Thursday Tidbits

Posted on October 31, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

 

24,918 sunrises and counting. None more spectacular than the one pictured above, taken with my IPhone this past Monday.

I can’t claim to have seen every single sunrise in my 68+ trips around the sun but I’ve seen a lot of them. Even when the sun doesn’t shine, you know it’s up there behind the clouds. It’s amazing when you’re flying somewhere. You can be experiencing the worst weather imaginable on the ground but before your plane reaches cruising altitude, the sun envelops you.

I’m a self-professed morning person. This is easily understandable when you grow up in a family of 10 with just one bathroom. You learn at a very early age to get up early and make a mad dash for the bathroom when it’s your turn lest you be s..t out of luck!

The rhythm of my life can be traced to early mornings.

It started with minor hockey when we would lace up our skates at home and walk through knee deep snow en route to the old Memorial rink. If Frank McGibbon hadn’t arrived, we would all muster in the boiler room to keep warm. I can still taste the sulphur in the coal.

Next up was my life as an altar boy. I served many early morning masses, including priest retreats. I also served private masses for the late Father Bernie Roddie.

My teenage years in the summer were spent at the local golf course. I would be up before the birds making my two egg salad sandwiches which were the only thing I would eat during the day. I played till my hands were raw, caddied, hunted for golf balls and eventually got a gig working in the Pro Shop. We lived 2.5 kilometres form the course. In addition to walking around the course all day, I walked to and from the course (uphill both ways?!) carrying a handful of used clubs.

I never had my own newspaper route but occasionally subbed in for one of my brothers. The deliveries started at 5:30 in the morning requiring first, a stop at Oak Manor, to pick up the papers and say hello to Ray Simpson.

When I got married, I would be up very early to read the morning paper while nursing life-saving coffee. As the years tumbled by, I started journaling in the wee hours, chronicling the daily lives of an ordinary family. Three binders with my hand written observations is a prized possession.

I became very active in my community serving on many boards and committees as well as town council and the school board. Breakfast meetings were all the rage back then and it was not uncommon to be sitting at a table at 6:30 a.m. with a coffee and a muffin discussing the pressing issues of the day.

My next serious addiction was fishing. After hunting for night crawlers the night before with my children, I could be found in the South River at 5:00 in the morning waiting for the sun to rise and the fish to bite. I have so many fond memories of the serenity and the beauty of these outings. Catching fish was secondary.

Later in life, I took up running and for the better part of 10 years, I pounded the highways, byways and backroads of Antigonish with arguably the greatest long distance runner Antigonish has produced. Charlene Druhan taught me about grit and determination. Whining was dealt with swiftly and irreverently! Charlene won her age division at the Boston Marathon a few years back against the best women from around the world. It was on these long walks that I really started to notice and appreciate the wonders of nature.

And then, purely by accident, at the age of 60, I discovered writing and most of you know how I spend some of my early mornings. But I don’t start penning my musings or tidbits before my morning walk. When my body finally protested after running several marathons, I took up walking and every day starts with a long, brisk walk. Most of my daily walks on the Camino started at 5:30 in the morning.

As you may have surmised, I am not a nighthawk so don’t bother trying to rouse me after 9:30 p.m.

None of us know how many more sunrises we will be granted.

Appreciate every one while you can.

“What I know for sure is that every sunrise is like a new page, a chance to right ourselves and receive each day in all its glory. Each day is a wonder.” Oprah Winfrey

Have a great day and Happy Halloween!

 

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 28, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

 

Oh Canada (Part 2).

I am filled with anger and despair.

In 2016, a young Cree man by the name of Colten Boushie was shot and killed on a farm in rural Saskatchewan. Colten Boushie was shot in the back of the head. An all-white jury acquitted the perpetrator of the shooting. Several indigenous people were called as potential jurors. None were chosen. At  a town hall meeting after the incident, hosted by the RCMP, members of the community, including many farmers, participated in a discussion about the events leading up to the tragedy. One farmer said that 80% of the people in the room would have done the same thing if their property (not their lives) were being threatened.

So, let me get this straight. It is somehow acceptable to shoot an unarmed First Nations person in the back of the head if he or she is perpetrating a property crime.

Last Friday, I sat with a few hundred other people at the Antigonish International Film Festivals screening of the disturbing film “We Will Stand Up “. The film is about Colten Boushie but it is much more than this. It speaks of overt racism in our country and the pathetic treatment of our founding people.

Three local First Nations young women opened up the evening with their own accounts of how their people have been treated for generations and the lasting stigma that continues to persist. They wept openly as they tried to explain how racism continues to affect them, their families, and the children. Many people in the crowd were moved to tears.

Sometimes Canadians can be pretty sanctimonious and smug. We are prone to looking at our neighbours to the south, pointing fingers at the treatment of blacks in that country. We have much to answer for in our own back yards.

It is hard to believe that in a country blessed with incredible resources and riches that many of our own people live in abject poverty, in sub-standard housing and in many cases,with terrible water quality. The racists amongst us will lay the blame at the feet of our indigenous community about their inability to manage the financial resources passed to them by various governments over the decades.

How did we get to this tragic state of affairs?

I have been doing a lot of reading lately including Tanya Telaga’s excellent book “All Our Relations”. If you want a brief history lesson about the history of First Nations people in Canada, this is an informative read. There is also an excellent YouTube series entitled “Eighth Fire”. If you want to better understand how we have arrived at a time when the lives of indigenous women and girls are rendered almost meaningless as they go missing and die with shocking regularity, get educated.

The plight of our First Nations people can be traced to colonialism, residential schools, broken promises and treaties that were signed in good faith but never honored. It can be traced to these people being placed on reserves. It can be traced to the loss of their way of life with the slaughter of thousands of sled dogs. The list goes on. It is appalling.

Robert Burns wrote a poem in 1785 called “From Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge”. In the poem, he speaks of “man’s inhumanity to man.” It means man’s ability to do horrible things to fellow humans. It speaks of oppression and cruelty that mankind causes and mankind suffers.

Understanding how we have gotten to this situation in our country is one thing but how to move forward and try to improve the situation is very complex.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (http://www.trc.ca/) issued its report in 2015 with 94 recommendations. In it, is a detailed account of what happened to indigenous children who were physically and sexually abused in government boarding schools, where an estimated 3,200 children died from tuberculosis, malnutrition and other diseases resulting from poor living conditions. Estimates of the death toll are much higher because burial records were so poor, according to the Commission.

Stop for a moment. Imagine that your children are ripped from your arms and taken far away to get an education by strangers? And then imagine your children suffering sexual and physical violence at the hands of those entrusted to their care. No wonder our indigenous people are so scarred. We have much to answer for.

I don’t expect everyone reading this to agree with me. All I ask is that you educate yourself so that you might have some understanding and empathy.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. To my new friends in Cheticamp, Pleasant Bay, Cape North, Bay St.Lawrence, Dingwall, Neils’ Harbour and beyond. My friends at the Highlands Hostel in Cape North (https://www.facebook.com/highlandshostel/?epa=SEARCH_BOX) are raising money for Yvonne Daisley who suffered a stroke a few months ago. I have donated several copies of one of my books. Please contact Bricin or Patricia and support Yvonne’s recovery. Thanks.

 

 

 

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on October 24, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments

Red Flags?

 

Oh Canada.

The people have spoken but no one is gloating over the results of the Federal Election. At least, they shouldn’t be. Like so many other countries, democracy seems to be under siege in the “true north strong and free”. I’ll leave the analysis to political scientists but there is something happening globally that is unsettling. Divisiveness and acrimony have replaced civility and compromise.

I have been fortunate to have lived in three of Canada’s provinces and have had the joy of traversing the country by car at least eight times. I haven’t walked it yet but the thought has crossed my mind. Hey, maybe I’ll walk for Canadian unity!

We can’t ignore the feelings of our friends and neighbours in other provinces. We do so at great peril. No one said that Canada has an inalienable right to stay together as a country and until such time that we figure out a way to co-exist, keeping our federation together is not a given. I am not pessimistic but I am very concerned.

I chose to ignore the rhetoric of the recent 40 day election campaign. So did many of you. However, the tone of the election was inescapable and this is troubling. Must we denigrate ourselves and get down in the dirt, slinging mud and invective? Surely we are better than this.

The threat of Quebec separation has reared its head again. Yes. I can see you nodding your head saying “Here we go again” but if we choose to ignore the alarm bells, one of these days we will find ourselves requiring a passport to get into “La Belle Province”.

Western alienation is real. I lived in Alberta in the late 70s (the 1970s, not the 1870s!). Even 40 years ago, there was a pervasive sentiment that Alberta was being taken for granted. The frustration in Alberta is palpable and if we’re not careful and thoughtful, we might be carrying another passport. I know this sounds alarming and it’s meant to be.

Lost in the shuffle and the noise is the ongoing embarrassment of our country’s treatment of our indigenous people. I continue to read and learn about the north and it is an ugly, brutal story. How can we call ourselves a nation that cares when there are still people living in the most atrocious conditions? Doesn’t every Canadian deserve the same opportunities, the same living conditions and the same access to education and health services? We have made a mess of the north. May I strongly suggest that everyone reading this go and pick up a copy of Tanya Telaga’s sobering book called “All Our Relations”. If you want a quick overview of the plight of our founding people, this book provides an excellent explanation. It is very depressing and disturbing. As a country, we are quick to pony up money and other resources when a crisis happens somewhere in the world. We have a crisis in our own back yard.

Is Canada too big to govern? Personally, I don’t think so but we must be very vigilant. This is a very tricky time in our history. I believe that we need to do a lot of listening and exhibit understanding and empathy to those whose views we do not share. If we don’t, trouble is on the horizon.

“We stand on guard for thee”.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. Hope you won’t mind if I puff out my chest just a wee bit. Our daughter, Betsy, ran for the NDP in Central Nova. It takes courage for anyone to put their names forward. While she didn’t prevail, she conducted herself in a dignified manner. I have been told that Central Nova had the highest voter turnout in Nova Scotia which speaks to the calibre of people who let their name stand. It also speaks of the people in the riding who cherish their democratic right to vote.

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