Life

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Beige Days Indeed

“We don’t like beige,” my artist and designer friend often insisted, before the word “pandemic” became vogue. 

“Beige. I think I’ll paint the ceiling beige,” my late husband used to joke, raising his voice a few octaves, mimicking what a bored wife might think, staring up during another romp on the “workbench”. (I never liked when guys called it that. Embarrassing and degrading.)

Synonyms for beige: boring, dull, uninspiring, blech, blah.

We don’t like beige! Ceilings, walls, or days! (That kinda rhymes.)

Yet here we are: locked down again, under stay-at-home orders for cripessakes, as yet another beige day melds unremarkably into the next.

Well, we could colour it up with some emotion, like this Globe and Mail headline: “First-wave lockdowns were marked by fear. Second wave, by frustration. And now: anger”

We’re certainly seeing red in Ontario due to vaccine distribution, with the provincial and federal governments doing a whole lotta finger-pointing over who’s to blame. On a recent CBC “Front Burner” podcast, Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician who cares for homeless and vulnerably housed individuals, recommended that vaccinating the sick and bringing vaccines to factory and communal work settings (in the absence of paid sick days) would certainly be a step in the right direction. Perhaps last month’s 600-person outbreak and subsequent shutdown at Amazon in Brampton could have been avoided?

And here’s a question: What ever happened to rapid testing? Just googled it, found a CBC article from April 6thby Nick Boisvert which says, “It’s unclear how many of the province’s 11 million rapid tests have been used so far.” Hmmm.

“To my knowledge, we’re hardly using them at all,” Dr. Camille Lemieux, chief of family medicine at University Health Network, says in the piece. “We’re in a scenario right now where, if there ever was a time to use them, it is now.”

While rapid Covid-19 tests are less accurate and more susceptible to false positives, Boisvert writes, “experts say rapid tests ultimately offer distinct advantages that could alter the trajectory of the pandemic if they are deployed widely and strategically. Crucially, the tests can be used to catch people who are either asymptomatic or displaying only mild symptoms.”

Since we’re struggling to deploy vaccines “widely and strategically”? It’s a pretty good bet that rapid testing will stay on the back burner, huh? Like our lives.

Chatting with my daughter over Easter weekend, as my iPhone dished up colourful family memories of us in places like Costa Rica and Disney World, she lamented, “We still want adventure in our lives!” We do! A trip to the grocery store? So beige! (At least it was the last time I went. My husband B, thankfully, does the grocery shopping. A hyper-organized, spread sheet fanatic, he’s much more adept at writing out the list in order of Sobeys’ layout.) 

Chatting over Zoom (Zoom fatigue anyone? Everyone?) with gfs a while ago, one of them, a single gal, who was not complaining, merely observing, said, “I’m just starting to wonder. Is this what the rest of my life looks like? Work from home. Meetings and work outs over Zoom. Social-distanced visits with neighbours in the hall way.”

Is that all there is? Like that old song by Peggy Lee. “Is that all there is, is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.”

Maybe dancing is the cure, the fix, the colour? If so, I’m lucky. I have dance in my life, in the form of instructing Jazzercise, three days a week “live” when things are sorta open and one day a week over Zoom when they’re not. It’s a balm, a salve. Not beige at all, especially when I wear hot pink.

On a “Ten Percent Happier” podcast, guest Dr. Lisa Feldman-Barrett, author of How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, suggested a couple of things you might find cheesy and/or hokey, but work if you’re willing. Practice gratitude. I started doing this years ago on my grief journey, listing three things I am grateful for as I lay me down to sleep. So powerful. Also this: practice awe. Say what? I haven’t tried this one yet, but apparently if you practice feeling “awe”, for say five minutes a day, over little things – like a cardinal, the root in the ground that tripped you, a stunning exploding tulip – you will experience more awe in your life. Like a child.

Please, share what you’re doing at your house to colour these bland-blech-blah beige days. Indeed, a meditation session here or there, a hot bath with Epsom salts, or a bike ride through the park, while all wonderful activities, completely miss the mark when it comes to expressing those adventurous desires burning in our hearts.

Wesbsite photo: My grandkids, dancing beige into bright pink last summer.

Beige Days Indeed 2021-04-08T17:00:04-04:00

Too Many People

The news we hear is full of grief for that future,
but the real news inside here
is there’s no news at all.
Rumi

What troubles you these days? As daylight hours lengthen, mercury rises and purple crocuses burst like joy through softening earth, there shouldn’t be much. 

I mean, here we are celebrating . . . honouring . . . observing that an entire year (I know, feels like five) has passed since coronavirus first rolled into to town. Problem is, now IT and all of IT’s “variant” buddies seem supremely jazzed to pandemic-party on, much like that contaminator friend we all recall from parties of old, foisting too much whisky and rye on everyone and singing “Bye bye Miss American pie” off-key and way too loud.

At least the US is kicking a** at shots in arms. Canada is . . . I dunno? Just kicking its own a**? Although, in recent good news, our PM says we’re set to receive one million Pfizer doses/week until early May. Hopefully there’s a cohesive plan to administer them.

And while we can all boast about surviving a pandemic, so far, one doesn’t spend a full year (that feels like five) becoming the best doomscroller on the planet then just STOP. I mean, there’s still bad stuff going on “out there”, yes? Political grievances. Racial disparity. Job and financial woes.

As a gf and I went on about this the other day, her husband simply shrugged, said, “Too many people.” Hmmm. Then he said, “You have Stingray music? It’s 999. The spa channel.” Hmmm again. I checked, though, and I see it’s 406 on Rogers and 950 on Hay Communications, so maybe he doesn’t have all the answers? 

I have Alexa, so I don’t need to know the channel. She’s so obedient. Aware of my doomscrolling-induced anxiety, I’ve often said throughout the past year, “Alexa, play that spa music.” And she says, “There’s a station for spa music on Amazon music.” And the soft, sweet sounds play. Ah. Then, when I tire of her, or need to focus, or am leaving the room, I say, “Alexa, stop.” If I were a non-emotional artificially intelligent disc like Alexa, my husband B could say to me, when he saw me doomscrolling, “Rita, stop.” It would be so easy. But I’m an emotional non-artificially intelligent human, so I cannot.

Getting back to “too many people”, when my mom was born in 1929? There were approximately two billion people on the planet. She grew up in Sydney, Cape Breton where her playground consisted of the coal bins that surrounded the houses then. “We would play inside them in the summer,” she wrote, making me cringe at how dirty that would be, to skin, clothes. “And jump off them in winter. We would play kick-the-can, hoister sale, skip, ball, glass alleys and marbles, you name it, plus sit on top of them, dream into the future. Those were great times for us kids, but I imagine our parents detested these surroundings.”

“Those were great times for us kids . . .” I recall Mom sharing childhood stories and lamenting, later in life, for all of us inheriting her beautiful blue planet, that there were “too many people”. “I was lucky,” she’d say. Despite growing up during a depression, to her, childhood was idyllic.

My own childhood, when there were three billion people on the planet? Idyllic too. I had loving parents who gave me freedom to roam, explore, make mistakes, mostly involving stitches. I had a bike with a banana seat, Brownies, dance lessons and dinner at 5 pm sharp. What more could I want?

You ask my kids about their childhood, when world population was five billion? They’ll say idyllic. They grew up in the country with lots of cousins around, chores to do. Freedom to roam, explore, make mistakes, mostly involving police officers. (Maybe that’s why my oldest daughter married one?)

Perhaps all of us raised in loving homes recall an idyllic childhood? At what age does idyll devolve into the song of the witches: “Double, double toil and trouble”?

There’s no denying it. There are eight billion people on the planet now, a population that has quadrupled in less than 100 years. So many people, of different shapes, sizes, colours, beliefs, speaking so many different languages. And they’re moving around the globe, filling in the open spaces, trying to find resources, room to roam, explore, make mistakes.

Last summer I read this great book, Biased, by a Black woman, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD. The thing I found fascinating was that Eberhardt was part way through her elementary school education when she moved from a Black community and school to a white community and school. As expected she was nervous, but do you know what became problematic for her? Because our brains work in a way that distinguishes the faces of “our people” and she’d only been exposed to Black people? She could not tell her new white friends apart. Try as she might, the hair, the faces, blended and, while memorizing the clothes they were wearing helped for a day? They’d inevitably wear something different the next day and she’d mess up the names.

It made me recall how I’d stare into my niece’s eyes when she was small, how I felt this strong, loving connection with her, and I’d think, She just naturally loves me. And why not? We’re the same. Pale skin, freckles, blue-green eyes, blond hair.

But were I Black, Brown or Red, staring with love into her face when she was a small child? Her brain would have mapped it all out, all the nooks and crannies and crinkles, smiling eyes, generous smile. And she would love me, know me, remember my name, regardless of skin colour.

There are too many people, all bumping into one another, wondering (or fearful) of others’ motives. Tolerance, kindness and curiosity will come in handy. As will regard for our dwindling resources and the health of our shared home.

Oh, and keep in mind, like Rumi wrote centuries ago, “the real news inside here is there’s no news at all.” Put down the phone often. And enjoy the soothing sounds of spa music often, on whatever channel or device you find it.

Website photo: Cool water colour figures by artist Hilary Slater, who also happens to be my sister-in-law and art teacher.

Too Many People 2021-03-15T17:48:01-04:00

The Crazy Train

Let’s face it, politics can be pretty darn boring. I know, having seen it first hand at the local level. I used to attend council meetings in the wee village of Thorndale so I could write about the latest goings-on for the Village News. Say that real fast? Village Snooze. Ha ha.

But then, along came “The Former Guy”, as President Biden has christened him. He sure spruced up snooze-fest politics, huh? Maybe you liked it, so you lapped it up? Reality TV! Maybe you couldn’t stand it, so you lapped it up? Why? My husband B says, “I could not go down that rabbit hole like you do.” I explain: “I just keep trying to understand how people could like it, vote for it, even think of him as a legitimate leader. Plus, that crazy train’s gotta crash sometime.”

No crash . . . yet! Though a recent ruling by the Supreme Court on The Former Guy’s taxes may mean, as many hilariously call it: “Orange is the new orange”! So, perhaps a slamming of bars as opposed to derailment? Like the chants he loves to promote at rallies: “Lock him up!”

I’ve learned a lot in my time down the rabbit hole. Mostly? Anyone paying attention saw this crazy train (which many conservatives willingly boarded) careening down the tracks decades ago:

*Perhaps former US Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, was the original train operator? You’ve no doubt heard these phrases: “the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists”. Yes, formerguyspeak, but Gingrich started it. He realized in the late 70s that to regain power from the Democrats, Republicans had to stop being so even-tempered, so much like them. Historian Julian Zelizer says of Gingrich, “He believed that the more confrontational, the more outlandish you were, the more the media would cover you and the more the media would replicate what you said about your opponent – whether it was true or not true.”

*Get Me Roger Stone on Netflix helps make sense of the crazy train’s path. Stone is a character, a “self-proclaimed dirty trickster”. In his early 20s, he worked on Richard Nixon’s campaign; in fact, he sports a large tattoo of Nixon’s face on his back. Watching this documentary, you see how his influence on The Former Guy led to such things as birtherism, the attack on Hillary Clinton’s emails. Wikipedia says, “He has described his modus operandi as ‘attack, attack, attack – never defend’ and ‘admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack’.” Sound familiar?

*Conservatives, drawn to controversy (as my sleuthing uncovered), pushed hard for the repeal of the fairness doctrine in the US, a policy requiring “honest, equitable, and balanced” news. They succeeded in 1987. This often gets the blame for the rise of partisan news sources, but keep in mind that it applied to broadcast licenses, not cable. AM talk radio grew from 7% in 1987 to 28% by 1995.

*Then along came Rush Limbaugh, a guy born for radio and eager to steer the conservative train. Limbaugh, who just died of lung cancer on February 17th, worked his first radio gig at just 16 and was fired from a job as a Rock and Roll DJ – a coveted goal of his – in his early 20s for . . . controversy. He landed at KFBK in Sacramento, California in ’84 and, as Daniel Henninger wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Ronald Reagan tore down this wall (the fairness doctrine) in 1987 . . . and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination.” For decades he spewed bile over the airwaves to tens of millions of American listeners. His personal quest? Fame. Money. He succeeded: he’s a household name and a 2016 radio contract was for $400 million over eight years. Memorable quotes: “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.” “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray (Martin Luther King Jr. assassin).” “Obama and Oprah are only successful because they’re Black.” Experts have observed that after decades of Limbaugh listening? When The Former Guy speaks in his weird broken rambling way? It’s a language Limbaugh listeners understand. 

*Roger Ailes, who died in 2017, helped steer Republican political careers of men like Nixon, Reagan and Bush Sr. He’s credited with the “Orchestra Pit Theory” of politics: “If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?” When asked by broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff: “. . . the notion of the candidate saying, ‘I want to run for President because I want to do something for this country,’ is crazy?” Ailes replied: “Suicide.”

*Of course, conservative TV news outlets like Fox News (Ailes was CEO until 2016 when he resigned over sexual harassment allegations), Newsmax and OAN, significantly fuel The Former Guy’s train. They have nary a bad word to say about him. Heavy on opinion, light on fact. And now heavy on a lawsuit; voting machine company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 Billion defamation suit against Fox, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell over what they call their ‘disinformation campaign’. Experts indicate they have a strong case, so might these so-called ‘news’ outlets be more committed to ‘news’ in the future?

*And what about social media? It’s had a major stake in the spreading of misinformation and conspiracy theories, yes? Add to that the algorithms that deliver you content based on prior behaviour? Voila! You get the current reality (or unreality) silos we exist in. Sure, many of us are on there for cute pet pics and just to keep in touch with friends, near and far. But many people, with extra time on their hands throughout the pandemic, got sucked into the outlandish (and historic, it seems) ideas of QAnon. From Wikipedia: “a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotted against . . .” The Former Guy. Jews were accused of such activity in Nazi Germany. Wow.

Want entertainment with your politics? DANGER! Look no further than the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol. Common sense screams: “The Former Guy has blood on his hands!” Yet six of the seven Republicans who voted to convict are facing serious blowback. Of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, Chairman of the Washington County GOP Dave Ball said this: “We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he’s doing.”

Have a conscience? Prefer to do the right thing? Think truth, science matter? Then you’re either a piss-poor conservative or a boring liberal. While they may have their flaws – God help us, we all do – I’m pretty happy (and frankly, bored most of the time) watching Biden and Trudeau quietly go about the work of governing without continuously and theatrically falling into orchestra pits.

The Crazy Train 2021-02-23T15:19:13-05:00

Movember Part 2

Email subscribers: Apologies for just tossing Part 1 of some funny fiction on you, without warning. Here’s Part 2. I thought we could all use a laugh right about now. It’s set pre-covid, when we were young and naive, maskless and vulnerable. Enjoy! Please comment!

Joe got to Cicerro’s early. Sat in the seat opposite the door so he could see Rose coming, watch her walk in. Chatted with Frank, the wiry and flamboyant head waiter.

“New woman?” Frank asked, raising his eyebrows, nodding to the empty chair.

“Yeah,” Joe said, with an odd catch in his voice. “Really new. Just met.”

So, they chatted about the menu, the specials, what the new woman he just met might like. 

Rose was late, rushing in around quarter after, all apologies and flushed face. And Frank must have been busy, because his usual thing was to take a lady’s coat, hang it in his special closet at the front, pull out the chair. Anyway, as Rose sat quickly, Joe noticed that she seemed to have her hair styled in a way that covered her face more than he recalled, and she was doing this thing he hadn’t noticed before, talking from behind her right hand, index finger curled around the top of her mouth. It made her hard to hear. And truth be told, Joe’s hearing wasn’t all that great, probably on account of all of the rock concerts he enjoyed in his youth. She said something and he said what?

“Shirt. Love that shirt.” He looked down, not recalling which one he had on. It was the deep red and gold one, with the big diamond pattern. As he was saying thanks, she was reaching over with her left hand, to touch the front of it. Their eyes met, he had a chance to briefly caress her hand and she said, “You have the best shirts.”

He shrugged. She slid out of her coat as she settled back down and he caught sight of the low-cutness of her top. Nice. It was a tad . . . distracting. He cleared his throat.

“You look nice,” he said. “You have the best tirts, I mean tots, I mean tops too.” Oh geez. He was blushing. Thank god for dark skin; maybe she won’t notice? The way her eyes lit up, he could tell she was smiling behind that finger, elbow propped just so on the table, back arched. Which made his gaze drop again, to that breath-taking creamy cleavage. Which he got away with for a while because Frank came by then and, picking up her napkin, placed it with a flourish across her lap.

“I will hang this madam?” he said, indicating her coat, and he pulled it from the back of her chair, laid it over his arm and launched into his menu spiel, describing the dishes in a way that made everything mouth-watering.

“Guess we don’t need these,” Joe said, handing Frank the menus, agreeing with Rose on shrimp cocktail and steak and a bottle of red, a zinfandel. 

“I always thought zinfandel was a rose,” Rose said from behind her finger.

“Ah, you have much to learn,” Joe said, a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He really wanted to ask about the finger-thing, but perhaps it would make sense at some point? When she took a sip of wine, maybe? As they watched Frank gracefully open the bottle, Joe noticed how she kept that hand there, either fingers splayed up, index finger across, or hand just scrunched there covering up the bottom half of her face. He took the sip Frank offered, said it was fine, Frank poured the rest and vanished. 

Was Rose purposely thrusting her chest toward him? He felt hot, burning up, so he unbuttoned his cuffs, rolled his sleeves. Looked up and caught Rose watching, her smoky eyes on his forearms. She looked up, seemed embarrassed, then swayed from side to side, said something he couldn’t hear.

“I beg your pardon?” Oh man. Was this the way it was going to be? What, what, what?

“This music.” With her left hand she pointed up, as people tend to do, whether speakers are up there or not. “Norah Jones. ‘Come Away With Me’. I love it. So – ”

And they said it at the same time: “Romantic!”

They laughed. “Cheesy huh?” she said.

“Not cheesy,” he said. “Not at all . . .” And he told her about Alicia. Rose was so interested, so open, despite the covered mouth, so easy to talk to. It was after the shrimp, though, that things started to deteriorate. And not the conversation. It was her face, which was growing redder and redder, starting at the chin line – which Joe could only see the left side of – and then rising, up and up. And her lips seemed to be swelling. He couldn’t see this, but could hear it in the way she talked. She fidgeted and fidgeted, holding her napkin to her face often, then finally excused herself and disappeared into the loo. For a very long time.

***

When Rose looked in the mirror, despite the poor lighting, she did not know whether to laugh, cry or vomit. Her stomach felt squeamish – from the shrimp? – but not enough to hurl. Blowfish. That’s what she looked like. If a blowfish has swollen-to-bursting red cheeks and lips, a pussy white moustache and beady eyes nestled within fire-y protruding lids. Omg!

What happened?! And what to do?

She ran water, then wet sheets of harsh brown paper towel and placed them over her face. Ah. Stumbled to the toilet, plunked the cover down, sat, cried. Peeled the paper off, looked in the mirror again. Did a quick review of facial events as she leaned on the sink.

The super-restorative-radiance cream Deni had been so tenderly putting on her red-purple moustache had a scent. And it was wonderful. Rose. How ironic was that? Rose, allergic to roses? All these years and who knew? She had no idea the make or ingredients of the “ultimate coverage 24-hour foundation” Deni had generously slathered on her face tonight, but for sure, she must be allergic to that too. And the lips? The shrimp? How long had it been since she’d had shrimp? She was allergic to shrimp now?

Whatever the hell was going on with her face it was beyond repair. For tonight, and perhaps many nights to come. And as much fun as she’d been having with Joe, as tingly as she felt about getting to know him better on many levels, the tingliness of her face overpowered everything. Her impulse to bolt – like at Starbucks two days ago, like when Glen was into all the hijinks that led to his death years ago, like when CJ passed before him, like . . . when Gregory, scrawny, nerdy Gregory from high school, sat almost where Joe was sitting right now. Waiting for her to return to the table. She should have said no to that date. But she hadn’t wanted to hurt his feelings. Then? After she’d tolerated their stilted conversation and his halitosis for over an hour, while also ravenously devouring filet mignon cooked to perfection and a loaded baked potato . . . hmmm. Such extreme feelings. 

Anyway. It was from this very bathroom she’d escaped and she’d do it again goddamn it! She checked the window. Same. But . . . her body had changed, considerably, since 17. Would she fit through? She must. Returning to the table with blowfish face was not an option. 

She unlocked the double-hung window, then struggled sliding it up. It was tight in the opening and it took some forcing, up, down, up, down, to get it to the top. No screen, thankfully. Rose figured she’d just text Joe, when she was safely outside, say sorry, so sick, (puke emoji?) didn’t want to bother you, snuck out the back. Thx for dins. 

As she eased her barely-covered-up breasts out through the window and the cool November night made her nipples tingle, she remembered her coat, hanging in Frank’s closet. Dang! She’d come back tomorrow night for it. And then Rose just about, almost, let’s say she came very close to clearing her womanly hips through the opening when the interesting thing about a double-hung window, one she’d not had to notice at 17 when she had the agility of a track star, became so obvious that, well, it came down and almost bit her in the ass. In her grappling to slide through she’d reached her left hand up for leverage and pulled the top half of the window – which must have loosened downward when she forced the bottom half up – right down. Slam! It had wedged above her left hip, effectively trapping her. Ouch. And, although neither arm was caught in the window, her left arm was at a most unhelpful angle and her right hand was tangled in the straps of her purse, which was dangling inside the bathroom along with the lower half of her body.

It was, to say the least, an awkward position to find oneself in. And it was about then, as she wriggled and jiggled like an overturned turtle, trying to loosen the window, the purse straps, that she remembered she was wearing a dress, it was bunched up around her waist and she’d done her habitual thing of going commando. At least she hadn’t used sandpaper down there. Ha ha.

As there was nothing else to do, Rose looked around. The night was navy and still. Despite the lights from the nearby restaurants and shops, she could see a few stars and a stunning full moon, spooking-looking behind some slender, swirling clouds. If only someone would walk by. Did she want someone to walk by? Would she be embarrassed or grateful? Both. Oh those extreme feelings.

She heard muffled knocking. A voice. Soft at first, then louder.

“Hey Rose! You ok in there?” Joe’s voice.

Instinct had her flailing about again. One last-ditch effort to escape. But no.

“Um. A bit of a problem in here.”

Nothing. With the inside window fully up and the outside window mostly down, sound was not travelling well. Her face throbbed. And the pressure on her right hip and hand was rendering them numb. What to do? Scream?

“HELP!!!”

It seemed like forever, but maybe it was just several seconds? She had time to think:  Joe will find me like this? He’ll see way too much of me. He’ll think I’m nuts. He’ll never want to see me again. Please! Let me out!

The door burst open and there he was, eyes wide, taking in the spectacle. As their eyes met, Rose managed a shrug with her left shoulder and turned her head away and down, so her hair would cover her face while she waited for his response.

***

Joe figured Rose must be sick. And as he’d waited at the table, testing a few bites of the aromatic and tender steak, at first patient, then impatient, then worried, he’d expected to hear her say just that when he finally decided to knock on the bathroom door. Then? When she’d yelled help? And he quickly dug out his Swiss army knife, found an appropriate tool, managed to jiggle the lock free? Her voice had such a far away, echo-y sound, he figured he’d find her hunched over the toilet bowl, perhaps needing medical help?

Stuck in the window? Not a chance in hell did he think that’s what he’d find. Also? The view.

“Ah. A full moon tonight,” he joked, venturing inside. Then, acknowledging her attempted escape: “Was it the conversation? The wine? The food?”

As he got closer, he realized she probably couldn’t hear him that well. And she looked completely and thoroughly trapped. Interesting. Should he set her free? Or just go back and finish that lovely meal? She peeked over her left shoulder then, eyes pleading.

“Bit of a situation,” he said, hooking his fingers under the window, forcing it up, helping her back into the bathroom. He was about to say something smart, like, “Shall I help you continue on your way, out this fine window?” But then, as she straightened her dress, stretched her body out, her back, her hip, her hands, he caught sight of her face. He put his right hand under her chin, said, “What? What happened? You ok?”

She hung her head. Shook it. Said, “You wanna?” while pointing toward the door. He led her back to the table. And when Frank approached, with a questioning look on his face, Joe shooed him away. And she explained it all, from the sandpaper to the salve to the foundation to the suspicion about the shrimp.

“Oh. And here,” she said, pulling his freshly laundered hanky from her bag, extending it across the table.

“You know it was chocolate on your lip the other day, right?” He said. “You really think I could rub facial hairs off with this?” He took the hanky, held it up, as she shook her head.

“You made this, um, kind of, face of disgust.”

“I had the sun in my eyes.”

“Yeah. Then, I got, ah, inspecting my face when I got home, saw things in the mirror I hadn’t noticed before I left.”

Joe reached over then, gently touched her swollen face. “Rose. Before you got messing with it? The most beautiful face. And wow, is it hot! Burning. Wait there.” And he went back to the bathroom, ran cold water on his handkerchief, returned to the table. “Here.”

She held it to her face, breathed a sigh of relief.

“Let’s get you home,” Joe said. He signaled to Frank for the bill and her coat and within minutes gave Rose the escape into the cool night she’d been angling so desperately for.

“How about I drive you home in your car, then I’ll come back for mine later,” he said.

“Sure,” she said, fishing her keys out of her bag, leading him in the direction of her car.

Then? Joe took to laughing. And his laugh was deep and warm and hearty, making him stop in his tracks, wipe his eyes even. And Rose smirked, as best as she could with those blowfish lips.

“Sandpaper?” he said. “Did you use a – ”And Rose crossed her arms. 

“Nevermind,” he said, chuckling. “I won’t ask if you used a belt sander.” He swatted her bum playfully, then put his arm around her as they took up walking again. “Ah, look. Another full moon.”

Although it hurt, Rose had to laugh too. “So much great scenery tonight, huh? Mr. Shirts.” 

And Joe said, lips close to her ear, his deep voice reverberating in the most pleasant way, “You’ve got it Ms., um, Tops . . . and Bottoms.” Then, “Or is that Mr.? You know.” And he tapped his own moustache area so as not to irritate hers any further.

“I deserve that. Sure. But once again. Mom was right.”

“About?”

“Getting the guy before the facial hair!”

Movember Part 2 2021-02-04T15:57:55-05:00

Movember Part 1

“Hey Rosie,” Deni yelled from the door, waving a bright blue rectangular thing, a book likely. Bells jingled, then the door slammed. Rose, in the back by the dressing room, held an immaculate butter-cream Danier leather jacket aloft, covering the lower half of her face.

“Hey,” she said. Softly. Not her normal boisterous self.

“Look what just came in!” Deni hollered, ignoring Rose’s tone. She continued, “It’s a fairly new one by that novelist you love. Jennifer Weiner.” She swiftly covered the small space on her short efficient legs, but as she got close to Rose, Rose, in her curiosity about the book, had let the jacket slip a smidge, affording Deni a better look at Rose’s upper lip. Deni staggered back a couple of steps, hit the clothing rack behind her. Then, as the sweaters swayed, she said, “Whoa! What the f –”

Rose was shaking her head, tears stinging her eyes, left hand hovering over a massive red and purple . . . moustache?!

“Don’t ask!” Rose wailed, waving her hand.

Deni, through snorting laughter, said, “Want me to sponsor you?”

“Huh?”

That was Rosie, not always up on the date, time, daily news. But given her current state? Deni should have let it go. Instead, she made a grand gesture with her left arm, gracefully tapped her Fitbit with her right index finger, said, “November 3rd. You working on your stache? Movember? It’s a charity, you know, for – ” 

“Stop!” Rose said, turning her left hand around, into a stop sign. “I know. Movember. Ugh! It’s not funny! Here.” She thrust the jacket at Deni. “Look what just came in. In your size.” Deni handed Rose the book, shoved her glasses up her nose.

All Fall Down,” Rose said, reading the cover. “Well this.” She pointed the area under her chin. “This is all falling down! This.” She pointed to her lip, then waggled her head from side to side, a habit that made her pale hair fly. “I wish this would all fall off!” Then, she pulled a strand of hair across, under her nose. “Better?”

“At least you still have your sense of humour.” Deni smiled. She tucked the jacket under her left armpit, said, “That is one soft jacket. But that? Wow.” She pulled her glasses off, peered closer, as Rose flinched back. “That doesn’t look so soft, Rosie. What the hell happened? You iron it? Curling your lip too much? Ha!” Deni tucked her glasses over the neck of her sweater, snapped her fingers. “I know! In your love-starved loneliness you spent the night on the floor French-kissing a rug, didn’t you?”

You must appreciate Rose’s face. Although it’s been around a while, 50-some years, it is so smooth. Like the texture of the jacket crushed under Deni’s pit. And the complexion? Like something you’d see under a fancy parasol in an English country garden. When upset? Well, those tender kind of faces produce stinging red Rorschach-like blotches on cheeks. And there they were, blooming like hellfire under Deni’s steady gaze as Rose struggled to decide about explaining what the hell happened.

A giant sigh, then, “Date. Yesterday afternoon,” she said.

“Oh yeah,” Deni said. “Come. Let’s lean.” And Deni led her gently to the front, to the cash counter where they could discuss in relative comfort, one on each side. Rose took her place behind the counter and set the book on it. Deni set the baby soft jacket on top, looked up, then sucked her breath in as she realized the red-purple ill-shaped moustache looked way worse in the bright sunlight streaming through the front window.

“Joe? Was his name Joe?” Deni asked. And then she looked out, into the parking lot. Quiet. Her part time staffer, a high school student, was covering her store. “Uh. Rosie? What have you been telling the customers? About – ”

“Slow day, thank god. It’s a rash, of course. I have a lot of foundation on, but – ” She shrugged.

“I have something that will work better. Anyway. What’s Joe like? Handsome? Tall? Funny?”

The head-waggle again. “Nervous?”

“Geez Rosie. We’re all nervous, going on first dates. Cripes.”

“Italian background. Tall. Salt and pepper hair. He has hair! Warm brown eyes, with those crinkles at the sides. Well-dressed. He was wearing this fantastic paisley dress shirt, and oh, it was so colourful! Purple and pink and yellow, and you know how when you roll up the cuffs and there’s like a check pattern inside?”

Deni stared back, blankly. 

Rose waved it off, drifted back to the Starbucks with Joe, sitting in the window watching the world go by. Imagining how that shirt must feel. It looked like a zillion thread counts. Was it wrong to fantasize about touching when she should have been hearing? He was talking about his work. Finance. No surprise there. What the “other” London – London, Ontario, Canada – was known for. Conservative city. 

“Kids?” Deni was asking.

“Huh? No. He and his first wife never got around – ”

“First wife? There’s more?”

“I don’t think so. Just relationships.”

“Hobbies?”

“He’s a foodie.”

“Ah. That bodes well for salad girl, huh?”

Rose shrugged, looked down. “I don’t seem to be starving . . .”

“So?” Deni pointed to her own upper lip.

“Yeah. Well, there we were, getting to know one another, you know, 25,000 questions and he goes and does just that.”

“What?”

“Touches his upper lip. Points. I think I have latte on my lip and I wipe it, but it must have been the way I was sitting in the late afternoon sun, you know and the damn blond hairs there . . .”

“No?! He says you have a moustache? Rosie!”

“Well, not in so many words.”

“Rosie. Come on. You get things wrong all the time. What do you mean – ”

“I don’t get things wrong all the time!”

“Rosie. Admit it. A lot of the time.”

That sits between them for a time.

Rose, again, pictures Starbucks, the sunny glow, an intimate moment, captured, lost. “He pulled out the softest white cotton handkerchief. Deni. What man carries a handkerchief these days?”

“I know no man who does that.”

“And he kind of winced and wiped.”

“But he said nothing about a moustache?”

“He didn’t have to. He winced.” Rose made an ugly face, demonstrating, then said, “Ouch,” wincing from the pain it caused her upper lip.

“You’re reading too much into it Rosie. What were you eating? Maybe you had food on your lip?”

“Oh. One of those amazing chocolate pretzels. We were sharing.”

“So you had chocolate on your lip. And because of that? You now have a nasty red-purple moustache that makes you look like a blond Tom Sellick? But with longer hair?”

“I’d read in a magazine, if you . . .”

“If you what?”

“Sandpaper.”

“No?! Rosie! For cripessake. You use the coarsest sandpaper known to mankind?!”

“No.” Rosie backed up, against the jewellery, trying to get as far away from Deni as possible. As far away from herself.

“Rosie. Ever think about taking an old razor and just shaving your face from time to time? That’s what I do.”

Rosie leaned over the counter then, squinted at Deni’s face. Grabbed her chin. Turned her face side to side in the sunlight. “That looks good Deni. But really. You have facial hair? I’ve never noticed.”

“Because I shave it!”

“Yeah, well you know we’re both too pale for laser. And I don’t know about you, but waxing, threading? Gives me ingrowns . . .”

Deni nodded. “Shave. Couple times a week. Old razor. So you don’t, you know, cut yourself, give it away.” She shrugged.

Rosie slid down onto her stool. Moaned, “What am I gonna do?”

“Don’t fret. It’ll heal. You’d be surprised at how fast the face heals.” Deni wanted to reassure her friend, say it wasn’t that bad. But it looked pretty bad.

“It’s the mouth.”

“Huh?”

“The mouth heals fast. The upper lip?”

Deni rested her elbows on the counter. Said, “So, you gonna see Joe again?”

Rosie scrunched up her face, nodded. “I have to give the damn handkerchief back.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow night? He’s taking me to dinner.”

Deni straightened up, shook her head emphatically. “No. Rosie. That? That will not be healed by tomorrow night.”

“You said you had something that might help?”

“A salve. I’ll bring it over tonight.”

“And a cover-up?”

“Yeah. I’ll fix you up. No worries, hon.” They stared at each other for a moment. Rose’s eyes were all watery. “You guys kiss?”

Rose shook her head. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore. She was embarrassed, it hurt to smile. And she didn’t want her friend staring at her upper lip anymore. She thrust the jacket at her, said, “Enough. Take this. In payment for the book. It will look great on you.”

Deni protested. “Where will I wear it? And this is worth way more than the book.”

“Go on, doll. Wear it on your next first date.”

Rose shooed her away. Deni said over her shoulder, “Shoulda kissed him. Let him lick the chocolate off. And that – ” she pointed – “would never have happened!”

***

The next day, when Joe’s 4 o’clock left around 4:45, he threw on his coat to take Tuk-Tuk for a walk. 

“Come on, boy,” he said, jolting Tuk-Tuk awake from his sunlit perch on the back of the couch. He looked up at Joe, big brown eyes registering confusion, dream drool sliding from one side of his smushed-up mouth. Then, he was all action and excitement, flying from the couch, nails clicking on the hardwood, brindle bum wiggling. Joe clipped the leash on and they exploded out the door, Tuk-Tuk instantly at the nearest shrub, lifting, marking.

Joe had never had a dog before and he liked to joke that he didn’t really have one now. Tuk-Tuk, the runt of a Boston Terrier litter and unable to tip the scales beyond eight pounds, was more cat than dog. He’d picked him out for his last girlfriend, Alicia. Twenty-five years his junior, there were some, ah, obvious differences between them that, let’s say, got more obvious as time wore on. In Joe’s mind, the dog would halt discussions of a vasectomy reversal (he’d actually contemplated lying, that he’d never been snipped, maybe suggest she was the reason they weren’t getting pregnant, but he’s too honest and that would be too cruel), but then he saw how lousy she was at looking after a cat-dog as lazy as Tuk-Tuk. And? The baby talk continued, so . . . he knew the time had come to say, “Tuk-Tuk stays with me. Ciao Alicia.”

It didn’t actually go that easy. Does it ever? Emotions and all. Then there were financial entanglements to untangle. She was . . . a tad possessive. Okay. It did border on Fatal Attraction, not that she’d gotten any ideas from the film; made before she was born, it was unlikely she’d seen it.

As Joe pulled Tuk-Tuk from another marking spot, he wondered how he’d ever thought he and Alicia could ever work. In the long term. It was heady stuff at first, sure. Attracting a much younger, hot girl. But that was it! She was a girl. And he was a man.

He’d cook these amazing meals for “date night” and she’d sit there, on her phone, not helping set the table, pour the wine, light the candles, clear the dishes after. He’d play something like Van Morrison’s Avalon Sunset– such sexy, romantic music despite the religious undertones – and she’d be like, what about the Biebs, Shawn Mendes? Geez.

A world apart. Now, Rose? He didn’t know yet, too soon to know, but what a classy woman! The hair, the clothes, that porcelain face! Those green eyes. Deep. Still. Pond-like. But vulnerable too. He was asking her about her past. A husband? Kids? And there was a flash, across her face. Anger? Loss? And Joe had the sun in his eyes, so bright and the dark chocolate had stuck to her upper lip and he pulled out his handkerchief to wipe it off. She’d put her hands, warm and gentle, around his. Then? She’d looked at her watch, said she had to go, said she’d launder the hanky, get it back to him. “Thanks a lot for the latte.” A lot a latte and bam. Gone.

He texted her that night. It was so nice to meet you. How about dinner sometime?

And she, not seeming all that eager, texted back late the next morning. Sure.

Hmmm. Woman of few words? Cicerro’s? Tomorrow night? 7?

Rose (late afternoon): That’s pretty soon.

Joe: Need that hanky back ASAP. My favourite. Now that you’ve touched it (blushing face emoji)

Joe (evening, wondering if he was too forward, unable to wait): And Wednesday is perfect for date night, yes (wink emoji)

Rose: Ok. Cya there.

Hmmm. No excitement really. And no emojis. What did it mean that he was more emoji than her? Joe stooped and scooped and turned Tuk-Tuk for home.

Movember Part 1 2021-02-03T15:49:20-05:00

Do No Harm

Perhaps it’s time we ALL took the Hippocratic Oath? The language, it turns out, actually comes from another of Hippocrates’ works, Of the Epidemics:

“The physician must be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future – must mediate these things, and have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm.”

Sure, this is a physicians’ oath, and we’re not all physicians. (I faint at the sight of blood.) But we’ve been feeling, and dealing with, and talking about dis-ease upon the land, in its various forms, for months – raging pandemic, racial reckoning, economic strife, climate crisis. And now? South of the Canadian border? A violent attempted overthrow of government?!?!

Perhaps a wee reminder to “do good” as opposed to “harm” might be timely?

“(T)o tell the antecedents (previous events), know the present, and foretell the future . . .”

Well, based on antecedents, the recent insurrection at the US Capitol, while shocking, was not all that surprising was it? To use a word the inciter of the violence often employed on his now defunct Twitter account: “sad”. Immensely sad.

It’s not my country, I know. But it is my husband B’s country. And it’s right there, only two hours’ driving distance away. Not that I’ve been there lately. To me, the US has always felt like Canada’s bodacious big brother. So, I cried when Biden spoke last Wednesday afternoon.

At first, it all just seemed kind of wacky, as Jamie Davis Smith described in Huffpost, “the Capitol looked more like the scene of a frat party than the seat of the United States Congress”. “Fired up by the Great Orator,” wrote Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic, “they charged their way into the Capitol building, which turned out to be as heavily fortified as a slice of angel food cake”. Wow. Tweeting a pic of “Viking guy” and others, @YousefMunayyer explained it thus: “We spend $750 billion annually on ‘defense’ and the center of American government fell in two hours to the duck dynasty and the guy in the chewbacca bikini”

In the aftermath, extremely violent videos (that I can’t watch) have surfaced, we know five people died (there’s not much mention of it but another police officer who attended the uprising died of suicide on the weekend, making it six) and we’ve had time to consider what it must have been like for all those hiding under desks and chairs for several hours not knowing how it would end.

It was well-planned, broadcast over various social media platforms for any individual to see, let alone intelligence. Hell, now looking at the website the Trump administration had created after the November election called wildprotest.com, what did law enforcement honestly expect? A “wild protest” should have been as blatant as the nose on 45’s orange face and the cheap hair dye we saw run down his shady lawyer’s cheeks.

They had bombs, guns, zip-ties and even a noose for godsakes! (On one of my rabbithole doomscrolling romps after the storming of the Capitol I came across a woman’s post that called for, in all seriousness, the return to some good old-fashioned hangings in the public square, insisting this is what’s needed, this will fix things.) It’s truly a wonder there was not more damage to life and property.

And is there more violence to come? I’ll be honest. I’m with Speaker Pelosi on this one. The nuke codes?! I asked B: “Would he, you know, because he’s feeling more isolated, want to end it all, take us with him?”

B was like, “No. Narcissists don’t kill themselves.”

I was like, “Yeah, I know. They think they’re God and all, above dying,” as I googled it and found this: “NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is associated with greater risk of suicide death . . .” Cripes!

I was calmed by initial reports of Pelosi’s chat with Jt Chief Milley, that although the president has ultimate authority, many others are involved in the process, others that would not perform an illegal command, but on further investigation? There seems to be some snark that Pelosi stuck her nose in and “they cannot remove the president from the chain of command”. Geez.

Of note: you can cram a Supreme Court justice through in eight days, but you cannot remove a deranged president in 14.

Okay. I know. Some, many even – according to the latest polls 45% of Republicans – believe the assault on the Capitol was justified. They believe the election was stolen. They believe they will lose their country to socialism. I don’t know how you convince people who believe this otherwise.

Maybe check your news sources? Maybe investigate 45’s lies, pilled up like the bodies of Americans dead from coronavirus? (eg, In response to his inflammatory speech last Wednesday, he of course did not take any responsibility, pathologically calling it “totally appropriate”.) Idk, maybe ask why there was only fraud in the states he lost? Maybe ask, does he even want the job? He’s done nothing but golf and lose election fraud court cases (61) since the election.

I listened to a great podcast on Ten Percent Happier with Dan Brown the other day. The guest was author and mindfulness master Jon Kabat-Zinn. Referring to the “body politic”, he pointed out this profound thing. What if, say, your heart did not care for your liver, maybe the way it was doing things, the colour of its cells perhaps? Would you want your heart and liver duking it out for control of your body?

Somehow, some way, some day, humans MUST find a nonviolent way to get along.

Website photo: The serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. Who couldn’t use a little healing right now?

 

Do No Harm 2021-01-12T15:22:31-05:00

When I’m Feeling Sad

Do you feel sad too? I generally feel a bit let down this time of year. You know, the excitement of Xmas is done, the pressure of the New Year has begun. And the days are short, dark, and dull. Then, add to this year? An Invisible Criminal lurking on bedknobs and broomsticks, while also creepily MUTATING!

If the days under another lockdown (here in Ontario anyway) have you feeling like you’re Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, you could check out that new movie on Prime, Palm Springs. A similar concept, with a wallop of raunch, it’s a fun time mindbender that will help you confirm that, yes, days are actually passing, we are all growing older and this is a good thing. And we’ve so much to look forward to: a swift jab in the arm, the end of this lockdown, the start of another one perhaps, spring, summer . . .

I call it an “Invisible Criminal” because I was chatting with my daughter out west recently and she said one of their friends is so over it, if anyone mentions the name of the pandemic we’re in, he’s out of there. Perhaps you feel the same way?

Well, it is invisible, making it hard to believe in, kind of like God I suppose. While some may unfortunately have first- or secondhand experience with it, the rest of us need to take a leap of faith? Or just believe in science, a weirdly challenging concept these days, it seems.

And it is also criminal, in how it’s stealing our collective sanity.

I’m feeling so sad, that like the song goes, I’ve decided to “simply remember my favourite things” so I possibly won’t feel so bad.

But first: a huge THANK YOU to all the frontline workers who’ve been dealing with this monster for months now, while also being weighed down with enough PPE to sink a politician if thrown overboard with one. (But, please, wrap that PPE all around her/him on the way down and save yourself!) If anyone should be allowed to gripe about it? It’s you.

Alas, I have gripes too, “dog bites”and “bee stings” that must be gotten out of the way to get to “my favourite things”:

*People have suffered, a lot, physically and financially (mentally too). People have died.

*So many things are CLOSED: community & fitness centres, arenas, spas, hairdressers, restaurants, retail stores, etc. (And will they survive?)

*So many Canadian politicians thought this was just the most hunky dory time (despite provincial lockdowns recommending only “essential” travel) to take exotic vacations, to places like St. Barts, Hawaii and Mexico. “Obviously, I made a significant error in judgment,” said Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips as he resigned upon his return from the Caribbean. Well, Mr. Phillips? You are correctamundo, resignation accepted.

*Many other Canadians are travelling too: south, west, abroad. Will we be able to get things under control if this continues?

*A pandemic divides – spiritually, mentally, physically.

*A pandemic is SSLLLOOOOWWWWW. Will . . . it . . . ever . . . be . . . over?

*Why aren’t numbers reported in a way that would be more helpful, like hospitalization and infection rates? I can usually find these numbers, but it takes a lot of digging.

*I miss hugging people.

*I don’t really “get” or care for the anti-mask movement.

“My favourite things” about our Invisible Criminal:

*There’s so much time to: workout regularly (solo or on Zoom!), read, learn a new skill like water colour painting, hang out at the cottage, take long walks, clean cupboards and closets, and stream shows with great scenery so I can pretend I’m travelling.

*If you want to? You can wear grubs, pj’s even, and no make-up, for days on end.

*I happen to live with an extraordinary chef, so I’ve been eating well. (If it were up to me? I’d be pretty tired of PB & J sandwiches by now.)

*I marvel at the resilience of humans! (Most of us) wearing masks like we’ve been doing it forever. And what about the musicians out there? They’ve been livestreaming, performing at drive-ins, and also on driveways (we met some of our neighbours this way). In our family? Faced with not being able to celebrate Xmas together? We plunked a portable fireplace in my daughter’s backyard, my nephew started a roaring fire (although he’s a man now, nineteen, he did show up the older men in attendance) and we sat around with hot chocolate, chatting away while the grandkids ran around in the snow. It occurred to me that, here I am 62 and I have NEVER sat out by a fire in winter. Why not? What a great new tradition!

Regardless of the “dog bites” and “bee stings” of our Invisible Criminal, I’m sure you’ve found your own creative ways to enjoy your family and friends. Now we just have to keep it up for another few days, weeks, months . . .

When I’m Feeling Sad 2021-01-04T19:21:33-05:00

We’ve Got Eachother

I don’t know where we’re going
But if the going gets rough
We’ve got Eachother
And for now, that’s enough

Do we ever truly know where we’re going? We plot and plan, but … sh*t happens, huh? Unprecedented sh*t. That word – unprecedented – came up so much in the last year, it lost its shine, its wow factor. In 2020? Unprecedented sh*t has been happening all the time!

The above lyrics are the chorus of an evocative song written by Grace Potter in the early days of the pandemic. “We may not all be affected in the same ways,” says Potter, “but we are all going through this pandemic as a human race. It is incredibly humbling. It’s invited me to really take account of the things that matter most, which aren’t things at all … they’re people.”

Good gratitudinal words to usher in this unprecedented Holiday Season, yes? It’s not the stuff, the things, it’s never been the things. It’s the people! It’s always been the people that mattered most. And our people circles keep getting smaller. There are people, loved ones, that we long to see, but it’s either been mandated (or will be) that we not see them, or they live too far away, the travel is too challenging. So we visit on Zoom – at least we have the technology! – and imagine our eyes locking again, the feel of our hug, hearts touching hearts, beating together as one. Ah.

And while we are all affected in different ways by this pandemic, as Potter notes, did you not have a moment early on in the year, a realization, of both the fragility and the sheer awesomeness of being one of billions of people on the planet coming to terms with this common threat? A deep understanding of spiritual connectedness at a time when physical connectedness suddenly posed such grave danger?

We do have Eachother, from six feet apart with masks on and often plexi-glass between us and the cleanest, rawest hands that cannot shake. Humbling indeed.

Tis a good time, perhaps, to go for a walk in the deep dark woods and think about how trees, stationary and seemingly mute, stay connected. I listened to a fabulous podcast the other day, from The Daily, about “The Social Life of Forests”. Canadian researcher Suzanne Simard, has spent almost three decades studying old growth forests, and, as Ferris Jabr writes, “By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest – even trees of different species.”

Her findings blast holes in Charles Darwin’s emphasis on the individual, the notion that survival of a species is inherently competitive. Simard’s doctoral thesis proves how Douglas fir help out paper birch in the forests of British Columbia. Just knowing that makes me want to be way more community-minded and way less focused on me.

Also? Have you ever spun it, considered what trees think of you and your presence in their deep dark woods? Simard points out how trees sense plants and animals that are nearby and alter their behaviour accordingly, so why not when humans are tromping around under them? Writes Jabr, “The gnashing of mandibles of an insect might prompt the production of chemical defenses, for example. Some studies have even suggested that plant roots grow toward the sound of running water and that certain flowering plants sweeten their nectar when they detect a bee’s wing beats.”

Wow. Mind blown. We are connected, not only to Eachother, but to every living thing on the planet. Much gratitude, much respect. An aha moment and, for me anyway, an easing, a lifting of the weight of individuality and a relaxing into all that is.

Western culture raises us up to be competitive, individualistic. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, right? It’s also friggin exhausting. Instead of trying to explain my place in the world, my purpose, I’ve decided “I’m just a girl raised by trees”. It’s so very freeing! In the last blog Rights and Responsibility, I mentioned the book Braiding Sweetgrass, how the author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, shares an indigenous view of people and their place among the various species of the world. It’s a kinder, gentler worldview, with generous doses of gratitude and reciprocity.

Kimmerer talks about meeting a man who described himself thus: “I’m just a boy raised by a river”. Did he grow up beside a river? Did the river raise him? I suspect a dollop of both.

Me? I grew up in the Forest City, with trees all around and a huge appreciation of forest walks. When I’ve been down, trees have lifted my spirits. And they’ve certainly taught me a thing or two.

Grace. Joy. Cooperation. Freedom of expression. Beauty. Adaptation to change.

Happy Christmas everyone! We’ve got Eachother, if not physically, then spiritually. On Zoom. Covered up inside (unless we’re in our little bubble). And out, now that the weather is cooler. Stay connected socially. And if you’re feeling lonely? Why not take a walk in the deep dark woods? Contemplate what the forest thinks of you as you absorb the loving energy from its wood wide web.

Website photo: Snowpeople in my neighbourhood. They do have Eachother, although one is missing his head.

 

We’ve Got Eachother 2020-12-10T16:20:35-05:00

Rights and Responsibility

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy

This familiar quote from JFK, the 35th US president, is worth contemplating in these tumultuous times (and might also be great advice for the 45th US president*, but then again, he is a self-professed “stable genius”, knowing more about “Wall Street, taxes, trade, steelworkers, politicians, renewables, drones” etc, etc than anyone, so, if there was ever a guy who didn’t need to ask a single solitary question . . .)

You watch enough people march in the streets, locally and globally, for the freedom to NOT wear a mask, hoisting signs like “MY FREEDOM DOESN’T END WHERE YOUR FEAR BEGINS”, and you could get to thinking about human rights. I feel a mask protects you from me (although I did read recently there’s proof you get protection from it too) so I figure I’m kind of doing you a favour, protecting you in case I have coronavirus and don’t know. You refuse to wear a mask yet want to be in public places where masks are mandated? So . . . you don’t care about my health? Oh yeah, slap-myself-in-the-face emoji. As the sign says: it’s my “FEAR” you don’t care about!

I guess this is where/how human rights get tricky. I feel I have the right to protect my health and you feel you have the right to “FREEDOM”. But, surely freedom comes with some responsibility?

That GINORMOUS word, with it’s SIX friggin’ syllables! Oh man, it used to weight me down. Back in the day, when I had three young children and a full time job? Responsibilities made my TO DO list as vast as space. Until! I took a course in which the instructor flipped the word on me.

“Stop thinking of them as responsibilities,” he said, “and start thinking of them as your ‘ability to respond’.”

Wow! An Oprah “ah ha moment”, right there. How empowering is that? We all do have varying abilities – and gifts and strengths and so on – that enable us to respond appropriately to demands of home, work, community, country.

So, living in countries like Canada or the US, one does have the right to freedom, but there are several responsibilities that accompany that freedom, like for instance, obeying the law, paying taxes, and being community-minded. In Canada, “protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment” is another – a good one to be reminded of in this time of climate crisis. In the US, supporting and defending the constitution is also on the list, which confirms that the “guy-who-didn’t-need-to-ask-a-single-solitary-question” is sorely lacking in the ability to respond.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as set out in Article 1 by the UN in 1948 states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Oh that second sentence: “reason and conscience”, “spirit of brotherhood”. Maybe we’ve lost something over the last 70something years? Or the UN made a GINORMOUS assumption?

In an article for vision.org a quote by Mary Ann Glendon, from 1991, points out a possible quandary: “Converging with the language of psychotherapy, rights talk encourages our all-too-human tendency to place the self at the center of our moral universe.”

Ah. And there’s this biggie: humans are heterotrophs. This is a new word for me, I’ve been dying to use it! What exactly is a heterotroph you ask, if you’re inclined, unlike some, to ask questions? Oxford dictionary: “an organism deriving its nutritional requirements from complex organic substances”. Meaning? Humans – and other heterotrophs – cannot live on sunshine and water alone. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Eat or be eaten.

We’re consumers, for cripesakes, working hard at consuming every living thing Mother Earth has to offer!

I learned the word “heterotroph” from Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author of Braiding Sweetgrass, a book I highly recommend. She talks a lot about another word, “reciprocity”, which is the practice of exchanging things for mutual benefit. Kimmerer, with her indigenous background, observes nature from an all-inclusive perspective. Trees, along with many plants and animals, were here for a long time before humans came along, so they actually know more than us. What can they teach us? How do we show them respect? How do we give back?

Okay, so I’ve strayed a tad from the topic at hand, which was mask wearing during a pandemic. But what I’m trying to get at is that rights and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. We should not have one without the other. Being born human should give us many rights that seem self-evident, but what if we flipped it, thought seriously about what we can give back – to others, to Mother Earth and all the bounty she generously provides – for the sheer privilege of spending time on a beautiful blue planet?

If a majority of humans don’t start, soon, giving back, showing gratitude? I fear Mother Earth will say, “So glad to be rid of those ungrateful humans. They may have been born free, but wow! Expensive experiment.”

 

Rights and Responsibility 2020-11-17T16:32:41-05:00

It Just Hurts

“Politics, these days, is no occupation for an educated man, a man of character. Ignorance and total lousiness are better (…) A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue.” from the ancient Greek comedy The Knights, by Aristophanes

Aristophanes was born in 450 bce, so this begs the question, will we ever learn?

Ok, agreed. The current President* (45) did get a degree in economics, but according to author Michael Wolff (Siege, Fire And Fury) his college transcripts “are apparently terrible” and “this was a guy that was obviously not interested in school and possibly never read a book in his life.” Twitter, with its 280-character limit, has proven time and again and late into the cold dark night to be the perfect platform for such a man. Perhaps aides should tweet 45’s briefings to him; he’d be more likely to read them.

Would you describe 45 as “a man of character”?!?! Puh-lease! The shallowest of dives quickly debunks that conspiracy theory.

A demagogue? Defined thus: “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational arguments.”

Rational arguments anyone? How about these irrational samples from a recent Trump rally:

*“You know, our doctors get more money if somebody dies from COVID. You know that, right? I mean, our doctors are very smart people – so what they do is they say, ‘I’m sorry, but, you know, everybody dies of COVID.’”

Fact Check, from Politifact: “Doctors and coroners fill out death certificates according to established rules and face legal penalties for falsification. Hospitals must prove to Washington that patients tested positive for the virus, and their doctors gain nothing from a COVID-19 diagnosis. There is no evidence that official death counts over report the reach of the disease.”

*“If these corrupt forces succeed in electing Joe Biden, Washington will see to it that another outsider never becomes president again. It’ll never happen again, and nobody has done in three and a half years, nobody, no administration, no president, what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished, and it’s not even challenged.”

What “corrupt forces”? How will Washington see to it “another outsider never becomes president”? What, specifically, have you “done” and “accomplished”?

*“I don’t take my orders from the media, or as I affectionately call them the fake news media.” Then, on and on, “fake”, “more fake”, “corrupt”, “fake” is “not strong enough”, and so on and so forth.

Lesley Stahl of CBS, who 45 recently walked out of an interview on, says he once admitted that he bashes the press to “demean” and “discredit” reporters so that the public will not believe “negative stories” about him. Also note that, control – and discrediting – the media is one of at least 14 handy tools in the fascist’s toolbox, along with rampant sexism (anti-abortion, homophobic), protection of corporate power, and disdain of human rights, intellectuals and the arts.

*“All Democrat governors, you, Michigan, North Carolina, they’re all Democrat governors and they’re probably doing it because they want to affect the election. They’re probably doing it, by November 4th they’ll announce, ‘We’ve decided to open up Pennsylvania.’”

Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania aren’t locked up. And with coronavirus still a major threat in the US and throughout the world? I think it’s pretty safe to expect that “COVID COVID COVID” discussions and restrictions will continue past November 4th.

*“There’ll be no weddings, no Thanksgivings, no Christmas, no Easters, no Fourth of Julys. There’ll be nothing.”

Did Biden and the Democratic party run on a platform of cancelling EVERY SOCIAL GATHERING AMERICANS HAVE EVER ENJOYED FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE?

Hmmm. So, yeah, 45 is just a poor little demagogue with fascist tendencies. Someone to be pitied because those mean old Democrats and the fake news lamestream media keep picking on him! Whah! And after showing the American public, over and over again, his true colours – various shades of black – for the last three and half years? He’s secured approximately 50% of the vote. So there you have it folks, and you can pass it down to half your kiddies: bullying, lying, cheating, and stealing pay off!

Says Van Jones, CNN host, author and lawyer: “The political victory still may come. But I think for people who saw babies being snatched away from their mothers at the border, people sending their kids into schools where the n-word is now being used against them, for people seeing this wave of intolerance, they wanted a moral victory tonight. We wanted to see a repudiation of this direction for the country. And the fact that it’s this close I think is – it hurts. It just hurts.”

It Just Hurts 2020-11-04T17:06:00-05:00