Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Morning star

It's taken me a few days to get around to writing this. The photo is from Sunday morning, a bright Ontario sky.

The last time I saw this kind of configuration in the sky was November 2008, the morning after my mother had died.

This time, it was the morning after the visitation and memorial service for my dear brother-in-law, Tom.

We were blessed to know him, to witness his many talents, and to laugh with him. As for that morning star, I guess it was really a mourning star.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

So much for democracy

Not so long ago an article came out in The Vancouver Sun with details about Surrey's proposed five-year budget plan. The details were appalling, pretty much excising any monies for the arts. But the arts weren't the only item on the chopping block.

About all I could do was write a letter to the editor; a few days later they printed it.

Since then, there have been other letters, and two meetings at City Hall that were packed with members of the public offering their objections.

Has this outcry made any difference? Not a chance. Steamroller is the word that comes to mind for our mayor's style of 'getting things done.' He insists he has the support of what he calls "the silent majority." That term was used by Richard Nixon as justification for continuing the horror of the Vietnam War. Since then, another person who's used this is none other than Donald Trump. Isn't there also a maxim about 'birds of a feather'?

There's bound to be more on this issue, especially with the final vote on this ill-conceived budget coming up mid-month. And even though he hasn't started listening, it's no excuse for us to give up. We need to keep writing letters, attending meetings, speaking out -- for the sake of our city and its future, we need to push back.

Friday, November 29, 2019

In praise of transit

Yesterday was one of those when I needed to go into Vancouver, a trip that's become more of a task over the years. Traffic has increased, it feels like ten-fold. The only bright spot has been improvements to our transit system.

But over the last few weeks, transit has felt threatened, as the unionized workers weren't able to negotiate a new contract that met everyone's needs. At first, the drivers stopped wearing their uniforms -- letting the public know that things weren't as they should be.

Their actions escalated with interruptions to SeaBus service, making travel from Vancouver to the North Shore very challenging.

The double-decker bus above, despite its 'not in service' sign was merely the driver taking a break, and wasn't a Vancouver bus at all, but one in Victoria. The moustache was their way of promoting men's health for Movember. The day I was over there, the driver who picked us up at the ferry told us all to just get on board. He wasn't taking any money that afternoon, a sign of solidarity with the Coast Mountain workers on this side of the water.

But tensions over here kept rising, with a complete shutdown of service scheduled for the 27th, 28th and 29th.

Fortunately for all of us who rely on public transit, a last-minute settlement came about, granting an almost-audible public sigh of relief.

Yesterday, while I was waiting to get on my bus, I saw a Coast Mountain driver waiting as well. I approached him and said thank you -- I suspect on behalf of many other riders that day. Surprisingly, he then thanked me. He explained himself by telling me that it was the support from the public that had made all the difference, and had enabled a quick settlement. Unlike the long strike in 2001 (123 days), this time social media had raised such an outcry, management pretty well had to pay attention.

Riding home on my standing-room only bus, I tried to calculate just how many cars were not being used because we passengers were using public transit. I'm still working on the numbers, but I know we represented a lot of cars not taking up space on the road. As for transit, I'm just grateful we have such an extensive and reliable system. Zoom, zoom, goes the bus, and sez I: hurrah!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Not just another day

 Not that any day doesn't have its distinguishing traits, this one marks the anniversary of my mother's death. Eleven years. A stretch of time it's hard for me to pin down in my mind. So long ago, it's hard to remember. So recent-feeling, it's hard to believe that it's more than a decade.

One thing she'd like (I think) is that I placed her photo in the golden star dish. The photo is one from before I was born and, while I don't think it really looks like her, I know it is one she was most proud of.

The bowl is a hand-me-down from her, so she'd probably be glad to know that I am using it. Even more so, I'm sure she'd like the 'star' association, as I'm quite sure her life's dream (if she hadn't had me and my sisters) would have been to be a film star. She'd even chosen a name for herself, one that sounded 'better' than her own.

This morning I heard an interview with Margaret Atwood, who's celebrating her 80th birthday today. I think my mother would have enjoyed listening to that too, especially with the many stories Atwood told about her childhood and reading and then deciding to become a writer. Yet another dream of my mother's, one she didn't manage to accomplish.

Still, she did more than I in so many respects -- for one thing, in bearing daughters, a couple of whom in turn gave her grandchildren.

Tonight when I go to my choir practice, I will do my best to sing as beautifully as she did, and I'll try to remember that I'm doing it for her.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Lest we forget

This morning when the big planes did their flyover for Remembrance Day, it was hard to not get teary. There's something about that sound of old propeller planes...

The white stones in the graveyard are all marking veterans, from more than one war, but all of them people who died too young.

I heard a young girl being interviewed about November 11th, and while she wasn't sure what a veteran is, she had a strong notion of what a soldier is. As she put it, someone who fights for peace. While it's kind of an oxymoron, I was glad of her understanding, as at least peace is a noble outcome.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

This is tree protection?

Once again this morning, I was assaulted by the angry whine of chainsaws. More trees going down in the neighbourhood. Primarily to make way for bigger and pricier houses, certainly not doing anything towards sustaining our urban forest, as our city's pretty much feeble tree bylaws claim to do.

The rule suggests that only those trees that are growing on the spot where actual building is to occur may be removed. So, I wonder, are they really going to build the new homes on the lot above right down to the curb of the road?

The chainsaws are a miserable sound to have to listen to, more so because I know what they are doing.

Even worse though is the dreadfully woebegone mess they leave behind. So much for supposedly growing new trees as part of our efforts against climate disaster, especially now that the US has given official notice that it is dropping out of the Paris Accord, the agreement which was supposed to make a difference for humanity. But then, maybe the coming asteroid will look after everything for all of us. Cheery thought, eh.

Thursday, October 31, 2019


I'm amazed by the lengths so many people now go to when it comes to decorating their house and front yard for Halloween. So much for carving a pumpkin and putting a candle in it as a signal to kids that there might be goodies at the door.

At first glance, the house above looks relatively modest in terms of its decorations. But wait -- when you walk past, the cat seems to come to life! It turns from side to side and moans, and appears as though it's about to pounce. Yikes!

More and more graveyard sites like this are showing up in all of our neighbourhoods. Some of them seem downright grisly, with bones and amputations, complete with what looks like blood. I think, as a child, I may well have been frightened off if I'd encountered one of these. Must have been an even bigger wuss than I am now.

Whether these graveyards come with ghosts or not remains to be seen. Maybe tonight they'll show up. Who knows.