Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Five things I’m sort of sure of

Author: Jim Taylor

Shortly before her 61st birthday, author Anne Lamott decided to write down a dozen things she had learned from life and writing that she could be absolutely sure about.

            I’m considerably older than Lamott. But I thought her exercise would be worth trying myself. So here are some things that I’m sort of sure of. They all seem to be rejections of things I once accepted uncritically.

            First, I am absolutely sure that I can’t be absolutely sure of anything anymore. Life evolves. Knowledge changes. Sooner or later, everything I’m sure of will require reconsideration.

            This is, at least in part, a spin-off from quantum physics, where particles can be waves, or vice versa, and both are only probabilities. Werner Heisenberg defined his Uncertainty Principle in 1927. Ironically, he then developed a mathematical proof for his hypothesis – thus making uncertainty a certainty!

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Restorative justice -- a better way

Author: Jim Taylor

This is a tale of two men -- one of them attempting to be an axe-murderer, the other attempting not to be his victim.

            I can give the name of the intended victim; Doug Martindale, a United Church minister who spent 21 years as a member of the Manitoba Legislature. I can’t name the perpetrator, because I don’t have his permission. Besides, he’s dead.

            The way the story goes, Doug agreed to paint the cottage of an elderly acquaintance, who owned a 10-acre woodlot. Doug would get some wood; the older man would get his cottage painted.

            But when Doug went up for a weekend’s work, no one told him that another man would also be there -- a second-generation-distant nephew. For simplicity, I’ll just call him “the nephew.”

            The nephew was drunk. 

            Still, the two worked reasonably well together, painting the eaves. Until they got to a bird’s nest with eggs in it. The cottage’s owner would want to preserve the wildlife, Doug thought. 

            The nephew didn’t like being told what to do. Doug tried to calm him, but the hostility escalated. Anger turned into threats. The nephew picked up a double-bitted axe and raised it over his head to strike Doug.

            Doug admits he was more scared than he had ever been in his life.


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Ode to a lowly garden snail

Author: Jim Taylor

On a morning walk, I almost missed seeing a small garden snail crawling across a paved road.

            Garden snails don’t belong on pavement. They’re too vulnerable. They carry a shell with them, but it’s no more protective than an eggshell. A car tire, or my foot, would crush it instantly.

            I took a break to watch the little creature.

            Its body was almost translucent. Its front end kept reaching forward; its hind end hung back, until it had to let go and suck itself back underneath that shell.

            I wondered how the hind end felt about being dragged along to an unknown destination. Did it scream, “Whoa! Stop! Where are you taking me? I don’t want to go there!”

            And did the front end, in fact, know where it was going? Can a snail possibly know in advance that lush green dewy grass lies on the far side of a paved road?

           In my fascination with the snail’s mental processes, I failed to note whether this particular snail’s shell was left- or right-handed.

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Moon race changed our view of earth

Author: Jim Taylor

Fifty years ago today, Neil Armstrong did something that no human being had ever done before. He stood on the moon. 

            And this coming Friday, James Lovelock will celebrate his 100thbirthday. 

            There’s a connection between the two events. 

            I remember watching the  moon landing, July 20, 1969. Official records say it happened at 10:56 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. I know our family clustered around a TV set, peering at a snowstorm of grainy black-and-white images. So we must have let our children stay up late to watch history being made.


           James Lovelock turned 50, six days after the moon landing. 

            NASA did not plan that coincidence, although Lovelock was working for NASA in those days, developing chemical tests that NASA would later use for detecting the possibility of life on Mars. 

            As an outcome of that work, Lovelock and biologist Lynn Margulis proposed that this earth is itself a living thing. Or, to quote Wikipedia, “that the living and non-living parts of the Earth form a complex interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism.” 

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West of Winnipeg

Author: Jim Taylor



Flatlined horizon

Flax fields, canola fields

Patchworked blue and yellow

Swedish flag quilted on rich brown loam

Telephone poles poke out of the future, one by one,

Pass by, get sucked back down on the far side of yesterday...

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Categories: Poetry

Tags: Winnipeg, prairie

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