The Mighty Trent

The Mighty Trent
and Lower Trent Conservation Watershed

The mighty and beautiful Trent River carves a sinuous and scenic ninety kilometre route from Rice Lake south to the Bay of Quinte (Lake Ontario).  It is the jewel of the watershed.  The river and rivage are host to numerous and essential species of birds, waterfowl, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

The Lower Trent Conservation Authority (LTC) was formed in 1968 to manage and protect the water, wildlife and natural resources within the watershed.

“Scientists have been warning about global warming for decades.
It’s too late to stop it now, but we can lessen its severity and impacts.”*

On 1st June the LTC announced that the area is suffering from drought conditions and as a result is now under a Level 1 Low Water Alert.  Level one means a voluntary reduction in water usage and LTC is asking for each household/business to curtail their consumption by 10% – not much, right? 

Inescapable truth:  People-generated pollution is damaging the Earth’s climate.

Humans are taking more from this planet than it can manage, more than we shall ever be able to return.  Our immediate problem is that Mother Nature is no longer tolerating our excesses, apathy and neglect and the signs of her resistance are becoming harder and harder to ignore.

Here in Northumberland County an obvious climate change indicator is the current drought which is adversely affecting our well water levels, our gardens, our farms and now, the Lower Trent watershed.

Winter snowfall and its runoff and spring rains increase the river’s volume but this winter was drier than normal and there has been very little rain in the area this spring.

The shale, loose stone and scrabble in the foreground of the above shot is typically under water at this time of year.  As you can see, the river is barely half its usual width.  And very shallow.

So many environmental concerns seem vague and intangible, mostly because they don’t directly affect our home life, our neighbourhood or our province but yesterday I had a chance to observe for myself how global warming has damaged my home county.  I was shocked by the very low water level of the Trent River.

Except for the top two, these shots were all taken yesterday, mid-river, standing in the water, just south of Campbellford as it winds its way south around Meyers Island and through Meyersburg.

In this shot I have one foot on an exposed rock and one foot in the river.  I was easily and comfortably able to walk across the river and back several times and I think you can see in a couple of the shots how very shallow the water is — maximum depth throughout this area is two inches or less; not even enough to float a kayak.  The water was surprisingly warm.

Lest you think I’m prone to exaggeration or creating a mountain out of a mole hill, the above shot is the same vista as the top picture.  Winter vs spring, on the bridge vs in the river.  Otherwise, the same.

Earth and its natural world is our home, it is essential to our survival.  Surely, then, it is in our very best interest to protect, conserve and cherish it!

’Til next time, y’all…

*David Suzuki

As-salaam alaikum.

“…recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…”*

One of those inalienable rights is the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof — protections guaranteed in Section 7 (Legal Rights) of The Charter and Article 3 of the UN Charter.  A fidelity broken on 6th June.  Ironically, the day many of our parents, grand parents and great grand parents arrived in Normandy, France, to fight on our behalf for that very right.  

Sunday evening, whilst enjoying a family stroll around their neighbourhood, the Afzal family of London, Ontario was intentionally, barbarously and mercilessly mown down by a man diving a truck.  Four were fatally injured, one critically.

Yumna Afzaal (15)
Madiha Afzaal (her mum)
Salman Afzaal (her dad)
And his elderly mum.

All viciously killed.

Fayez Afzaal (9)

Orphaned and seriously injured.

Please say their names.
Please remember their names.

Certainly Fayez, lying in hospital with stark, terrifying memories, and who will now grow up without the protection, support and love of his mum, dad, sister and nana, needs your thoughts and prayers most of all.

“I think it really shows that we don’t know what to expect, in literally broad daylight,”

Picture, please — best as you can — what it would be like to live in a community, a human family that must, by virtue of the faith you hold dear, the place you worship and the garments you wear, be constantly afraid.  Even, as Ms. Hossain said, in literally broad daylight.  Indeed, has anyone reading this post ever been constantly afraid for their life for any reason?  The idea of such ferocity of fear stretches one’s imagination beyond its limits.   

The syntax and vocabulary of racism bleeds into Canadian Media and conversation from American politicians, law enforcement officials and activists yet far too many of us engage with morbid curiosity rather than acknowledgement, commitment and action out of a very real fear and loathing for what is happening in our own country.  Canadians are proud of our multicultural society and of our acceptance and inclusion of everyone but people of the Muslim faith can attest that this is not always true.  The cold, hard, unavoidable fact is that none of us – not Londoners, not Ontarians and not Canadians – are immune from racism nor from the rising tide of Islamophobia in western countries and the acts of hatred it spawns.

Muslims in London, Ontario, indeed all of Canada and beyond, are dumbfounded, outraged, disappointed and frightened.  It is time to build bridges — from friend to friend — from neighbour to neighbour — from your faith community to the Muslim community.  Heart to heart.   

As-salaam alaikum.  

‘Til next time, y’all…

*United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
**Ijlal Hossain  Neighbour of the Afzal family.

Peace Park – Cobourg Creek Clough , Vol. II

“Nobody else knew it, but the creek was magic.
There was one bend in particular,
where the banks widened to form a craggy circle…”*

There really is something magical, hypnotic about the rhythm and flow of a creek.  Ours, Cobourg Creek, is a jewel in Northumberland’s crown.  It is the heart of a very healthy and productive watershed.  

There are two branches of the creek, unimaginatively named the east and west.  We live within a stone’s throw of the west branch and I’ve written about it here:  Clough  Less than a quarter of a kilometre south of our home (literally at the end of our road) is the Cobourg Conservation Area where the two branches meet to form a much more substantial watercourse.  From there it flows south until it empties into Lake Ontario.

About a kilometre from the lake, Cobourg Creek runs through a small but very pretty park which is where I had today’s vagation.  Welcome to Peace Park:

The creek’s perpetual motion, its burbling over the occasional rock and the pebbly creek bed never fails to captivate me.  It is pleasant, peaceful and oh-so-pretty, especially when the sunlight sparkles and glitters on the surface as it ambles by.

Today’s mission was to check up on this year’s abundant crop of waddling, squawking, ravenous kiddos and it was just lovely to see that they’re all thriving.

One of my dearest friends lived in a home that backed onto Cobourg Creek about 500 yards from Peace Park. There are hundreds of goslings in the park this spring (no exaggeration – promise!) so, this afternoon when I got home, I sent her a message, letting her know that her old neighbourhood is overrun with children and that the new kiddos are taking over. (I’m sure she thinks I’m barmy!) Truth is, they’re everywhere you look and they’re utterly adorable.

Ohmigosh, it was a hot one today and the lure of the water was irresistible so I, of course, boldly waded in for a cooling paddle in the the clear, refreshing, über-cold creek! (Poor wee goslings!)  It didn’t last long – trust!

Nobody else knew it, but the creek was magic.

Best?  Off the paths, in the wild, unspoiled areas, nestled in the long grasses between shrubs and fallen trees and reeds and roots and rocks – there were masses of Daisies and Daisy Fleabane — flourishing, nodding their pretty heads in the breeze.  Colour me happy!  

‘Til next time, y’all…

*Kate Morton, The Secret Keeper 


Possibility and Glory

First Kayak Outing of the year – Wednesday 21st June.

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –*

Paddling slowly, quietly away from the shoreline is exactly like entering that fairer house of poetry, of endless possibility.  That’s what I feel every time I launch my kayak.

From the ancient Pali language comes the word sangha which means community or association.  For instance, all sentient beings (inhabitants) of a specific ecosystem, as exist in Presqu’ile’s lagoon.  As I embark, I wonder what will thrill or amuse me this trip, what is living out there that I don’t even know about yet?  With every motion of the water comes the possibility of a glorious discovery or glorious accident (I’m not an elegant paddler).  So much potential in one outing in this fairer house.

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –*

One of the lines of Ms Dickinson’s poem that instantly captured my imagination is her lyrical characterization of the sky — her everlasting roof — The Gambrels of the Sky.  It amused and charmed me living, as I do in the heart of an agricultural mecca and being married to a farmer.   

A Gambrel is a roof, basically a hip roof, common in barn construction and here in Northumberland County there is a wealth of barns with hip rooves.  Indeed, it’s Cam’s favourite barn design.

A gambrel reaches down the sides of its barn as if stretching for the ground and, out on the water, gambrel is a fanciful but perfect description of the sky, which seems to stretch for all its worth to meet the horizon in every direction.  

But the glory is not all overhead; many of the lagoon’s delights — its sangha — are beneath its surface.  Varieties of wee fishies darting to and fro, the sun glinting off their scales.  Amphibians and reptiles swimming, bobbing and sunning themselves.  Most eye-catching of all is the aquatic flora, plant life of every imaginable shape, size, colour and texture.  Sangha that is impregnable of eye from shore, including and yesterday most especially, the sweetness of finding eleven hatchling Painted Turtles, tiny as can be.    

Drifting on my yak and looking down, the possibilities to observe and to link together all elements of the lagoon’s ecosystem are endless and inspiring. This taste of floating freedom encourages me to love everything I see and to embrace its glory.

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –*

Lots of happiness is generated by Mother Nature; her tiny miracles abound if only we care to see them.  Here, floating on the water of my beloved lagoon where the sangha is both wise and innocent, I dwell in Possibility —  of discovery, of joy — and I experienced something much more powerful and profound than the written word. 

Reluctantly dragging my kayak from the water and having sampled much of the glory on offer in my lagoon — gathering paradise — I felt delight, peace and most of all, gratitude.  

’Til next time, y’all…

*Emily Dickinson from her poem “I Dwell In Possibility” (full text below).

I Dwell in Possibility

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

[Emily Dickinson]

 

Joyspotting #10

There was time today for a bit of a rural ramble – north along country lanes as far as Squirrel Creek where I had a lovely long walk. Then, home along more country lanes, stopping every so often (okay, very often) to shoot wildflowers, animals and birds. The weather was perfect – sunny, warm, no humidity and a light breeze. Life is good!

It was a Joyspotting day again and nothing says joy to me like a wild daisy. I agree wholeheartedly with Kathleen Kelly, They’re so friendly. Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flower?*

One of the reasons I do so enjoy using the Joyspotting guide is that it makes me focus — everywhere, all the time — on what is around me and frankly, without It I’d miss ever so much.  Today specifically, I’d never have seen my first blue butterfly (#2) nor the family of geese (#5).

#1 Look Up!

It was a day of big cloud, blue sky weather** – my favourite – good things seem to happen to me on those days!

#2 Look Down!

Eastern Tailed-blue Butterfly (Cupido comyntas), found in a ditch, looking down as the guide suggested.

#3 Keep An Eye Out For Colour

Bird’s-Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is an herbaceous perennial of the Pea family.

#4 Follow The Curve

2nd Line, Peterborough County (east of Scriven Road).

#5 Go Where The Wild Things Are

This is a marsh and pond I’d driven past hundreds of times and didn’t even know it existed.
I’d stopped to shoot the beaver dam (#10) on the opposite side of the road and, lo and behold…

#6 Seek Out Symmetry

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is an herbaceous perennial in the Buttercup family also known as Wild Mandrake.

#7 Search For Signs of Abundance

First haying of 2021 and it’s not even June yet – fingers crossed it is a good year for our hard-working farmers!

#8 Watch For Weirdness

Some funky and curious weirdness beneath the water in Cold Creek.

#9 Zoom In

Crampbark (Viburnum opulus) is a deciduous shrub in the Aster family also known as Guelder Rose.

#10 Notice The Invisible

There is a concrete culvert running beneath the road and I sat on it for a very long time, hoping and waiting for the beaver to appear. There was lots of splashing and thrashing and there were ripples on the surface, but he never did show his wee face. Camera shy?

#11 Take The Scenic Route

Any country lane running through these Northumberland Hills and its agricultural lands is scenic to me, and this one – Scriven Road – is a particular favourite.

#12 Use All Your Senses

Squirrel Creek was a noisy spot today thanks to the raucous chatter of the bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus).

A little housekeeping:

After publishing Joyspotting #9 I received a slew of e-mails asking me to share the Joyspotting guide.  First and foremost, this is not my guide — not by a long shot.  This is the creative inspiration of  Ingrid Fetell Lee.  You can access and download your own copy of her guide (it’s free!!!) here:  Joyspotter’s Guide.  Finally, for more information, Ingrid’s website is: Aesthetics of Joy.

Spreading Oleaster (Elaeagnus umbellata), also known as Wild Olive, Japanese Silverberry and Autumn Olive, is a deciduous shrub native to eastern Asia, the Himalayas and Japan (now found growing out of control along Ontarios rural roadsides).

‘Til next time, y’all…

*Nora Ephron, from the movie “You’ve Got Mail”.
** Megan Giddings, from her novel Lakewood.

Bird Vetch (Vicia cracca) is an herbaceous perennial of the Pea family, also known as Tufted or Cow Vetch.



Exhaling

Here, in this place of quietude,
after waiting and wishing and scheming
after yearning and hoping and dreaming —
a peaceful, idyllic interlude.

Then
beatified,
feeling hopeful,
calm and serene,
I exhale.  

Here in this place of quietude.

Like the people of Brigadoon
my long rest is over, my soul awake.
New chances, new dreams arise at daybreak 
sitting here beside my lagoon.

Exhaling, here in this place of quietude.

The lake’s lapping refrain sings on.
The pannes, the beach, the marsh, the lake, Jobe’s Wood
constant concinnity of all things good:
Nary a change whilst I was gone…

But at home
a change.
My world shifted,
cracked, felt empty.
Now, back at my park 
its bliss fills every gap.

Exhaling, here in this place of quietude.  

Baby ducks leaping and peeping,
new life bursting forth, dazzling, trumpeting,
wildflowers brandishing blooms and — getting
hungry — baby birds are cheeping.

Exhaling, here in this place of quietude.  

Posing, flirting, a rutting swan
with a pompous flourish of silky plume,
and graceful arch of his neck, I presume,
to woo his true love thereupon.

Exhaling, here in this place of quietude.

New spring life — nature’s vernal grace.
Chronobiology overflowing. 
Old Earth’s fresh and perfect splendour showing.
I feel God’s love in my heart at this place. 

Lifting my face,
I thank you,
for a simple park,
its great purity,
its hope, its grace.  

Exhaling, here in this place of quietude.

Happy Birthday Vicky

Happy Victoria Day!

On Friday, nicely in time for the holiday weekend, the Ontario Government lifted its ban on outdoor activities but not the stay-at-home orders which I, for one, found confusing. 

Today was the first week day since the re-opening of the golf club and the Baxter Boys (including my Cam) were first in line to tee-off this morning.  If people can hop in their cars to go to play tennis or golf or to visit parks, why on earth am I staying home?  From the green-lighting of other outdoor sports and activities, I extrapolated my own permission to go on a rural ramble.  How that fits into the stay-at-home order, I’ve no idea – perhaps it doesn’t – but today I celebrated Vicky’s birthday — alone, like Ms. Oliver — in the Northumberland Forest.  It. Was. Bliss.

About her own, frequent sojourns in the woods, Mary Oliver wrote:

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours

The tracts of the forest that I favour are very much like a sanctuary — always still and serene.  The giant trees form natural cloisters throughout which the only sound is the choir of the birds.  I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Today the chapel was decorated with thousands of flowers as befits a royal birthday celebration. Springtime in our forest is breathtakingly beautiful – everywhere one looks!

For this post, I’m letting the blossoms do the talking – they’re much more eloquent than I could ever hope to be.

Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum), a deciduous shrub of the Aster family.
Spotted Geranium or Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) is a native herbaceous perennial in the Rose family.
Bitter-berry or Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is a small, native tree in the Rose family.
Yellow Salsify, also known as Goatsbeard (Tragopogon dubious) is an herbaceous biennial of the Aster family.
Yellow Rocket, also known as Herb Barbara and Rocketcress, (Barbarea vulgaris) is an herbaceous biennial of the Rose family.
Mealytree or Wayfarer (Viburnum lantana) is a deciduous shrub/small tree of the Viburnum family.
Tatarian or Wild Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) is a non-native deciduous shrub that has earned itself the Noxious Weed designation.
Wild Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a native, herbaceous perennial of the Asparagus family.
Star False Solomon’s-seal or Star-Flowered Lily Of The Valley (Maianthemum stellatum) is a native herbaceous perennial of the Asparagus family.
Dame’s Rocket or Damask-violet (Hesperis matronalis) is an herbaceous perennial of the Mustard family.
Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) is an herbaceous perennial of the Buttercup family.
Wild Columbine or Canada Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is an herbaceous perennial of the Buttercup family.

Dominating the display were the Giant Trilliums; they seem to have peaked this weekend and they were absolutely glorious.  

White Trillium or Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) is a native, herbaceous perennial of the Lily family.

I hope your Victoria Day was as delightful as mine.

‘Til next time, y’all…

Queen Victoria (May 24, 1819 to January 22, 1901).

How I Go to the Woods 

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.”

[Mary Oliver]

That’s Life

Do you believe in coincidence?

Two writing prompts arrive in my in-box every Monday morning – one from the writing group at Arts and Letters and the other from the on-line journalling group – “A Year of Reflection” – hosted, curated, and helmed by the creative genius who is Erin Loechner at Design for Mankind.  Her journalling prompts inspire introspection and expression.  She heads each prompt, Reminder:  this practice is astonishingly simple, yet profoundly powerful.  You’ll get out of it what you put in.  If you’re not already a fan, if you’ve not yet visited Design for Mankind – what are you waiting for?

Coincidence, then…  This week’s prompts come from two writers, one from 15th century England and the other from 21st Century USA, one a man, the other a woman, both with insight into coping. Bearing.  Enduring.  Is my negativity coming back to haunt me, do you suppose?  Am I getting a nudge from the universe? 

Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?*

This coincidence was a prod.

John Milton was an English author, Puritan, philosopher, poet, activist and political advisor.  Scholars describe reading the works of Milton as one of the most demanding but possibly  the most gratifying occupations and next month, gulp, we’re tackling Paradise Lost.

‘Though described as an epic poem, Paradise Lost consists of more than ten thousand lines of verse, examining the Fall of Man — basically, the story of Adam and Eve, their temptation, and ultimate banishment from The Garden Of Eden in the book of Genesis.  

This month, in the context of overcoming one’s limitations, also preparatory to next months beginning of Paradise, we are studying Milton’s poem “On His Blindness”.  

“On His Blindness”

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

by John Milton (1608-1674) 

Superficially, Blindness is a short poem about Milton’s own sudden onset of blindness but more broadly it is about overcoming personal limitations and imperfections. It is about having found a way to regard his loss of sight that was less negative, more bearable.

From serving as Oliver Cromwell’s closest and most trusted advisor in his revolutionary government and being England’s preeminent writer, by the age of forty-two Milton was alone and completely blind —  he could no longer read nor write.

In order to rise above his abject misery, instead of seeing himself as a man suffering a cruel fate, Milton redefines his position as being a fallible and flawed servant to his God (a king in command of thousands of souls).  The Kingdom of God is invisible to the human eye rendering his blindness inconsequential.   

Milton gives the virtue patience a voice in order to interpret his, indeed, all hardship.  Patience tells him that one need only bear (not overcome) the hardship.  He minimizes the impact of his blindness, calling it a “mild yoke”. 

The grand limitation that Milton presumed impossible to overcome became a simple assignment from God:   Have patience, believe that there is both a purpose to and order within the universe. 

‘Though demonstrative of his Puritanical roots, Milton’s faith in his God reflects a Zen-like approach to the challenge of his blindness.  A very “that’s life” attitude.  

“Each time I find myself
Flat on my face
I pick myself up and get
Back in the race
That’s life”**

Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon’s words and music, made colossally famous by Frank Sinatra – most people need only hear a couple of bars to recognize this song – could have been written about Mr. Milton.  

The writing prompt from A Year of Reflection – is a quote of the author Rainbow Rowell:

“So, what if,
instead of thinking about solving your whole life,
you just think about adding additional good things.
One at a time.
Just let your pile of good things grow.”***

After a year like the one we’ve all just endured, Ms. Rowell’s advice is a bit of a litmus test, or maybe a mirror reflecting our reactions to masking, bubbling, stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, on-line learning and vaccination stress.

I gave this notion a lot of thought and realized that lots of my family and friends have been adding additional good things throughout the pandemic.  Check your Insta or Facebook feeds – I’ll bet they’re chock-a-block with pics of the good (a home hair cut), the new (a craft project), the lovely (gardens, gazebos, firepits), the sweet (s’mores, baking and desserts galore) and the precious (kiddos, spouses and pets)…  And we’re adding to them all the time.  We’re not trying to solve our whole life.  We’re simply adding additional good things.  One at a time.  Letting our pile of good things grow.  And that’s life!

Maybe that’s the key to enduring happiness – one of them, at least:  To simply bear the bad, not try to solve our whole life, whilst letting our pile of good things grow.  I think Mr. Milton is smiling.  

‘Til next time, y’all…

The critters, the life pictured in this post are my good things. This is me, just letting my pile of good things grow***.

*Mary Oliver from “The Fourth Sign of The Zodiac”.
**Songwriters: Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon
***Rainbow Rowell

That’s Life – Click if you’d like to listen to Mr. Sinatra. Lyrics below

Three Youths, Two Families, an Entire Community

A lot of people who read my blog are writers – a couple of novelists, a handful of poets and a slew of fellow bloggers.  I wonder – do any of you still do timed exercises?  I regularly do ten-minute warm-ups and occasionally I’ll expand to twenty minutes.  ‘Though uncomplicatedly elemental, the cogent artistic reasons to continue this practice abound.   

The Rules:  

Use a pen and notebook, never a device; there’s something organically creative about the tactile sensation of a pen’s nib gliding across a page. 

Don’t stop writing, not even for a second or two.  

No thinking, no editing, no punctuation. 

Forget logic and control – let your emotions and ideas spill out in a chaotic jumble.

‘Though you may be surprised or horrified at what lands on your page, NEVER trash your notes:  Never rip a page from your notebook, never discard a notebook – even a full one, even a very old one. 

Late yesterday afternoon (after tea time), chores complete, no work needed for dinner and struggling almightily with this week’s writing assignment, I decided to sit down for a ten-minute timed exercise.  Having just looked out the front door and watched the dreamy scene of seeds and petals drifting on the breeze, backlit by the late afternoon sunbeams, I was quite sure that would be my topic and I eagerly set the timer on the iMac.  Except…

After less than ten words, what gushed out of my brain was a tsunami of sad, dark thoughts about three youths; a boy, 12, dead, his sister, 10, maimed, a 17 year-old charged with vehicular offences. When the timer sounded, I’d written lines and lines about anger misery and sadness.  I’d written about the ruination of the lives of two local families – from my limited perspective.  I’d written about the repercussions rippling throughout our community.  All the result of a few seconds’ worth of carelessness. 

No beautiful scene, no sunbeams. Nothing light at all! 

This story is five months old. 

Early in the morning on 2nd December 2020, in a small village here in Northumberland County, Cormac and Shea Kerin were struck by a vehicle whilst waiting for their school bus.  Cormac (12) succumbed to his injuries but Shea (10) survived with catastrophic injuries and was taken by helicopter to Sick Kids’ Hospital.

On Friday, Northumberland OPP announced that a teenager (17) from Port Hope has been charged with two counts of careless driving.  Reading that article must have triggered these thoughts.

The Kerin children’s parents will never recover, of this I feel very sure.  I’ve witnessed a cousin’s and three friends’ unending grief, guilt and heartbreak after the deaths of their children.  It is a loss one never “gets over”, never should.  The community has been endlessly supportive of the family ever since, in ways great and small, and the family was in so many prayers at the time of the accident, at Christmas and countless times ever since.

In another, unnamed, local household an equal but very different anguish has been playing out.  A teenager who will never forget the grizzly scene on the country roadside, who will never forgive him/herself for causing that carnage, and who will feel soul-crushing guilt every day for the rest of his/her life.  There are two parents who must be feeling guilt at sending their child out behind the wheel of their car, inadequately cautioned or prepared for the enormity of that responsibility.  A hindsight (20/20) realization, perhaps.   Two parents who feel a degree of liability and culpability for the agony and bereavement of the Kerin family.  The burden of the driver’s family is not shared, the community has not rallied around them.  Their future will be filled with regret – lamenting those few seconds of inattention and wishing to have them back again; and remorse, wishing to have one fresh chance at preparing and forewarning their child.  

The enormity of the events of 2nd December will never wane in the lives of the two families.  Peace will remain elusive, sporadic happiness only, and even then lasting only through fleeting moments.  

Of course an arrest had to be made.  Of course charges had to be laid.  Of course the Kerin family needs to see – undoubtedly feels obligated to see – The Ontario Court of Justice in action.  I imagine they will regard that duty as a debt they owe to their son Cormac and his sister, Shea.  But justice?  I suspect that will never be felt, by either family, regardless of any future verdict.  

It seems like it might be easier to feel empathy for the victims’ family, by imagining the rage we’d feel if it were our own kiddos who’d been hurt, superimposing our conditioned belief in the innocence of children on the bleak reality.  Harder, undoubtedly, to appreciate the dread, fright, panic and consternation of the family of the young driver – not able (not wanting) to believe that our own kiddos might be capable of wreaking such havoc.  It oughtn’t to be hard to picture – at a young seventeen, there are many moments of excitement, distraction and inattention.   

Bottom line:  Both sets of parents need unwavering compassion and kindness.  I hope my community has that generosity of spirit.

Children harming other children – can there possibly be anything more gut-wrenchingly sorrowful?

May God grant each family a hedge of protection!

’Til next time, y’all…

Breaking News — The Language of Friendship

Apple Blossom*

Today is a beautiful day.  Since writing The Language of Friendship, peace has gently floated back into my two beloved communities.  

The Ws

Apparently my blog post was a wake-up call.  On our community page there is a sweet apology from both women, together with a promise that they will try their very best not to let it happen ever again.  I have had an e-mail from their “victim” who told me that both ladies had written her notes of apology and both were fulsome (her word).  Now!  Isn’t that just a sweet happy for everyone involved?  

Violets*

The Mus 

There was only one culprit in this group, but two victims.  Neither received a personal note (that I’m aware of, at any rate) but on our community page there is a very eloquent, seemingly sincere apology not only to her two victims but to the entire group.  In this case, I received a personal note, thanking me for calling her out without shaming her. The sisters are happy again.  

Perhaps the greatest proof of friendship is that, even in the midst of some pandemic gamesmanship, some awkward silences and some selfish or uncaring comments, our love and respect for each other survives, is even, eventually made lovely again.

‘Til next time, y’all…

Peony*

*Apple Blossoms, Violets and Peonies all symbolize peace.