Saturday, January 21, 2017

Peace starts here

I'm doing my best to remind myself that mindful intention can be nearly as powerful as action, especially when it's combined with time devoted to a meditative practice. But even with such self-reminders, I'll admit to feeling a little guilty about not going into Vancouver today to be part of the Women's March there.

The closest I've come to being part of this weekend's social actions was participating in yesterday's virtual march in Surrey, the city where I live. The little guy in the photo above was one of the marchers in that. Again, intention, intention.

Especially if you've never tried meditating, here's a website that provides some solid guidance. Because it's by subscription, please know that I'm not necessarily promoting it, just saying it's a good place for learning.

But now I'm moving beyond intention (in my own small way) and heading out the door for a private march for peace in my neighbourhood.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Post-performance notes on an evening of song and light

All right, the photo is duller than most of the pics I post, but that doesn't mean that what I'm writing about was dull in any way. I'd have taken photos of the presentation if I'd been able, but cameras weren't allowed at the event.

Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre offers a program where certain of the plays they put on in the city circulate later at theatres in the suburbs. I've been a subscriber to this series in Surrey for several years, and last night's show was one of the best I have seen.

I'll admit, beyond knowing that the play had been written by Tomson Highway and that it was essentially a one-woman show, I knew almost nothing about The (Post)Mistress in advance.

The playwright's bio states that he grew up speaking Cree and Dene. So it wasn't too surprising to find the interplay of languages playing an important role in the script.

The main character, Marie-Louise Painchaud (indeed, that means 'hot bread'), who plays the all-knowing postmistress in a small Ontario town, spoke and sang in French, English and Cree. The French was easy enough for even me to understand, though English sub-titles appeared on a screen for both the Cree and the French. So yes, the show was wonderfully inclusive.

Beyond being inclusive, the message of the play was powerful. It probably sounds simplistic to say the focus of its themes was the importance of love, kindness and laughter, but that would be true.

The show seemed to be the quintessentially Canadian play -- from its use of language to its portrayal of life in a small town. How very appropriate for this, our country's 150th anniversary.

Marie-Louise was played by the remarkable Patricia Cano, who has a voice big enough to blast away anyone's winter blahs and a stage presence that nearly overfilled the theatre. She had all of us in gales of laughter and also drew us to tears (even hard-hearted moi, who rarely cries, even privately).

There are elements of the play that I can't give away; I can only encourage anyone who has the opportunity to see it to do so. Because truly, as the show ended, as I and the rest of the audience rose with applause, I could only feel that it had been an honour to be able to attend this amazing show.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Are they mating yet?"

Some things in life just don't make any sense. Today's stumper for me is the mystery of the mismatched lids-and-containers.

How is it that when they get washed and put on a shelf, top and bottom are intact, but when I go to tidy their chaos, more than half of them are loners?

I haven't heard any arguments coming from their shelf, so I can't blame this disconnect on domestic discord or messy divorces. As for my question at the top of this page, some may recognize it from the film version of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. However it is that this disconnect occurs, I'll admit to being puzzled. After all, I don't think anyone's been sneaking into the laundry room and stealing lonesome bits of plastic for the re-use phase of recycling. If they are, I wish they'd take the lids to go with all those missing bottoms.

And while I'm not exactly saying that there's a black hole behind the washer (though who knows, maybe there is), if there is, maybe it's a companion to the one behind the dryer that keeps chomping down those singleton socks.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Celebrating and Un-

Today is Orthodox Christmas, so it seemed like a good excuse for a bit more celebrating. I'd heard that the British call it 'Little Christmas,' but when I checked, it turns out that was yesterday, and that it sounds to be more of an Irish tradition than an English one. Today is also a friend's birthday so it was a good excuse to visit with her and have a celebratory cup of tea.

But along with celebrating went a bit of 'un-celebrating' as today was the day for packing up the ornaments and taking the wreaths down from the doors. Un-Christmasy, I suppose, but in my own homely way, practical.

Still, perhaps today's best celebrating was taking in a matinee at the local bijou, a place that's actually called the Rialto. This name proved to be more than simply nostalgically traditional, as the cinema featured within the film we saw had its own Rialto a scene which got an appreciative chuckle from the audience.

And yes, the celebratory fantasy was LaLa Land, a fitting title if ever there was one.

At first, I was hesitant, especially with the over-the-top (literally) opening scene (though it did present a nice alternative to road rage), but I soon fell under its charm (or maybe Ryan Gosling's).

Oh, it's corny, to be sure, with numbers reminiscent of Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. But it's also a lot more than that. There's a story, an actual story, a story that even has layers.

The music, much of it terrific jazz -- especially piano, the instrument I'm the biggest sucker for -- may well be the real star of the film, though Ryan Gosling's piano playing is certainly in the running.

The film's been praised like crazy and has also received nearly as many pans. I'm on the praise side and can't help but think that -- like so many things -- it's all about the timing.

Maybe this little movie, with its clever (even if not-quite Cole-Porterish) lyrics and peppy dancing is a dose of exactly what we need right now.

As 2016 was winding down, it seemed nearly every source was reporting doom and gloom, telling us what a dark time it is. Well, maybe it doesn't have to be. I'm all for un-dark.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A tradition of keeping non-traditional traditions

The end of the year -- a time for thought, evaluation, and maybe reconsideration of things that may no longer be of value.

This Christmas I've been quietly examining some of the holiday traditions we practise here in the 'tree fort' behind the cedars.

Bottom-line is I'm pretty much a traditionalist, even if some of those traditions are a bit non-traditional or at least not conventional ones.

As an example, our Christmas Eve tradition means that quite a few people -- family and friends -- come over for a big supper. The menu has remained fixed for decades: Swedish meatballs with egg noodles. And no, we're not Swedish. Nor is anyone in the circle of diners who gather around the table that night. There's a story behind the meatballs, of course, but because everyone in the vicinity of the table groans if I even begin to mention it, know that you too shall be spared this retelling.

The Christmas tradition includes way too many sweets, with baking starting days before the big event. Most of these are confections I make every year -- butter tarts, cinnamon cookies, chocolate-dipped apricots (that have been soaking in brandy since November).

There's even tradition with these, as the butter tart recipe was given to me by my former mother-in-law and the formula for the cookies came down from my Grampa Jim. He was a baker in a hospital and the surviving recipe is one that's been cut down from the mammoth proportions he needed for the hundreds he made. The apricots, though I've made them for many years, carry less mystique. I'm pretty sure I found those in a Woman's Day or Family Circle, magazines where I often took quiet refuge when my kids were growing up. (And I'll admit to some surprise that both of these publications still exist, perhaps providing inspiration or escape to some other harried mother.)

One tradition I've always tried to carry on (besides making a donation to the food bank) is to ensure that everyone in the family gets a toy for Christmas -- this despite the fact that all of us are now 'too old' for toys.

This year, my kids saw to it that this tradition applied to me, with both of them giving me a fantastic toy -- my very own Lego. It's one of those spectacular 'idea sets' -- the Yellow Submarine, complete with four Beatles and a Jeremy. It took a while to assemble the 550 or so pieces, but the time was so relaxing, I loved every minute. It helped that the parts were divided into five bags, complete with warning to not open the next bag until all the bits from the previous one had been used. Reviews of the set make it look like just about everyone who got one of these has had fun with it.

So, what did I learn from playing with Lego? Probably the most valuable part of the gift was that it forced me to 'play' at something with no consequence whatsoever. And maybe the best part of that experience was that looking at the finished submarine still makes me smile, maybe even makes my shoulders go down a little bit. So maybe the tradition I most want to add to my list of non-traditional traditions is the resolve to do something mindless more often, to remember the importance of play.
And with that I say, On to the new year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

On with the light!

Yesterday marked the Solstice -- the first official day of winter for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. For the rest of the planet, it's now officially summer, and time to crank up the barbie, not the furnace.

It also would have (should have) been Frank Zappa's 76th birthday. A friend recently sent me a link to a bizarre performance of Frank playing a bicycle as part of one of his fantastic compositions.

But even more bizarre than making music on a bicycle is the raft of 'fake news' we've seen of late. Yesterday's example was a widely circulated story that apparently had no scientific basis, claiming that this year's solstice would bring "the longest night in 500 years." While the hyperbolic nature of the headline should have been enough to raise caution flags, many sources (including plenty of supposedly trustworthy news sites), gave it a prominent spot in their coverage of the changing of the season. I can only hope the announcement that solar energy is now cheaper than wind power isn't another such made-up story.

I suppose 'fake news' is merely an offshoot of the term that's been deemed by the Oxford Dictionary as word of the year: post-truth. That word may indeed be all-too-relevant for the times in which we live, though I'm more inclined to go with Merriam-Webster's word for the year: surreal.

Who was it -- supposedly the ancient Chinese -- who gave us the curse: May you live in surreal times.

Or, if that doesn't sound quite right, let's choose a blessing instead: Let there be light -- and let there be solar power to provide it.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wintry thoughts


This was the view out the back door this morning. Fresh snow adding its weight to the snow that's been here for a week or so already. It's a far cry from the way the same space looks during the summer, verdant with all those salad fixin's.

In some ways, I suppose such a "Christmasy view" should put me into a bright and cheery holiday mood. In other ways, I'll admit, it depresses me. The negative effect comes when I think about the homeless, all too many of whom surround us. Where do they go when the weather's like this?

And even more depressing is the numbers that keep rolling in with just about every day's news, how many more overdoses can there be in a single night?

The fentanyl crisis has led me to a longer piece of writing -- one I'm still working on, one I'm hoping may find a broader audience than this little blog, one that might even help change things for the better. While words seem to be the only defence I have against any of these horrific situations, there are certainly too many days when words are nowhere near enough.

Yet I'm not sure what I can do beyond seeking words. And where to look for them, but to the garden -- even in winter -- for encouragement and inspiration.

Especially to the hardiest green, the kale. A lesson in survival, to be sure.