Saturday, November 20, 2021

Looks like they're back


...the elves, that is. 

My office has once again been taken over by a couple of crafty types who enjoy making Christmas cards (even though some of those greetings go out to people who don't celebrate that particular holiday). 

It's always kind of a crazy mess, with stamps and stickers and all kinds of assorted papers and pencil crayons and whew! But amazingly, quite a few lovely cards are the result, and all of those go to special friends and family members. 

We've been doing this for quite a few years now -- maybe more than a decade -- but those first few stabs at making something are always a challenge. 

And now it seems, just as I am once again getting the hang of being 'creative' tomorrow will be the day we pack it all up and put it away until next year. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The power of words

The poppy has likely become the most recognizable symbol of Remembrance Day. And it's all because of a poem written by John McCrae, one so many of us can recite (at least partially) by heart, "In Flanders Fields". 

We don't always realize the power of our words, and I'm sure McCrae had no idea that I (and a lot of other people) would be wearing a red poppy on my lapel all these years after World War I, over a century on. 

McCrae is certainly not the only poet who's written about what was called the Great War. The most famous of these is probably Wilfred Owen, though there are others, including a woman, Vera Brittain, whose poetic contribution was a volume called Verses of V.A.D. She was better known for her prose writings, one of which, Testament of Youth, sounds as though it will be coming out as a film. 

Many others have written novels set during World War I. Two that come to mind are June Hutton's Underground, another is Deafening by Frances Itani. 

But Remembrance Day isn't only about remembering the First World War. It's a day for being grateful for all of those before us who fought for a way of life we too often take for granted. 

And one special remembrance I always keep on this day is the fact that it's the birthdate of Kurt Vonnegut, a writer who certainly solidified his reputation as being anti-war with his memoir-based novel, Slaughterhouse Five

Friday, October 29, 2021

Who will I be this time?


Part of making a jack-o-lantern is deciding what kind of face it needs. This little guy looks to me like he deserves a smile. But I'm not usually the carver in our house -- I'm usually more the seed-baker. As far as using the rest of the pumpkin, I'm not so good. Weird of me, I suppose, but almost the only food I don't like is pumpkin pie

But there's more to Halloween than the pumpkin. Sure, there's the matter of treats -- beware buying items with peanuts -- too many little ones have allergies. Same for paying attention to sugar, sugar, sugar. 

Because I long ago attended Catholic schools, we were lucky enough to get a day off on the day after Halloween, All Saints Day, no doubt giving our teachers a break from us, jumping up and down in our seats. 

Really though, the hardest thing about Halloween is trying to figure out a costume!

My best ones have probably been dreamt up at the last minute -- rat with my friend dressed as a bag of garbage. The main trouble he experienced was that party-goers kept tossing chocolate bar wrappers and other debris into the garbage bag he was wearing. 

The most fun costume I can remember was when I went as 'The Magnetic Poet' with a metal clipboard hanging around my neck where friends were encouraged to create contributions to a poem. The best part (or most fun maybe) was the 'hat' I wore which identified me -- a red metal colander with more magnetic words for 'helpers' to use in making poems on the fridge or wherever else they could find a workable metal surface. 

However you celebrate, be sure to have some fun (and be sure to have enough treats on hand to have leftovers for yourself)!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Shake, rattle, and roll

If you recognize that phrase, you must be nearly the age that I am. In this case, I'm not thinking about classic rock music, but about the annual earthquake exercise called the Great Shake-Out, a practice that's apparently held the world over on the third Thursday of October. 

This year that translates to October 21st, tomorrow. The drill here in BC will take place at 10:21 a.m., an easy enough time to remember, as it matches the date 10/21. 

I've participated in this before (if you have the tv or radio on, it's hard not to -- as they blast a terrible 'warning' sound), but this year I'm more serious than previously, as I've just finished reading a book about earthquakes, On Borrowed Time. Its descriptions of quakes and the often-accompanying tsunamis that have occurred all over the globe might be enough to give anyone shakes of their own, but that's not the author's main intent. His message is really that we all need to prepare so that we're ready when (not if) the inevitable occurs. For more about the book, you might want to read a review I wrote about it.

As part of the Great Shake-Out there's even more than usual it seems available online, including this comprehensive compilation of 'seven steps' from a place one might expect to find such information, the state of California.  

Scary? Yes, it is -- more than a little bit. But sensible to try to be prepared? I sure think so. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Labour and the fruits thereof...

This has been the week for trying to finish up the autumn chores before the rainy season starts in earnest. That's meant clearing leaves and bits of cedar clicks off the deck (clicks? I don't know what else to call them, the cedar equivalent of fallen leaves). It's a task that needs to be completed before the nighttime bursts of wet, or the deck turns into a mass of gooey orange bits. Seasonal decorations, I suppose, but not particularly desirable. 

Other jobs that need doing? Slicing and drying more fruit -- all of it free. This time, it's apples from the overly bountiful tree at a friend's place. Before those, it was quince from the copious amount of fruits from the tree in our front yard. Little bags of each will probably find their way into Christmas baskets. 

Maybe the least pleasant (though one of the most necessary) is pruning the English ivy that drapes itself along the fence between us and the neighbour. It's thick enough that it helps provide a wall of privacy, but because it's an invasive species, it has to be discouraged -- and definitely kept off of the trees along that same border. Its pollen is horrific (even as I type this, my nose has started itching). A few years ago I did a post where I was dressed in basically a homemade Hazmat suit -- all so I could do a pre-autumn chop. 

This time, as I filled another bucket with debris, I couldn't help but think that the ivy's flowers look an awful lot like images of the virus that's been keeping us masked up and in relative isolation. Maybe all along, the all-too-stalwart ivy was trying to warn us what might lie ahead.

But in amongst all of these tasks, the best remains the tending of the berries -- this time even offering their own small reward -- a tiny bowl of perfectly red, sun-sweetened raspberries. 


Wednesday, October 06, 2021

A Tail of Two Countries

Because part of my morning included a drive to the airport, I had occasion to drive along one of my favourite roads, Zero Avenue

That may seem like an odd name for a street, but considering where it's located, it makes perfect sense. 

It runs along the Canada/US boundary, a space that for years has been proudly known as the world's longest undefended border. And yes, the trees and greenery on the right side of the road are the USA while those on the left are Canada. As for who paints the yellow line on the road, I'm not sure. 

Sadly, though it may be undefended by military forces, the border hasn't been open for travel for over a year and a half -- at least not to those of us from Canada who might want to head south. And yes, we all know (and are probably tired of) the reason for that. 

But on such a beautiful day as this one, I can't bear to dwell on anything negative. 

Instead I'll just offer a small explanation of the silly title I gave this post. 

Both when I was driving east on Zero and when I was going westward towards home, I spotted a bit of wildlife (okay, just a black squirrel) and who knows, maybe it was the same critter both times, but he (she?) was crossing the border, something I'm still not permitted to do.  

And I must admit, I am looking forward to be able to exercise the same freedom as that squirrel indulged in. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Long time coming

Today is the first time we in Canada are observing National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Many businesses are closed, though not all. As is so often the case with a newly introduced tradition, it takes some of us longer to learn than others. 

I was fortunate to be in Victoria, our provincial seat of government, earlier this week. It was good to see the steps of the Legislature Building filled with reminders of the 215 children whose graves were discovered earlier this year. 

Even wet with rain, the memorial to them evokes sadness -- and for some of us, difficult memories of our own, especially recollections of experience with actions taken in the name of religion. 

I was especially pleased when this morning's 'Poetry Pause' from the League of Canadian Poets arrived in my inbox, as it was "Angels: 215" a poem written by our current Parliamentary Poet Laureate, Louise Bernice Halfe / Sky Dancer. Not only is she our country's first Indigenous Poet Laureate, she knows all too well the experience of residential schools. And in case you'd like a poem emailed to you every day, here's a link to the form where you can sign up. 

The message, "Every Child Matters" is important and one we can only hope will soon become universally true, one that will remain true always.  

Aside from listening to different broadcasts today, this little post is about all I am able to do. That and wear my own orange shirt. I did at least do my best to buy a new shirt with a design that was created by an Indigenous artist. 

I felt fortunate to find one bearing the work of Art W. Charlie II, a man from near Tofino here in B.C.