Friday, December 31, 2010

Taking stock

End of year always feels like a time to consider what's gone on during the previous twelve months.

On many fronts, this hasn't been the best of years. Still, I plan to take inspiration from the sprig of holly that's nestled itself into that chunk of wood. I know where I took the picture, and I plan to go back again next winter to see how it's doing.

I am hoping that both the holly and I will have accomplished much.

Expect a new look (again) to the blog in January, as well as some goals and commitments.

Want to start thinking about some of your own dreams and goals? Add a comment if you'd like to commit to any of them. We can look at them again next December 31 to see how we've fared.

Friday, December 24, 2010

...and to all a good-night!

My sister and I have always been firm believers in Santa. We're still convinced we saw him flying when we were little.

Whatever you believe, I hope that warmth and love are somehow part of your traditions. And in those, I will always believe.

Merry Christmas to all...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Return of the light(s)

Just over twelve hours ago, the earth started to pass between the moon and the sun, and a magical lunar eclipse began. Magical because totality occurs on the same day as this year's winter solstice. Apparently, the convergence of events hasn't happened for a few hundred years.

Anyway, when this special eclipse started, I was disappointed, because the sky here was cloudy. Still, because I knew what was going on up there, I thought about it, imagining what people long ago must have thought about such an occurrence.

And then just before midnight, the sky opened up, revealing a dusky orange moon, with only the barest fingernail crescent of bright light on one side. Again, I thought of those people from long ago and suspected they would have been tossing more fuel on the fire -- logs at least, if not a sacrifice of some sort.

Just after twelve, when the moon was about to go into full occlusion, the clouds returned, shrouding what showed of the moon. When it's visible but not reflecting light from the sun, it's easy to see that it's really just a big rock. Still, a pretty magical one.

About twelve hours from now will be the official observance of this year’s winter solstice, so I'm in my element. Magic in every direction. And we'll be on our way to having the light come back...

As for the lights above, they're from our little hibiscus trees in holiday regalia, with the camera trying to move as fast as the spinning earth.

Happy Solstice celebrating!

Friday, December 17, 2010

When does a park stop being a park?

When does a fence become an offense?

This week has seen a chain-link fence rise up around a nearby park. It's the only ball diamond for quite a distance, and there used to be a fun little playgound there.

No more.

Much of it is now blocked off to the public.

For what it's worth, it isn't technically public property; it's part of the Semiahmoo band's reserve. And for quite a while, the band has been threatening go fence it off, largely in response to the many dog owners who let their dogs run free there and then don't clean up after the messes they leave behind.

Still, this week's action comes as quite a shock. The reason being cited is a sinkhole that appeared last summer. Only now, the spot has grown, so I suppose this is what the lawyers advised.

In the meantime, no playground, no open field for games or kite-flying or just plain enjoying the space a park offers. In the confines of our busy lives, with so little green space left, this closure feels quite harsh.

I'm trying not to be sad about it, but right now, that isn't easy.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

If you want it...

I was at a school Christmas concert tonight. One of the songs performed by the choir was Happy Xmas (War is over). The line above is one of the mantra-like repeated lines that follow 'war is over' in the refrain.

It seems there's lots to remember as we remember John Lennon.

Do you have a memory of this night, 30 years ago?

Sunday, December 05, 2010


This is the sign that greets visitors to prison. Not exactly inviting, is it.

Yet despite signs and other roadblocks (applying for clearance seems far more difficult than getting a passport), volunteers continue to visit prisons, sometimes for writing workshops.

Last weekend was another of our Writers' Retreats at a local penitentiary. As always, it was a time for useful exchanges about work we'd prepared in advance. And because writing prompts are always an important element of these weekends, there was also a lot of new work generated.

Some of the more speculative start-ups prompted humour as well as thoughtful replies. A few of the responses to the what-really-happened scene behind Obama's stitches could have fit right in with the latest round of WikiLeaks.

Other writings were far more personal -- the kind that only come about in an atmosphere of trust. One man revealed a story that seemed to surprise even himself. After he read it, he offered in a shaking voice that he had never expressed those thoughts to anyone.

Another was seeking ways to write about a traumatic experience he wanted to get down in words, but wasn't yet able to -- the first strip-search he'd experienced. Some of the difficulty became even clearer when he told us that this had occurred when he was only twelve.

Those of us 'outsiders' didn't have as much hardship to share, but when we wrote about 'why we don't write', the excuses sounded the same, whether from inmates or 'outmates'. Everything from needing to watch a show on tv to the universal excuse, the L-word, laziness.

Today is International Volunteer Day -- a day that recognizes the efforts of the many, many people who do things they don't get paid for, but things that make a difference to their communities. They're the people who run Scout troops and arts events and food banks and baby clinics.

If you'd like to read an article about one kind of volunteer, those who go into prisons, click here for an article by Ed Griffin. Ed's a longtime prison volunteer and teacher. His article appears on a prisoner-based website called The Incarcerated Inkwell. The site contains a great deal of information, even a glossary of prison jargon. It also accepts guest articles for publication.

What do you take time to do for your community?