Joyspotting Issue #4

Also not #MyBlogSchool #Module8

Hiya!  Today, for the first time in what feels like forever, I had a day – alone – at Presqu’ile and it was magnificent!  #Joyspotting everywhere.

Have y’all registered on Ingrid’s The Aesthetics of Joy website?  Are you #Joyspotters and are you doing this with your kiddos and grands?  The Joyspotter’s Guide is an incredible tool for exploring – whether, like me, you’re doing it with a camera or whether you’re just outdoors for its pure pleasure.  It’s a brilliant concept, Ingrid is the sweetest, kindest person you’ll ever meet, and it is pure delight receiving her Joyletter in my inbox.  If you’re not there yet, what are you waiting for?

So, today, #Joyspotting:

#1 LOOK UP!

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The marsh at Presqu’ile, a splendid wasp/hornet/bee nest.

The spire (and wind vane), St. Andrew’s United Church, Vernonville, ON.
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian was dedicated in 1862 and remained so until 1925.
In 1925 it became part of the United Church of Canada, and is to this day.
Simplistically beautiful, non?

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A Heron in November!  This is Millicent, denizen of the Broomfield Marsh.
She’s in flight because I scared her before I’d seen her.

#2 LOOK DOWN

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Now, don’t you just love a mossy footpath?  Especially one that thrives in winter!

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Our oh-so-lovely Cobourg Creek.

#3 KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR COLOUR

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Lighthouse Lane, Presqu’ile PP.

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South shore, Presqu’ile PP.

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Community Centre Road, Baltimore, ON.

#4 FOLLOW THE CURVE

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Presqu’ile PP

#5 GO WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

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Just imagine, a Great Blue in November!!!
The lagoon at Calf Pasture Point, Presqu’ile PP.

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The marsh, Presqu’ile PP.

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Hopeless dreams of becoming “empty nesters” – one adult kiddo is still hanging on!
The marsh, Presqu’ile PP.

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Cheeky chatterer, Vernonville, ON.

#6 SEEK OUT SYMMETRY

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#7 SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF ABUNDANCE

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#8 WATCH FOR WEIRDNESS

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#9 ZOOM IN

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#10 NOTICE THE INVISIBLE

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The sound of the waves is calming, cathartic and I love it!

#11 TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE

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Beautiful Northumberland County!

#12 USE ALL YOUR SENSES

One of the nicest parts of my day was smelling all the smoke from wood fires.
I so badly miss having a wood burning fireplace in my home!

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The tree limbs looked as if they’d been dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
It reminded me in the sweetest way (sorry!) of some of Dad’s Christmas Cake creations.

Now get out there and do some #Joyspotting of your own!!!

‘Til next time, y’all…

 

 

Glad All Over*

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Glad all over – bluffs, Port of Newcastle.

I’m feelin’ glad all over,
Yes I’m-a glad all over.

I’m feelin’ glad all over!  This round of treatments is finally over, the infection is gone and I am about to have a break from the hospital – a long break if everything goes well! Ohmigosh, I’m deliriously happy!

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Glad all over – beach, Bond Head Village.

To everyone who is following me on my #MyBlogSchool journey – this is not #Module8.  That essay is in process and I will publish it later this week which is über-busy – Wednesday is Cam’s birthday.  Today’s post is just me being super-exuberant and wanting to share my joy with anyone who will listen!  

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Glad all over – beach at Bond Head Village, Port of Newcastle.

We enjoyed a splendid day out today, beginning with some errands in Oshawa.  From there we headed to the park/beach at Bond Head Village, Port of Newcastle where we ate our picnic lunch by the water.  This chap was dying for some of our sammie crusts. 

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Glad all over – Seagull.

After our picnic there was a bit of a ramble with camera in hand – natch!

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Glad all over – a warning. As if!  Of course I went out to the harbour entrance.  Port of Newcastle.

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Glad all over – see? No warning necessary. Port of Newcastle.

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Glad all over – harbour entrance marker. Port of Newcastle.

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Glad all over – St. Mary’s Cement plant, Bowmanville, from harbour entrance, Port of Newcastle.

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Glad all over – apple orchards are big (read: profitable) business. Port of Newcastle.

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Glad all over – yacht basin, Port of Newcastle.

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Glad all over – Rainbow Trout. Good eatin’ tonight! (Not us!) Port of Newcastle.

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I’m feelin’ glad all over, yes I’m-a glad all over. Port of Newcastle.

‘Til next time, y’all…

Gear used in this post:  Nikon D850 with AF-S Nikkor 24-120 F4G ED VR.

*Songwriters: Dave Clark / Mike Smith

One Moment In Time*

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Pebble beach, Presqu’ile Bay moment. #PresquilePP

Give me one moment in time, when I’m more than I thought I could be.

My life is a convergence of moments and many have demanded more of me than I thought I could be. In those instants I’ve been challenged to learn, to adapt, to understand, to cope, to mature in thought and to amplify the scope of my imagination.

Moment. Instant. Second. Jiffy. Heartbeat. The tiniest fragment of time, frozen by a camera, has the power to provoke, amuse, inspire, awe and soothe, helping us remember the tiniest details long after the day has ended and our recollections have faded.

I want one moment in time…

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Autumn leaves moment. #PaxtonDrive #PresquilePP

Last weekend I was – unexpectedly – not needed at the hospital on Saturday, a day when the autumn weather could not possibly have been better; sunny, mild and with the gentlest of zephyrs stirring the leaves.  We hastily packed the very sketchiest of picnic lunches and set off for our #SundayFunday #ADayEarly (new hashtag?) at Presqu’ile. Oh, dear readers, there was an abundance of ethereal moments, some of which I’ve shared in this post.

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Most vibrant wildflower moment. #PresquilePP

Presqu’ile Provincial Park is a very special place for me; it has been the cornerstone for several recoveries and then for maintaining good physical, mental and spiritual health. It is personally appealing because of the spectrum of beautiful moments and memories it has proffered.

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Playful squirrel moment. #PresquilePP

Minute fractions of time, documented with my Nikon and cherished in my memory bank.  Within every exceptional moment, there is stillness, quiet and beauty; a serenity that is truly beautiful and full of promise. But what of them?  Why are they so important to me?

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Cutest wee bums moment. #PresquilePP

A virtual album of exquisite moments is an uplifting, curative, calming and comforting tonic, an essence that can reliably be seized as and when needed. A happy place.

Visual imagery is a proven, effective and chemical-free method of controlling pain.  Many of my Presqu’ile moments are the vignettes of my happy place.

Then in that one moment of time, I will be, I will be, I will be free.

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Dragonfly moment. #PresquilePP

When I am in the hospital and a 17 gauge needle is being rammed into my arm, or when the pain is not only on the attack but seems to be winning, I am usually able to overcome by going to my happy place where I am free.  This is why these moments are personally meaningful and essential.

Just like athletics, the efficacy of one’s happy place is developed and strengthened with practice.  Improvement happens by meeting the chosen scenes over and over again in one’s mind.  In my case, many images were auditioned and discarded because they weren’t sufficiently compelling to work as the ultimate distraction.

Now, though, when my pain mounts, when I need those moments, they’re always there, waiting in the margins of my consciousness, and I’m able to draw on those near-perfect instants for relief.

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Swan moment. #PresquilePP

As a wildlife photographer an attentive eye is essential, which forces me to be completely present in each moment – studying and capturing whatever appears.**  These precious memories are stored, catalogued and processed in a data base rather than printed and pressed between the pages of albums.  Moments glorified the only way I know – with my lens and my memory.

Funny thing, though; the better the experience, the less likely I am to capture it (am too busy watching, savouring) but when I do remember to shoot those moments I, most selfishly, almost never share them. Moments like those feel intimate, private.

These day’s we seem to be swimming in a sea of thousands of exquisite memories – our own and those shared by others – so which are art, which are commercially viable, and which are nonsensical snapshots.? Which moments achieve exalted status, are sacred to us – worthy of cleaving to our souls?  Which are the other kind – communal, meant to be shared?

Each day I live, I want to be a day to give the best of me.

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Presqu’ile Bay moment. #PresquilePP

The truth is that my joy arises from my experiences, from being alert and aware in each moment, absorbing everything it has to offer. That joy is always amplified by sharing the results of my good fortune, and knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was a moment that was gifted to me but meant to be shared.

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Presqu’ile Bay moment. #PresquilePP

These moments might drift away, vanish forever were it not for a camera and a photographer and if anything is worthy of savouring, sharing, of exposing to the sunshine, it is an illustration of such an exquisite time – that very moment of that very day. A day to give the best of me – a lesson I will do well to remember!

My finest day is yet unknown.

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Mallard moment. #PresquilePP

Moments are my specialty. I capture thousands of them every year – with my camera and with my memory. My reaction to each experience not only informs my present but significantly colours many elements of my future. They are as necessary to me as the air I breathe and the food I eat.

You’re a winner for a lifetime if you seize that one moment in time.

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He and she dragonfly moment. #PresquilePP

’Til next time, y’all…

**#MyBlogSchool – Module #7, five minute writing assignment:  Craft a single sentence.  This was mine.

*One Moment in Time.  Songwriters: Albert L. Hammond and John Bettis.  Recording artist:  Whitney Houston.  To listen to this beautiful song (and I hope you do), please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c84ogrNEds0

Ms. Houston’s hit song – originally written and recorded as a hymn for the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea – could well be my personal anthem.  July 2018 was the thirtieth anniversary of its release (30th!!!!!!!!) yet it is every bit as lovely and as relevant today.  These are the lyrics:

One Moment In Time

Each day I live
I want to be
A day to give
The best of me.
I’m only one
But not alone
My finest day
Is yet unknown.

I broke my heart
Fought every gain.
To taste the sweet
I face the pain.
I rise and fall
Yet through it all
This much remains:

I want one moment in time,
When I’m more than I thought I could be,
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me.
Give me one moment in time,
When I’m racing with destiny
Then in that one moment of time
I will feel, I will feel eternity.

I’ve lived to be
The very best.
I want it all,
No time for less.
I’ve laid the plans
Now lay the chance
Here in my hands.

Give me one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be,
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me.
Give me one moment in time
When I’m racing with destiny.
Then in that one moment of time
I will feel, I will feel eternity.

You’re a winner for a lifetime
If you seize that one moment in time,
Make it shine.

Give me one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be,
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me.
Give me one moment in time
When I’m racing with destiny
Then in that one moment of time
I will be, I will be, I will be free.
I will be, I will be free.

 

Felix Culpa

Or how I broke Christmas…

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A Good Cry. Do you ever feel so overwhelmed and worn out that you cannot stop the tears from falling? That’s exactly how I felt during the autumn of 1997. That was the year I irreparably broke with our traditional Christmas celebration and fractured my relationships with my cousins.

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A little family history before I begin…

My mum was the eldest of three children, all girls.  The youngest was born just before the outbreak of WWII and she was evacuated her to her uncle’s home in Toronto.  My mum and her other sister were both taken out of school to work in the Fairey Aviation plant.  By the end of the war my Nana was a widow, her home (and place of business) flattened by a bomb and her youngest child stubbornly refused to return to the UK.  With no other options, Nana packed the few possessions they’d managed to save and, with her two eldest daughters, immigrated to Canada.  From then onwards, every Christmas the three sisters and their families gathered to spend the day and eat dinner together.  Until the Christmas of 1997.

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Having, apparently, given the matter thoughtful consideration throughout the year, one cousin announced (via e-mail, no less) that, with two small kiddos of her own, she’d much rather stay home for Christmas, host her own celebration, smell their turkey roasting all day long, and make their own, new, special memories. A few days later, she and my aunt appeared at our door to tell us that of course we’d be included and would we please join them.

We being Mum, Cam and I – at just three, the smallest of the family contingents.

Eventually a phone call came from the other branch of the family issuing the same invitation because, of course (???), theirs was the original gathering. And right there was the rub – where do we go? How do we decide? Regardless, we’d be the three outsiders in the room.  Regardless, we’d be offending the other family.  Some choice!

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As painful as it may be,
a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction
that serves us – and those around us – more effectively.*
[Louisa May Alcott]

Behind the scenes, we’d been experiencing some Christmas angst ourselves. Cam’s mum did not like my huge family’s celebration; it was a noisy (carols are sung at the table every year), active, happy rumpus of a day and not at all to her liking. And she would be alone and in Ontario that year. My mum was unhappy that many of the traditions had been abandoned (especially the saying of grace), and that the cousins’ adult kiddos were swanning in and out all day, often not staying to eat and with no opportunity to visit and catch up.  Mum also felt that the day’s true meaning seemed to have been lost to us all. I’m not entirely sure (he’d be scared to voice this thought aloud – he he he) but I think Cam never liked our Christmas gathering overmuch. As for me, I loved, LOVED our Christmases but I felt torn between the two families of cousins who were both very dear to me.

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One day late in September 1997, on an especially warm afternoon, Mum and I were noodle-floating in our pool when she suddenly said, if you could do anything at all for Christmas, what would it be? I answered without hesitation, run away. The glimmer of a plan germinated there and then…

After conferring with Cam’s mum, the three of us presented Cam with our fait accompli – we were all going to Florida for two weeks – over Christmas and New Year. Instantly I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. As did Mum. As did Cam’s mum.  As did Cam (I think).

First, though, it was my duty to tell the cousins – face to face – that we would not be joining them. Either of them. And that’s how I broke, not only Christmas but also, as it turned out, the close, loving relationships I’d enjoyed with my cousins all my life.

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Felix culpaout of something bad, something good.  Tickets were purchased, a car rented, a condo chosen and excitement ran high.  Our Florida Christmas celebrations were – unexpectedly, if I’m completely honest – some of the happiest of my life.  By necessity, they were pared down to the essentials, so our focus was on each other which was sweet and loving and special and perfect.  Upon arrival our first order of business that first year was to find a restaurant open for dinner on Christmas day, a church for Christmas Eve services and, at the grocery shop, a poinsettia, some candles and some small decorations for our table at the condo.

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Celebrating the birth of baby Jesus in 1997, we were all filled with light, peace, hope and love.  That two-week vacation was joyful, we were all relaxed, happy and content.  We knew that Christmas in Florida would be a practice we’d continue.  Felix culpa.

‘Til next time, y’all…

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*This quote felt just right with this post because Ms. Alcott was Mum’s favourite author and this drastic Christmas transformation was Mum’s brain child!

Fragments Of Me

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To make the script, you need ideas, and for me a lot of times,
a final script is made up of many fragments of ideas that came at different times.

[David Lynch]

This essay is just such a project.  It combines many fragments of ideas that came at different times yet each has been warring for attention in my brain all week.  For a few weeks, really.

Election drama. Honesty.  Racism.  Women’s rights.  Gratitude.  Grace.  Fragments. Fragments, but complete entities. 

Election Drama

I loathe the polarization that is happening globally and detest how it is ripping through my country, pitting Canadians against each other.  I worry about how far this trend might mushroom should we fail to find common ground.  Viewing life through aplanatic lenses – straight lines – is the equivalent of wearing blinkers.  A dangerous perspective.

Jacobin forces are pushing otherwise rational folk into corners which are the political equivalent of armed encampments.  When, I wonder, did we lose our passion for debate, for honest and open discussion of contentious issues.  My parents’ generation considered politics and religion to be the kryptonite of social banter.  My generation cheerfully disregarded this social more, respectfully deliberating at our dinner tables, in our neighbourhoods, in pubs, ‘round the water cooler – amongst family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.  Despite our ideological differences, we always parted good friends, happy to agree to disagree. 

Election 2019 has been shockingly enlightening for me.  There sure are no Sunny Ways In this campaign!  The behaviour of most electoral candidates is utterly appalling.  The taunting, blaming, bashing, insulting and accusing in this election all feel ever so much meaner; more abusive, personal and nastier than back in 2011 and 2015 when the competition was vigorous and fierce but the tone less insultingly abrasive.

This election is basically a two-horse race and most Canadians seem resigned to having a minority government, to being stuck with one of those two party leaders who have both been, at times, combative, antagonistic, belligerent and petulant.  Some choice!  It is a sad state of affairs when the chief election strategy is decrying each other’s lack of ethics.  Their invidious behaviour has roused tempers, widened the gap of diverging opinion, and further isolated many voters.

It’s no wonder so many people feel dismayed, as if they’ve lost something very important and precious.

In a few days’ time, one of these leaders will have to abruptly change gears – from hostility and division to cooperation and collaboration – in order to make a minority government work.  Close attention will have to be paid to the ways and means of bringing all sides together in their new government, and to how they might unify our fractured Canadian spirit. 

I wish them Godspeed.

Honesty

At the beginning of October, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton were interviewed on “Good Morning America”.  Mrs. Clinton was asked, “What’s the gutsiest thing you’ve ever done?”.  Her candid response was twofold; politically, of course, it was to run for president, but personally, it was “make the decision to stay in my marriage.”  Chelsea admitted to being astounded by her mum’s answer.  Shock and aftershocks reverberated through social media, where despicable trolls, armed with keyboard courage, let loose with a stream of judgmental ignorance.  Staying was brave VS  Leaving would have been braver.  The discussion devolved into Princess Diana mode;  “Well, there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”  No one was in the Clinton marriage except President and Mrs. Clinton.  No one but Mrs. Clinton is qualified to interpret and assess her decision.  That war of words aside, I was gobsmacked by her instant, gritty honesty.  Though I’ve been an admirer for many years, her stock skyrocketed in my book.

Standing on the shoulders of giants!

Racism 

Look, it’s unrealistic to pretend that racial prejudice doesn’t exist.
It does!
It’s one thing to have a set of laws,
and quite another to change the hearts and minds of men.
That takes longer.
I do not consider my blackness a problem.  I think it looks rather nice.

[Jessye Norman]

A gracious, inoffensive comment that still conveys exactly the dire nature of racism in North America.  Ms. Norman, one of the finest operatic sopranos of all time, won five Grammy Awards, four for her recordings and one for lifetime achievement, plus the coveted Kennedy Center Honours and the National Medal of Arts.

On the last day of September the world lost the operatic amazingness that was Jessye Norman, at the still too tender age of seventy-four.  Her voice was magnificent, she was beautiful inside and out, so smart, kind, strong – special in every way possible.  (I’m shamelessly fan-girling here!)  It is unfathomable to me that a woman with such an enormous talent would have experienced racism.  

Standing on the shoulders of giants!

Even more odious is the overt racism we witnessed in Gatineau prior to the English language debate.  Honestly, I am frightened of a bigotry expressed so casually, openly and brazenly and by how very normal, relaxed and natural its expression appeared to be.  No fear of legal or personal consequence.  No sign of embarrassment or shame.  Simple, audacious, narrow-minded prejudice.  

Man: “You know what?”
Mr. Singh: “What’s that?”
Man:  “You should really cut your turban off and you [will] look like a Canadian.”
Mr. Singh: “I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.”
Man:  “In Rome, you do as the Romans do.”
Mr. Singh: “This is Canada. You can do whatever you like.”

With no sign of retaliation, it was a calm, measured, gracious response in a pressure-cooker situation.  Mr. Jagmeet Singh is the first member of a visible minority to lead a federal party into a Canadian election – a campaign overshadowed by the leitmotifs of racism and racial identity.  Mr. Singh’s elegance of expression, his poise and obvious decency have won him fans from coast to coast.  Whilst it will not be this year, with some additional political experience (Foreign Affairs/Finance/Justice) Mr. Singh will be Prime Minister of Canada one day, and he will be a damn fine one at that!

Standing on the shoulders of giants!

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

[Isaac Newton]

In an older post – Let’s Shine Redux: Mentoring – I wrote about some of those feminist giants from a historical perspective but of course, walking amongst us, everywhere, there are modern-day giants galore!

Women’s Rights 

In the context of reopening the abortion debate in parliament, and heard most vehemently proclaimed at the 7th October English language debate:

We will never allow a single inch of retreat
from the hard-earned rights of women in this country.
Not one inch!

[Elizabeth May]

Standing on the shoulders of giants! 

Gratitude 

At the hospital this week, a chap in our unit suffered a cardiac episode and a Code Blue was called on the PA system. Immediately, medical staff came running, full-out, from every possible direction, pushing crash carts, a gurney and oxygen canisters.  Security staff arrived to control and secure the area.  Within scant minutes, the ailing gent was lifted onto the  gurney, cardiac leads attached to his chest and he was rapidly wheeled away.  Then, and just as quickly as they’d materialized, the docs and nurses vanished.  Efficiency personified!

It makes me feel ever so safe and confident to be in their care.  It is a medical team I am always oh-so-proud of and grateful for.  Each and every one is a giant walking amongst us.

Standing on the shoulders of giants!

Grace 

A couple of weeks ago, whilst watching the Packers beat the Cowboys, the camera panned to one of the private boxes where George and Laura Bush were enjoying the game with Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.  We thought nothing of it.  

Again, bolstered by keyboard courage, internet trolls bombarded twitterverse with hateful, inflammatory and threatening messages aimed at shaming Ms. DeGeneres (a staunch Democrat) for associating with (her friend!!!) Mr. Bush (former Republican President).  The level of hostility and malice was nothing short of harassment and abuse.  Yet, displaying tremendous grace in the face of mammoth adversity:

We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK.

and

When I say be kind to one another,
I don’t only mean to people that think the same way that you do.

[Ellen DeGeneres]

Standing on the shoulders of giants!

Election drama. Honesty.  Racism.  Women’s rights.  Gratitude.  Grace.  These are all fragments of me.

There has always been and will always be a broad spectrum of political, social and religious dogma.  We all need to remember that it is not unavoidable that we despise, attack and belittle each other because of these differences!

I do worry about us finding (or perhaps not being able to find) our common ground.  It could be that those giants living among us right now are a good place to start.  Sharing their stories, giving those heroic souls some attention and praise might just be the restorative, positive, unifying and uplifting tonic we are all craving because we truly are all standing on the shoulders of giants!

Here, at the end, is the exact point where I began writing this essay, with the words of my favourite Canadian hero, a giant sadly no longer walking amongst us.  His words inspire and uplift and motivate.  Always.  

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

[Jack Layton]

Let’s change the world!

‘Til next time, y’all…

A Chest For The Ages

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This week at My Blog School our writing assignment was “household ingredients”.  I was in my sewing room at the time, and since my eyes came to rest on Mum’s jewellery box, it became the subject of my essay.

Straight away you’ll notice that this is not actually a typical jewellery box.    Mum did have one of those, given to her by my Nana on her twenty-first birthday, but it was always packed away in her bottom dresser drawer.  This is the box that sat in pride of place atop her dresser, and that held all her important pieces and papers (and my first lock of hair).

This box is really a tea chest.  My dad’s ship docked in India twice during the war to load supplies.  On one of those stopovers, and knowing how much of a treat it would be for Mum, Dad treated her to a box of the finest Assam (Mum’s favourite).  The sweetness of the gesture and the sentimentality of the gift made it a favourite possession of my mum and she used it as  her jewellery box ’til the day she died.  

Originally there was a key for the lock, it was studded with faux gems and best, the painted designs were raised – I used to love tracing their patterns with my finger tips.  The key has been missing for years, the jewel adornments are long-gone and the ridges of the little that remains of the paint design have been worn down – it is as smooth as our granite countertop now.  And it is badly blemished; when I was little I was occasionally allowed to play with the chest, hence the obvious character it now wears.

Since inheriting it, I’ve used the box for many things; to transport flosses, thimbles, threads, embroidery scissors, appliqué pins, needles etc., to guild meetings and classes and, most recently, to hold my calligraphy supplies.  I know both Dad and Mum would be amused and chuffed that it is still in regular use.

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Typically a fair bit of my writing time is spent mulling over the prompts, hints, ideas, thoughts, niggles and worries that are cavorting about in my brain.  I never actually start writing until I am quite sure where the essay begins and where it will wind up.  Until about five minutes ago, I’d no idea where this one was heading and it was not a comfortable feeling – believe you me!  Nor were the memories, thoughts and regrets this process unearthed along the way.

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]

According to Mum, Mr. Longfellow wrote this poem with me specifically in mind.  All through my teens, and into my early twenties our relationship was volatile, wreaking havoc upon my poor parents, Mum in particular.

This wasn’t the silent, surly rebellion waged by so many of my contemporaries.  My defiance and disobedience was all too often more of the shouting/stomping/tear-stained-cheeks heinous mood anarchy of a two year old child.   Dreadfully appalling and inexcusable behaviour from a young adult!  The drama and devastation that tore through our small family was taxing in the extreme yet through it all Dad, bless his soul, remained Switzerland. 

‘Though she bore the brunt of my tempers, Mum always knew our troubles would resolve themselves with time and patience.  She claims she never once lost sight of the goodness in my soul, despite the fact that I gave her every encouragement to give up on me, to walk away.  Many years later she told me that everything matters (even my acrimony).  The best we can do is to work with what we’re given at any particular time.  A saint, non?  

It would be nice to blame all my misbehaviour on hormones but it was so much more than that.  Mum and Dad’s hopes and plans for me did not align with my own.  During most of that time I felt like a square peg being pounded into a round hole; I was never going to fit.  

Sadly, it was Dad’s death that was the cataclysm for my reform and the rebuilding of my relationship with Mum.  Eventually, and much too late, I realized how much sadness, disappointment and hurt I’d caused her.  I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why I took so long and why, in the throes of those hurt and anger-fuelled outbursts, I wasn’t able to recognize that I was out of control and self-correct. 

Our reconciliation felt so good and sweet when it happened and I know I’ll forever regret all those wasted years when we could have been close.

Jewels*

If I should see your eyes again,
I know how far their look would go —
Back to a morning in the park
With sapphire shadows on the snow.

Or back to oak trees in the spring
When you unloosed my hair and kissed
The head that lay against your knees
In the leaf shadow’s amethyst.

And still another shining place
We would remember — how the dun
Wild mountain held us on its crest
One diamond morning white with sun.

But I will turn my eyes from you
As women turn to put away
The jewels they have worn at night
And cannot wear in sober day.

‘Though “Jewels” is actually a love song, it is the perfect sensibility and and tenderness of the message I imagine myself sending to my mum, particularly the first three stanzas.  It feels a bit like reminiscing about all the special moments we shared when I was very young, before our conflicts began.  

In examining her jewellery box today, I was reminded of Mum and Dad’s enduring love for each other.  The memories it conjures tell the story of my parents’ lives and lately, the chapters of my own life.  Filled with love, it’s always it’s there, a reminder that I belong to a family rich in love, history and stories, if not money.

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The cut work and embroidery on the tray cloth were done my my Nana who was an amazingly gifted needle artist.

The jewels in my family are precious memories whose lustre has survived many years.  Though their value is esoteric, they are priceless luxuries, each and every one.

*Sara Teasdale from Love Songs.

I have three volumes of Ms. Teasdale’s poetry – Flame and Shadow, Love Songs and Rivers To The Sea and, ‘though it was one of her earliest works, Love Songs is my favourite.  In 1918 Ms. Teasdale won the coveted Columbia University Poetry Society Prize (now known as the Pulitzer Prize for poetry) and the Poetry Society of America Prize for Love Songs. 

In “Jewels” I particularly love the mingling of nature and gemstone imagery and, when thinking of Mum, the symbolism of the cited stones perfectly describes her character:

Sapphire:  Nobility, truth, sincerity, and faithfulness.
Amethyst:  Peace, love, spiritual upliftment, courage and happiness.
Diamonds:  Strength, incorruptibility and constancy.

’Til next time, y’all…