Thursday, April 26, 2012

Be afraid, be very afraid...

That was the tag line from the 1986 version of the film, The Fly.

Now, it seems we need instead to be fearful of The Turtle, at least if his name is Yertle. Yep, the character from the book by Dr. Seuss. Scary, eh.

Those well-known rabble-rousers, teachers, have been warned against displaying Dr. Seuss quotes. It seems the good Dr.’s writings are just too darn political.

The person at the base of all this trouble is a Grade 1 teacher, employed in the district of Prince Rupert. The quote that’s caused the kafuffle is this: “I know, up on the top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

Turns out the scene in the story depicts a bunch of stacked-up turtles, all to help Yertle see better. But one little turtle who wants a peek as well pronounces the offending question.

Sounds to me like the turtles are behaving quite co-operatively. Climbing up so one can get a better view.

So hey, school district, what’re you being so paranoid about? Could it be that you’re feeling guilty about the way decisions about student learning conditions and teachers’ rights are being made in this province? Does it seem, even to you, that too many rules are being made in Victoria, all the way up there at the top?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poetry Night in Surrey, BC

This was the view of the garden outside City Hall, a place where I had to pause and take a few deep breaths. I was about to read my specially-commissioned poem to Mayor Dianne Watts and the city councillors. Although I seem to do plenty of readings, this one felt different, as if some of the future of things literary in our city were dependent on how the reading went.

As things turned out (even though I needed to rely almost completely on what I'd written), I think I did all right, though I certainly was grateful to the writers and friends who attended, adding support to what I was doing.

Although this reading wasn't the first time there'd been poetry in City Hall, it was (as far as I know) the first time the city had made an official proclamation of National Poetry Month. The mayor presented me with a copy of the proclamation, signed and beautifully framed. If you'd like to see the text of the proclamation, click here.

And if you'd like to read the poem I read, it's posted at the Mayor's Poetry Challenge -- you need to scroll down to April 23rd, and then click on my name.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The celebratory worm

If this wormy little guy had heels, he might be kicking them up to celebrate Earth Day. As it is, he seems to be doing a pretty sassy little flamenco of his own!

Do something to celebrate our bounteous planet.

And yes, I’m putting the worm back into his home, so he and his pals can keep up the good work they do, aerating the garden.

PS Besides spending time outdoors digging dandelions, I also saw some actual flamenco dancers at a local arts event. Here’s what those clacking castanets look like up close.

Friday, April 20, 2012

That day again

Let’s face it. The war on drugs has spawned a nation of addicts. Had the laws restricting marijuana been eased way back in the ‘70s when the LeDain Commission came up with that very recommendation, I’m convinced there wouldn’t now be all these crack-heads and smack freaks filling our downtown cores and prisons.

If pot had been available only in liquor stores (or, places known by some catchier title that meant ‘outlets for controlled substances’) I suspect organized crime wouldn’t have managed such a stranglehold on selling this with-us-since-time-began weed.

The situation would never have risen where a person looking for a toke was posed the question that’s changed too many lives: “Wanna try some crack instead?”

These controlled-substances outlets might have even been able to take over distribution of tobacco, one of our deadliest (and most addictive) drugs.

Here it is 4/20 again – and once again, the protestors are on the streets, smoking and listening to music and speeches.

Yet Steve Harper, despite calls from all levels of police – even heads of state – continues to keep his greying head in the sand of denial. Oh, sigh. Looks as the gangs will continue to be the only ones winning this ridiculous ‘war’.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


The theme of this year's National Poetry Month is balance. And last night's event in the Readings by the Salish Sea series was accomplished in living up to the theme -- in more ways than the obvious juxtapositions apparent in the photo.

Daniela Elza read from her brand-new book, the weight of dew, taking us on a word-tour through the world. Points of interest included the peaks of philosophy, the wonders of parenting, and also such down-to-earth places as an overflow campsite, the spot where everyone comes to fight. She also offered insights into some of her writing process and demonstrated the interplay of words in her triptych poems.

The other side of the event was work by distinguished poet, E.D. Blodgett. He read from Praha, a collection of poems that serve as an homage to the city of Prague. He also read from Sleep, You, a Tree, the seventh installment in his ongoing series, Apostrophes. His work provided the perfect balance to Daniela's work -- in subject matter, delivery and often echoing image:
"So close we are to being dust again, no stronger than the leaf..." (from the poem, "Dust").
It was also a night when the audience got to play with words, fooling around with pieces of mag-po or writing haiku for the City of Surrey's Mayor's Poetry Challenge (these will be presented to the mayor and councillors on Monday). And there's still time to Tweet your own haiku to Surrey (click on the link to Mayor's Poetry Challenge, scroll down to bottom of page).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sun Run Fun

One of the advantages of spending a few days in the heart of the city is getting to feel a part of some of the events that go on here.

These people were only a tiny sample of the runners and walkers who passed by the window this morning as part of The Vancouver Sun's Fun Run. According to reports, there were close to 50,000 participants. No wonder it took over two hours for all of them to pass by the window we were watching from!

For a finale, the fireboat doing ‘doughnuts’ on the water made a nice salute to all those dedicated athletes. Fun!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Salmon tales: undammed and damned

You might think that photo doesn't look like much, but it's a kind of miracle in the making.

It's the process of un-damming Washington state's Elwha River. Just the day after this photo (taken four weeks ago on March 15), the original course of the water was restored.

Ever since the Elwha dam system was constructed early in the 20th century, blocking the salmon's route up the river, the fish have been swimming up as far as the dam system, waiting for the chance to go to their ancestral home.

It's worth taking a few minutes to acquaint yourself with what's going on at the Elwha. Their website even includes a five-minute video as an easy way to learn about this restorative project.

It's a project that evolved from the passage in 1992 of the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act , enlightened legislation protecting the salmon, ensuring them access to their spawning grounds.

On the other hand, this week's news reveals a sorry tale this side of the border, a change of policy taken by 'the Harper Government' (the term they apply to themselves -- one that makes sense, as they don't behave like much of a Canadian Government, nor like one that represents the Canadian people).

This legislation weakens habitat protection -- yet another move backwards. And look out, later this month, further cuts are expected to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

As a line from a poem by bill bissett warns:

if th salmon go, we wunt b sew long aftr...

Friday, April 06, 2012

The egg was first...

For all of my ongoing rebellions at the often ridiculous demands of life, at heart, I'm a sucker for tradition.

I can't remember a year when I didn't find a way to dye a few eggs, not even last year when we were travelling in The Rattler, the beloved RV.

But this year, I got to thinking about how this tradition began -- and why.

The Internet is loaded with many explanations, though most seem to offer the logical line of thinking, that the egg is a sign of rebirth and of the renewed promise brought to us by springtime.

I was glad to learn that the idea is widespread, and not restricted to Christian beliefs surrounding the resurrection of Jesus.

Other religions respect the symbology of the egg. It's even a part of Passover observances, which (if I'm not too mistaken) begin this evening.

Whatever you may celebrate or observe, I hope you'll think about the simple power contained within the enduring egg.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A prickly affair

Sunday's forest walk yielded three big bags of fresh springtime nettles. Yep, those same little darlin's that sting like hell if you brush up against them.

Turns out once they're tamed by a bit of steam, they're stingless and amazingly tasty. Kind of like a very strong spinach, probably something Popeye would have enjoyed.

I made up twelve bags of this super springtime tonic for the freezer, though I'll probably use two of them tomorrow, as I'm hungry for some spanakopita -- or, should that be nettle-kopita.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Let the celebration begin!

It's the first day of National Poetry Month, both in Canada and in the U.S.

If you don't live in Seattle (the photo above is a wall of 'public poetry' from there), an easy place to get your daily poetry fix is Knopf's Poem-a-Day site. The poems selected are top-notch.

This is also a great month for working on poems of your own -- and there's still time to sign up for CV2's annual 2-day poem contest. You get 10 words (sometimes they're really hard to use, other years not so bad) to assemble into a poem in the space of 48 hours.

No doubt, there'll be special events and readings near where you live. The League of Canadian Poets offers a list of special events which are free of charge.

If you ever needed an excuse, Poetry Month provides plenty of reasons to pick up a pen (whether real or metaphorical) and write a poem. Get writing!