THE COSMOPOLITAN INTERSECTION

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Picture, please, a diagram of three tangents:
One represents freedom of speech.
One represents freedom of belief.
One represents diplomacy.
All three protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Their intersection — cosmopolitanism — represents the paradigm for healthy communication. Of late that junction has become explosive, corruptive and toxic yet it remains a principle very important to our society, one that is entirely worth exercising and protecting.

1. The Diplomacy Tangent

“I am a human being, and thus nothing human is alien to me.”
[Publius Terentius Afer]

Cosmopolitanism within one’s circle of family and friends is becoming increasingly uncommon due, in no small part, to our use of social media. Amongst the social media ramifications is the intensification of our propensity for spending our time with those who think like us and, ergo, less time with those who think differently. This effect is significant because it limits our exposure to diverse thoughts and ideas.

Cosmopolitanism is inclusiveness and acceptance. It is, in many ways, idealism; that all souls are members of one society, that all souls share the same morality. For the Individual, it is a lofty goal reached with a matrix of carefully considered choices. Which voices we choose to listen to is a crucial choice. Even the most antagonistic of voices is merely, at its core, seeking connection; needing to be heard, hoping for understanding, wanting to create a common experience. It is not always easy to listen, but when we do, the reward is always the same: Understanding that although the differences between our origins and our lives may be enormous, in our hearts, we are all the same. Cosmopolitanism is rare and it is precious.

2. The Belief Tangent

“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.”
[Henry David Thoreau]

Everyone has a set of beliefs; firmly held opinions that something is good, true, or valuable. My beliefs run the gamut of politics (all three levels), religion, philosophy, society and the arts. In holding onto my convictions I am fervent but I do my level best to keep an open mind; one never knows when the seed of an emerging idea may ‘blow in’ and germinate. I always want to be open to that possibility.

It is important to respect all beliefs as intrinsically honourable even when, especially when, they are not our own. Here in Canada we very strongly believe in diversity, not homogeneity. Ever since 1971 with the introduction of Multiculturalism by our federal government, we have thrived and become a truly cosmopolitan society — based on knowing and valuing the beliefs of everyone — and therein human happiness evolves…

Throughout history, women have fought for the right to form and hold their own beliefs, not those ascribed to them by their husbands. Paraphrasing my ‘friend’ Aristotle, although the female has the deliberative element she lacks the authority to exercise it. Unfortunately society held onto that supposition for far too long; some cultures have yet to give it up — blatant contempt for the right and freedom of everyone to have their own convictions.

We have become a civilization very reluctant to share our beliefs. We’re afraid of rejection, of persecution, or of offending — we’ve created a culture where “each of us is right, in our own way” to the exclusion of honest self-expression. We have become silent at a time when confident voices raised in peaceful pursuit are badly needed. The violence we read about nearly every day in our newspapers makes us wonder if we will ever understand each other enough to build lasting trust between us, to create peace together. If we want to live in harmony, we must share our morality. If we want cosmopolitanism, we must not only hold strongly to our own principles, but celebrate the very different but equally ironclad thoughts of others, not become resentful or fearful of them.

3. The Speech Tangent

It is an unfortunate trend that open debate is on the decline, most likely due to fear — either that our words might hurt others or that our opinions might cause us to be ostracized from our friends. Not only have we become reluctant to speak, we have also censored the opinions we hear.

We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.
[Malala Yousafzai]

One of my heroes is the activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ms Ali is the daughter of Muslim Somali parents. Yet she is the face of the movement seeking to end the practice of female genital mutilation and is an outspoken advocate for Islamic reform. A little over two years ago, Ms Ali was invited to address students at Brandeis University and receive an honorary doctorate. However, bowing to pressure from the Arab community, her invitation was revoked. Speaking out against a barbaric practice, one that all non-Muslims denounce in the strongest of terms — the UN, strongly supported by the WHO and UNICEF, has established 6th February as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation — was enough to have her disinvited from her planned appearance and honour.

“This is slavery, not to speak one’s thought.”
[Euripides]

Maryam Namazie is another well-known human rights activist. Ms Namazie is Iranian, a secularist, and spokesperson for the movement “One Law for All”. One Law is opposed to the legal practice of sharia law because it is “discriminatory and unjust, especially against women and children”. World-wide criticisms of sharia cite, but are not limited to, the following violations: Human rights, freedom of speech, LGBTQ² rights, gender equality, domestic violence and child marriage. Ms. Namazie was invited to speak to students at Warwick University. Like Brandeis University, at the behest of the Arab communities on and off campus, Ms Namazie was subsequently uninvited.

Two unrelated incidents with which I am quite familiar, both following the current social trends of communication.

Whenever I am nervous or reluctant to state my opinion I ask myself what is the worst thing that could happen? As a Canadian, and unlike the women in some countries, speaking out is unlikely to get me jailed. Or killed. At times I’ve been labelled a bitch, I have lost a couple of friends but I have also made new friends who support me and celebrate my opinions — even when they disagree.

And my world did not end.

Next time you hear religious intolerance, hear a racial slur, hear a homophobic or misogynistic insult, please push your envelope and speak out in the name of virtue and justice.

And your world won’t end.

I promise!

Trust your convictions. Live your life intentionally. Be brave enough to do what you know to be right. In short — live your beliefs.

The Cosmopolitan Intersection

Choices. Every day we face three tangential choices; what to believe, what to speak about, how to respect others when we do choose to speak out — in short, where do we want our three tangents to intersect?

The righteous choice compels us to speak out on behalf of those who cannot. The righteous choice compels us to speak out against injustice and intolerance. The righteous choice compels us to be courteous toward every soul when we raise our voice. The righteous choice compels us to honour our beliefs and those that are contrary to our own.

For me, this is not about becoming the loudest voice on the landscape. Nor is it about social media popularity or trends. It is the wish, that in turbulent times like these when so many voices are raised in anger and hatred, my voice might be positive, kind, constructive and peaceful.

Each one of us has the power to make a difference. Staying silent — also a choice — may no longer be adequate, instead:

“Make of yourself, a light.”
[Buddha]

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Nipple Narrischkeit

Serena Williams is absolute amazingness. GOAT, without a doubt. Plus she is beautiful, funny, smart, has well-established business acumen and great taste in men (Drake). She is a fabulous role model to young black girls/women in particular and all females in general. Yet this week at Wimbledon the social media trolls are out in full force body-shaming her. Why? Because her nipples showed through her tennis dress! What?

You can check Twitter for yourselves, but in a nutshell, the world is scandalized because in some camera shots, from some vantage points, when the woman exerts herself making shots no other woman can make, people can see her nipples. The BBC has been inundated with complaints, the gist of which are “considering all the money Serena Williams earns, why can’t she buy a decent sports bra to properly cover her nipples”. So, the worlds most prestigious tennis tournament is taking place and this is the focus of the masses?

About Ms Williams’ girls… They are magnificent, there’s no denying that. Serena = Nike. My comment would absolutely NOT be about her nipples, but about the brilliant structure built into Nike’s sports bras… I mean – Serena is super-athletic, she covers every square inch of the court many times during her matches, yet her girls stay solidly in place. My comment would be a question – where/how can I get one of those?

For eons Cam and I have been watching Wimbledon. I love tennis, especially womens’ and especially watching Serena. For me, this is the biggest issue at stake here: In all the years I’ve been a fan, I’ve never known any player (well, maybe SuperBrat back in the day) and especially a female player to get treated in such an extremely unfair manner, as often and for as ridiculous reasons as Serena. She truly doesn’t deserve this. Another reason to admire Serena – she rises above. Check her Twitter account – there’s not one comment! Good on you, Serena. You are the GOAT!

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Plovering at Presqu’ile: Update

Piping Plover Chicks, Presqu’ile Provincial Park

“The Piping Plover chicks were banded this morning by a biologist from Canadian Wildlife Services.

Generally, it went well but one chick seems to have suffered a leg strain during the process, which is highly unusual. It is hopping a bit. It was recaptured and it was determined the bands are on correctly and the leg and feet are working and have strength. We will hope that it heals up quickly.”1

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1 Thanks to David for both the update and the image.

Bright, Sparkly July

July is fireworks, fireflies, flowers, feet in the sand and fun in the sun!

As a kid, I lived for, longed for, July to arrive.

July, of course, brought an end to school for two, always incredibly short, months.

July brought Canada Day – the happiest holiday of the year for the younger me. Every year we celebrated at our home with my nana, aunts, uncles and cousins. My dad, chef extraordinaire, prepared all the food which was nothing short of a feast. After supper we’d stroll to the end of our road (to Buchanan Public School) for the Cubs/Scouts’ fireworks — the perennial grand finale, which always terrified me (fireworks still do).

July brought a month of daily swimming lessons at Porter Collegiate in the Scarborough Parks and Recreation summer programme, and I always loved, still love being in the water.

July brought lovely, long, hot sunny days, hydro field baseball games, bicycle races on the Murray Glenn rollercoaster, scabbed knees (because of falls on the rollercoaster), sunlight halos on our heads, the ice-cream truck cruising our neighbourhood and after-supper hide-and-seek games that lasted ’til bedtime.

July held and fulfilled all my summer hopes and dreams. All of those wonderful memories came flooding back today at Presqu’ile. We’ve enjoyed the long weekend celebrating Canada’s birthday so… Let the summer begin!

My kayak went into the water for the first time today. Cam came along for moral support (and to help deal with any unforeseen problems which, happily, did not happen). Kitted out with my new Hullavator (kayak carrier), Cam dubbed my car “Bullwinkle”. Surely, then, the yak must be “Rocky”. So named!

Just as the first day of swimming lessons always brought out the nerves so did the maiden voyage — would it tip, how many times would it tip, would I be able to get back on, would I lose anything, would I be able to get back to shore unscathed… Unfounded fears, as it happens.

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It was a beautiful, super-hot sunny day today but on Presqu’ile Bay there was a stiff breeze and a chop on the water. I’m not going to lie to you, Rocky and I had a wobbly start — that baby rocks like the proverbial cradle with seemingly no provocation (yet another justification for it’s new name). Add some wind and waves and there were a few times I thought for sure I was going in but, luckily, today that didn’t happen. I was soaked to the skin in a matter of minutes but honestly, I didn’t notice – I was having the time of my life. The breeze kept me cool and comfortable, and my yak took me places I’d never have been able to reach on foot. At the tip of the spit separating the lagoon from the bay, for instance, there is an inlet that forms a bit of a stream — only several inches deep, but no problem for a kayak. Until today, I didn’t even know that wee stream was there. I paddled the rim of the lagoon twice today which was just enough for my first outing. I reached the shore blissfully happy and best-pleased with my rudimentary yaking skills. I quickly changed into dry clothes and, with Cam’s help, loaded Rocky onto Bullwinkle and we drove to the south shore for our picnic. The park’s residents put on quite a show for us; swans flew by several times, the cormorants were zooming along their superhighway, the gulls were very active and a chipmunk sized us up before deciding we posed no risk. The water was clear and clean, the County, on the horizon, was beautifully lit by the sun, and the usual sense of euphoria enveloped us. I could never, in a lifetime of bright, sparkly Julys, get tired of this feeling.

Every summer has its story and this year, adventures aboard Rocky will be mine.

’Til next time, y’all…

R&B

“Exuberance is beauty.”

[William Blake]

Exuberance is the combination of joy, passion, exhilaration, power and energy all rolled up into one exciting and attractive package. Exactly, in fact, what Toronto Pride displayed so magnificently today for all the world to see.

Toronto Pride

Although I am not a member of the LGBTQ² community, more than half my friends are, some of our family members are, and today was their day, today we celebrated their lives, their sexuality, their rights and their essential freedoms.

Did you attend the parade today (or watch it on television)? Gosh it was a wholly beautiful and spectacular party, barring one inappropriate and ever-so-slight delay, quickly handled by Mathieu Chantelois! Today, for the first time in history — not just Canadian history either — a sitting Prime Minister marched in the Toronto Pride Parade. The Honourable Mr. Trudeau, leading by example yet again, showed the world how simple it is to be inclusive, welcoming, accepting and amicable to everyone. In Mr. Trudeau’s words his participation “shouldn’t be a big thing”.  His presence was significantly important to our country too: Once our PM had confirmed his Pride attendance to the media, the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership applicants (Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong and Maxime Bernier) all expressed their intent to join the Toronto parade as well. Did you ever think you would see that day? Me neither. Although previous sitting Prime Ministers have not attended, Mr. Trudeau said: “It shouldn’t be a big thing that the prime minister is walking in the Pride Parade and from now on, it won’t.”   Thank you Mr. Trudeau!

Never has such a display of political leadership publicly supporting Pride been more crucial; the entire international LGBTQ² community is still reeling from Orlando. The world still mourns the barbaric killing of those forty-nine souls. Commendable as our Prime Minister’s attendance may be, it is not enough. Canada is rich in leadership and those leaders need to be visible supporters of and present at our biggest event, the Pride Parade and not just the perennial partners, but leaders of industry, of education, of artistic communities, religious leaders — the Reverend Dr. Brent Hawkes can’t do this alone, folks — cultural leaders Senators, etc., etc., etc. We can but hope that by marching this year, the Messrs Trudeau, Tory, Chong and Bernier et al, and the Mses Wynne and Leitch et al, will inspire greater leadership participation in the years to come. We are Canada. We are inclusive, welcoming, accepting and amicable to everyone!

Exuberance was clearly the order of the day, demonstrated by the marchers and the spectators — what a glorious day, a dazzling parade and a magnificent celebration.  Today, as Pride month comes to an end, we can be truly proud of our Canadian LGBTQ² community; they are an exuberant lot and yes Mr. Blake, exuberance sure is beautiful!

 ‘Til next time, y’all…

Plovering at Presqu’ile

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This is a Piping Plover.

The Piping Plover is a very small shore bird that lives and makes its nest on beaches. Their backs are the same colour as beach sand and pebbles which provide abundant camouflage.

Piping Plovers are an endangered species. As of last summer, there were only 70 pairs in the world. This summer there are only three pairs on the entire north shore of Lake Ontario; two pairs at Darlington Provincial Park and — glory be — one pair at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Their scarcity accounts for all the excitement these two birds have engendered this spring and summer!

Presenting the Presqu’ile Plovers:

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On the left #64, female. On the right, #72, male.

Banding tells us that our two adults, currently in residence on Beach 2, were born in two different nests on Wasaga Beach last summer.  Living on the beach, the three main threats to the Plovers and their chicks are Seagulls, Killdeers and humans; the other shore birds because they will swoop in, carry off the babies and eat them. Sadly, humans are a threat because we step on the Plovers, killing them instantly. Their go-to defensive position is turtling and as they are the same colour as the sand, they frequently go unnoticed, to a tragic ending. Enter the Plover Monitors, a group of volunteers from The Friends of Presqu’ile and beyond, fifty-six strong, trained to protect the adults and the (much anticipated) chicks.

Each pair of adult Plovers produce four eggs, one every two days. The eggs are not incubated until all four are in the nest, meaning that all eggs hatch at about the same time. On Tuesday, three of the Presqu’ile eggs hatched. Alas, one egg was found to be cracked and damaged and that chick did not survive.

Plover Monitors:  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to protect this fledgling family while they are living on our beach.

Cam and I did our first shift on Wednesday afternoon from three until six. Our three hatchlings were between twenty-four and thirty hours old at that time, they had abandoned the nest in their wire enclosure and were roaming in search of food. From day one, baby Plovers forage for their own food and are never fed by either parent. Neither Cam nor I would have believed — had we not seen it with our own eyes — just how much real estate those wee legs (less than an inch in length) covered during our three-hour shift. Mind you, they are exactly like toddlers — all go for a short time, then the crash for a power nap after which they’re non-stop again. It was nigh-on impossible to get a shot of all three chicks together because they were typically running in three different directions. Here, though, is the mum and the one chick (we assume the last to hatch) who seemed to stay closest to her:

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Adorable, non?

Pure bliss! Best afternoon of the year so far — for both of us! The privilege of seeing these babies up close was a gift beyond compare. So tiny. So brave. So cute! This shot is for size perspective:

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Dad is eating, centre foreground, most active chick (oldest) behind him.

Each day the chicks wander farther and farther and are growing like the proverbial weeds. Not many people have seen a Piping Plover due to their near-extinct numbers so if you have an opportunity to do so, I highly recommend you take a drive to Presqu’ile to see them — you won’t be disappointed. Promise!

Gallery

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‘Til next time, y’all…

 

Happy Canada Day!

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Red berries on Canada’s birthday.

Today’s park visit was all about testing my new waterproof technology; a kayak is no place for a DSLR or a quick lens so I am going to be working with a waterproof P&S, no tripod. Today began in an overcast, damp way and only worsened when the rain began so — not the best day for photography. All I managed to grab were some wildflower shots and I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality. What do you think?

Tomorrow Cam and I are off to the park to make our maiden ‘voyages’ in the new yak. Stay tuned – I’m sure there will be tales of frustration and hilarity and you can be sure there’ll be photographic documentation!

’Til next time, y’all…