This is a picture I did not take of a group of golfers out on the links in California in November, preparing to putt, their green surrounded by a flock of Canada Geese.

This is also a picture I did not take of an elderly Indian woman at security at SFO, wearing a gorgeous and elaborately patterned blue and gold sari, with worn grey men’s sport socks peeking out beneath her hem.


This is a picture I did not take of walking among and past throngs of people around Roy Thompson Hall, many of them bedecked in orange, as Steven Page sang Hallelujah over the outdoor speakers, and Jack Layton’s face smiled down on everyone from video screens.

Once again, internets to the rescue…

(Photo courtesy of Tamera Kremer.)

The Poppy Catalyst

Carcassonne: trail just inside the walls

A couple years ago Sherry and I vacationed in the Languedoc region of France. It was the end of May, late spring on the verge of summer, and there were poppies all over the place. You don’t see them that much here at home, unless they’ve been planted in someone’s garden, and the orange California version is more common.

I absolutely loved them. They made the fields and ditches where they grew in profusion far more gorgeous than the goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace we get. And, unsurprisingly, staring out a bus window, they made In Flanders’ Fields run through my head. I remember learning back in school that poppies need “disturbed” earth to germinate and grow, and battlefields were torn up to no end. Again, not so many tank ruts or shell craters in Grey Bruce where I grew up.

The poppies were and are a good metaphor for my own war remembrances, or lack thereof. As I’ve mentioned before, being from a Mennonite family means we don’t have any vets. Mennonites are exempt from service, and given we’ve also been farmers, were exempt for that reason, too. Instead of poppies, we’re supposed to wear these buttons. I probably still have one around somewhere.

To remember is to work for peace

I went back into my archive and read some of the stuff I’ve posted on previous Remembrance Days. Man, did I ever sound angry and obnoxious. Not sure why, and probably had no idea it came off that way. Ahh, hindsight. The problem I’ve always had is that the way I’m supposed to acknowledge Remembrance Day didn’t quite work for me. Of course, my extreme ignorance didn’t help. Our “learning” was from books, our version of The Last Post was scratchy and warbly, and our tiny village didn’t have a cenotaph. And not really knowing any veterans personally didn’t help, either.

However, over the years an idea has occurred to me, about which I’ve written before. That society is based on certain people knowing things. They choose to take on jobs that most people don’t want, and that involve seeing and doing things that no one would ever want to see or do. Doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, etc. — and the military. Unlike desk jockeys like myself, they don’t get paid nearly what they’re worth, and part of their “contract” is accepting that in carrying out their duties, their lives will be at risk. Possibly often and possibly very far from home.

I don’t get Remembering from a personal standpoint. I understand history quite well, and even human nature a little bit. I know what we’re capable of. But I also know I am fortunate enough to live in both a country and a generation where I am safer and wealthier than most of the world. And because of how the world works, that doesn’t just happen.

I have made the acquaintance of someone who has served, and have seen the tiniest snippet of “life” in Afghanistan. I have had the difference explained to me between the sound of gunfire around you, and gunfire coming at you. The odds of me ever personally experiencing this? Pretty much negligible.

Yes, in a perfect world, everyone would embrace the dove of peace and be willing to accept all persecution, even death, rather than fight. And ultimately, that is what pacifism means. We don’t live in that world. In this world there are too many humans. I have the utmost respect for those who try, though. For people like George Weber and Jim Loney who walk into war zones unarmed to try to help and protect those who never chose to be there. And who paid for it with their lives or by being taken hostage.

But in this world there are also those humans who realize what world we do live in, and who choose to serve. To see and do and know the things I would never want anyone I care about to know. To Remember the things I can’t even begin to fathom. I don’t have to agree with or understand every choice or action, but I can respect the choice to serve, however it is undertaken.

How To Be Alone

I learned of this poem-in-video at the Blissdom Canada conference the other week, and, in fact, Tanya Davis, the artist, performed for us before the morning keynote. (She’s excellent, and has a new album out.)

I’ve done a lot of work on being publicly alone, and it rarely bothers me anymore. Being privately alone is something that’s gonna take some more work, though. But I do agree that you’re a sub-optimal partner for someone else if you’re not comfortable being a partner just to yourself.

Breakfast in (North) America

My parents were down last evening for a family birthday party, and so stayed over at my place instead of a late drive home. As usual when they stay over, we went to the local Cora’s for breakfast (Mom really likes it).

Just before we left my apartment, I mentioned to Mom that it was my cousin’s husband’s 50th birthday today, and mused about whether The Significance Of The Date had faded somewhat in the last nine years. Then we got into a peripheral discussion, as we often do, of whose birthdays the the family fall when, and was Grandpa’s September 5th or 6th…?

As we were walking into the restaurant, a family of Middle Eastern extraction, and Muslim — father, mother, baby — were arriving just in front of us. The woman was wearing both a hijab and niqab.

While I’ve seen plenty of Muslim students around town over the years wearing the hijab, the number of women I’ve seen in town wearing more formal dress has certainly increased in the last couple of years. Not really surprising; we have a fair number of immigrants here.

I notice the attire, certainly, but I am also aware of the religious and cultural intent of it, and am probably more comfortable with the choice to cover up extensively than the choice to expose acres of flesh and/or extreme body modifications. My parents, on the other hand, have long lived in a rural area where multiculturalism is, to put it mildly, not pervasive. (They wouldn’t have dealt well with exposed flesh and body mods, either, for the record…)

My parents didn’t get it, and couldn’t understand why she was covered up like that, with only her eyes showing. How would she eat or drink? Did she take it off during breakfast? I said I was sure she was used to managing just fine, and no, she would not take the niqab off in public.

To be sure, my parents didn’t approve, though their reaction was at least quiet, and was less direct than Dad’s comments (blessedly sotto voce) last time we went for breakfast, when we saw two women pushing strollers, both swathed head to toe in black — jilbab, hijab, and niqab, again — only their eyes and hands visible.

While I was wondering how hot you’d get (it was a very bright summer day), Dad implied something along the lines of how wouldn’t you be scared of people like that. Can’t even see who’s under there. Really? Two young women pushing babies in strollers? I didn’t bother pointing out how they were out in public unaccompanied.

This morning over my coffee, I thought about our own family, and the many members of which who grow beards or wear head coverings and plain, full-length clothes (homemade!) Who have “unusual” culture, religion, and traditions and special government status due to their beliefs. Who eschew electric lighting and automobiles, speak a different language, manage their own finances and insurance, pay for medical treatment, and otherwise keep themselves separate from much of The World. Does it get noted if they buy large lots of fertilizer for their farms?

What are they thinking? How would you not be scared of people like that?

My favourite part of the opening ceremonies

k.d. lang performs Hallelujah

at about 2:30:30. (If I find a direct link, I’ll update.)

k.d. lang’s cover of Cohen’s Hallelujah is my favourite, and she did it proud at the opening ceremonies.

As someone on Twitter noted last night: “That’s Canada for you. A vegan lesbian from Alberta singing a song written by a Quebec Jew.”

Indeed. 🙂

Not that all that other stuff — the satanic canoe fiddling match with Batman, the Prairie Peter Pan, the erectile dysfunction of the Olympic flame lighting, etc. — wasn’t fun, too…


I watched a man die this afternoon. Along with thousands, probably millions of other people. What has unsettled me more than the shock of the accident, I think, is how public it was, how immediate the coverage, and how much the coverage was shaped by media as I’ve come to know it.

Within a few minutes, I saw pictures and video online. I actually heard he was dead before I heard about the accident (in the very first stories Kumaritashvili was only “seriously injured”). I watched the video more than once and discussed the logistics of the crash and when he was probably dead with co-workers. Morbid? Yeah. Normal? Also yeah.

Since then I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable by how some outlets have chosen to report the story (looking at you, Huffington Post), and the social media functions that have accompanied that coverage. Video ratings on a clip of the accident? Really? Of course, I’m a consumer of this media, so I’m as culpable as anyone else.

I initially thought, “Can you imagine his mom seeing this?” and then one of the work guys pointed out that she was probably there when it happened. Which was somehow even worse. It feels like there’s somehow sacrilege in there being so little privacy, so little private grief before the rest of the world comes flooding in, and dissecting, and analyzing.

However, as another of the work guys logically noted, it is a spectator sport. All 15 Olympic sports are spectator sports, so spectators are going to be watching. But the second part of that is that our world is media-saturated, so it’s not just the actual sporting event that’s part of the spectacle, it’s everything around it. It’s the luge training accidents and the figure skating scandals and the playboy athletes and who knows what all else that has come and will come to pass.

Really, none of this should phase me. I am immersed in this world almost all the time. I’m not sure why it’s bothering me. Maybe because I’m still old enough to recall when folks wouldn’t have found out about something like this until the evening news, or tomorrow’s newspapers.

Maybe because, though death is not uncommon in my family (and there was one just recently), it all works very differently. Or maybe it’s acknowledging that my eyes were on the story as soon as I heard, just like everyone else’s, even if it didn’t feel right.

At least, by the grace of the same media that unsettles me now, I will cheer and rejoice and indulge my superstitions with millions of others (especially Canadians) when we compete, and when we win. (Particularly at hockey.) 🙂

If anyone’s inclined to become my sugarperson…

Sherry and I took a spin through the new Paula White Diamond Gallery location at the Bauer complex yesterday. Typically my taste in art, especially modern/non-representational stuff, is fairly picky. But I honestly really liked just about everything they had displayed.

David Bartholomew‘s photos are gorgeous, and I could hang them everywhere, but it was Tim Packer‘s paintings that really got me. How sun looks shining through branches and leaves is always a favourite visual of mine, but create different pieces reflecting different seasons and I am totally sold. If I had a spare $2000 the autumn one would be filling that big space on my bedroom wall across from my bed right now. 🙂 Ahh, one day…

The hashtag isn’t #apathy

No Prorogue Rally, Waterloo, Jan. 23rd, 2010

I am one of those apathetic Canadians that Rick Mercer recently referenced. I don’t talk politics much, I don’t read political blogs or books as a matter of course, and while I faithfully vote at the federal and provincial levels, I’ve never voted municipally.

Today, with Sherry and Melissa, I attended my first political rally. Along with several hundred Kitchener-Waterloo residents and thousands of others across Canada, I spent part of my Saturday protesting the Harper government’s prorogation of parliament. Kinda disappointed that, unlike Toronto and Vancouver, we didn’t go a’marching. 🙂

However, the weather was lovely and there were lattes to keep the hands warm, and the audience, ever so Canadianly, shushed the rude man who kept intermittently hollering at the speakers. Mostly to tell the truth…

I dislike Harper a great deal, and have never voted for him, so it’s fair to say I’m more likely to get inboard with protesting his actions than other parties’.

And I hope we make something happen. It’s our responsibility, after all, since we, as Canadian voters, put Harper in power. Twice. Or, perhaps more accurately for folks like me, failed to keep him out of power with shamefully low voter turnout. (<60% in the last federal election, I believe.)

Democracy, like any system, requires maintenance, else there will always be someone more than happy to step up and set to work using it to fulfill their own agenda.

It also occurred to me that this morning’s rally was a celebration, too. Being able to organize largely online, with unfettered access to social media, and peacefully gather in large groups in public, across the country, to protest our democratically elected government’s actions, without fear of injury, arrest, or death. There’s a lot there to be impressed about.

I am in full agreement with the idea that those who don’t vote don’t get to complain. And it also makes me smile to consider that where, when, and how we complain, particularly at an in-the-crowd level, certainly appears to distinguish us as Canadians.

(Can you see the heavenly light of righteous indignation streaming down upon us in the photo at the top of the post?) 🙂