Category Archives: life

Lest We Forget

amovitam_Poppy

LEST WE FORGET

Husbands
Brothers
Fathers
Sons

Mothers
Sisters
Daughters
Wives

Point the rifle
Pull the pin
Release the bomb drop…

Lest
We
Forget.

(11.11.2018)

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Sometimes, I Get Angry, or: Writing a Letter to My MLA

amovitam_Greyhound bus in  Vancouver

I’m angry right now. Angry that as of next week, the only way in and out of the valley in which I live will be by private vehicle or by airplane. That’s right – no more public transportation. No more Greyhound Bus. The bus company is shutting down in all of Western Canada – BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – because it is no longer “sustainable”.

Half the country will be without publicly accessible means of overland travel between smaller communities. I was going to put the word “affordable” in there, too – but there isn’t even any unaffordable means. If you want to go from, say, Merritt, BC, to Hope, BC, and you don’t drive your own car, you can, umm… hitchhike. That’s it. No, there is no train (c’mon, this is Canada. What do you think this country was built on – railways?). Maybe you could hire a taxi for the 120 km… (and pay them for the empty return trip, too. Yeah, that’s why I was going to say “affordable”).

There will never be another trip like the one I took two years ago, going over the mountains in December. That bus was packed full – declining ridership, my foot!

amovitam_Coquihalla sunset

View from the bus window on that last trip back

Usually, when I get angry, I just fuss and fume, grumble at my Man (which he hates), and eventually simmer down and try very hard to forget about it all. But this time, I thought, I have to at least say something. So I wrote a letter. And sent it to my MLA and my MP. And while I was at it, to the provincial premier and deputy premier, the provincial and federal ministers and deputy ministers of transport, and finally Mr Justin Trudeau himself…

I don’t know if it’ll have any effect. I got a whole lot of automated responses saying that somebody would look at my mail, eventually. Whatever. I had my say and I feel somewhat better for it. Still angry, but not quite as powerless. And who knows, maybe it’ll make a difference.

So, just in case you’re wondering, here’s my letter. Yes, I used words like “travesty” and “concomitant” – I guess that’s what happens when a writer gets ticked off. Slay them with verbiage.

Feel free to copy and paste, adjust to your tastes, and fire it off to your own MLA’s office. And to Justin Trudeau, don’t forget him.

But remember to sign it with your own name.

Dear …,

I’m writing to you about the imminent closure of the Greyhound bus lines in Western Canada, coming into effect November 1st.

I think that that closure is a travesty. It will cause serious hardships for the population of rural and small-town BC, and will hit especially hard for people with lower incomes, the elderly, people with illness or disabilities, students, and families where children might want to visit non-custodial parents or other relatives living in smaller towns – in other words, those members of our communities who can least afford an alternative mode of travel. The economic consideration of the Greyhound company being “no longer lucrative to run” led to a decision that is going to hurt the most vulnerable people in our country. In essence, rural and small-town British Columbians have been cut off from each other and from the rest of the province and country – and just in time for winter and the holiday season, when we most need reliable and affordable public transportation…

All that is not even taking into consideration the environmental impact of losing overland mass transportation – each cancelled Greyhound bus means so many more private vehicles on the road or so many more seats booked on an airplane, in other words, far greater fuel consumption and concomitant pollution – or the impact on First Nations communities. The Greyhound closure is in direct opposition to some of the stated goals of this government, and will hurt the people of Western Canada.

The government needs to step in and do something about this, whether it is declaring overland public transportation an essential service, funding (or at least subsidizing) an alternative bus company, or taking over and revitalizing Greyhound.
Please bring this issue to the attention of the government. I would urge you to put your influence behind changing this appalling situation, and going to bat for us as your constituents.

Sincerely,
etc.

amovitam_Coquihalla evening star

The sun sets on an era… The evening star seen through the Greyhound bus window on the top of the mountains, December 2016.

PS: An update, 29.10.2018 (one week later): I received a letter from my provincial MLA’s office with the very welcome news that several private bus companies have been approved to take over some of the bus routes. I don’t have exact details yet, but it appears that we won’t be left in the lurch entirely. I’m very happy about that, and am pleased and impressed with the very personal response I got from my representative’s office.

 

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Peaches

Once again, it’s peach season – my favourite season. Well, apart from Christmas. And spring. And early fall. And… Whatever, you get the drift. And as I was thinking about how much I love peach season, I was reminded of one of my earliest blog posts, from 2010. So I looked it up, and thought it might be worth reposting. Here it is, from 22. August 2010 (excuse the rough edges; it was early days in the blogosphere for me). The picture is brand-new, though, from just now. Aren’t they gorgeous?

amovitam_peaches

Peaches

On the third day, God created plants. And I’m quite sure that at the very end, when he’d made all the other stuff, he said “Now, for the crowning achievement: The Peach!” And he created it round and fuzzy, juicy, yellow-and-pink and delectably sweet. And God saw that it was good. And the evening and morning were the third day.

I didn’t make any canned peaches last year, so we were reduced to buying the ones from the grocery store. The kids weren’t impressed; it’s just not the same, they said. And they are right, of course. Now, the thing is that when I was a kid myself, back in Germany, tinned peaches were one of my favourite things, a high treat that we didn’t get very often (there’s a fun recipe called “Falsche Spiegeleier”, Fake Fried Eggs, with is half a canned peach in a flat dish with vanilla custard poured around it. It does look like a fried egg, and is quite a yummy dessert). I thought they were wonderful. But then that was before I came to Canada, and experienced the marvel of real, fully-ripe, still-warm-from-the-sun peaches picked right off the tree. In fact, perhaps it was the peaches that lured me over the Atlantic to permanently settle here? (No, don’t tell my husband. It had nothing to do with marrying him at all. I only married him for his guitar, anyway.)

One of the things I like best about summer is bringing home a box of peaches from the farmer’s market or the orchard down the street, and having them sit on the kitchen counter for a few days, getting ever more ripe and tender; and then, while leaning over to get something from one of the upper cupboards, getting a big nose-full of that incomparable scent of soft sweetness. It’s beyond me why the makers of fake foods think they can reproduce that aroma with “peach flavouring”. Hah! I scorn their attempts, I laugh in their faces – hahahah!

Now to put all that goodness into jars for winter, when the snow flies and the scent the house is filled with is cinnamon simmering in the potpourri burner on the windowsill.

Life, the universe, and Peach Season. I love it.

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#WordlessWednesday: Just Say No To Drugs

Just say no

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6 June 2018 · 08:56

#WordlessWednesday: The Hope of Crops to Come

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18 April 2018 · 07:25

Thoughts on Social Media

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Another one of my friends announced on Facebook today his intention to delete his account, so as to no longer feed his time and emotional energy into the social media monster. Well, when I say “friend”, I really mean “acquaintance”. I’ve met him only once in real life – he was one of my grad school profs, and as the school in question is an online university, all of our contacts happened in the cyber world. I was sorry to see him leave Facebook – there goes any further opportunity to get to know him a little better.

However, I also very much understand where he’s coming from. I’ve just come off a six-week hiatus from the FB world myself – I didn’t cut it all altogether, but restricted my facebooking to checking in on specific messages, and tried to avoid browsing and scrolling through my feed, let alone actually posting status updates or engaging in conversations.

Unfortunately, with the kind of work I do, I can’t really avoid Facebook and other social media altogether. I write books and try to sell them online. I write for an online magazine. I edit the work of writers who work online and I get new clients and professional contacts online. Getting off the cyber merry-go-round isn’t really an option – much as I sometimes want to.

But you know what? For all that I hate the amount of time and energy suck that social media generates, there are some real benefits I’ve derived from it. Apart from my professional contacts, I have made real friends through the Internet, and have rediscovered old friends and deepened existing real-life friendships. I have a network of connections all over the world.

Granted, the kind of relationships you form through social media is of a peculiar type. “Facebook is so terribly fake!” I’ve heard people say more than once. “I don’t want to see pictures of your lunch or your kittycat!” In fact, one of the several reasons my abovementioned friend gave for cutting the Facebook strings was the triviality of so many posts.

Yes, I agree – there is a lot of idle chatter, a lot of fakeness, a lot of posing. But, at the risk of sounding judgemental, the kind of person from whom I’ve most often heard comments of this kind is male and of the Baby Boomer generation. I don’t know what he (this generic middle-aged man) expects from social contact. In my experience as a slightly younger (i.e. GenX) middle-aged woman, trivialities are the very stuff relationships take their beginnings in.

You want to show me the snazzy lunch you had on your business trip? Please do! You like posting pictures of your funny cat? Bring it on! You think your kid’s jumping on the furniture is worth broadcasting on the Internet? Yes, I agree! Because to see how your children are growing, or that you love your cat, or that your favourite food is sushi, tells me things about you. You become more of a person to me. And what, may I ask, is a relationship but a connection from person to person?

If you’re the kind of person who has lived in one place their whole life, whose birth, education, career, friendships, and family life have all taken place in a 20 km radius, then what I’m saying might not apply to you. You know that your friend loves their dog because they live next door to you; that your buddy from Grade 2 just had another baby because you’ve run into her at the grocery store when you picked up milk; and that the guy you met at a professional development seminar is an arch-conservative because he has political placards all over his front lawn at every election.

But that kind of relationship circle has become very, very rare today. A Facebook friend (another grad school prof, as it happens) recently posted a quote that said something like this: “When future generations look back on us, the thing that they will find most puzzling is that we thought our online life was separate from our real-life existence.”

Just this morning, I was enjoying the stunning landscape photography of a childhood friend who now lives in Switzerland. I saw that an online friend whom I’ve never met in real life is having a great time on a trip to New York. I watched, in slow motion, as a friend’s small grandson leaped off the bed, his floppy blond hair flying, and it brought a smile to my face.

All these things are real. I know that if my online friend’s travels ever take her out my way or mine hers, we’ll meet for coffee and spend hours talking about everything under the sun – I know, because it wouldn’t be the first time that happened. Seeing the pictures of the sun gloriously glinting on the Alps means I’ve shared in a small piece of my now-Swiss friend’s life – before Instagram, I had no idea she was such a great photographer; in fact, I hadn’t spoken to her in decades. As for my other friend’s grandchildren, they are growing up so fast, I would never be able to enjoy the exuberance of their little lives in even such a small way as I do now if it wasn’t for Facebook.

This might all sound kind of Polly-Anna-ish. “Aren’t social media great? Don’t they give you the warm fuzzies? Isn’t getting the warm fuzzies the best thing ever?” Blah blah blah. Yes, I know that most of what scrolls by in a social media feed is sludge. I hate the politics, the mud-slinging, the preaching, the arrant nonsense, the sheer volume of all the jabber and beak-clacking. It eats into my sanity, drags my mind down into the muck of arguments and darkness. And that’s not even considering the big-picture societal problems that the social media phenomenon is implicated in.

There have been times when I’ve wanted nothing more than to hit the “delete” button on that Facebook account, be rid of its drag on my life. But I never did, because – see above.

I wonder if 15th-century Europeans felt about books and newspapers the way we do about the Internet. “Oh, I wish I could be rid of all this print! Shelves full of clutter, of people’s opinions, of paper! Let’s just go back to the day when people actually talked to each other!” But, of course, they didn’t go back. They learned to live with it, live with the new reality their world had evolved into. Yes, the invention of print brought problems – enormous upheavals, in many ways – but it also brought so much good.

And that’s the place we’re in right now. We need to learn to live with social media, learn to use it, instead of letting it use us. Oh, good grief – what am I using the “royal we” for? I need to learn it, need to get a handle on social media.

Sometimes, I think, that could mean pulling the plug entirely, like my friend is doing. I’ve never chosen to do that yet, although that’s not to say I might not do so sometime if the sludge threatens to overwhelm the joy. Or sometimes, it requires taking a step back – staying away from social media for a few weeks just to prove to myself that I can, and to build new habits.

“It’s not you, Internet, it’s me…” – and that’s the thing to keep in mind: I don’t have a relationship with social media, but with the people on the other end of social media. The Baby Boomer’s lament that “Kids today are always glued to their phones!” completely overlooks the fact that it’s not the phones the kids are interacting with, it’s their friends on the other end of the phone.

The word “social” in “social media”? It’s there for a reason. Social media isn’t good or bad – it’s what we make of it. I for one want to learn to use it, not be used.

Life, the Universe, and Social Media. Oh, in case you’re wondering – even my stuffed bear has Facebook.

 

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Project Unstick: Holy Slippers!

Project Unstick advanced to the coat closet yesterday. And in amongst the random mess of mittens, scarves, sun hats, broken umbrellas, and dozens of mismatched stretchy gloves that were crammed into the shelf above the coat rack, I found a pair of slippers I knitted a few years ago. Unfortunately, something got into the stuff and chewed holes into the slippers, so they’re kind of useless now.

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However, they inspired me to dig up the blog post I wrote about knitting them, just a few weeks after I first started blogging. And re-reading it, I thought it’d be worth re-posting. Even though the slippers can’t be worn any more, the insight I got from the process of making them is still, dare I say, kind of profound-ish. Here it is:

27 August 2010

Lost Pattern

It’s raining today. And I’ve got a rotten head cold. So, instead of doing the headless-chicken impression that I had planned on for today (a.k.a. cleaning the house), I’m just going to do not-much-of-anything. I pulled out my knitting again, because to me, knitting is a bit of a not-much-of-anything activity. Stitch after stitch after stitch, bit by bit – it’s a very inefficient way to produce clothing. But as a meditation technique it has a lot going for it.

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Here’s a project I’ve had on the needles for some time. It’s meant to be a pair of slippers when it’s finished. A number of simple squares in garter stitch, attached to each other, rather like a scarf with a couple of extra pieces sticking out the sides. Then there’s supposed to be some rather complicated bit of folding-and-sewing trickery, attaching the corner of square number one to the edge of square number three-and-a-half and so on, and you’re meant to end up with something that keeps your toes toasty.

The only problem is that I’ve lost the pattern. I found it in a library book, and copied it out by hand on a piece of paper – I even drew the picture of how it’s supposed to look, and coloured it in with felt pens. I returned the book, knitted the first slipper (but didn’t sew it together yet) – and then lost the paper. It just went AWOL. And for the life of me I can’t remember what the book was called. So I know how to knit the piece – I can just follow the pattern of the first one – but I have no idea how it’s meant to be finished any more.

A lost pattern. But the project is still going. And working on it like that, without knowing if I’ll ever be able to really finish it, rather emphasises the zen aspect of the whole experience. I’m knitting for the sake of knitting, not for the sake of having finished slippers to wear at the end. It’s quite a useful discipline.

Isn’t it also rather like life, in some ways? We’re doing things a certain way because once, we had a pattern for it, we had a goal. Now the pattern is lost, but we still carry on doing it the same way, because now the aim of doing it has changed. Now I knit because I enjoy the sensation of the yarn sliding through my fingers, the slow rhythm of the needles poking, looping, clicking, poking again.

Actually, in the back of my mind, I still hope, faintly, that I’ll find that book again. Or that someone will know the pattern, and can tell me. Or that, in experimenting with the finished pieces, I’ll remember how it was supposed to go. So in working on that piece of knitting, I work on hope. Not anticipation – just a vague thought that maybe I’ll be able to finish this after all. But I won’t worry about it now. For now, I’ll just stitch. Bit by bit. Whenever I feel like it, or I have a head cold.

Life, the universe, lost patterns, and hope. I’ll let you know if the slippers ever get finished.

The slippers did get finished, thanks to a friend who commented on the post with a link to a pattern (here); and I wrote another post about that, too (“Loose Ends”, here). I didn’t wear the slippers much, but I do hope the moths or whatever it was that made the holes enjoyed their snack.

And now I want to sit down and knit some more… Maybe another pair of slippers? Or I could finally finish the scarf or the pair of socks I’ve had on the needles for a while. Not as long as the nine-year-sweater, though – but that one is a story for another rainy day.

Life, the Universe, and the Philosophy of Lost Patterns. Still something to be said for that.

 

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