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Carlton Street in Toronto starts at Yonge Street’s frenzy of retailing. Carlton then moves west, crossing Church Street’s gay bars and the former upper-crust mansions along Jarvis Street. Past the tropical greenhouses of Allan Gardens, the stone fortress of St. Luke’s United Church on Sherbourne Street, and Bleeker Street where, in the early 1990s, prostitutes flashed breasts and crotches at passing drivers.
It is, like Canada, a mosaic of cultures.
But one building stood out.
The original brick had been painted white. It had massive iron bars on all its windows. A heavy wrought-iron fence. High powered lights. A security camera over the front door.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: Zundel, Holocaust, Hiroshima, Holomodor, paranoia
Harvest times tend to come along all at once. I went out last week to offer volunteer services to my vegetable garden, and realized that the peas, raspberries, onions, and potatoes all needed attention at the same time.
I know how to pick and shell peas. I know how to pick raspberries. But I realized I didn’t have a clue about the right time to pull onions or dig potatoes.
So I called a friend. Who is, fortunately, kind enough not to laugh at my ignorance.
“You need to bend the tops of the onions over,” she said.
The tops of my onions had fallen over already, on their own.
“Then you can pull them,” she said. “But they’ll need to be dried.”
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: learning, onions, potatoes, osmosis
Dying is never fun. I think I can safely say that, although I suppose there may be people who gather together for some kind of final bacchanalia as they expire.
As Peggy Lee sang, long ago, “If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze, and have a ball…”
But such a party would, I imagine, be only a way of suppressing their fear of dying.
Those who have been close to a dying person know what it’s like. Pain, even with constant medication. Helplessness. Loss of independence. Loss of control. Loss of memory. Bewilderment. Confusion. Sometimes calm resignation, sometimes anger and bitterness.
Tags: COVID-19, children, starving
We took Joan Taylor home two weekends ago.
The four remaining members of her family – her daughter, two grandchildren, and I, her husband – drove her ashes 500 km and five mountain passes back to Kootenay Lake, where she had grown up.
She had been clear, all through her leukemia, that she wanted to be cremated, not buried.
“What do you want done with your ashes,” we asked her, in her final months.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I won’t be there.”
Oddly enough, those were the same words my father used, when I asked him the same question. A few days later, he had second thoughts. He wanted his ashes scattered in his favourite fishing river.
Tags: Kootenay Lake, ashes, cremation, Crawford Bay
Until early July, B.C. had been a model for North America. This province was the first to be hit by the pandemic; it was the first to “flatten the curve” and bring infections under control. B.C.’s interior had no new cases in weeks.
And then around Canada Day, a bunch of younger people gathered at private parties in two Kelowna resort hotels. Some of those people later visited two other sites where infected individuals were present.
As a result, around 300 new cases have been identified. And around 1000 people are now in self-isolation because of the possibility of having been infected.
And those figures, admits Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, are “absolutely going to go higher.”
Tags: Kelowna, COVID-19, mammals
He got cancer. A rare kind of cancer, his doctor told him. He knew he was looking death in the eye.
He remembered an old saying: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” When bullets zip past your head, you don’t turn to philosophical theories for comfort.
And he realized that no matter how sincere his convictions about a God who was inside, outside, and everywhere, a God embodied in the world and in him, at that moment what he wanted was a God who could do something about his cancer. A God who was more than an abstract understanding.
He realized he still yearned for that God “out there.”
Tags: God, fear, cancer
A new term has crept into the lexicon of race relations – “white privilege.”
Don’t confuse white privilege with white supremacy. White supremacy means that you actively assert the superiority of people with white skins over anyone who has skin of a different colour -- using politics, religion, legislation, or violence.
White privilege, on the other hand, refers to aspects of life that we -- I speak for myself, but I assume others are like me -- have never previously considered, but have simply taken for granted.
Tags: racism, white privilege, seeing colour
The yucca plants along my driveway are in bloom. This year, 51 spikes, creamy white columns of glory, rise above their clusters of sword-like leaves,
I don’t know what kind of yucca plants I have. There are, Wikipedia tells me, 49 species of yucca, and another 24 sub-species. Some grow over 30 feet (10 m) tall. Some are used for food. Some grow only in deserts. Some have fleshy leaves that store water like aloes; some have leaves as hard and dry as old shoe leather.
All I know is that my yucca border began with just two plants. The man who built our house was doing some work in his mother’s yard. He dug up some yuccas, and said to himself, “Jim Taylor needs something to grow along his driveway.”
His mother is long gone, but her yuccas live on, and delight people walking by when they burst into their annual celebration of summer.
Tags: yucca, provenance
Children love blowing bubbles. They blow bubbles in the bath. They run around the yard leaving trails of bubbles behind them. They try to catch those shimmering, shining bubbles without bursting them.
Bubbles are fascinating. Real, but not real. Some bubbles pop when they touch other bubbles; some merge into bigger bubbles.
I remember community picnics where some bubbles looked like oversized bologna, bigger than the kids who blew them. They drifted overhead. Until they popped and showered droplets of glycerine and detergent on the adults below.
In today’s COVID-19 world, though, “bubble” takes on new meaning. We’re not thinking of bubbles from the outside anymore; we’re thinking of the bubbles we’re inside.
Tags: trust, bubbles, COVID-19
IThe Bible asserts -- not just once but three times -- that Moses led 600,000 men of fighting age out of Egypt. Forty years later, when they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Israelites still had 600,000 men able to go to war.
So a whole new generation was born while roaming through the deserts and mountains of the Sinai peninsula.
Which means -- I think I’m correct here -- that there must have been women among them, although the Bible didn’t bother counting women. Or children. Or seniors, such as Moses himself.
Assuming that birthrates haven’t changed much, 600,000 men probably meant an equal number of women.
Add children and seniors, the total nears two million.
If you’ve ever seen the Sinai desert, it is inconceivable that two million people could wander for 40 years through that arid wilderness.
Tags: numbers, new math, Sinai, Petra