Friday, September 28, 2012

Let's take the 'sub' out of suburban

My city, Surrey, BC, seems to be growing up. Frankly, it used to be considered almost the sub-basement of sub-urbia.

Lately, there've been more and more signs of its rising status. For one thing, it has an absolutely world class art gallery. Every month seems to see more and more cultural events taking place, especially my favourites, literary ones (see readings, to the right).

But the event that makes me proudest is the symposium that took place yesterday at the Surrey campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

"Under-City: Writing the Suburban World" was an all-day symposium sponsored by the university's Creative Writing Department.

The day opened with a brief keynote by Diane Purvey, Dean of Arts. She said that she was "...excited by the energy this day represents." And she wasn't wrong.

The panels consisted of writers, publishers, art historians and my favourite "public intellectual", Michael Turner. Panelists in the photo are moderator Kevin Chong, poet Judy McInnes, writer (and Creative Writing Head at UFV) Andrea McPherson and Surrey writer Phinder Dulai.

The topics were engaging and thought-provoking. Best of all were the day's opportunities for networking and general exchange of ideas.

The only part I'm no longer sure of is the 'sub' prefix in suburbia. Somehow, its meaning (under) doesn't seem to fit, as these days Surrey seems to have come out into the light.

Because art -- in particular, the literary arts -- and along with it, a community of artists seems to be alive and well in Surrey. At last.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Books, beautiful books!

Because I'm getting ready to offer a workshop on chapbooks, I've been exploring as many ways as I can to make books that are beautiful. As part of the 'Outside the Box' fibre arts events taking place this month,   my local library sponsored a session on making tiny notebooks.

The presenter, Jo Yearsley, has won awards for her handmade books. The samples in the photo should convince you that she's earned these prizes. My favourite might be the travel journal she created. The six Scrabble letters (and Jo's trademark bag of tea) are such special touches. To get you in the mood for travel, the back cover holds a map.

To see even more of Jo's gorgeous creations, visit her website. You might even want to sign up for one of her kits or workshops.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Let's not go back

This week our Members of Parliament take on the almighty task of determining the moment when life begins. If you think that sounds presumptive, maybe even Godlike, I’m with you.

Yet our mostly Conservative Parliamentarians seem to believe that they, unlike the rest of us, have a hotline to Truth.

The physicians of Canada have suggested that the would-be legislation opens a back door to the recriminalization of abortion, an action that would leave Canadian women amongst the only women in what we like to think of as the ‘free world’ without the right to a safe abortion.

Remember, current laws don’t make abortion a procedure a woman must choose. Still, if someone determines the need for one, she is assured the security of a medical facility and doesn’t need to risk the horrors of back-room hotel room scrapings so many women were forced to endure less than 50 years ago.

If you’re brave enough to watch our elected officials parade their arrogance, tune in to the ongoing broadcast.

And if you haven’t already, please write to your MP, suggesting they get off this current high-horse and come back to where there’s plenty of down-to-Earth work that needs doing. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Offerings of the week

The pile above -- bits of stone and pine cones, fungus and tree branch -- was the collection of offerings left behind at the centre of Bethlehem Retreat Centre's labyrinth.

The various women in attendance over the week could often be seen walking the spiralling trail, seeking inspiration, inner peace or maybe just answers to questions.

I love the way our unplanned arrangement turned out. But then, that seems to be just another of those mysteries presented by the very idea of labyrinth-walking.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On retreat

Beside the lake, here at the Bethlehem Retreat Centre, the world is calm.

And that seems to be enough.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Another naked emperor?

Last year parliamentary page Brigette DePape walked down the aisle of Parliament and held a sign bearing those very words. She was fired from the position, but in turn was offered a job by Michael Moore’s organization. Clearly, she knows how to get a message out.

This past weekend, on the eve of Quebec’s provincial elections, a small airplane towed a banner advertising a website, Stephen Harper Nous Deteste [Stephen Harper Hates Us]. The RCMP are reported to have had the plane grounded.

The story doesn’t mention who exactly gave the order, or where it might have originated. It does appear though that the RCMP’s claim of the plane being in violation of Ottawa air space was likely false. But regardless of where the order originated, the action taken is one that doesn’t bode well for freedom of expression in Canada.

Earlier this week, I read an item that spoke to the dangers of having a leader with too much control. Best I can do is offer my own paraphrase: When leaders ensure that people cannot speak out against them, the fabric of that society is threatened, especially when that society is one that proclaims itself to be free and democratic.

I’m left wondering who might next have their voice muffled for daring to point out our emperor’s nakedness?

Saturday, September 01, 2012

More than the usual 'haircut'

As my blog profile notes, I live in a house that has trees all around it. In amongst the mostly Western Red cedars, there’s a tall and graceful hemlock and proudest of all, a Sitka spruce.

Yesterday, when the arborist came for the trees’ semi-annual haircut, the spruce got much more than its usual summer trim.

You see, our neighbourhood’s changing – from the settled-in place it’s felt like for the years that we’ve lived here. It’s been common enough practice for the not-so-old older homes (1970s vintage) to be gutted and renovated, but now it seems that’s no longer enough. Today’s new neighbours want the old homes gone, so the noisy crunch of bulldozers has become an all-too-common sound.

Sadly, for me – and for many of the longtime neighbours – the roar of bulldozers is now generally accompanied by the grinding of chain saws and shredders.

The property next to us has sold and plans for the new, bigger house mean that three large trees – a Douglas fir, a hemlock and another Sitka spruce – out on the lane will be going. Further, we understand that a large heritage oak will be drastically cut back, and our own majestic Sitka has had to be pruned along one side.

We’d alerted the new neighbour to our arborist’s arrival and invited him to observe with us what was going on. All seemed well enough while the cutting took place – we even let him suggest some branches higher up than originally planned.

Only then, about 20 minutes after the job was finished, the new neighbour came by with yet another request (not for me – he’d only discuss such lofty matters with my husband): that the branches needed to go back even further towards the trunk, and that more branches from higher up needed cutting.

Fortunately, it wasn’t just my husband who said no. The arborist stepped in, saying that he’d already taken more than had been planned. He further pointed out (because he knows the city bylaws) that plenty had been taken to comply with building regulations and that the tree could not sustain further cutting without causing damage.

The spruce remains standing tall, protecting us from sun and wind and weathers of all sorts, as do the three tall trees along the laneway. Still, it makes me nervous, every time I go out on an errand, fearful of what kind of damage I might find when I get home.