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t’s a four-hour drive from Edmonton to Jasper. Visually, the highway is slightly more exciting than any road out of Regina.
Joan was driving. I was bored.
I had read stories about people who believed that by concentrating, they could burn holes in clouds. I thought that was nonsense. Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to prove them wrong. I focussed all my attention on a small wispy-looking cloud up ahead.
It dissolved into blue sky as I watched.
Pure coincidence, I thought. I chose some bigger, puffier clouds. I found I could bore a hole through them, too.
So I picked one of the least likely clouds, one with a heavy dark base. I chose what seemed to be the thickest part of the cloud. I focussed myself totally on that cloud.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: clouds, mental energy
The name “Winston Smith” probably doesn’t immediately bring someone to mind. Good -- that’s what author George Orwell wanted. He deliberately made Smith, the central character in Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984, an unassuming, ordinary, fade-into-the-wallpaper civil servant.
Winston Smith did a very ordinary, unassuming, kind of job.
He rewrote history.
Every day, the Ministry of Truth had him amend news reports that had appeared in the pages of London’s most prestigious newspaper, The Times, to make them match to the government’s latest policies. If Winston Smith were alive today, he wouldn’t be working in a musty back room. He’d be out on the streets toppling statues.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: history, 1984, Orwell, Winston Smith, statues
As a song says, what a difference a day makes!
On the last Sunday in May, my daughter called after church, to say that she might have found me a dog. She worries about me living alone since my wife died. Especially when Covid-19 isolation restricts me from visiting others, or having them visit me.
By 3:00 that afternoon, I had a dog named Pippin.
After three months of isolation, I feel like a February groundhog emerging into the brightness of a new day.
I am no longer alone.
I have someone who needs me.
What a difference a dog makes.
Tags: relationships, COVID-19, isolation
The follies of my youth have caught up with me. For a dozen years, I spent almost every sunny weekend out on the water, just bumming around in small boats. Sometimes up Howe Sound, sometimes up the North Arm, sometimes just in Coal Harbour.
But wherever it was, I got blasted two ways by ultra-violet rays -- from the sun overhead, and from the sun reflecting off the water.
It was a glorious time, I remember.
But now I’m paying the price. A dermatologist told me that I will need to have seven pre-cancerous patches on my face removed surgically.
“Ideally,” he said, “I’d like to see you living in the bottom of a coal mine.”
My instant reaction was, “I’d rather die!”
Tags: choices, skin cancer, ultraviolet rays
A friend gave me a little book to pass on to our local museum. But because Covid-19 closed the museum for the last couple of months, I’ve kept the book on my bedside table for occasional edification.
It’s called “Rules for the Conduct of Life” -- a large topic. Closer inspection reveals a less lofty goal. It was intended as an ethical guide for apprentices seeking to join the Freemen of the City of London.
The text contains 36 rules. I found it interesting that only four of the 36 rules were considered self-evident, capable of standing on their own.
All the rest include at least one text from the Bible. Sometimes two, or three. As if they needed an external authority to validate their wisdom.
Tags: rules, authorities. Bible
Following the death of George Floyd, killed by cop Derek Chauvin, which provoked days of protests and nights of rioting and looting, governor Tim Walz has launched an inquiry into whether the Minneapolis police force has “systemic racism that is generations deep.”
Of course it does.
Stop! Before you fire off flaming letters telling me that I’ve maligned the good people who maintain law and order in our communities, read on.
This is not about individuals.
Individuals may disavow racism. But the system they belong to can’t help being racist, because it defends the rights and privileges of a class that is fundamentally racist.
Tags: Police, George Floyd, Tim Walz, systemic racism
The dogwood tree stood as a pillar of creamy white blossom. The hawthorn tree celebrated with a joyful chorus of deep pink flowers. Azaleas flamed fluorescent -- white, orange, red, violet, yellow. Purple allium heads tried to look like computer visualizations of a coronavirus. The rhododendrons toasted the morning in deep claret and white.
Lilacs, shaded from Ming to Wedgewood, ensured that this was not a fragrance-free zone.
Tiny yellow, white, and blue flowers cascaded down the rock garden. A septet of humming birds danced around their feeders. A great blue heron rose lazily from the lake below, trailing his legs behind him.
And there was evening and there was morning, in the four billionth year, and God saw that it was good.
Joan would have loved it. She would have rejoiced in her garden. I could not imagine how she could willingly leave it.
Tags: heaven, death, Joan Taylor
As I write this column, the COVID-19 death toll in Canada stands at 6873. Plus one potential death, that no one talks about.
COVID-19 may finally have shaken the blind belief that private enterprise can do any job more efficiently than public.
When death rates in long-term care facilities soared, the governments of Ontario and Quebec called in the military to help out.
Some military members of those Augmented Civilian Care tears wrote a report on the care deficiencies they observed. Which they passed to their superior officers. Who passed it to the provincial governments. Who made them public.
Tags: long-term care, Doug Ford, cutbacks, military report
My shovel sank into the soil the full depth of the blade, effortlessly, liker slicing butter. I turned the shovel load over. The soil was rich, black, moist. And loaded with fat wriggling worms.
Some robins thought I had called them for dinner. They hopped happily over the lumps of earth only a few feet away from my own feet.
What a difference 27 years makes. When we first moved onto this property, the land was a horse pasture. Back then, the earth beneath the sod consisted mostly of river-tumbled rock and gravel. In some earlier era, this bench had been the mouth of a rushing mountain stream dumping glacial debris into a lake much larger and deeper than today’s. It left a legacy of stones and sand.
The remains of the streambed still lie inches below our lawn. But this garden plot is different, thanks to 27 years of relentless composting.
If I’ve achieved nothing else in my life, I’ve created rich black soil that didn’t exist before.
Tags: composting, achievement
It’s hard to keep up with the rate of change. The other day, a news report announced that Army and Navy stores were closing.
I remember Army and Navy as the place to go to get stuff cheap. The late Sam Cohen founded Army and Navy in Vancouver 101 years ago, as a war surplus outlet. The Great War was over. He could get goods at going-out-of-business prices; hence the Army and Navy title.
The same week, news stories said the Reitman’s clothing chain was filing for bankruptcy. Even the survival of the venerable Hudson’s Bay Company was in doubt.
HBC is almost synonymous with Canada itself. The first Canadian limited-liability corporation, maybe the world’s first. Founded in 1670, before Canada was even a country. Opened the west to English trade. Made the world’s warmest blankets.
I can no more imagine Canada happening without the HBC than without the CPR.
Tags: COVID-19, Hudson's Bay Company, Army and Navy stores, Sam Cohen