Saturday, June 30, 2012

Half a league, half a league

When I woke up this morning, those words were galloping through my brain. I’ve been trying to finish a couple of poems that feature horses, so there was at least a seed of logic to the voice’s appearance. Then, over coffee, I found myself thinking about today’s date, so before long the phrase started translating itself into ‘half a year, half a year…’

Still, I knew I needed to be sure about the ‘half a league’ line, so I Googled it. Ah yes, of course – “Charge of the Light Brigade”. A further click, this time on Wikipedia, informed me that years after “Charge” had been written, Kipling wrote a poem that honoured the survivors of that dreadful encounter.

Yesterday, I met another survivor. No one from the Light Brigade, to be sure, but a man who’d been a POW in Asia during WWII.

It was one of those bump-into-a-person things, something I was led to on the strength of his personalized license plate. He was kind enough to not seem to mind talking with a stranger, a woman in a parking lot asking about the significance of the letters on his bumper.

I learned that he’s 92 (and still an imposing six feet – maybe more) but that when he’d been released from the camp he’d weighed only 68 pounds. Skeletal. He also told me that all the survivors had been told they’d never live past 50, that their bodies had been too damaged by the experience. Yet here he is, nearly twice times 50. So much for what ‘they’ know.

Kids are all warned these days about speaking with strangers. Even adults aren’t always responsive to a friendly hello. Maybe we’d all feel more secure – even happier – if we’d chance the occasional chat with a stranger. You might find your life a little richer for having taken the risk.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Solstice early, solstice celebrated

Readers of this blog will know I usually post something in observance of the Solstice. I often refer to the ‘sun angel’ who appears with first light on my front door. This year, I was caught a bit off guard by the longest day arriving a day earlier than I’d expected it, so wasn’t up to take that dawnish photo. Still, the afternoon sky held its own version, an image I like to think of as a ‘sky angel’.

As far as the technical aspects of Solstice go, others can explain it much more clearly (and more thoroughly) than I can. To learn more, click on this link to the brainiacs at National Geographic.

Because this longest day has also brought some very welcome (and needed) sun and warmth, I’m tossing in this little poem, part two of a triptych of mine.

Hope is

an orange balloon
tied onto a skinny wrist

ever so slightly


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Junuary at the Market

As much as I’d like to claim that term as one of my own invention, the word isn’t original. I spotted it in an article in the Vancouver Sun, part of their story about how this is turning into the coldest June on record.

I believe it. When I read the story, my sweater and I felt affirmed – maybe even a bit warmer – knowing that our chilliness wasn’t one of those ‘just-me’ things.
The White Rock Farmers’ Market is nearly always drafty, as it’s situated in a man-made wind tunnel, tucked in between some less-than-beloved high-rise buildings. The wind isn’t usually enough to deter shoppers, but it seemed that today’s combination of wet and cold did exactly that. I heard several vendors talking about how it was hardly worth opening their stall today. This was lucky for me, I suppose, as the baker was more much more willing than usual to let me quibble over the price of the bread and goodlets I wanted.

I’m hoping that this isn’t the kind of weather we need to get accustomed to. Still, I can’t help but think of that poem by bill bissett, the one that cautions: “summr starts in july ths yeer.” With Solstice arriving later in the week, I’ve got my fingers crossed for some sun and warmth – and soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

This is the house the robins built

Not a lot more than a bunch of grass and mud, but it looks as though it was toasty warm and dry. Good enough at least for a hard-working pair of robins to raise a family.

Even though they've vacated the nest (and we've taken it down so we could reclaim the gazebo), two of the babies are hanging around the yard.

They're still learning how to navigate, so occasionally we'll hear a thump as one of them bumps into the window.

When they do that, I like to think they're just saying hello before they fly off to wherever they'll build their own nests.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Bad taste distractions

In a world as nutzoid as ours, sometimes it pays to consider absurdities. My proposal for today’s absurdity is Lima Beans.

Aside from thinking they should be banned for tasting so bad (bitter and slightly furry, as I recall, though it has been a while), I’ll admit that this deep-seated bias probably goes back to childhood and my mother’s cooking. She meant well, I’m sure, but tinned vegies are a sad excuse for greens on the plate. Mushy and vaguely metallic.

My mouth makes a bad face just thinking about them.

And why the heck are they called LYE-ma beans? They seem to be credited as coming from Peru. And I’m pretty sure that Lima, Peru is pronounced LEE-ma. Not that calling them LEE-ma beans would make them taste any better.

The biggest absurdity about these nasty legumes? You couldn’t eat them raw (the yummiest mode for nearly every decent vegetable) even if you could find them at your local farmer’s market. They have to be cooked, or they’re poisonous. Their nasty little secret? Cyanide. Maybe that’s the reason I knew enough to steer clear of them.
Now, if only I could find such a logical justification for not liking pumpkin pie.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Russ Hiebert, Invisible Man

That would be our Member of Parliament in front of the window, stepping up to the microphone to extend support for the local arts. He certainly cuts a fine figure, doesn’t he.

The event was the grand opening of a new facility for our local arts council, Semiahmoo Arts, a group that helps provide cultural opportunities for a community of 100,000 people.

The local MLA sent a beautiful plaque with congratulations, the City of White Rock’s acting mayor gave congratulatory remarks, City of Surrey had a representative in attendance, but our Member of Parliament?

As always, he was a no-show. I understand he kept up his usual practice of not bothering to even reply to the invitation which asked him to attend and participate.

Earlier in the day, a group of constituents rallied outside Hiebert’s office. They would have gladly gone in to speak with their elected representative, but alas, the door was locked. That same door had been locked when a previous delegation had wanted to speak to him about environmental issues. On that occasion, word was that he’d had the office locked, fearing that violence might occur.

That must have been the case this time as well. After all, the group in the photo looks like a pretty rowdy bunch.

All they’d wanted to talk about was Bill C-38 the omnibus budget bill. And we weren’t the only ones concerned about this bill. Protests took place across the country. There was even one outside Steve Harper’s office in Calgary.

I’d always understood a budget to be a financial plan. My dictionary even agrees, defining the word as meaning ‘an itemized summary of expected income and expenditure over a specified time.’

The bill in question, hundreds of pages long, is not so much a budget as a manifesto.

Rather than concerning itself with numbers, it appears to set policy – on issues that range from archival holdings (digitize ‘em) to habitat (don’t bother protecting it unless something there makes a profit) to scientific research (so what if that facility solved the problem of acid rain, shut it down – what do scientists know anyway?).

It also sets rules for reporting viral outbreaks in fish farms: Not permitted unless the sanctioned government department has already reported same.

Only this might be tricky, as nearly all of the environmental scientists on this coast have either been ‘let go’ or relocated to Ottawa or other places in Canada where they have little chance of encountering any body of water that might contain salt, or for that matter, fish.

But Russ, dear Russ, rather than wanting to talk with constituents about matters such as these, he was his usual invisible self.

Maybe he was too busy praying for the salvation our unworthy souls.Though I suspect that, if indeed he was praying, it was in hopes that those of us who still believe in democracy would just shut up and go away.