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Friendship, Vikings and U2

This is another post about Ireland. I’ve been waiting for photos in order to write it. It is about the third and final week that I spent hanging out around Dublin.

There are people whose character can be explained, I think, by the ease with which others find themselves in comfortable relation to them whether it’s a first meeting or a reunion after many years apart.

1 Reunited 2014-09-30 Reunion 2014, Dublin

Allan and I met while working at YM/YWCA Camp Stephens summer camp in Lake of the Woods, Ontario in the early 1990s. I liked him straight away. He was quick to laugh uninhibitedly, had a sharp wit that to me always signals a highly intelligent mind, and he was a showman worthy of a stage and script that were greater than the dining hall and skits we performed there for hundreds of children each summer.

That is not to say he was just some shallow ball of hilarity 24 hours a day. I observed him to be levelled by a heavy dose of seriousness that seemed grounded in issues of social justice but that could also be triggered by poor manners and general disrespect. He was a particular guy and wasn’t shy about where he stood on things.

Allan created inclusiveness for those who were (and often still are) considered outside the “norm” without fanfare. I never got the sense he was making a point. He very simply could see a place for everyone in the world and enjoyed the company of people for who they were and what they offered in their own right.

He taught me a few things about life and opened my eyes to new ideas.

The first big moment I remember is that a school group of high school students who had intellectual disabilities came to camp for a week one spring. Allan was co-ordinating their activities and I got to go along to help stern a canoe one day. I was nervous. Nervous about how to communicate with people who acted very differently than others their age and who couldn’t always communicate easily. Nervous about what their abilities would be in the canoe or if they could swim or if they would “freak out” and how I should handle that if it happened. Allan acted as if the excursion was absolutely no different than any other outing with teenagers. That made me nervous in the beginning to. Was he being naive?

We went to a marsh and paddled around exploring the habitat and wildlife. I remember the two girls in my boat were giggling and talking about boys they fancied and dances and fashion just like my friends and I had at their age. They were so funny and fun to be with and I loved my time with them. It dawned on me that their wants and needs were absolutely no different than anyone else and that the successes they would achieve in life were as worthy of celebration as anyone’s. That experience actually led me to a career for several years working with people, from infants to senior citizens, who had mental and / or physical disabilities and / or mental illness.

I remember another day at camp when a boy of about 12 or 13 was being quite belligerent and bullyish with others. Allan happened by and as a senior staff member, stepped in to correct the boy’s behaviour. The kid didn’t back down but instead upped his acting out by calling Allan a “fag.”

Outrage would be an understatement to describe Allan’s reaction. My god but that kid got a tongue lashing! I would only come to understand years later the personal implications of that offensive language for Allan, but in that exact moment, what I took away from the experience was just how powerful words are. Language can be used like weaponry and words have the ability to injure, isolate, shame, demonize and condemn. I was impressed by Allan’s refusal to let the boy get away with his bullying and realized that as long as any of us stays quiet when hurtful language is used, we are as equally guilty of wounding others.

One winter, Allan was living in an apartment building on a street that some poll had declared as the murder capital of Canada while I was apparently living in a house at the accident capital corner of Canada, both in the city of Winnipeg. We lived not far from one another and after visiting him, Allan would always walk me to the bus stop and wait to see me off. Ever the gentleman!

The only thing though, at that time, Allan was a tall, willowy drink of water with very long, sleek, blonde hair and good fashion sense. I was into baggy, worn out, blue jeans and oversized plaid shirts with a crew cut. It occurred to me that maybe it should have been me walking him home. In the dark of night, if an attacker was choosing a victim by silhouette, I’m not sure that I was the one most in danger …

Ahhh gender roles vs reality vs external expression through fashion vs plain decency and being a good friend. There’s just so much rolled up into all of those things. I could pick that one apart for the next 10 hours! Or I could just go with my instinct which is, as a survivor of sexual assault, it meant the world to me that he cared enough to see me safely onto the bus.

So those are just three stories. I could go on, but fast-forward. Allan ended up in England. We hadn’t seen one another since 1994 but had kept in sporadic contact through email over the years. When I booked my plane ticket to Dublin, I asked if he would be interested in meeting for a visit.

So it was on a rainy evening (the FIRST real rain I’d had in Ireland in my two plus weeks there!) that I walked into the foyer of the Ibis hotel and saw him sitting at a table.

It was surreal. I knew it was him. He hasn’t changed except that he’s gotten significantly more buff and chiseled over the years and cut his hair short, but very obviously it was him. And yet I was hesitant. I didn’t want to run up and give the wrong guy a giant bear hug. So we had a funny moment of just looking at each other before believing our eyes. Then we headed up to the room we were sharing and had another laugh.

As young adults at summer camp, it was no big deal for several of us to pile into one cabin on weekends off with our sleeping bags. Completely innocent stuff, like a pile of puppies who crave the warmth and company of others. So we both assumed we were going to do the same thing in Dublin in 2014 but never really discussed it. Once in the room it was like, “Is this okay?!” Well, of course it was. And that is a bit what I mean with my opening statement to this blog. I think you know a person’s character based on how at ease you are with them whether you’ve just met or it’s been 20 years since you laid eyes on one another.

And you know what the best part of the visit was? I don’t think we spent more than two minutes reminiscing about summer camp days. We had so much to talk about in the here and now, about our current lives and hopes and dreams, and about the sights and sounds around us in Dublin. It felt like we were picking up as if 20 years hadn’t passed between being together.

The only thing I am sad about is that I ended up feeling very out of sorts the day we departed for home – England and Canada – and I was a bit distant and distracted. It hit me hard that you just never know when you’ll see a person again when there’s that big of a geographical distance between you. I know that the same is true when you say good-bye to your next door neighbour. Anything can happen any time, but there’s something about there being a country and ocean in the way and being in our 40s now that made me really think, will I ever see him again? I was too discombobulated to be able to articulate that. I try not to dwell in that place because we had such fun and hanging with Allan for those few days was special. It’s an experience that I’ll hold close to my heart for ever.

The dumb thing I did was that I never had a camera on me. I didn’t have my smart phone with me and I was loathe to look too much like a tourist in Dublin so I didn’t carry my camera. That meant that Allan took all of the photos on his phone. Both of us are apparently slightly technologically challenged and busy with life so it has taken us six months to find the time and figure out how to share the photos that he took.

So here is some of the fun we had in Dublin. We did NOT hang out in pubs at night.We played Jenga in the hotel room! Oh yes we did.

16 JENGA!!!! 17 JENGA!!!!!ARG!!!!!

 

We most definitely went to Murphy’s for ice-cream because I’d had it in Dingle, there are only three stores in the whole of Ireland and it’s awesome tasty.

12 Murphy's Icecream 2014-10-02

 

For sure we went to a museum all about the Vikings and their time in Duiblinn “Black Pool,” where we wrote our names using runes and laughed til we cried over an exhibit showing how moss can be used for toilet paper. A mannequin male sitting on the shitter was groaning with great gusto as sounds of farting emanated from speakers. Allan recorded it and used it to greet me with the next morning. Like he was stalking me while I slept, just waiting for me to show signs of waking and then PFFFFTHTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!! “OHHHHHH!” “AHHHHHHH” PSFTHTTTTTT!!!!! is what I opened my eyes to followed by Allan bursting into gales of laughter.

7 Allan in runes 2014-10-02 5 Shannon in runes 2014-10-02

 

He took lovely artistic images and made me look kind of cool as we explored the architecture of different buildings in the city.

11 Viking landing of Duvlin 2014-10-02 8 Tower Shannon 2014-10-02

 

We each had a specific place we were interested in visiting in Dublin. Allan told me some of the history of Oscar Wilde including his imprisonment for being gay. As if somehow who Oscar loved and how he identified was criminal or dangerous. We spent some time imbibing in a pub that just happened to have a Wilde quote framed behind Allan’s head.

29 Oscar Wilde statue in park Dublin 2014-10-03 33 Allan and Wilde Quote in Dublin pub 2014-10-03

 

OF COURSE we went to view the Book of Kells, which I found extraordinary. To get that close to such an aged document of such beauty, intricate design and deep thought was quite moving. I am a writer and I love words so I guess it makes sense that it made me feel suddenly connected to the past and history in a way that felt incredibly tangible. It was the closest I think I’ll get to time travelling (something I’ve dreampt of being able to do since I was a kid).

We creeped ourselves out by ducking out of the soggy rain and into a building chalk full of taxidermied animals from around the world. The dust mite load in that place made my skin crawl. BUT, nothing’s funnier than when your friend is trying to frame you in a photo and says, “Just move a bit this way, and step forward, anddddddd … My, what a big rack you have!”

I’m a sucker for a pun and the extinct giant red deer.

3 Trinity College 2014-10-02 31 My, what a big rack you have 2014-10-03

 

But let’s be serious about the real reason I ever went to Ireland, and thank you Allan for indulging me. I’ve been dreaming since 1987 of seeing Windmill Lane Studios where U2 recorded much of their music. I’ve read about and seen photos of where people sign their names and leave their artwork on the studio walls and laneway.

But when it came time to add my two cents, I had no words to write, funny enough. “Thank you” felt cheesy and couldn’t encompass all that I feel about their music or how the band shaped my youth and affirmed many of the deep thoughts I was having about how the world works as I entered adulthood. So I just signed my Zoo handle for the friends I’ve made along the way; people who I know share that same depth of gratitude and affection for U2 and their music.

20 Windmill Lane wall 2014-10-03 23 Shannon at U2's Windmill Lane Studios 2014-10-0327 Shannon at Windmill Lane 2014-10-03

 

We finished off eating at a restaurant that Allan had dined in the first time he visited Dublin.

34 Last night out 2014-10-03

And so much more, but that’s what we have photos of.

Until next time, dear friend. Let’s not wait another 20 years.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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A winter wildlife bonanza

Last week was a nature bonanza around here! It started with the northern lights.

A girl friend and I went for a walk about 7:30 pm one evening as we haven’t seen one another in quite some time and needed a good catch-up. We walked and walked out of the town site and up onto the main park road where there are no street lights. The sun went down and we turned back for home. At some point she said, “Are those clouds?”

We stopped walking and both stared straight up at which point the formation exploded in spikes like fireworks. Northern lights!! Bright green. They continued to dance and swirl and at another point, created a long arcing S across the night sky. They were some of the most fabulous northern lights I’ve seen.

The next day after work, five of us women went to snowshoe a trail in the park but discovered the snow had melted so much that we could simply hike it. Beautiful day and three Canada geese just returned from a winter down south were hanging out on the ice along the edge of the river that is now running swiftly. As we grabbed our abandoned snowshoes and prepared to head home, I said to one of the gals, “I’m surprised we haven’t seen any eagles yet. They should be back about now.”

Well, queue the bald eagle. Not ten minutes later, I hollered, “THERE!!!!” and we all ducked to look up through the van windows to the sky where a bald eagle was flying towards us and over our heads towards the river from where we’d just come. So exciting!

That night, I woke up at about 3:50 am – still having bizarre dreams. This time I woke up in the middle of Steve Earl singing My Old Friend the Blues as if real music was playing only to realize it had been part of the dream that woke me.

Anyway, I decided to head outside for a quick look. The northern lights are never the same twice. That night, the entire sky was pulsing and popping in all directions. There were more green splotches of light than there was dark sky. It felt like being in a 1970s disco with the volume turned off on the music.

Move ahead to the next day when I packed up my three dogs and drove out to another area of the park where I know there is open water this early in the spring. It was late in the day, about 6 pm. I left the dogs in the car at the Narrows and quietly walked out on the shoreline with binoculars.

With the naked eye I could already see possibly the biggest bald eagle I’ve ever seen. From that distance of about 100 m across the water and ice, then up another 30 ft to the top of a large pine tree, there sat an eagle. I could make out it’s yellow beak and everything. I took a look through my binos and it was incredible. I bet the bird’s chest was as broad as my Great Dane’s. Its body was facing me but its head was turned looking out over the lake. Then suddenly it turned and looked right at me, which I fully admit was unnerving. I let go of the binos with my right hand, waved and said in a nervous voice, “Hiiiiiihahahaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

It eventually got antsy and launched out of the tree. It was such a large bird that I could hear the wings moving air like it was right beside me. Later on I saw it on the lake ice stealing some dead animal tissue from a couple of ravens and flying off with its prize while the ravens squawked over the left-overs.

I also spotted movement across the Narrows along the sandy shore. An otter was playing and digging and rolling around in the snow. When it finally noticed me it dove under the ice and after a few moments I could hear it swimming back and forth under the ice in front of me along the shoreline.

On the drive back home I slowed down near Mud Creek and watched a beaver working away, sitting on top of the ice. They never look that big in the water because I only ever see their heads and tails, but gosh, on shore they’re quite a hefty critter!

Then, every elk in the park seemed to be in town the next morning and there was that full moon, equinox, solar eclipse trifecta thingy going on (that we didn’t get to see here in Canada) so overall, the whole week was just hopping with natural wonders.

I love it.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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Wintercapades

Well, I’ve never seen the Ice Capades show but I figure that since half my life is lived in winter I can add “capades” to my experiences.

Nightcapade

Well my night life just continues to evolve. Very exciting stuff – ha!

This week, in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up in the middle of a song from my current playlist only, there was no music playing in the room. It had been part of my dream and stayed with me as I opened my eyes.

I was a bit confused at first but I also quite enjoy the song so, it was a positive wake up in spite of the crazy hour.

Here’s the song. I woke up in the chorus right at the words, “Say it’s over. Say I’m dreaming …” and it just kept playing. WILD!!

Brandi Carlile – BEFORE IT BREAKS: http://youtu.be/fKDYvEXWXTc

It’s not my favourite of her songs but still good.

It seems like unless I exhaust myself with skiing and dog walking these days, I have vivid dreams, wake up mid way through an intellectual debate or wake early and am not tired anymore even though I’ve only gotten three or four hours.

It’s bizarre yet strangely entertaining so I’ve decided not to worry about it. It must just be some phase of life.

Rookie Skiercapade

The other day I went skiing on a new trail. It feels so good to use every muscle in my body, work hard and feel strong. I’m getting better, slowly, on hills and turns without having to throw on the brakes so my confidence is growing.

The funny, rookie moment happened about half way through the 8 kilometres. I was zipping along and could see up ahead that some marsh cattails had been knocked into by another skier or maybe the groomer going by on his snowmobile. The pods had dropped pollen onto the track turning it a pale yellow but I didn’t think about it beyond noticing it.

I can now tell you that it acts like super glue. I was kick-skiing up until that point and getting faster and faster having fun and then WHAM-O! the skis came to a complete stop but my body kept going forward. I stretched wayyyyyy out over the tips of my skis and then ricocheted back. Somehow I didn’t fall over. It was very surprising and gave me a good laugh. And that’s how rookies learn. It’s not something I’ll make the mistake of doing again!

Wolfcapades

The wolves have been busy hunting this week and successfully too. When I skied on the weekend I came across a pile of deer hair. No blood but there’d obviously been one heck of a battle. Then, near the end of the day I walked True along the lake and when I looked down to see if anyone was using the ice fishing shack, I saw a deer carcass about 20 feet away from it. I figure it was the same animal who lost all the hair because its location was not far from the point on the ski trail I had been on earlier. All I could make out was the splotch of blood, rib cage and a pile of ravens cleaning up the scraps.

The next day I was walking Charlie way the other direction along the lake and a wolf was on the trail ahead of us and wasn’t budging even as I spoke loudly and told it to get going. I ended up turning and hauling poor Charlie through what was chest deep snow for him about 100 mtres up to the road.

Of course, he’d lost one boot in the snow. I went back with Piper later and was exhausted and soaked in sweat by the time I found it again in the powdery, deep snow. Of course, I missed it twice and only found it on my third sweep a whopping 5 feet from the road. Ug! As a reward for hanging out with me while I looked, I took Piper to another trail in the park for her walk

The next morning another deer was found killed directly across the street from the hotel restaurant. Apparently its body was still warm and the wolves could be seen down on the lake ice until mid afternoon hanging out, likely hoping they’d be able to return to their feast. Poor pack! They did all that hard work and lost their meal but it couldn’t be left so close to a business and people walking about.

Paradise Citycapade

It’s been cold this week. MInus 30 celsius and wind chills. I had to make a quick trip to town for a work errand and the car I used hadn’t been started since I don’t know when and no one had plugged it in. It groaned to life and took forever to warm up but the radio was queued up and the volume turned up.

“Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, oh-ohhhh won’t you please take me downnnnnnnnnnn” was pumping out of the speakers.

I tried desperately to find the tuner button to switch over to CBC but the sun was so bright (of course it was it was -30C!) that I couldn’t see a thing on the console. In the end, I surrendered and cranked the volume until the car panels were rattling.

That song is sure to follow me throughout my life and remind me of the time my big brother picked me up in his souped up Chevette that growled like a Camaro (so he said) and then proceeded to cruise along Pembina Highway in Winnipeg. First thing he made me do was roll down my window, he did the same on his side, headbanger hair blowing in the wind (my buzz cut holding firm) and then he cranked up Paradise City. I seem to recall teen girls on the sidewalk that he was trying to impress but by that point I’d slunk as low down as possible in the passenger seat so no one would see my The Cure-loving sorry ass in a souped up Chevette with a headbanger, as much as I loved him.

Soupcapade

I made butternut squash, creamy coconut and curry soup. I botched it and had to freeze it then try to save it mid week because it was far too watery. I conferred with my soup maestro who told me to add some sweet potato or cook off the excess broth. I decided to do both and now it’s awesome and perfect for an icy cold week of Wintercapades.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in PonderQs

 

The gift of insomnia

2 a.m. and I was standing in the back yard staring straight up, the cold wind blowing right through my cotton pajamas. But I wasn’t really cold, at least, not at first. I felt alive.

I woke around 1:30 a.m. full of thoughts and when I realized I wasn’t going to fall asleep any time soon, I decided to stop fighting with myself and got up.

I headed downstairs to the kitchen for a cool drink and noticed that the night sky was alive. In times like this, I’m glad that I’m a grown up. I decided to do what I had wanted to as a chronically sleepless child but didn’t because I knew I wasn’t supposed to.

I yanked big boots on over bare feet and pulled my down jacket on, flipping the hood up before I quietly let myself outside. The dogs had stayed upstairs in their beds and I didn’t want to rouse them and wreck my moment of solitude.

The minus 30 Celsius wind buffeted my pant legs as soon as I walked beyond the back porch and into the frozen expanse of the yard. I shoved my hands deep into my pockets and felt the chill blast its way down the tops of my boots around my ankles; laces hanging loose.

An inky black sky sparkling with stars gifted me when I turned my eyes upward; the Milky Way creating a bridge from one horizon to the other.

Right away, I spotted the Little Dipper and pulled a hand from my pocket, drawing an arc across the sky with my index finger as if pouring water from it into the Big Dipper, searching the sky for the other ladle.

Suddenly lonely, I looked up at the neighbour’s house hoping for a light on signalling that she was up for baby’s night feeding, but no luck. The house was dark.

Then I looked for Orion, my nighttime companion.

Some 12 years ago, though it always feels like it happened just yesterday, I was informed that my friend Naomi and six others died in an avalanche just before the late night news aired. It turns out that I already knew she was gone, but that’s a different story and one that I have only shared with a few people.

I watched the newscast, the top story of the day about their deaths on the mountain. Unable to sit still with the details and the proof of her death, I walked for miles alone and long into the night. I struggled with the idea that it was as if her spirit, her energy, had been dispersed like an exploding star into the universe. Not gone but not whole. Not lost but no longer a tangible human being anymore either.

I searched for some sign of her but found Orion instead. For hours that night I kept my eye on Orion and felt slightly less alone with my grief.

From about November through April the constellation keeps me company when sleep eludes me. So standing in the yard, I looked for him again; a guy and his hounds protecting earth from above.

And standing there studying his familiar outline is when I realized why the sky was alive. The northern lights were waving. They weren’t distinct ribbons leaping and weaving like I’ve seen before. This time they were spread like a gauzey bedsheet being tossed out across the matress; gently floating and rolling into place and back out of place as pockets of wind knocked the sheer glow about.

I had to blink and look again to believe it wasn’t just some kind of cloud formation. It was the northern lights. I haven’t seen them in months and months. What a treat!

I breathed deeply and felt the first real bone-chilled shiver course through my body and knew my time outside was about up.

I hunkered more deeply into my coat and clenched my legs against the first stings of frost bite so I could watch the mystical lights shimmer for just a while longer.

I whispered to the universe, “Thank you for my life.”

This has become my mantra in recent years when the enormity of how precious and precarious life is weighs on my mind and reminds me to show gratitude.

Feeling small and insignificant but expansive and filled with purpose all at the same time, I finally gave in to the pain of slowly freezing and let myself back into the house.

The dogs were awake but still quiet and didn’t budge from their blankets. l crawled under the warm duvet and, finally settled in the centre of my being, allowed my body to settle down too.

Sleep found me; peaceful, empty of dreams and wholly restful.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2015 in PonderQs

 

A mantra for the curious mind

With some frequency during the last year, I have been waking in the night mid thought. It always happens during those loneliest of hours too – 2 to 4 AM, though it’s never worry nagging me awake but curious ideas and questions.

It happened just three nights ago. One second I was in the restorative depths of unconscious slumber and the next I was fully alert thinking …

“What is a fact? What is news? Can anyone really claim to be unbiased? Are facts only facts because we determine what they are based on our biases?”

BOOM! wide awake and in a decent debate all by myself. I did see the humour in that. I remember grabbing my phone to check the time and it was something like 3:17 AM. I lay there considering the questions again, wishing there was someone to discuss it with.

I’d been reading about anchorman Brian Williams not long before I went to bed and about the whole fiasco surrounding his tall tale telling and spinning of yarns as the years of his career rolled by.

I had commented on @ansonmount’s Twitter thread about Brian Williams a couple of hours before lights out. I typed that I find a lot of news to be filled with biased story telling and opinionated anchors and that I wish I could simply be given facts and allowed to think for myself.

As soon as I’d hit send on the tweet I was frustrated and unhappy with my comment. Twitter is not the place to have a proper discussion. A tweet is so inept in its ability to capture and express all that subjects like that deserve. That irritation obviously stuck in my head and somehow got loud enough to rouse my sleeping brain.

What is a fact? Is there or are there any universal facts that everyone can agree on? And even if a journalist is completely pure in their intention to tell a story factually, without bias and they present different opinions on the topic through thorough research and quality interviews, HOW they choose to frame that story, in what order they choose to share the differing opinions, and the colour and intensity of the language they use to craft the sentences all ooze bias one way or another.

When I say, “Just give me facts and let me think for myself …” Well, welcome to the conundrum! Let two other journalists tell the same story and suddenly it might not sound like the same thing at all and you’re left wondering who’s telling the truth. Maybe they all are.  Perhaps none of them is.

Who owns the media outlet that each journalist works for? What are their political, economic, religious and philosophical leanings? What is their gender, age, social status and skin colour? How does that determine consciously or unconsciously who gets hired to report for their company and how they write or tell the news? And of the billions of stories that could be told in the news, how are they deciding what is worthy for my eyes and ears should I choose their product?

“Sufferin’ succotash!” It’s enough to make a person do nothing but watch Looney Tunes for the rest of their life.

I could be a better consumer of the news by being proactive in searching out articles and publications and podcasts etc. from sources that I normally wouldn’t listen to. That’s harder than it sounds. We all have certain ways of thinking and believing and enjoy digesting information that reinforces those beliefs. It is my assumption that is difficult for most of us to be disciplined and spend time considering opinions and facts that don’t jibe with our own. It’s tough to remain open-minded to that which automatically offends our senses or goes against our values and mores. Yet, wouldn’t that also be the best way to gain more balance and become more informed on any subject? Might it also be the way to increase our tolerance for and understanding of people, who we generally misunderstand, disagree with or even fear?

Gosh, I’d have loved to talk with someone about it that night. I pulled up Anson Mount’s Twitter handle to see what other responses there had been on the thread and noticed that he’d checked out for a holiday.

HA! Jerk! Post deep thoughts about society for people to ponder and then unplug. Grrr… but I loved that too because I live in the woods and I love to routinely unplug so I couldn’t even be mad at him. I often think the only truths are Nature’s. That’s probably why it’s the only place I don’t feel like I have to control anything because the most successful and content way through life in the wild is to learn how to adapt and accept what’s coming at you in the moment whether it’s joy-filled or not.

Anyhow, I got myself back to sleep about an hour later, but the issues of what are facts and bias and news kept running through my mind the last few days.

As I learned about the deaths of Bob Simon and David Carr, and read about the extraordinary lives they’d lived and contributions they made to journalism, I asked my mid night questions again and again and think about how to consume news less lazily so that I might be a more connected world citizen.

I want to read more about Simon. He has been a staple on the television throughout my life; one of those voices you recognize from another room just as sure as a duckling knows its mother’s quack from across the pond, but I never connected the dots between all of the conflicts and issues he’d covered to him.  I was too young to appreciate a huge portion of the body of his work, but just imagine all that he has seen. Imagine all of the world views he encountered through his dispatches abroad and at home, and the depths of depravity and height of humanity he witnessed as he criss-crossed the globe.

Carr. I am sad to say, I only learned about him a night or two before he died when he spoke to Anderson Cooper about Brian Williams. I was so intrigued that I began to research his work.

I think about Carr’s willingness to make space for forgiveness and second chances for the Brian Williams of the world because he was shown forgiveness and allowed to succeed after living a life – not just less than he could be, but who apparently lived it with negligent, selfishness and with disregard for others. But he made what appears to be a brilliant, above board comeback and never forgot that others showed him grace.

Both men would have been fantastic to talk to about these things. Maybe Brian Williams will see an opportunity in his fall from grace. I think he’d be a stellar ethics instructor for budding journalists. As Carr said to Anderson Cooper about Williams’ situation, nobody wants to be the boring guy in the room. That might have been Williams’ ego weakness.  He seems to be a true journalist a heart, but with a very human need to belong and be liked. The story telling that followed the reporting spun into the classic biggest-fish-I-ever-caught stories as the years passed by. Who of us hasn’t done that? The difference is that he is (rightfully, I think) held to a higher standard because he has been entrusted to share other peoples’ experiences, which were so often heroic and/or heart-wrenching.

I still find it hard to believe that Williams was intentionally deceitful.  Yet even if he was, it seems that Carr would still say, give the guy another chance if he comes back with a pure heart and dedication to the journalistic calling. I’ll work on that when Williams emerges from his self-imposed isolation.

As I learn more about aid worker Kayla Mueller, killed during her captivity by ISIS, and her seemingly limitless capacity for compassion and determination to seek justice for those who needed an advocate, I ask what I can do to increase my well of understanding about others who seem to be wholly unlike me, and I challenge myself to be more committed to speaking up in the face of injustice.

Being intentional about choosing multiple sources of news to read or listen to and educating my mind is a good start. Questioning what I read and hear, especially when it’s comfortable for me, is another step to making sure I am taking more than one side into consideration and not becoming complacent or blind to others’ truth. I don’t want to be one of those people who exist in arrogance, always assuming that I am right.

Maybe the universal fact is that all people will always have to agree to disagree on some things. And that’s okay so long as we make room for one another’s ideas to be heard and that we do so without causing one another harm.

Respect, Forgiveness, Compassion, Advocacy. Simon, Carr, Williams, Mueller.

A mantra for the curious mind.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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Reflections on January 2015

Blah! Home with the flu. Well, maybe I need a day to veg and replenish my inner stores. I’ve been feeling drained mentally lately and now my body matches my mindset. You don’t suppose one followed the other’s lead? I wonder if I could have changed the outcome by changing my attitude before my body became ill? We’re in the last few days of January and though it started out blistering cold, Very Cold Day 2015

it quickly turned into a ridiculously warm month with several days above zero. Very strange indeed! Not Cold at All

I thought I’d look back on some of the fun from the month.

SOCCER

I got back to playing soccer in town where I scored a second goal. I find it awesome that I have scored two goals in soccer at age 42 but I never even got near the net with a ball between the ages of eight and 18 when I played full seasons. I’m quite pleased with my increased confidence and skills on the field. My parents, in true fashion, simply responded teasingly with, “What took you so long?” One can always count on family to keep it real …

GIRL’S NIGHT

We had the once a year girl’s night ski and dinner out. We seem only able to co-ordinate ourselves to do it once a year in winter for some reason. It’s good fun and nice to treat ourselves to a good meal. In the year since we last got together, four have had babies (two couldn’t make the evening because one had just delivered and the other’s baby was sick) and all of our lives have changed quite a bit so lot’s to catch up on.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

I’ve been cross-country skiing on different trails each time I go out. I went out quite late one day after I’d seen a wolf through my living room window. I’m not afraid of wolves. They don’t stick around when humans show up but for some reason I freaked my freak that evening. I was skiing by myself. The conditions were perfect – no wind, crisp air, snow-coated trees and the sun was setting making the light that soft lovely palette of blues and mauves and aqua – and then I started imagining a wolf pack chasing me down in the snow to eat for dinner. I ended up sprinting the route and finishing the 6 Km in 32 minutes. I know it’s ridiculous but once the image of those wolves chasing me was in my head I was done for. In the end the ski still felt great. It felt great to work hard and use every muscle in my body and feel the cool rush of wind on my face.

Ice Ridge  (Ice ridge)

REMEMBERING NAOMI

A truly satisfying ski that I did last week was completing the 20-kilometre trail I went on with some friends.

My good friend Naomi died in an avalanche in 2003, and every year I like to celebrate her adventurous spirit and love of the outdoors by doing something fun outside. I took the day off work and invited some friends that are on maternity leave and another pal who was on a day off to go along.

It was a blue-sky and no wind day. Again, the temperature was strangely warm and we set off to ski to Crean Lake. Two of us had never skied that far before and wanted to try the route so going with the other two was perfect because they ski it often. The baby slept the entire way and the wintry view of Crean Lake from the old warden cabin was worth the effort. A light snow the day before left everything pristine and I couldn’t even spot animal tracks on the lake.

I knew Naomi would have loved the outing. I had taken along a Fruit and Nut chocolate bar, her favourite, to share with the others. I usually like to smoke a wine-tipped cigar at the same time to complete the ritual but this year I needed every ounce of lung capacity to complete that ski so I’d left the cigars at home.

RIDICULOUS DOGS AND WILDLIFE

In January, I took the dogs on many long walks and we explored the park too. I saw four moose, one lynx, a fox, a wolf up close and personal through my living room window, and there are plenty of ravens, magpies, gray jays, wee black-capped chickadees, squirrels, elk and deer about. I didn’t see any otters but their trademark gallopping footprints between belly slides are all over the place.

Wolf Poop by Size 8.5 Boot 2015-01-11 (wolf scat)

IMG_20150118_130954  IMG_20150118_131005

I think the scariest yet funniest dog walk was when I had Charlie on the retractable leash, Piper and True each on one side of me attached to a waist belt and we were on the edge of town out near where people go down to the ice fishing shack on the lake. All three dogs came to a sudden stop and were sniffing the air and staring hard ahead. I tried to figure out what had them spooked. A car was parked at the roadside, probably for ice fishers, and I thought maybe it had a dog inside that they could smell but I couldn’t hear any movement. I was about to say something comforting and stepped forward to coax them onward when Charlie let out a low, rumbling, warning chuff, turned tail and started sprinting for his life.

CHARLIE turned tail and ran for his life!!! Charlie is the dog I rely on to be steadfast and calm under all circumstances and he turned tail and RAN FOR HIS LIFE!!!!!

Well, that was it. The girls followed suit letting loose with warning barks and sprinted off like a starter pistol had sounded. Roles reversed. It was now I attached to them by extendable leash and waist belt so with no choice, I turned and hauled off after them. Charlie with his short little legs has to run with all four paws turned outward. It’s really cute to watch when you’re not terrified about what’s behind you. Piper with her runway model’s legs and True with youth to her advantage, it was all I could do to keep up to them. Every once in a while we all dared to glance back over a shoulder to see if we were being pursued.

When I realized we were not being hotly pursued by an apex predator (wolf, cougar or chainsaw wielding mass murderer) I started laughing. Sometimes I wish I could see myself from another perspective when things like that happen. I’m sure it looked hilarious.

In the end, I’ll always trust in and believe Charlie. He has a good instinct about the world around him. He didn’t survive six years chained up in a front yard up north at the mercy of every wild critter and stray dog pack that happened by for no reason. Maybe that lone wolf we keep seeing around town was in the trees beyond the car and I just couldn’t see it.

An "Usie"

Loads of other good stuff has happened during this first month of 2015 – dinner with neighbours, evening with a newer friend, phone calls with long-time friends and opportunities beginning to surface at work. I should probably reflect once a month like this throughout the entire year. I bet it would be a great way to remind myself of all that I am grateful for and how full my life is with people and experiences that enrich my days. And perhaps if I do that, I won’t get run down and sick as often either.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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Sometimes

Sometimes what makes this place so special can make it feel a bit creepy.

Today after work I had to make my way between four large bull elk that had stretched out across the road. The rut is well over but they’re still a bit sketchy to maneuver around.

Then, walking the two big dogs about 20 mins later, I learned that the coyotes had killed a deer on the next street up and growled at the neighbour and his dogs. Totally normal for them to protect their food source but now we have coyotes running around the houses between the woods and their feast site.

I walked the two then put them back in the house and hooked up the husky to take her for a faster jog / walk. We had to get by two deer, the elk and then about halfway through the walk I noticed her sniffing towards the shadows in the trees. By this time the sun had set. I focused in and saw that what could have passed as a stump in the snow or a large rock was actually a fox who then proceeded to follow us. I know they’re fluffy but it was about her exact size and I would think more highly skilled in a street fight. I’m sure it was just curious and not aggressive, but with no one around, I didn’t feel like waiting to find out.

I started a swift jog to get ahead of it and as we turned up our street the coyotes started their yelp-screeching which made the dog run even faster. They haven’t stopped all evening. Every time I let the dogs into the yard the coyotes are filling the air with that high-pitched vocalizing that creeps me out and the dogs too. They can’t relax enough to pee. Hopefully it calms down before bedtime so they can go!

Ahhhhh nature … I love you most of the time.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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