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November 28, 2008

Window to my Day

- Now THIS is a window! Yes?
Okay - here's me coming clean. I am doing so much writing off the blog that my enthusiasm, inspiration for this writing has, as you can tell by reading, subsided significantly. I am about to resort to detailing my day. How to drive away the audience of what, 10 regular visitors? Hope you've had your coffee. Warning: Not exactly riveting! I spared the details on brushing my teeth.

8:00 am: Eyes open. Freezing as usual. Check the ceiling for spiders. None. Look in the mirror. Whoa. Really time to dye the hair but I can't. I don't want the dye going down the drain, into the septic, leaching into ground water. Ecology over beauty.

9:30 am: Tour of ArtSpring by the Artistic Director. Get to go to where the audience can't see. Hear all sorts of interesting things about the building's design and modifications that had to be made because architects think of their creation, not necessarily of practicality. I get this tour because I have volunteered to be an usher. Who knew being an usher came with such responsibility. Other woman on the tour seems quite rigid. Can't stand that everyone on Salt Spring comes late to everything. She's sick of the excuse, "But it's Salt Spring!" Seinfeld's Soup Nazi dances across my mind.

11:30 am: Coffee at Barb's Buns. Must get my ginger twist fix. Sitting there and in walks the owner of the hotel I wrote the Green feature on. He's a lawyer. I spoke to him on the phone. The farm manager who I spent most of the time interviewing for the feature introduces me. He shakes my hand, opens his briefcase, whips out a copy of my article from at least 3 weeks ago now and says, he carries it around with him. He's going to have it laminated when they get a farm stand (to sell fruit from). I have to admit that it made me smile.

12:00 pm: Run back into George, the artistic director. We get into a discussion about writing reviews because someone took offence to one of his.
12:15 pm: Following the discussion I end up buying the book that had caused said discussion; a book that had been published here on island. A poetry book. He introduces me to his wife who works in Salt Spring Books.

12:30 pm: I call Peggy. We discuss all myriad of things.

1:00 pm: Meesh calls. We discuss her ongoing saga of waiting and waiting to be approved to work for the U.S. Consulate. She might as well be in Guantanamo Bay. She's in limbo. She did pass the criminal record's check. Now, they're waiting on her medical. We discuss her trip to Ottawa next week and how her mother has already booked her into three soirees with the Finnish Consulate, the Japanese Consulate and one other. I say she should really be getting at least $1,000 a day for being that kind of escort service. I tell her how to say some things in Finnish (having been there when I was 19) because we all know how important it is to impress the Finns she says, sarcastically. A la hupputa! (inside joke).

2:00 pm: Finally take my coat off. Make some soup. Build a fire. That was backwards. Should have built the fire, made some soup, then took the coat off.

2:30: Convince Visa that I want to cancel my balance protection. What do I care if I die or get cancer and I owe a ton of money? Someone else can deal with that reality if it happens I say. Suddenly, instantaneously they can lower the price of the balance protection. How friggin convenient. Just like that. Maybe you only need coverage for a few things - "like if you get sick" they say. Who are these people really? They have a direct link to the mafia I think. Vermins!

2:45: Call BCAA: I realize I have tenant insurance, except it's covering me for living in an apartment I know longer live in on Robson Street. Must correct that.

3:00 pm: Talk to Gail, Driftwood Editor, about tommorrow night's concert and dinner at Cafe El Zocalo with my band group. We're going en masse to see the classical concert at ArtSpring because we are the "farm team" and this - this concert group -Bandamonium - is what we are aspiring to, working towards. How many years will that take I think to myself?

4:00 pm: Lise calls. Work talk. Baby talk. Pre-Natal talk. Born again christian annoyance talk.
Does everybody have to talk to me within a span of 3 hours?

5:00 pm: Get told via e-mail I got the job I interviewed for on Wednesday - 4.5 hours a day, 4 days a week until June. 10-3pm. A maternity leave replacement. YEAAA! It's perfect. Will still give me enough time to do writing because I MUST not lose sight of why I came here. But, I'm very, very happy about getting this job. And, it has been such a long time since I have said that! Years.

6:00 pm: Make dinner - omelette and sausage. (I think of Meesh's blog and feel ashamed of my creation) There will be no photos! No photos allowed!

7:30 pm: Head over to Mahon Hall. There's a fundraiser for a village in Lesotho and a woman I met previously, Andrea, and her family have been going there to work/live for months at a time. Saltspring residents raised enough money to build a school with 8 classrooms. (This is related to the next post I will write).

There's a band from Scotland - Shooglenifty playing. This is an all-ages dance. No alcohol. Coffee. Tea. Juice. Pumpkin pie. Brownies. Baclava. All manner of individuals are present. Children in kilts. Men with beards. Men with long hair. Women in those peasant skirts. Conservative looking people. I meet a newcomer from kamloops named Wendy. I put her number into my cell phone.
The music starts. People are like molecules being heated. They're bouncing. Faster now. I have my cowboy boots on (because I haven't taken them off since I got here). I decide they must come off if I'm to dance.
I take them off. I start dancing. The celtic connection between the music and my genes is irresistable!
10:30 pm: Enough.I'm tired. I've had my fun fix for the evening.
11:45 pm:Bed time. Pull the portable heater into the room.
Lift my pillows. Inspect for spiders.
All clear!
Great day!

November 23, 2008

Heritage Barns

I just love old, run-down buildings. Wooden. Usually barns. Windows. Doors. Dirt floors. All the conversations and relationships of every one who has ever passed through somehow lingering in the dirt and the patina on the wood. The silence of relationships past. Space to imagine in.

Yesterday I was wandering around and towards the south end of the island there is a place called Burgoyne Bay where these old heritage buildings sit at the side of a dirt road. They have signs saying do not enter. Probably no money to fix them.

With my camera in hand, I never feel alone. I am in my element. I am able to spend hours just wandering and looking and it always makes me happy. I'm beginning to wonder why I call myself a "writer" when in fact photography is what truly brings me joy. Writing is such hard work.


I've been organizing my bookcase and I came across this little Cottage Journal that I must have picked up in 2000. It's the kind of thing you buy when you own a cottage and people come and stay and they sign the guest book.

I'd forgotten how long I've been dreaming about living in a little cottage. At the time, I was living in a bachelor suite at 1877 Haro in an old Heritage building. It wasn't anything like a cottage but for some reason it had a bit of a cottage feel to it.

So, I must have picked up this little journal with the thought that I could practice until I got my cottage. In the front of it I wrote March 2000 and "inspiration for owning the Sunshine Coast cottage." All I've ever wanted was a cottage. I would rather live in a shack in the forest than in suburbia. I'm not kidding. Of course, I'd rather live in an amazingly beautiful log cabin type cottage on the ocean with a south facing exposure and solar heating, heated tile on the floors, a sauna, a hot tub, and an amazing kitchen with stainless steel appliances but baby steps. :-) Oh, and it would be even better if I actually OWNED the cabin.

Anyway I found this little journal and it was just nice to read some of what people had written when they visited me there.
My favorite entry is ..."The cottage has been refurbished for spring - fresh paint, wallpaper and softly flowered new curtains. It is so cozy, I feel like just moving in. Add to this a lovely homey feeling. Off for a walk (though we hate to leave). Will visit again soon. M.

I no longer see that person. She lives somewhere in Ontario. But, I guess I better leave the journal on the table for guests to sign now that I really DO live in a cottage. Sometimes when I've got the fire going and the cottage is warm and cozy I just sit and look at it and look around and a smile comes to my face because it's hard for me to believe that I'm actually living on Salt Spring Island and I made it happen because I really wanted to live like this in this place that is so beautiful that even before I lived here I decided that this is where, when I die, I want my ashes scattered. And, that brings me to my post today: Dreams.

It's been hard for me to have dreams. When you've had a lot of disappointments, you're afraid to dream. You're afraid to believe you can actually have what you want. That you deserve it as much as everyone else. That you can actually have what you want. That you are here for a short while and joy is allowed. Maybe it was the Presbyterian upbringing but sometimes when I get too much of what I want I get nervous. Not so much anymore but definitely in the past. And, let's face it, it's not as if my dreams are really big. No ferraris. No castles. No luxury furniture or trips to the south of France. My dreams are much more about freedom. What that means. How to get it. What it looks like for me.

So, I've realized over the past few years that you can decide that you can have what you want. It might sound so simple but in fact it IS simple. Just decide. Then, it will happen because you will make it happen if you want it - whatever it is - bad enough. The really hard part is knowing or understanding what it is that you really want. Not what your mothers wants. Not what you think your friends think you should want. Not what society says you should want. Only that which will make you feel content at the end of the day.

So, that's my message for today. Take just five minutes or 10 minutes and dream. Think about what you would do if money was no object. Think about what you would do if you were free of all encumbrances - relationships, children, debt, family, the history that plays a story about who you are that is no longer true. It's just a story. Think about you as a child and really try to imagine yourself as you were then. What were your dreams then? Did you even have any?

Think about the clothing you would be wearing in your ideal life. The environment you would be living in. The person you would be spending time with and making love to and caring for. What does your community look like? Get a clear picture of that life in your mind. Write it down. Describe it in every detail.

My wish for you is that it is not so far removed from where you are at the moment that you would need to die and be reincarnated to get there. (ha).

And, this thought from RUMI for November 22nd from my A Year with Rumi book seems fitting:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture
still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

November 22, 2008

Mind the Ditch

Last night I was initiated into island life. I drove into a ditch. Just think of the leaf as my car. Stuck. Not really meant to be there. I mean, you're not a true islander if you've never driven into a ditch. Now, I admit, that makes it sound a lot more dramatic than it was. It's not as if imitating a move from the latest James Bond movie Quantum Solace or Quantum Leap or whatever, I came around a sharp corner, went airborne and when I landed I was in a ditch. No. Thank God. That wasn't it.

I was going to hear a noted biologist, pilot, ecologist David Hancock, speak and show his slides of eagles. You must check out the live webcams on his site.

They always hold talks here at churches or wherever they can rent space. This church isn't too far up the road from me. It's the home base for Christian the Born Again christian. It's pitch black. It's raining. And, a lot of people are headed toward the talk trying to get into the gravel driveway of the church parking lot. In order to get off the road to let the cars behind me go on their way, I decided I'd just pull into the driveway beside where the other car was pulling in. Unfortunately, I didn't know the driveway had stopped about three feet from me. No driveway. Only ditch. Apparently Community Gospel is run by Scottish people. Too cheap to even put in reflectors on the side of the driveway to alert innocent city folk to stay out of the ditch.

Luckily, I wasn't moving very fast at all and at first when the car headed down into the ditch I was totally confused. What the hell's going on. I felt like I was on an amusement ride. Sharon (my sub-land lady) had warned me that during her first year here she had driven into a ditch more than once. When she said that I thought, Well I'm not going to do THAT! She must be a lousy driver I thought as I would in my usual nonjudgmental manner. Apparently, it has nothing to do with your driving ability. Ya. I would say that now. It does has something to do with eyesight. I've never been very good at driving on dark, rainy nights. And I mean pitch black. There are no streetlights here.

But, the great thing about these little places is that when the talk begins, the announcement gets made that someone (silly idiot) has driven into a ditch and if anyone can help, meet at the cookie plate after the talk. So, I left the flashers on, grabbed a cookie (of course) and just enjoyed a great talk with amazing photos of eagles all the while hoping nobody would crash into my car because the back end was aligned with the edge of the road.

Luckily, there were two guys. One named Phil with an Australian accent and cute. And one named Brian. Phil had the four-wheel drive. Brian had the rope. Actually, I'd already met Brian at Thanksgiving at Pauline's place. The beauty of small towns. BCAA? Who needs it here?

And, apparently driving into ditches here is about as common as, well, deer! Even if you're sober, it's a definite possibility. I don't think the car was even damaged because luckily it was a rather shallow ditch that had no water in it.

You might say it was the best case scenario for driving into a ditch. Driving into ditch 101 so to speak. And I passed.

November 21, 2008

Ferron, Still!

Tonight I went to see Ferron. I chose this photo above (which is actually in front of Pauline's house here on Salt Spring) because seeing Ferron sing is like seeing an old friend.

She'd be someone I'd want to sit down and have a conversation with. I like her irreverance. I like her love of words. She's a poet.

She spends half her time on Saturna Island and the other half in Michigan on Ojibwe Land. She herself is a Metis - something that, from what I gather, took year and years to trace.

I hadn't seen her perform for probably more than 20 years. The last time I saw her I must have been in my 20s and it was at the Vancouver East Cultural Center. No matter how many times I listen to her music it withstands the test of time. For me. And apparently a lot of other people. Lesbians mostly.

She has an old album called Testimony. I'd really like to get it. If you've never heard her, listen to this.

November 20, 2008

Arbutus Berries

When you look at these photos, you could easily be fooled into thinking that you were looking at a photo of somewhere in the Mediterranean but in fact, this was November 19th in the Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island.

We were a little spoiled today with the sunshine and I was definitely wandering around in it with the camera.

I'd never seen the berries of Arbutus trees. In fact, I didn't even know they had berries so I was pleasantly surprised to spot this today under the bright blue sky.

November 19, 2008

Woman Who Runs with the Ducks

I don't believe I've ever run after a duck trying to corner it but that's what I did this afternoon.

Well, that isn't completely accurate. I was actually running after the person, Christina Richard, who was running after her duck whose name, appropriately enough, is simply Running Duck and is actually an Indian Runner Duck. Sounds almost native indian when you say it like that; Woman who runs with the ducks.

I had my camera in hand ready to snap the photo as she snatched the duck. I'd show you the real photos here with her in it but I haven't asked her permission, and I'm not sure she'd want to be on my blog. So, I'll have to make due with just Runner Duck. Caught. He was actually quite photogenic and amenable to the camera settling right down into model mode.

She's an illustrator/animator from San Francisco who lives here part-time and has just illustrated a children's colouring book. Her drawings are the whimsical drawings of animals in the same manner as Beatrix Potter. Horses and cows. Elephants. Ducks. Bears. The characters of childhood storybooks. Personalities.

Christina and her husband have a 5-acre Hobby farm and live in a old farmhouse that was built by a woman in 1945 when all the men were off at WWII.

It was just so much fun petting the bunnies and running after the poor duck, feeding the sheep and talking to her about her work.

November 18, 2008


Don't you wish it was that easy? RELAX! This way! A little to the left. Nope, you've gone too far, back up! Ya. Right there. Oh, that feels good! Keep doing that! What? Nothing. Nothing at all.

I was out for my walk yesterday to soak up some Vitamin D while I still can (soak up the Vitamin D, not walk) and I came across this sign on a tree. I looked to the left and I couldn't see anything. No sauna. No hot tub. No magic chair. No pot plants. Relax? Maybe it's a brothel. Thoughts have crossed my mind here that given the dearth of ways to make money, why hasn't someone started one of those? Maybe they have. Maybe this is the sign.

If you know me, you know that I'm usually someone who has a fairly decent memory. I usually always remember appointments or show up when I've committed to being somewhere.

Lately however, ever since I got here, I just keep spacing things. Completely. Then, I'll wake up in the middle of the night and think, oh shit, I was supposed to be .... Or, I'll be taking a bite of dinner, having a glass of wine, watching Coronation Street and suddenly, I'll have a hazy vague feeling that I was actually supposed to be doing something, and sure enough, I've missed some talk I really wanted to go to. This keeps happening. Part of it is related to me not paying attention to my daytimer like I used to but the other part, I'm convinced, is related to silence. There are no auditory clues as to what day it is, where I am, what time of day it is. I feel completely spaced out here and I am convinced it's because it's too damned quiet. The second week I was here I actually slept in until 10:00 am. That is like someone else must have snatched my body because that's not me.

But, there is nothing to wake me up. No dumpster divers. No dump trucks. No sirens. Nobody yelling. No listening to the next door neighbour showering or having sex or
arguing. No horses trotting down Robson Street pulling tourists. No street lights. No bottles being thrown into recycling bins.

I have never known silence like this for this length of time. I'm beginning to wonder if this is perhaps just another layer of experience in preparation for my ultimate destiny: the convent!

Maybe that explains why people can't drive here. They're too relaxed. They can't pay attention long enough to stay on their own side of the road. Maybe they're multi tasking. Maybe they're actually bird watching and driving. Maybe they're not using their blackberry, they're looking for blackberries.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like quiet. I think but I could be wrong that it is actually a necessary component of relaxation or trying to get into that state. It helps you focus. It's actually much easier here to figure out that you're wasting time frittering away the day or, perhaps, your entire life.

In the city, you can just fill up your life with stuff that has nothing to do with your life purpose. Here, the fact that you don't have a life purpose becomes even more magnified. Because you can't go to the mall and shop it away. You really feel like things get stripped away so that you're really faced with yourself in a way that's more direct than being in the city allows for. Good thing I like myself because if I didn't I'd really begin to hate myself sooner if that makes any sense.

When I saw this sign it also reminded me that having someone tell you to relax is a surefire way to get you more uptight. Don't you just hate those people. People who are so arrogant that they actually utter the words to another human being, "Just RELAX". You just want to slap them. You want to say, No, YOU RELAX, just shut up and RELAX yourself! I'll relax when I damn well feel like it!

And all that just from a sign. I might just have too much time on my hands.

November 17, 2008

Everyone needs a Compadre

On the weekend I talked to a musician named James Keelaghan. I'm supposed to write something in advance of a concert he and his compadre Oscar Lopez are having here on November 26th.

He lives in Winnipeg after spending most of his life in Calgary because as he wrote in his song Gathering Storm, "A long hard ramble and endless roam by a twisted road I came back home/But the town I loved was there no more,gone now the things that were there before/The hills I roamed when I was small, covered with houses and shopping malls/All the talk was of buy and sell, they thought living high was living well.../

Turns out that James Keelaghan has a history degree from the University of Calgary but he started playing his guitar and singing in coffeehouses in Calgary in the early 1980s. In 1983 another well known folk musician, Garnet Rogers (Stan Rogers' brother), heard him, and actually bought him a much better Grit Laskin guitar named after the guy who makes them and urged him to consider becoming a full-time musician. He did.

Ten albums later, one Juno, several Juno nominations and a collaboration with a guy named Oscar Lopez (also a Juno-award winner who I actually had heard of) and they are on a tour of Western Canada including Salt Spring. They call themselves Compadres which they are, on and off stage.

Now, the interesting part of the story is why they named their second collaborative CD, Buddy Where You Been? Where they been is not where any of us want to go - personally. But, come to think of it, I actually have been there. Different story. Same type of caged pain.

Oscar Lopez suffered a debilitating depression that began in 2001 after struggles to get his managers to see eye to eye on his approach to an album. Then, a divorce and poof, life as he knew it, gone. For more than 3 years he was professionally and personally paralyzed. He could barely leave his apartment. He couldn't get near a stage without having a panic attack. He barely picked up his guitar. And when you hear him play, you really get what a tragedy that was.
James Keelaghan was having his own lesser struggles with his managers and his creative muse. He was set to perform in Australia and New Zealand. He decided to buy Oscar a ticket to come with him. Thought it would be good for him to have a change of scenery. He didn't have to perform. He just had to hang out is what Keelaghan said. And, so he did. But the interesting part is that without the pressure of performing in front of people who knew him where he could totally destroy what he had built in terms of reputation, he was freed to just get up and play. And he did. And he found his way back to his performing self and found a reason to stay with us.

Now, doing that for a friend is more than friendship, it's love. And, it's really great to talk to someone, male, who has that kind of frienship with another guy. Because it seems like men are in two camps. They either have that or they have a wife and have somehow not managed to cultivate those type of connections with another guy or guys and I think men need that as much as woman do.

How many of us would invite a friend who hasn't been able to function and/or work in three years on a long trip? I mean let's face it, depressed people aren't exactly the number one choice in travelling companion. I've been there and I don't like being around depression. It's a drag.

When I interview someone on the phone, I always get a sense of who they are and whether they're nice or they're self centered or aggressive or their genuine. This guy was NICE with a capital N. I mean, after all these years of touring, he probably enjoys talking to "reporters" as much as most of us enjoy going to the dentist.

I'm looking forward to seeing them in concert next week.

November 13, 2008

Picnic? Where?

Spectacular day here today but I was out of sorts to be honest. I was feeling a bit like this empty picnic table: blank! Where's the food? Who forgot the food? Where's the potato salad and the wieners and the BBQ. How could you forget the six pack? Honestly! I'd give anything for some chips. That's how today felt. Too quiet.

I've been having a lot of trouble making fire because the wood we got is not good wood. It's damp. And, that means it takes forever for me to get the fire hot and that means I've been a little cold and I don't like cold. I don't like winter. And, it isn't really cold yet? I have to get this fire thing down before it's really, really COLD. Cavewoman. Fire. Now. Hot. Why not working? That's how I"m feeling.

I was missing my Vancouver friends today. I was missing their quick wittedness. Missing the banter and the intellectual stimulation. You forget when you move somewhere that it takes a really long time to find people that you really like and vice versa who you are comfortable with so that you can just be exactly who you are in all your improper glory.

I'm thinking of ending this Blog and creating an anonymous one so I can write what I really want to write about being here. You may have noticed that the posts haven't been too inspired lately. It's because I feel like I really can't say too much...just in case.

So, if you have any suggestions or you'd like to know something about Salt Spring and what it's like living here, I'm all ears...

November 11, 2008


Every year I take the time on November 11th to either attend or watch the ceremonies at Victory Square in Vancouver on TV, but I was too cold to get it together this morning to see what happens on Salt Spring. They do have a cenetaph in the park in Ganges.

The photo above is a collage of my dad, and if you look closely, there is a hankie that is from Belgium that says "To My Darling". It's an actual hankie that my father sent my mother sometime between 1942 and 1946 when he served overseas in World War II. He wasn't someone who was a good writer so he would just send her these, I guess, to remind her that he was thinking of her.

Now he is 90 years old and doing quite well except I know that this time of year, especially this year, is difficult for him. It has been almost a year since my mother died (November 20th) and I feel there has been a change in his voice when I talk to him just recently. It could be because of how "ugly" November can be in the Lower Mainland this time of year but I know that's not it.

I'm trying to imagine my parents back then and of course I can't. I can't imagine my mother receiving these hankies in the mail - from Belgium and France and England. I can't imagine him asking her to marry him and wiring her money for a ring while he was away for five years. I can't imagine that such a beginning between two people could keep them together for 62 years.

I can't imagine what it would be like to be 90 and all the memories you would have of that person you loved and knowing that they are not here anymore. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

I think Remembrance day is always an emotional day for my father. Sometimes my brother, if he is in town, takes him to the Legion, a place where he typically would not go.

I must call him today to let him know I'm thinking of him.

November 08, 2008

Success an Inside Job

-taken through a window in Scottsdale Arizona

A friend in Tennessee sent this to me yesterday. I thought it would be good to share. It is written by the writer Alice Walker.

Nov. 5, 2008
Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear.

And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that
the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing
the world back to balance.

A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large.

We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as
white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking
strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they
remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family
deserve this fate.

One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most
damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those
feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain
religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies,
but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely.

However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often
fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of
healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

November 06, 2008

Oh Baby!

-this photo was taken in the parking lot of Lynn Valley Headwaters park in North Vancouver. It was a few days after the friend I write about here had told me she was pregnant. We parked the car, got out, and right in front of the car was this tiny shoe. It just seemed so fitting.

Yesterday I went with a friend to an appointment at Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. She’s pregnant, almost 40, and as a result decided to have an amniocentesis which apparently (and amazingly) can determine to 99% whether the baby will have Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida or something called Trisomy 18. Her husband was out of town and so I went with her.

We were led into an office and a nurse came in with a paper in her hand and said I have the results of your blood tests. It’s good news she said.

If you look at the paper, it’s showing that in spite of the fact that you are almost 40, you have the risk factors in this pregnancy of a female who is less than 15 years old. I’ve almost never seen anything like this she said.

I responded to that by saying something like, My God, look at you, a super human specimen. My friend, who I have noticed tends to absorb news – good or bad – with reserve didn’t really respond although obviously she was pleased.

Whereas soon to be mothers who are 40 have a 1 in 124 chance of having a Down Syndrome Baby (which is amazingly high), my friend’s chance of having a Down Syndrome baby was calculated to be 1 in 5,330. Whereas women her age have a risk of having a baby with Spina Bifida at 1 in 1,000 births, my friend has a risk factor of 1 in 2000.

As a result of this, given that the risk of miscarriage with amniocentesis is 1 in 200, my friend decided to forego the test because based on the nurse's insinuations, having the test, under the circumstances, would be more risky than not. The thought of having a huge needle stuck in your belly button or wherever probably helped to make that an easy decision as well.

Pregnancy, even when it’s not your own, brings up all sorts of ethical and moral questions it seems. For some people, once they’ve made the decision to have a baby, they might choose to not proceed with any test. Others, given the opportunity/precaution to discover some serious birth defects, would definitely choose to check it out and then be faced with either an easy decision or a very difficult decision depending on their philosophical or religious beliefs.

Some people would not see having a Down Syndrome baby as anything but a gift; especially given how many people who have had that experience have been known to describe it that way.

My friend understands that there are no guarantees in life.

The thing is, even if the baby is 100% physically healthy at birth, maybe you’ve noticed that humans, that would be you and me, have a multitude of challenges that arise even when we are physically healthy at birth.

We get depressed. We develop addictions. We get cancer. We might have learning disabilities or serious asthma or we’re ADHD or we have a speech impediment and the list goes on and on.

Sometimes our imperfections are actually the things that endear us to others, set us apart, provide the individual characteristics that make us who we are for better or worse.

Parenthood is a total crapshoot isn’t it? And, let’s face it, that reality is a two way street - for the parents and for the kids.

I personally believe it's actually what happens after the birth that is a lot more important, regardless of our imperfections.

Secure attachment. Insecure attachment. Ambivalent attachment. Our life experiences as adults will be shaped to a much greater degree than most people realize by our experiences as babies.

Did our childhood set us up to feel secure, to take risks, to feel that we are worthy just because we are or did the expectations and criticisms of our parents set us up for insecurity to the degree that it will affect the quality of all the rest of our intimate relationships?

Luckily, there are other factors that intersect with the quality of our beginnings but research into attachment theory has shown that its significance has been severely underrated until recently.

Choosing to become parents, maybe more than any other decision, is a risk and if we are wise it’s a risk that we already understand has a responsibility attached that urges us to shape our interaction with our children to be respectful, gentle and full of reverance, always mindful of the miracle that occurred the moment they were conceived.

As Kahlil Gibran wrote: “Our children are not our children, they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself, they come through you but not from you and though they are with you, they belong not to you...

Give your child wings