combined with Dad’s Nikon SLR) and I’d taken an “Introduction To Digital SLR Photography” class at Trent U.  I was excited about experimenting with my new-found photography knowledge and snazzy new camera.  The instructor was a wildlife photographer and, ‘though I’d always had the same interest, she ignited and amplified it for me. Then and ever since, she has encouraged and mentored me.  Upon hearing about our travel plans, she recommended a visit to St. John’s National Wildlife Refuge which, also on the panhandle, was a comfortable drive from our planned accommodations. 

Then I got sick and the trip didn’t happen.  I’d forgotten about St. John’s until I read a quote by American author and literary critic, Jeff VanderMeer:

“The world we are a part of now is difficult to accept, unimaginably difficult. I don’t know if I accept everything even now. I don’t know how I can. But acceptance moves past denial, and maybe there’s defiance in that, too.”

This is a passage from his book Acceptance – the third in his “Southern Reach Trilogy” of fantasy/SciFi/“weird fiction” novels.  It might best have been described by author Stephen King: “creepy and fascinating”.  Not (never) my cup of tea, but I borrowed a copy from the library and began reading.  I’m not a convert, but Mr. VanderMeer has beautiful language skills and I’m very glad I read this book (even though I began – and ended – my exploration of his writing with the third volume).  

Before signing out the book though (on-line, e-reader, our library was closed), I’d done some on-line reading about the author and book series and it turns out that “Area X” (the subject of the three books) was inspired by a long hike Mr. VanderMeer took through St. John’s National Wildlife Refuge.  Six degrees of separation?  Maybe.  Probably not.  Still, that is what piqued my interest, hence my question: Are your reading choices ever skewed by a random quote?

I first stumbled across this quote towards the end of March when I’d been isolated about three weeks. Those words felt uncomfortably appropriate for the time. It jarred, confused, angered and motivated me – that’s when I began jotting notes for this post.  Since then, of course, racism has taken over centre stage; in the USA for the systemic racism people with black and brown bodies are forced to endure and, here in Canada, for the systemic racism focussed on both black and Indigenous folk. Still, Mr. VanderMeer’s words feel timely and appropriate – I wonder if he has revisited this passage himself during this tempestuous time?  

In the context of pandemic and protests, and alone, the word acceptance felt like non-action, like continuing to fester in the quagmire that is racism, xenophobia and white supremacy.  Yet the inference is that before there can be change, there has to be acceptance – unqualified acceptance – of the existence of and abuse and trauma caused by systemic racism; But acceptance moves past denial, and maybe there’s defiance in that, too.

“There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.”*

In Canada, we witnessed seemingly reluctant acceptance by the head of our national police service. Bowing to pressure (by journalists, BLM, Assembly of First Nations and extensive social media posts) RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki publicly walked back her assertion that, whilst there was racism within the mounties, it was not systemic, with this quote: 

“I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP, I should have.”

“As many have said, I do know that systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included. Throughout our history and today, we have not always treated racialized and Indigenous people fairly.” 

Perhaps this is a platitude, perhaps she is sincere and perhaps this acceptance will move her past her denial, enough to generate worthy and lasting change.  Perhaps.  Promises have been made by the institutions guilty of systemic racism countless times over the years, all of which eventually revealed themselves as being mere lip service. To gain my respect, Ms. Lucki will have to either resign or enforce zero tolerance for racism and excessive force within the service and ensure every single officer in her command receives the necessary deprogramming and training.

“There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.”*

Meantime in the USA, two significant federal developments:

This month the congressional Democrats wrote and introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, aimed at forcing nation-wide police accountability and reform.

Yesterday, President Trump announced and signed an Executive Order on police reform which included these provisions:

  1. Financial stimulus to police services to improve recruitment/retention practices from the communities they patrol; and
  2. Imposed restrictions on the use of deadly force; and 
  3. Orders to systemize the inclusion of trained mental health professionals and social workers on all non-violent calls; and
  4. The establishment of a national database of police officers with a history of using excessive force.

Although President Trump’s Executive Order is appropriate, please do not forget that the man is a raging racist.  Amid the stress of this moment a smile, courtesy of comedian and talk show host Trevor Noah:  When Trump speaks there is a boxing match going on between his mouth and his brain.

“There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.”*

We’ve been on a bit of a 1960’s music kick in our home this summer and many of the lyrics – obviously of the protest songs, but of many others as well – have inspired and motivated me. My journal is rapidly filling with random thoughts, ideas, feelings and opinions.  Last night, whilst watching episode 1 “Isaac and Ishmael”, season 3 of “The West Wing” (the profits from which were all donated to the NYPD and NYFD post 9/11) we heard Buffalo Springfield’s protest song, “For What It’s Worth”.  

Al-Qaeda ’s terrorist attack on the USA on Tuesday morning, 11th September 2001 caused 2,996 deaths (my dear friend Selena’s son Aaron amongst those), 25,000 injuries, countless cases of PTSD, and since that time an enormous uptick in carcinogen-related cancers amongst first responders. It was a completely overwhelming, sad and confusing time. Truly, in that moment, I could not imagine anything worse happening in our world.  Now I know differently.  The past winter, month and week have proven that beyond measure with domestic-grown violence and abuse. But there is beauty, hope and love…

“There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.”*

The protests are lasting, inspiring and fruitful; young people speaking their minds, a thousand people in the street singing songs and carrying signs. They’re all beautiful, hard-working, passionate, relentless and every one of them gives me hope. 

“Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down”*

That the world we are a part of now is difficult to accept, unimaginably difficult is undeniable but people the world over have awakened.  More importantly they have stood up, stepped out, marched, rallied, held signs, chanted, raised their voices and this effort, this herculean effort imagined and spearheaded largely by BLM, is finally forcing change.  There’s something happening here!

’Til next time, y’all…

*Stephen Sills, lyrics to his song “For What It’s Worth”, originally performed by Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Sills, Neil Young, Richie Furay, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer).

Mr. Sills wrote his protest anthem in response to the Sunset Strip curfew riots in 1966. His beautiful lyrics are eerily apt today.  Please take a moment to read them (below) and, if you’ve the time and interest, please listen to Buffalo Springfield’s performance by clicking this link: “For What It’s Worth” 

For What It’s Worth

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware


I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Songwriter: Stephen Stills

After The Coldest of Winters*

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Today I am writing in the garden again and it is no more than warm enough. It is beautiful, though; the sky is bright blue, there isn’t a cloud to be seen, it is sunny and there is lots of creature activity in our garden (for amusement whilst distraction from writing).

An idyllic interlude, until it wasn’t. A harsh allergy attack forced me back indoors, sneezing, coughing, nose running, eyes streaming and itching…  YUCK!

On Friday afternoon Ontarians were advised that not only are they now permitted to establish social circles of ten persons, but they are strongly encouraged to so so. These circles have been referred to as “bubbles” because we’re only permitted to belong to one such group, but within it, physical distancing is no longer necessary. Hugs! Kisses!

Living through the pandemic has been akin to surviving a long, cold winter.  We’ve missed human warmth – hugging and kissing.  We’ve missed squishing together in a booth at our favourite coffee shop exchanging news and gossip.  We’ve missed cuddling our grand kiddos on our laps as we read them a bedtime story.  We’ve missed cooking together and sharing busy, noisy, perfect family dinners.

love is not extinct
or endangered
and like spring
it will come to us
and bring warmth
even after
the coldest winters*

The lack of personal contact, intimate connection, has broken hearts and wreaked havoc upon psyches and relationships.  This was a huge concession by our Premier and one could almost hear the Ontarians’ collective sigh of relief. With these relaxed restrictions, love will come to us and bring warmth even after the coldest winters, even the winter of pandemic.

For the past three months we complained, copiously, that we’ve missed being able to see our parents, our children, our grands and our besties. And we’ve not just missed the fellowship, but the physicality of hugging and squeezing them.  

Through our isolation, a collective realization occurred; we’ve become acutely aware of taking for granted those days and moments of socialization and camaraderie. I’ve heard countless vows to never again squander such privilege and opportunity.  

In the midst of our busy lives it was so easy to say, “Sorry Mum, there’s a lot going on this weekend. Rain cheque?”  It was equally easy to postpone an invitation or delay plans to get together, believing there’d be unlimited opportunities to visit with each other next week, next month. The past three months have proven the fallacy of such assumptions.

This weekend, one of our friends and his wife drove to Ottawa to create a familial bubble with their daughter, her husband and their kiddos.  Another friend and his wife were hosting a pool party and barbecue for their kids, their partners and their kiddos.  I know there will be loads of hugs and kisses and cuddles at both gatherings.  I hope they remember their vows to cherish these moments.  To seize as many opportunities for togetherness as they can.  To savour at every possible chance, that warmth we’re rewarded with even after the coldest winters.

Have you expanded your circle?  Have you and nine others committed to exclusively occupying the same bubble?  I do so hope you have.  Nothing compares to giving and receiving love from our nearest and dearest!

Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Friends, you and me… you brought another friend… and then there were three… we started our group… our circle of friends… and like that circle… there is no beginning or end.” It reminds me of a camp song I learned as a tad. It was always sung in rounds, loudly, off-key, with much more gusto than musicality but impassioned, well-enjoyed and a firm-favourite:

The circle of love goes around, around.
The circle of love goes around.
Reach out, grab a hand; someone needs you,
and the circle of love goes around.**

‘Til next time, y’all…

For my lovely friend KC – today’s brew is Antiox Apple, Cinnamon and Turmeric. Delish!
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*Ellen Everett from her book of poetry, i saw you as a flower.
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**Author/composer unknown.

Please reach out. I’ll be there!

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The reactions to one of my previous posts, For maybe in another world, were copious (43 e-mails and counting) and mostly unexpected. Most wondering (yup, sarcastically) what I think they should be writing and saying to each other instead of, We’re all in this together. I’ve given this a lot of thought, not wanting to sound glib (or sarcastic myself) and my suggestion is to simply say, sincerely and with love, reach out, I’ll be there.*

“Reach out (reach out for me).
I’ll be there, with a love that will shelter you.
I’ll be there, with a love that will see you through.”*

Each of us is battling our own demons.  Each of us faces trials and crises at different times in our lives and, though on an enormous scale, the pandemic is really no different.  We need our coping skills to kick in and more importantly, need to know we’ve developed the necessary coping mechanisms. The very best you can do for your friends and family when they’re struggling is to make sure they know that, if they reach out, you’ll be there with a love that will see them through. Nothing more. Nothing less. That knowledge is everything.  Trust!

There is a corollary, of course, which is that you absolutely must follow through unreservedly, else your words are hollow. When you’re called upon – whether it’s to be a sounding board,  to be the much-needed distraction, to run errands, to sit vigil, to bring food, to drive, etc. – you must be there. With love. Please know that the request made of you was very costly in terms of self esteem and independence and probably painful into the bargain; our hard-wiring is to offer not ask. Please remember that detail.  

The knowledge that you’ve got family and friends who’ll be there, with a love that will see you through is the most precious of gifts.  Promise!

Please call on me.  I’ll be there!

‘Til next time, y’all…

Note:  I’m becoming ever so slightly captivated by (obsessed with?) the music and lyrics of the 1960s.

*Songwriters: Paul Vincent Collins, Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Edward Jr. Holland. This is the 1967 recording by Four Tops if you’d like to listen: Reach Out I’ll Be There

Full lyrics:

Reach Out I’ll Be There

Now if you feel that you can’t go on
Because all of your hope is gone,
And your life is filled with much confusion
Until happiness is just an illusion,
And your world around is crumblin’ down;
Darling, reach out (come on girl, reach on out for me)
Reach out (reach out for me.)
I’ll be there, with a love that will shelter you.
I’ll be there, with a love that will see you through.
I’ll be there to always see you through.
When you feel lost and about to give up
‘Cause your best just ain’t good enough
And you feel the world has grown cold,
And you’re drifting out all on your own,
And you need a hand to hold:
Darling, reach out (come on girl, reach out for me)
Reach out (reach out for me.)
I’ll be there, to love and comfort you,
And I’ll be there, to cherish and care for you.
I’ll be there to love and comfort you.
I can tell the way you hang your head,
You’re without love and now you’re afraid
And through your tears you look around,
But there’s no peace of mind to be found.
I know what you’re thinkin’,
You’re alone now, no love of your own,
But darling, reach out (come on girl, reach out for me)
Reach out (reach out for me.)
Just look over your shoulder
I’ll be there, to give you all the love you need,
And I’ll be there, you can always depend on me.

Performed by Four Tops: Levi Stubbs, Duke (Abdul) Fakir, Obie (Renaldo) Benson and Lawrence Payton.

In praise of heroes…

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“I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.”*

Two creatives who understand the degree of responsibility that comes with their freedom are Suleika Jaouad and Jon Batiste. They have both made sure their voices are heard regarding the pandemic uncertainty and the murder of Mr. George Floyd and the subsequent misery, mourning and marching in the fight for justice, safety and equality for people with brown and black bodies.  Suleika and Jon are the two heroes I’ve chosen to honour today. 

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Mr. Batiste likely needs no introduction – he is the beloved bandleader and keyboard artist extraordinaire of Stay Human, house band of CBS’ The Late Show (Colbert).  Every night he makes us smile and entertains us with sweet musical notes and phrases – he and his band are one of the best parts of the show.  Jon never speaks ill of anyone (even when Colbert is egging him on); my Nana would say “he has kind eyes” and he does indeed seem to be a kind, gentle soul. 

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Ms. Jaouad, on the other hand, might not yet be known to you.  In addition to being Jon’s partner, she is an author working on revisions (just like another friend of mine) of her first book and, just as soon as it is released, she will undoubtedly become a household name, just like Jon.

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For a lot of people, me included, journalling can be so much more than creating memories, it can be cathartic and it can be a coping mechanism.  So many of my friends and contacts are using their journals as a means of “talking through” their pandemic anxieties.

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Like so many of us, Suleika is a cancer warrior and knows very well the demands, constraints and anguish of enforced isolation. When the coronavirus “stay home” restrictions were first announced, Ms. Jaouad – knowing from experience how taxing separation can be – began creating, curating and sharing daily journalling prompts. ‘Though this writing project was meant to last thirty days, it has been expanded:  The Isolation Journals, A 100-day journaling project to get you through challenging times. I’ve a fair idea how much time and energy is involved in this project for Ms. Jaouad, and I’m sure she will welcome the 100th day, but I’m also sure her subscribers will happily, eagerly even, continue far beyond the hundred days if that opportunity should arise – the prompts are that inspiring, that enriching and that much fun.

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Personally, Ms. Jaouad’s prompts have helped me to engage with and overcome some of my isolation demons in a manner I’d never have considered or if I had, never been able to master alone.  But there have been lighter moments, like on day 36, “Dear Postal Worker” when our prompt was, Write a letter of thanks to your postal worker. That was a fun and easy assignment and I hope mine helped our mail carrier understand how much she is appreciated and that it brightened her day a little.  

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Then came the heartbreaking and sickening news out of Minneapolis – a black man callously murdered by a white police officer.  Proving that Ms. Jaouad understands the degree of responsibility that comes with her freedom, she reacted immediately and introduced a series of newly appropriate journalling prompts:

“Hi journalers,
I’m going to break format.
Given the events that have been unfolding over the last week, it doesn’t feel right to continue with our scheduled prompt programming as if nothing has happened. 
Over the next six days, you’ll get six musical meditations from Jon Batiste. We hope this offers a space for meaningful reflection.
Sending love to all those who are hurting, who are listening and learning and reckoning—
Suleika”

Beginning Sunday,  31st May, a week of stirring, rhapsodic writing prompts followed – articulately, thoughtfully and creatively written to help us journalers write expressive and impassioned prose based upon our feelings, emotions and experiences.

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The first six prompts were based upon the music of Jon’s new album “Meditations” (Meditation, Prayer, Home, Relationships, Teardrops and Lullaby) which is available on iTunes and is utterly lovely, calming and lyrical.  I’ve always found writing inspiration in music so those were six of my favourite prompts thus far.

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The seventh prompt, concluding Jon’s week on Saturday, 6th June, was titled “Anthems” and was, hands down, my favourite writing prompt, ever, and I’ve been fortunate and privileged enough to have had some wicked-good prompts over the years.  The music for this prompt was a live recording of Jon’s performance of Neil Young’s anthem OHIO with Leon Bridges and Gary Clark Jr. at the Newport Folk Festival 2018. I encourage you to click on the link below and listen, it is absolutely beautiful. So, too, are the words Jon wrote:  

“There was a time before music was commodified—before people sold tickets to “see” it, streamed it over the information superhighway or pasted logos of it on compact discs and t-shirts. Our ancestors used music as a way to communicate deep truths, hidden messages, collective wisdom and unspoken joy and pain. But even in the modern realm, at its best, music remains a divine source. We still get glimpses of that power from time to time from our great artists, and these moments frame our lives. 

Your prompt for today:
When was the last time you experienced art that transcended enjoyment and overwhelmed you with its power. How would you translate that magic into words? If this hasn’t been an experience you’ve had—make it up.

For a musical accompaniment to your journaling, listen to “Ohio“.

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‘Though it wasn’t the last time I experienced art that transcended enjoyment and overwhelmed me with its power, I wrote about the first time I saw Les Miserables on the stage at The Royal Alexandra in Toronto.  It was so dynamic, so impressive, so emotional an experience as to be overwhelming.  The star, Michael Burgess, was the very personification of Jean Valjean, so much so I imagine Mr. Hugo was beaming his approval and adoration down from heaven when Mr. Burgess sang the first few notes (sorry Mr. Wilkinson!).

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I listened to Ohio, many times in fact, and with that inspiration in my mind wrote too many pages to count.  The words gushed out and I didn’t stop to edit or correct, just savoured the experience.

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With “Meditations” (both the piece of music and the writing prompt), Mr. Batiste set an immovable inflection point on our anti-racism curve from which, as Ms. Jaouad so perfectly wrote, we might document our hurting, listening, learning and reckoning. Together, Ms. Jaouad and Mr. Batiste rose to the importance of this historic chapter in human history and in doing so, provided their journalers with the ideal opportunity to write about and process their experiences.  

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I am grateful for the 100-day journaling project to get you through challenging times.  I am grateful for the inspiration and creativity offered by Suleika and Jon.  I feel privileged to have had their creativity to work with in my journal.  Sending respect, gratitude and so, so much love to my journal heroes – Ms. Suleika Jaouad and Mr. Jon Batiste. Thank you for helping me soar!

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‘Til next time, y’all…

*Bob Dylan

The aircraft might seem incongruous but I’ve always felt that a personal hero is someone who makes me soar, helps me reach for and attain heights I’d never have done on my own.  Today was day prompt #69 (of 100) and I can honestly say that every one of these prompts has helped me soar whilst being completely isolated.  Thank you Suleika and Jon.

Ohio is a counterculture anthem (protest song) written about the Kent State campus shootings, 4th May 1970, originally performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

If you’d like to listen (and I encourage you to do so), here is the original CSNY version of OHIO.

This is the version performed by Jon Batiste, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., 2018, Newport Folk Festival: OHIO

OHIO

[Hook]
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio

[Verse]
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

[Bridge]
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

[Verse]
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

[Hook]
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio

[Outro]
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio

OHIO Music and lyrics by Neil Young.

Joyspotting #7

Polishing My Stars

“Somebody has to go polish the stars,
They’re looking a little bit dull…
So please get your rags
And your polishing jars,
Somebody has to go polish the stars.”*

My stars have certainly seemed to shine a little less brightly of late which is a euphemism for losing self-confidence. This is something that happens to me every time I am involuntarily at home/in the hospital for long stretches of time.  It also scares me a little to put that admission into words. At this particular time it’s not really (not only) the pandemic isolation, but that, combined with this infection (and the fevers), and not driving, not socializing, not working, not pursuing my photography.  It is also true of me that, the longer the segregation lasts, the tougher it is to resume normal activities – far, far easier to stay home and make like an ostrich. But this week…

On Tuesday I had a day out in Cam’s company (first star polished) which went very well, health-wise.  Then, on Thursday my fever didn’t spike ’til nearly bedtime so… Drum roll, please!  Yesterday was the day – I went out alone, driving, with my photography gear – solo.  It was a spectacularly beautiful day, I kept my outing simple (one camera, one lens, local route – just in case) and had a wonderful time.  I took my rags and my polishing jars, and went to polish my stars!

Now, in writing this I am fully aware that this triumph seems entirely insignificant to the people reading this blog, indeed to most, probably not worth mentioning at all, but for me it was epic. Another COVID milestone achieved and a small measure of self-confidence restored. Worthy of celebrating. I worked with my Joyspotter’s Guide and I visited Squirrel Creek Conservation Area, the marsh at Squirrel Creek, Baxter Creek, Rice Lake Conservation Area, saw agriculture galore and all points between those locations and home.  Bliss!

So this is issue seven of Joyspotting. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking for me and hope you enjoy them.

Joyspotting #7

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#1 LOOK UP!

This is Odysseus and Penelope and family.
(And a random Crow.)

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Last year they lost one of their chicks to a hawk.
This year Odysseus seems to be staying at (close to) home.

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#2 LOOK DOWN!

Cold Creek: The creek bed flora is finally starting to bloom.

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#3  KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR COLOUR!

The rural routes are lined with beautiful blooming wildflowers already.
These are two of the brightest:

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#4  FOLLOW THE CURVE!

The truly nice thing about rural rambles is the abundance of enticing curves.

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#5. GO WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE!

Why did the turkey cross the road…
(Sorry!)

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The utterly adorable habit of goslings is that, unlike cygnets,
they follow mum in single file, very orderly, with dad bringing up the rear.

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#6 SEEK OUT SYMMETRY!

Man-made:

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Natural:

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#7  SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF ABUNDANCE!

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#8  WATCH FOR WEIRDNESS!

As you know, I don’t find much in this world to be weird, so:

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#9  ZOOM IN!

Ooops!  Wrong lens for this job!

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“Make a wish!”

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‘Though it perhaps doesn’t seem so, I’m quite “zoomed” on this island.

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#10  NOTICE THE INVISIBLE!

First stop yesterday was the marsh at Rice Lake.
Frogsongs galore, but not the sweet sound of the small, springtime frogs.
Now we hear the raucous, raspy, squawking of bullfrogs.

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Like Broomfield, the water level at the marsh at Squirrel Creek is very low.
This means the frogs aren’t near the street (invisible) but very audible!
The bullfrogs were all yelling at each other there too!

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#11  TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE!

There’s something about a road that slopes away from me that I find irresistible.
It always seems to be beckoning me to explore.

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This is Racetrack Road, Hamilton Township and my friend Scott is driving the tractor.

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#12  USE ALL YOUR SENSES!

All along Cavan Road (south shore of Rice Lake) the Lilac bushes are in bloom.
I had the sunroof open and the windows down and the aroma was heady!
Some blossoms are more advanced than others which seems to improve their fragrance.

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Finally, throughout the past three months, so many of you have reached out with kind words and encouragement and you’ll never understand how grateful I am!

This one’s for you:

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‘Til next time, y’all

Camera: Nikon D850
Lens:  Nikkor AF-P 70-300mm, F4.5-5.6E, ED, VR, (FX).

If you’d like to use Ingrid’s lovely guide to finding joy on your walks and hikes, please visit her website and download a (free!!!) copy here:  Joyspotter’s Guide

*Shel Silverstein, “Somebody Has To” from A Light In The Attic.
This is a picture of page 28 with the full text of the poem and Mr. Silverstein’s adorable artwork:

Somebody

For maybe in another world.**

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For maybe in another world…

Living through our first pandemic has left many of us feeling dazed, bewildered and exhausted and we Ontarians know there are thirty more days of the same – Mr. Ford announced the state of emergency would continue to 30th June.  Wherever you are hunkered down, I sincerely hope you, your housemates, family and friends are all healthy and managing to negotiate a safe pathway through the fear, the restrictions, the needs and the desires of life during the coronavirus.

“We’re all in this together” is one of the most over-used platitudes during this pandemic.  It has become the pep squad cheer used to bolster spirits and raise funds.  But it is a cheer of the non-vulnerable only, not of the sensitive, the insecure, the susceptible or the lonely and it might now be time to dial back on this cliché, to seek perspective and to be cognizant of the difference between circumstance and experience.  The vulnerable do not, not one iota, feel as if they’re in the same boat as the rest of us and our use of this particular buzz-phrase is beginning to grate.  Not, perhaps, the intent of those doing the cheering, but the reality.

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another,
listening with the ears of another,
and feeling with the heart of another.”*

During the past week ten days, I’ve heard four heart-breaking stories from folks who have  experienced insecurity specific to COVID-19 and I know each one of them would tell you that we are not all in this together.  These are their stories:

ROSE 

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A couple of years ago I had the privilege of mentoring a woman (who I am calling Rose) with her photography and writing.  She had courageously managed to escape a physically abusive situation with her daughter and the clothes on their backs.  A horrible beginning but the stars did, indeed, shine on these two sweet souls.  An opportunity arose for Rose to work with the tourism department of one of our local towns, attending and documenting local events.  Her work was to be posted on the town’s website and on their social media sites.  She would need to know how to use a DSLR and her writing needed a bit of polishing.  I was asked to help and agreed without hesitation.  

Rose and I became fast-friends despite the mammoth difference in our ages and have kept in touch every two or three days ever since.  I’ve been “consulted” on some of her work and she has blossomed into an intuitive and creative event correspondent.  An apartment became available in that small town, they relocated, the wee girlie loved her new school and both she and Rose began making friends and growing their social lives. Life was good again.  Until it wasn’t.

Rose was laid off due to the dearth of events and the lack of need for her services. She is now two months behind in her rent, has already had to visit the food bank and as she was telling me this sad tale I was acutely aware of the anxiety in her words.  She told me that the next time someone told her “we’re all in this together” she was going to ask them if they had rent money and if so if they had rent money for her too.  That cliché is upsetting and insulting to Rose.  

FOXGLOVE 

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One of my photography buddies (who I am calling Foxglove -Fox) has battled cancer for about three years now.  His prognosis was not good until he was offered a position on a drug trial, specific to his rare type of cancer, at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  He accepted, almost without thought – any hope is better than none!

This unique regimen is six months of daily treatments, and in order to participate he had to agree to in-patient status for the full 180 days.  Due to his severely compromised immune system he was settled into a private room and his wife found accommodation at a nearby hotel.  Then came COVID-19.

Hurdle one: In order for her to continue visiting her husband she had first to find independent (non-hotel) accommodation and then self-quarantine for 21 days. Three weeks!!!  The hospital recommended a townhouse for this purpose, she accepted and moved in, but the rent is in excess of $3K per month (far beyond their means).  Our club has established a fund to help them, we have sold framed copies of our pictures and held an on-line show and auction and, by hook or by crook, we will cover those costs but oh how our beloved Fox hates to have had to ask for our help. 

Hurdle two:  Due to the continuing threat of the coronavirus, Mr. and Mrs. Fox may share only one supervised visit each day, lasting no more than ninety minutes during which time there may be no physical contact whatsoever, she must wear full PPE, and remain a minimum of eight feet away from the bed (a distance clearly marked with bright yellow tape on the floor).  These two are madly, deeply in love.  Not being able to offer hugs, hold and squeeze each other’s hands, smooch, whisper in each other’s ears – typical intimacy – is torture.  Our beloved Fox is struggling to make it through every single day. Neither would tell you “we’re all in this together”.

CLEMATIS

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My friend’s daughter (who I am calling Clematis – Clemmie) is a provincial employee; a Psychologist providing Child and Adolescent therapy in her region.  Last week Clemmie was informed that on Monday morning and everyday thereafter until otherwise notified, she will be working at a local long-term care facility, one ravaged by COVID-19, to bolster staffing. Clem has neither been trained as nor worked as a PSW but has been promised instruction and guidance from the military officers currently working in this facility. 

Concern one:  Obviously the virus, but specifically, she has an adolescent son who was born with cystic fibrosis and who must be protected from COVID-19 at all costs.  She has had to move out of her home, away from her husband and two small children neither of whom understand this change at all.  Accommodations have been provided, but being ripped from one’s home is devastating.

Concern two:  Her clients.  Clemmie has spent months upon months earning the trust and confidence of the young people she treats.  The issues most of them deal with have been compounded by the isolation of the pandemic; some have been thrown into a tail spin due to her “abandonment” and she has been besieged by calls for help and advice from the others.  Dear, sweet Clem responds to every single one.  No matter the time of day or night even exhausted after a long day on her feet, because she cares deeply for these young souls and because she is scared silly that this upheaval will have catastrophic effects.  To quote Clemmie, she is stressed to the max and I promise you, she does not think “we are all in this together”.  

Note:  Since learning Clemmie’s story, I’ve heard of a second woman, the daughter of another friend who is, I believe, a social worker, who has also been forced to begin working in a long-term care facility.  She too is entirely inexperienced in the care and responsibilities of a PSW.

Question:  If these busy professionals, whose work continues apace despite the pandemic and who require training from the ground up to do this work, why cannot some of the thousands of newly unemployed people be hired on contracts to go into these homes and be trained to do the work needed leaving the professionals to continue with their necessary and valuable work?  

ROSE OF SHARON 

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The fourth tale is about one of my dear friend’s in-law relatives (who I am calling Sharon), a woman who lives alone and for whom the result of voluntary isolation has been the overwhelming sense of being completely cut off from society – from her family, neighbours and friends.  She is now clinically depressed.   

Then she became seriously ill.  After finally seeking medical advice and undergoing the obligatory tests, it happens she has cancer.  The heartbreakingly bitter outcome is that she has decided against treatment, her response,  “Why bother?” Her family believes this decision is taken only from this position of deep depression, of complete capitulation.  Of having no remaining hope.  Neither she nor her children believe for a second “we are all in this together”.   

These are the stories of only four individuals who I happen to know.  Just imagine the thousands of other, equally desolate stories we’ve never heard!

For Ontarians to unite against the coronavirus, to flatten the curve, and ensure each other’s safety, an element of community camaraderie is necessary.  The non-vulnerable have rejoiced in the “we’re all in this together” rallying cry, but simultaneously an awareness of others’ sensibilities is necessary. We need to be careful that well-intentioned comments do not cause additional pain to those already struggling and suffering. Now more than ever we need empathy, seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.

One of the sweetest, most tender expressions of empathy I’ve ever seen is the children’s poem “Reflection”:

Reflection**

Each time I see the Upside-Down Man
Standing in the water,
I look at him and start to laugh,
Although I shouldn’t oughtter.
For maybe in another world
Another time
Another town,
Maybe HE is right side up
And I am upside down.

A poem (and a book) of lessons, not just for the intended kiddos, but for us adults as well.  

Whilst our pandemic experience may be common, our individual circumstances are vastly different. My circumstance is not the same as the person who can’t afford to feed their kids, nor the person who has been evicted, nor the person who has lost a loved one to the coronavirus.  In many respects, there is precious little separating us, there but for the grace of God and all, but right now, in this very moment, the difference exists and we need to respect the feelings of those who “are not all in this together”.

For maybe in another world
Another time
Another town,
Maybe HE is right side up
And I am upside down.

“We’re all in this together” was the writing prompt Dr. McEricher sent out last Monday (25th May) and I’ve been struggling with it ever since.  I’m quite sure this essay is neither what he hoped for or expected from me.

‘Til next time, y’all…

*Alfred Adler (Dr. Adler was an Austrian medical doctor and psychotherapist.)

**Shel Silverstein, “Reflection” from A Light In The Attic.
We are all drawn to different creatives, and for many different reasons.  One artist that I’ve admired for many years is Shel Silverstein – a writer of poetry (children’s and adult) and of songs (he is a grammy winner), a singer and a cartoonist.  He won two Grammy Awards, for his song “A Boy Named Sue” and for his Children’s Album “Where The Sidewalk Ends”.  He was nominated for a Golden Globe and for an Oscar for his song “I’m Checkin’ Out” from the film “Postcards From The Edge”. I have a copy of his book of children’s poetry A Light In The Attic which is utterly charming. I always feel happier after flipping through its pages; the appeal lies not merely in his words or his cartoons, but in the synergy between the two, it practically vibrates off the page.  This is a picture of page 29 in A Light In The Attic, “Reflection”:

Reflection

If I Can Dream*

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Cam patiently (maybe) waiting for me in the car.

I had a day out yesterday.  OUT!!!  With an oh-so-patient minder, of course – the fevers haven’t completely gone yet – but I was oh-so-happy and excited and invigorated.  The sun was shining when we left, the sun roof was wide-open, and the radio was tuned to “60s on 6”. We listened to Donovan, Aretha, Four Tops, The Beatles and others.  Hard not to be happy with those tunes, the wind in my hair and the sun on my face.  Impossible, really.  I was positively euphoric.

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Jewell Road. Northumberland Forest.

We drove north to the 9 and then east to Jewell road for a meander through the Northumberland forest which we had all to ourselves. With every ride/walk through our magnificent forest with its complex network of walking and ATV trails I’m impressed anew with its size and the scope we N’umberlanders have for interesting hiking – there’s something perfect for everyone.   

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Once out of the forest we drove south to the Centreton Road and east to the Broomfield Marsh, one of my favourite sites for viewing and shooting local wildlife.  Typically there are multiple Herons and Egrets, loads of Painteds, frogs (and frogsong), birds galore, and snakes.  Sadly, yesterday, only Red Wings and a lone Heron far across the marsh because:

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Broomfield Marsh, west. The water throughout this area is typically four to five feet deep. This is the lowest I’ve seen it in ten-plus years.

The marsh is almost dry, just a tiny pond and a bit of a stream running through it.  It broke my heart – dead frogs all over the place, no turtles, no snakes, no Egrets.  The low water level is apparently due to both the dams being closed/slowed and the lack of rainfall during April.  Still, a beloved wildlife sanctuary and local treasure seems to be fading away.

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Broomfield Marsh, east. Also typically submerged even through and beyond the summer scorch.

After the marsh, we drove south, through the quaintly adorable hamlet of Eddystone, and on to Grafton.  

The clock struck three o’clock and the radio went silent.

The three minute pause includes one minute to reflect on the terrible history of racism, one minute in observance of this tragic moment in time and one minute to hope for and demand a better future. This will serve as a tribute not only to George Floyd but to all of the countless victims of racism.
[Jim Meyer, CEO, SiriusXM]

Whoosh!  All the air blew out of my happiness bubble.  How on earth could I be so blissfully happy, so ignorantly joyful when so many are in so much pain?  I instantly knew it was wrong and I felt guilty.  

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“If I Can Dream”

After the three minutes of silence, the pause was broken by Elvis Presley’s “If I Can Dream”.  For the record, I am not an Elvis fan but this song was utterly beautiful, powerful, emotional and poignant:

If I Can Dream 

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true
oh why
There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away the doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh why, oh why won’t that sun appear

We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We’re trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly
Deep in my heart there’s a trembling question
Still I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle

And while I can think, while I can talk
While I can stand, while I can walk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, right now
Let it come true right now
Oh yeah

[Earl Brown, songwriter.]

The oddest thing happened:  The sun went behind the clouds and it became a grey, misty afternoon, mirroring my own thoughts and mood.  Strange, non?  I get it, no sinister forces at play here, the weather was always going to change yesterday afternoon, but the timing…  The timing was eerie!

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Lake Ontario, Chub Point, Grafton, ON.

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Lake Ontario shoreline, Chub Point, Grafton, ON.

Normally we’d have driven from Chub Point to the Nawautin Nature Reserve but there are always sightseers, birders and photographers there (social distancing would be very difficult) so we continued on across Lakeshore Road to Hartop Conservation Area and, ‘though there was another couple there, I was the only one to get out of a vehicle to wander around.

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Being so close to the road, this is not a great spot to view wildlife.  Typically there are gulls, terns, Red Wings, geese, ducks and nothing else and yesterday was no different.  But… Out!  All of those are different from the creatures in my garden.

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After Hartop, we drove straight home.

I’d no intention whatsoever of writing about racism. And then, the protests came – hard, and shocking and loud and bold and desperate. And then, radio “Black Out”.

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
[Angela Y. Davis]

One is indifference, the other engagement, a distinction previously lost on me. The most compelling lesson I learned from watching and reading the news this week is that if we’re to at long last establish and maintain a Canada that is equal and just, each one of us must be anti-racist; in our thoughts, our intentions, our words and our deeds.  Always. 

“Throughout this life,
you can never be certain of living long enough to take another breath.”
[Huángbò Xīyùn, Master, Zen Buddhism]

Two souls, George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who will never take another breath. 

And then, the protests came…  The disgust, anger, sadness and weariness gushed from the faces, postures, words and gestures of the protestors, their reactions palpable even through the television screen.  The magnitude of participation was (but should not have been) shocking to me. Cold hard truth – being born white, living in predominantly white communities my entire life – that shock is a luxury and privilege denied to those with brown and black bodies. 

The bigger truth is that danger, risk, fear, prejudice, exclusion and oppression constantly swirl through communities of People of Colour (PoC) informing their every action and reaction. Invariably and forever thus far.

it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist

Rapper Killer Mike was on Colbert’s “A Late Show” on Monday night.  He had sage advice; ‘though it was aimed at the people of Atlanta, it is relevant to everyone, everywhere.  His advice? Don’t sit back and wait for change to happen.  Two possible positive actions – first, donate to a grass-roots organization working towards racial equality and second, walk through their doors to sign up.  Volunteer in your own community.  

Four suggestions if you’re fortunate enough to be able to donate your time or your money:

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Much love to the Korchinski-Paquet and Floyd families and to all PoC who are grieving, hurting, angry and suffering.

And while I can think, while I can talk
While I can stand, while I can walk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, right now

‘Til next time, y’all…

*In case you’ve not heard “If I Can Dream” or would like to refamiliarize yourself with its lyrical beauty, please click the link and have a listen:  If I Can Dream  Songwriter: Earl Brown, Performance: Elvis Presley, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

what do you think will happen*

“if you touch their hearts
what do you think will happen”*

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Today I am writing en plein air, from my deck; with the same view as from the little oak table but on the other side of the glass. It is 28 °C (in the shade!!!), the sun is shining, the sky is clear the birds are vocal and active and I am so glad I moved outdoors! Except… Concentration!

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Despite the lovely warm weather, my silly tulips have still not opened:

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But Spurge!  Two huge, glorious clumps of Yellow Spurge!!!

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what do you think will happen

Some eleven weeks ago, armed with the scientists’ best practices, we built ourselves  protective covid castles —  defensive bastions to guard against infection and contamination — convincing telling ourselves we were buttressed against the pandemic plaguing our shores. Conversations today have moved on from this distancing model to defence against the second wave, like the first one has passed already, but statistics simply do not support this opinion. 

The rules have relaxed, Ontarians seem ever so much happier, but the stark truth is that the curve has still not flattened – the number of coronavirus patients is steadily rising, Friday being the third consecutive day that newly identified positives increased. We now know that the virus incubation requires ten to fourteen days so it is important to note that these increases are not the result of Mr. Ford’s “reopening” of our province.  

Some of the reopening rules are crystal-clear, others ambiguous, all predicated upon Ontarians adhering to those established safeguarding practices but – do we have the appetite to stay the course?  Those preservative measures include testing, contact tracing and physical distancing – all more or less voluntary, all reliant upon our commitment. Testing works only when people attend screening centres, tracing works only when those tested positive follow-up and responsibly call their contacts and physical distancing works when we forego certain pleasures and freedoms in service of others.  In short, our appetite for continuing vigilance. Perseverance. 

For the past two months we’ve been so, so good; we’ve skyped, learned Zoom, texted, phoned, face-timed, and called out greetings to our neighbours from afar. Those forms of communication are entirely insufficient to needs.  We are craving the intimate company of our family and friends. ‘Though we all have the best of intentions, and ‘though we’ve been doing our level-best to protect ourselves and others from the pandemic risk, impatience and the cracks in our armour are beginning to show.

The reopening of Ontario seems to have raised more questions than there are definitive answers. Practicing COVID-19 safety measures is not always black and white – there are a lot of grey areas to evaluate. Risk analysis. For instance, outdoor visits and activities are thought to be much safer than indoors. 

Even for the government, assessing  risk is not a black-and-white issue, they must tread the fine line between health and prosperity. Hertz, Neiman Marcus, Henry’s, J Crew, Aldo, Nygard, Gold’s Gym and JC Penny are all companies – both sides of the border – that employ 500+ workers and that have declared bankruptcy due to pandemic closures. Then there are the hundreds of Main Street Ontario business owners –  Mom-and-Pop businesses – that, during closure, have simply packed up shop and walked away – no formal declaration of bankruptcy.  The longer businesses remain closed, the more permanent job losses there will be.  But the clear offset is the risk to health.  

what do you think will happen…

  • if I invite my close circle of friends back into my life; and
  • if we invite friends into our garden for tea or wine and cheese as long as the lawn chairs are two metres apart; and
  • do we tell them the house (read: bathroom) is off-limits; and
  • if I don’t wear a mask when I’m hiking (as long as I avoid others or put it on when someone approaches); and
  • if I meet up with my park friends as long as we sit two metres apart; and
  • if I hike through the park with a friend, physically distanced, wearing masks; and
  • if I offer to share my lunch or my tea with them; and 
  • if I stop sanitizing all groceries/parcels/mail that come into our home (our supply of Lysol wipes is rapidly dwindling)?

Doing any of those things feels akin to closing my eyes and stepping off the top of the biggest cliff I can imagine (think Scarborough Bluffs!), and plummeting to an unknown landing.  Emerging from self-isolation whilst this virus continues to rage might be the biggest gamble ever taken.  There’s no room for error.

if you touch their hearts
what do you think will happen

I love hugging and kissing and being close. I love making and sharing cups of tea. I love visiting, having visitors and spending time in close quarters. How can I do all those things, touch the hearts of my loved ones, whilst keeping both me and them safe? Our current and post-corona epidemiological existence is a constant awareness, a constant lifestyle of compliance to protect and care, not only for ourselves but for the essential workers and society’s most vulnerable. But I do wonder – is there enough diligence, enough care, to make them feel safe? 

In isolation, how do we touch the hearts of those who have lost a loved one? I have a dear friend in that unfortunate circumstance right now. She is grieving the death of her brother alone. No one by her side to provide any measure of comfort. He was a man of, and she is a woman of deep faith and it is agony for her to have no funeral, no blessing, no prayers. What I’d give to be able to give her a long, close hug around her neck, wipe her tears and share her pain – in person.  

It seems as if our only option is to slowly, gently feel our way through the long, dark tunnel that is the coronavirus, making up answers to the many small questions that crop up as we inch our way along.  And perhaps there really is no amount of care, of love that will make everything okay again, but I have to try.  We all do, or else what do you think will happen

“go my friend
bestow your love”*

’Til next time, y’all…

KC: Today’s brew is Antiox Apple-Cinnamon-Turmeric. Delish, but tea always tastes better in a nice cup, non? xx

*Rumi, Ghazal 838.
Full poem printed below.
‘Ghazal’ is an ancient Persian style of poetry.

 

Ghazal 838 

if you pass your night
and merge it with dawn
for the sake of heart
what do you think will happen

if the entire world
is covered with blossoms
you have laboured to plant
what do you think will happen

if the elixir of life
that has been hidden in the dark
fills the desert and towns
what do you think will happen

if because of
your generosity and love
a few humans find their lives
what do you think will happen

if you pour an entire jar
filled with joyous wine
on the head of those already drunk
what do you think will happen

go my friend
bestow your love
even on your enemies
if you touch their hearts
what do you think will happen

Dear Cobourg, this is a love letter:

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Victoria Hall

“Do all the good you can.
By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can.
In all the places you can.
At all the times you can.
To all the people you can.
As long as ever you can.”*

Well-known and beloved words that may easily have been written about my home town, Cobourg, Ontario, Canada where one doesn’t have to look far to observe the ideals of patience, strength, camaraderie, determination, integrity and service in daily action. Standards and expectations are high here and “good enough” simply isn’t tolerated. 

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Welcome to Cobourg!

Common misconception: Living in small-town Ontario does not mean we lead small lives. We chose Cobourg. We looked east, west and north of Toronto and decided east suited us best. We then looked at lots of small towns but Cobourg was always best. We fell (and stayed) in love with this lovely town because of its dynamism, its spirit, its shops and restaurants, its theatre community, its art gallery and most of all its people. Here one gets the sense that, right ‘round the next bend, anything and everything is possible.

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The beach at Victoria Park.

Living in a rural setting has exposed me to so many marvellous things; agricultural life, an abundance of nature, the freedom and excitement of wide open spaces and, best, the combined simplicity and complexity of small-town life. I’d not trade it for the biggest, most glamorous mansion in Rosedale.

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Ontario Street, Cobourg, ON.

I love Cobourg in the summer! First, the obvious: The beach at Victoria Park is the finest anywhere on the shores of Lake Ontario and, combined with the boardwalk and piers, make our waterfront irresistible. 

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The beach at Victoria Park.

There are lots of festivals, concerts at the bandshell in Victoria Park and outdoor movie nights. And, um, my personal favourite:  Dairy Dream!!!  We just love wandering in on a summer evening, choosing our crème glacée du jour, always in a cone – the drips are such a big part of the fun – and wandering through the park and down to the beach. You’ll always meet someone you know and I, of course, get caught with ice cream drips on my shirt.  Every. Single. Time.  This is when Cobourg charmingly feels like Mayberry.  Bliss!  Cobourg in the summertime truly is the most delightful and happy place to be.

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Best. Ice cream. Anywhere.

The star of any Cobourg summer is definitely the annual Waterfront Festival and the highlight for me is Canada Day, the jewel of the event. It is the beginning of July, school is just out, summer vacations have begun and people in the tens of thousands come from all over southern Ontario and upper New York State to enjoy our Waterfront celebration.

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Harbour, waterfront, Cobourg, ON.

Excitement runs high, the crowds are always merry and lively, snapping photos and selfies at every opportunity, and applauding and cheering for the bands, floats and marchers in the parade – for that one day, King Street feels like an elaborate movie set.

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This is one of those Cobourg traditions where you’ll bump into anyone you’ve ever known or met; a poignant reminder that we really do live in the most charming little town.

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“The Human Bean” Nothing nicer than to grab one of their delicious lattes and sit outside to watch the world pass by.

Sadly, in this moment of suspension, all summertime events have been cancelled to protect us and ensure we continue to plank the curve.  Here in Northumberland County we are doing very well – just fourteen confirmed cases, thirteen of which have been resolved. Nevertheless, the summer of 2020 will always be remembered as the time we Cobourgers were shaken out of the comfortable cadency of our beloved traditions.

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King Street, Cobourg, ON.

At a time when too many towns, countries, politicians and protestors are criticizing, blaming and belittling, and in a moment when far too many people have been forced to ask for mental, physical and financial support, Cobourgers have risen to the challenge with kindness, generosity and love. Folks who understand that, in the heat of battle against the coronavirus, the only thing that truly matters is making a difference in those lives even if, especially if it is only one person at a time.

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Our remarkable esprit de corps was celebrated on Saturday night with a Facebook event called “Cobourg Together at Home – Community Special”. This event (and now, video – see link below) is the labour of love of a local chap, Graham Beer in which he showcased Cobourg talent and praised our NHH health care community. Mr. Beer gave us a huge show of recognition, appreciation and support for and from every corner of Northumberland County. Thank you so, so much, Mr. Beer!

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Cobourg Together At Home Community Special

Love and pride of our town on display, plus the amazingness that is the Good Lovelies (thank you, Caroline, Kerri and Sue), plus “Hey Jude” combined to make a very special tribute. I swear I’ve never felt prouder to live in Cobourg. 

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Cobourg Public Library.

’Til next time, y’all…

*John Wesley

#WhyILoveCobourg
#WhyILoveNorthumberlandCounty