Monday, April 14, 2014

Poems on the clock

You'd never know it, if you were judging by this blog of late, but I'm a person who's good at working to deadlines. I'll admit, there've been a few distractions recently.

Still, this past week saw me involved in two events that made me responsible to a deadline. The first was an event at Vancouver's Jewish Community Centre. I'd been invited to read poems as part of an art show. The trick was, I had to write new poems, ones that were based on the paintings in the show. In other words, I had to write to a deadline. Somehow, I came up with seven short pieces, none of which will likely stand the test of time. Still, I did what I needed to.

The other poem 'on the clock' was creating an entry for the weekend's 48-Hour Poetry Contest. This event, sponsored by CV2 Magazine, has been a part of my April weekends since 2002.

For that one, I was in Australia, travelling through the Blue Mountains, reliant on finding a cybercafe so I could participate in the contest. This was early days for public access Internet, at least that's how it felt in any small town in Oz. The one I found was in the back room of a Thai restaurant, so I had to abide by their hours -- all the while doing my best to pay attention to what time (and day!) it might be, back in Winnipeg, headquarters of the contest.

I survived then, and I survived this weekend too. Always a bit frantic, but always plenty of fun.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Fare thee well to someone dear

This is a photo of our wonderful uncle, Octavian, standing beside his beloved linden tree -- a tree that provided many offerings for the herbal tinctures and salves he made.

This morning, we received news that Octavian had died. But oh my, this was a man who knew how to live!

When he raised a glass of wine in cheers, his greeting was nearly always an enthusiastic 'Happy Birthday!'i

Because he is a strong believer in the existence of a wonderful afterlife, I find myself needing to wish him a "Happy Birthday!' with hopes that he has indeed been born into the place where he hoped he would be.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A coming out, of sorts

Today is the anniversary of my arrival in Canada, a country I came to by choice. That was an awfully long time ago, forty-five years to be exact. Startling.

All of my adult life has been spent in this country. I earned my university degree here, I had a sort-of-career (or, at least a long-term job) working in public schools, mostly as a teacher-librarian. My kids grew up and went to school here. I say 'zed' and watch hockey. I've learned to appreciate curling.

I make a mean butter-tart -- and every Christmas make 'em by the dozens. The only passport I've ever had says I'm a Canadian citizen. This is the only country I vote in. I'm even a reasonably well-respected member of Canada's arts community and have works published in books like the one above.

Yet now, the country where I happened to be born (trust me, I had no say in the matter) seems to be coming after me and my kind, claiming we need to file taxes there. Because the fines they're threatening are hefty, it seems I have no choice but to comply. Comply. Hmm. Isn't that the word the Borg used when they sucked away an individual's consciousness?

This makes about as much sense to me as if the Pope were to phone and tell me I have to start going to Mass again and that I better start saying thousands of Hail Mary’s to make up for all those years I missed doing so.

It's hard to imagine that the U.S. would tolerate similar claims being made by Canada on people who went the other way. Can you say "Alex Trebek"?

So here I am feeling disgusted and disheartened. Some way to celebrate an anniversary, eh.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Worth it, eh?

The last of Canada's troops have left Afghanistan, with a sorry toll to tell. One diplomat and 158 soldiers, male and female, for a total of 159. Too many.

Earlier this year we learned that Veterans' offices in many parts of the country were being shut down, and already we're seeing the sad results. Two suicides in the past week -- deaths that should have been preventable with proper support services in place.

But rather than ramping up services to veterans, our brilliant government wants to celebrate the Afghan mission. Apparently they already did some hurry-up focus group work and determined that a ceremony observing the 12 years on duty in Afghanistan would not be desirable as part of Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa.

So instead, they've set May 9th as the day when the country will 'honour' these veterans.

But funds for this observance will be taken from operational budgets for the military -- sort of like giving someone a medal, then telling them they'll have to pay for it themselves. As Joyce Murray, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra has put it, it looks like "...prioritizing parades over people."

And where did the May 9th date come from? It's the Friday before Mother's Day, so maybe it's supposed to rub salt into the wounds of those mothers whose daughters and sons are dead or wounded or scarred. Or, maybe 5/9 is as close as they could get to a date with the number 159 in it.

And wait a minute, whatever happened to our role as Peacekeepers?

It's been a week for resignations. First, Jim Flaherty. Then today, Alison Redford. Maybe Steve could get off the plane long enough to do us a favour and follow their lead.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Green, green

This morning, I swear, green was in the air. The scent of soil and growth was so strong, I thought I could 'taste' green.

The robins were whizzing around the cedars, no doubt trying to find the best spot for this year's nest.

To top it off, by a stroke of good fortune, I caught the sound of Elizabeth May's voice on the radio. Now, how much greener could a day (and not yet St. Patrick's Day) be?

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's over

Last week meant another round of Canada Reads. I know I'm not the only one who looks forward to this annual debate. Face it, it's a tradition, and the place where I've discovered several books I'd never heard of before. Most notable of those would have to be Rockbound and lullabies for little criminals.

Since the theme for this year's competition was "One novel to change our nation," the book I figured would (and should) win was Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood. It's the second in her three-part dystopian trilogy with its predictions of GMO-ed just-about-everything, including people. I thought that might well be the best book to shake things up, maybe even get us thinking about getting off the oil teat sooner than later. And really, with Stephen Lewis defending it, I figured Flood was a shoo-in.

But it turned out to be the first book voted out -- gone at the end of Monday's discussion. I guess my choice was based too much on my particular biases -- some of the things I think we need to change to save ourselves -- like stopping all this mucking around, playing God with genes. 

Still, Wab Kinew did a masterful job of convincing the committee -- and listeners -- that Joseph Boyden's The Orenda was the book to bring about what we most need, reconciliation. And really, if a book could accomplish that, who could possibly complain. 


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Censored!

Canada's Freedom to Read Week takes place annually during the last week of February. Dates of this year's official observation ran from February 23rd through today.

The strangest part of writing about this is that no matter which route or back door I try to take, I'm unable to open the Freedom to Read website, thus no link embedded in this post (for future efforts, their site is generally available at freedomtoread.ca). Every time I go there -- even just trying to check on scheduled events -- I get an 'authentication required' box telling me to fill in a user name and password. Huh??

On Wednesday, I was part of a Freedom to Read event at the Gibsons (BC) public library. (I'm relieved to see that their link at least still exists.)

Readers at the event presented portions of books that have been challenged for various elements of their content. These ranged from a children's picture book, Maxine's Tree, to Margaret Laurence's Jest of God and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

As I always do at these events, I presented news items I'd gathered over the course of the year, including one reporting on "a slump in global media freedom." This article stated that, of the 197 countries and territories rated, Canada ranked 29th, a number that didn't give me much cause to cheer.

But to me, even worse than this is the fact that our government -- while not exactly banning materials -- is limiting (to put it kindly) access to materials in DFO libraries. Seven of these libraries across the country, many of them holding records going back over a century, are having their materials "consolidated," a move that has been labeled by many as a "disaster" and a "national tragedy."

As if that isn't enough, this country's scientists -- especially those who study environmental concerns -- are being prevented from speaking out or publishing.

So, it's not too surprising that winners of this year's Freedom to Read Award (presented by The Writers' Union of Canada) went to scientist Eric Marshall, namesake of the Eric Marshall Aquatic Research Library, one of those DFO libraries that's been shut down. Co-winner of the award was Chris Turner, author of the book, The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada.

It will be interesting to see what news next year's Freedom to Read Week will bring. It'll also be interesting to see when that website will again be open for anyone to view.