Saturday, February 28, 2015

Poem bears

Turns out that yesterday was International Polar Bear Day. If it weren't for those video news blats the Internet providers love to insert, I'd never have even known it. And I somehow doubt that many others would have either.

My observation of the day ranges from the silly set-up photo above (who says it doesn't pay to not defrost in a timely manner?) to the poem below, expressing some of my concerns about this mysterious creature.

Last day of February, and no doubt things are beginning to melt everywhere.

Night of the Bears 

While we sleep this wintry night away, you’re saving bears
dreaming metal islands for an ocean with no ice:
floating metal platforms for polar bears to walk on
artificial stepping stones so they won’t have to drown.

I see water dense with bears, nose to tip to nose,
like pieces in some Escher tessellation
swarming in a sea gone soupy warm.

Their whitish fur, slicked back so smooth,
makes them look like fish, thick as schools of salmon
used to be, spawning in some woodland stream, dense
so we might walk, carefully, on tiptoe cross their backs. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Free to read...for now

Today marks the beginning of Freedom to Read Week in Canada. It's a celebration I've been participating in for quite a few years. Being a writer, I also consider this a time to be grateful that we still have the freedom to write what we believe.

I'm somewhat concerned that may not remain the case. There's the matter of Bill C-51, currently on the Parliamentary agenda. While it's supposed to protect us, there are aspects of it that seem downright scary -- especially for those of us who may occasionally express contrarian positions.

When I was in my local bookstore today, I was glad to see that they have a display of books that have been challenged in the past. If you're interested in the range of materials that have been questioned, here's a list of thirty-three such titles.

A title I'm worried about is When Everything Feels Like the Movies. It's currently a finalist on this year's Canada Reads and it won the Governor General's Award last year. But now there's a contingent of frantics (my name for them) who are challenging the book's content, claiming it shouldn't have been allowed to win the GG and that the award should be rescinded.

All I can suggest is that you read it for yourself. Quick. While you still have the freedom to.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fifty years and counting

The maple leaf. Hard to imagine us having anything else as a flag. Even when only half the design shows, it's totally recognizable.

But that maple leaf wasn't always on Canada's flag. Until fifty years ago today, we had several over the years including the Red Ensign which turned out to be just a little too British for some. Since then, that red maple leaf has proudly adorned backpacks, hats and even Olympic mitts.

Still, I worry now and then that the next fifty years may see this no longer be the case.

So many changes have taken place over the past decade, it's getting harder and harder to recognize our country. Peacekeeping is no longer a priority. Now we seem keen to be leading the pack into combat in Iraq. Safe haven is also no longer the case. Witness those seeking asylum who've been refused.

Exactly one month ago today, I jotted this in my notebook:
Today is the day I stopped feeling special for being Canadian.
Target closed.
Cuba opened.
We're done.
Nonetheless, it's far too beautiful a day to not get out into the Canadian landscape -- quick, while it's still something to call our own.

Monday, February 09, 2015


No, it's not the roses I'm worried about. It's the postbox in front of our house.

You're wondering, am I worried about vandals? Not yet. Thieves have never seemed much interested in individual delivery boxes. All that walking, door-to-door is likely too much work for anyone looking for a fast buck -- or, as is more likely the case, an identity to steal.

It's the new 'community' group boxes that get all the action, witnessed in this news report from the weekend. [Warning: You have to put up with an ad before you get coverage about the extreme measures thieves are taking in breaking into the new boxes.]

Deepak Chopra (no, not that Deepak Chopra), the somewhat-ironically-named CEO of Canada Post, has determined -- almost single-handedly -- that the future of home delivery is doomed.

Supposedly a cost-saving measure, letter carriers will no longer walk their routes, but will drive from group box to group box, tucking whatever fits into the tiny cubicles. As someone who subscribes to a number of magazines, art ones included, this in itself presents a problem.

But that's the least of the problems. I certainly doubt Mr. Chopra's prediction that people will walk to their letterboxes. They'll drive, even if it's only a block, especially if the weather isn't perfect. What a way to encourage us to get out of our cars.

I can hardly wait for the parking mess that's just about sure to ensue in our neighbourhood.

Foolishness. Lack of foresight. Extreme lack of vision.

What else can I accuse him of?

Failing to see that his supposed 'cost-saving' measures will end up costing everyone a whole lot more.

Friday, January 30, 2015

And they call it the 'safe' way?

I've always wondered why they call our supermarket the Safeway. And for most of this winter, it's been even more puzzling.

For a couple of years, the store has supplied germ-killing wet-wipes near the entry to the store. I liked using these to wipe my hands -- but even more for the fact that I could wipe down the handle of my shopping cart. How many hands touch those each day? Yech.

But for the past few months, there haven't been any wipes at the door. Although I've spoken with both the manager and his assistant manager several times, each of them has always explained that they haven't received them despite their trying to order them.

When I've gone so far as to suggest one of them just go back into the store and bring an alternate supply to the front, they've replied that they couldn't do that. I've not really understood this, but the gentlemen in charge just shrug and smile and walk away, leaving me wondering. Could it really be that the store's discretionary budget can't deal with such an expense?

So today, because we're still in the midst of flu season (and experiencing a flu that this year's vaccine doesn't afford protection from), I decided to buy the poor grocery store a pack of cleansing wipes. After all, if their budget can't look after this, I can.

Gesundheit. And stay safe.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A blip?

When I saw that the price of gas had dipped below a dollar, I had to snap a photo. Quick. Before it went back over the loony line.

On Thursday I actually saw 98.9 in Vancouver, but I know these low prices won't last.

Last autumn, Steve Harper was touting the importance of oil to our country's economy, using that as an excuse to barge through the countryside with pipelines. This week, despite massive layoffs in the oil fields of Alberta (and, for that matter, across the country in all sorts of venues), he's changed his tune.

I'd like to consider believing him when he says our economy is based on much more than the extraction of fossil fuels. But it would sure be easier to do so if he'd set up some programs for ordinary people to access some of the interim methods we're going to have to explore as we wean ourselves off our addiction to oil. Rebates on electric cars? Subsidies on solar or geothermal installations?

And, while he's so busy giving tax breaks to the wealthy, might he consider giving a tax break to anyone who could prove that they'd voted? That might be a way to get out the vote -- and with luck -- see a change in government for Canada. Quick, while we've still got a country.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Flowers for Charlie

These are my small attempts at bringing spring into the house. Tulips which I bought for myself -- a small extravagance to offset the dark week that has just passed. Interesting, I think, that they get their name from the cloth used to wrap a turban. And pink ones are supposed to indicate 'caring'.

The paper-white narcissus companions have joined the tulips, though they're in their own vase. These are the ones that I forced early in December. They bloomed, but then started sagging under the weight of their blossoms. So I cut their stems and put them into water. Their sweet fragrance fills me with hope that spring is near, as do the bulbs poking up their tips in the garden.

Today, Charlie Hebdo has published a new edition, this time depicting an image of Muhammad under a banner of forgiveness. In the image, he is proclaiming (as we all have been saying), Je suis Charlie,

More than ever, the words that guided the French Revolution -- liberté, égalité, fraternité -- are echoing through the streets of Paris, and all around the world. It's time to erase our differences, or at least thoughts of fighting over them.