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The days are getting longer – had you noticed? Today will be one minute and nine seconds longer than yesterday. Sunrise hasn’t changed, but the sun now sets later. Soon the sunrise will accelerate too, and the northern hemisphere will hurtle towards summer.
Our grandson sent a photo of himself on a beach in Mexico. I must admit that my first reaction was not delight. It was envy. I looked at the sparking sand, the turquoise sea, the fluffy clouds. I could imagine warm sun on my shoulders. I wished I were there.
Why, I wondered, would anyone live anywhere but in the tropics?
But I know why, when I look out my window. Grey snow, piled along the roadsides. Brown grass. Bare tree limbs, black against a sodden sky…
I need these seasonal reminders so that I can fully appreciate summer.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: summer, winter, yin/yang, contrasts
When the streets get icy in winter, I walk more carefully. Especially after the snowplow has gone by, and polished the fresh snow into a surface as slick as anything created by a Zamboni. I can’t take the risk of stepping forward and having my heel skid.
The more slippery the surface, the shorter the steps I take.
And when I’m going down a slope, I employ something like a curler’s slither. I don’t lift my feet at all.
The length of my stride is directly related to my confidence in myself.
“Walking,” Paul Salopek explained in National Geographic, “is falling forward.”
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: walking, Salopek, National Geographic, confidence
‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all over the floor
lay the littered remains of the day just before…
That’s a cynical view of Christmas. No presents left under the tree, just bags of tattered Christmas wrapping to go into recycling. The carcass of leftover turkey lurks in the refrigerator. The music channel has put Christmas albums away for another year and gone back to golden oldies.
There’s not much left of Christmas.
Or is there?
I rather like the idea that the walls of an opera house might somehow still resonate to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s soaring soprano. That a sports stadium might remember Roger Banister’s Miracle Mile. That a street in Jerusalem might remember Jesus’ sandaled feet.
Because that means something isn’t over, just because it’s over.
Tags: Christmas, memory, Christopher Plummer, Bruce McLeod
Today is the last Sunday before Christmas. I can confidently predict that every Christian congregation -- and possibly those of other religions too -- will hear a sermon about the birth of Jesus.
I can also predict some of the themes of those sermons.
Some will use Mary’s status to urge people to do something about poverty. Or about justice. Or perhaps about historic discrimination against women. The Christmas story becomes a means of getting at a social issue.
Others will use a series of carefully selected Bible verses to prove, beyond any doubt, that God Almighty became a helpless crying baby. And/or that biblical prophets knew all the details of an obscure birth that would take place 500 years later.
And therefore, by extension, that every other word in the Holy Book must also be 100% accurate.
A friend and retired preacher calls all of this “head stuff.” It’s wonderful material to argue about. But it makes no difference at all to how you drive on the highway. Or how you treat the cashier at the grocery store.
Tags: Michael Dowd, Evolution, brains, belonging
Sam Steele still makes headlines. Steele is, of course, the legendary hero of the RCMP who brought law and order to the Canadian West.
Although the RCMP -- the Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- didn’t exist yet. And the “West” wasn’t fully Canada yet.
But Steele was certainly a real person. As a staff-sergeant in the North West Mounted Police, which later became the RCMP, he ended the Riel Rebellion in the last formal battle fought on Canadian soil.
Steele established the first NWMP fort west of the Rockies at Galbraith’s Ferry -- since renamed Fort Steele in his honour.
And he went on from there to the Yukon Territory, where the discovery of gold launched the famous Klondike Gold Rush. Thousands of gold-hungry gun-totin’ Americans flooded north. Steele made his own laws. By requiring every person entering the Yukon to bring along a ton of supplies, he prevented the Yukon from turning into the OK Corral North.
But he’s back. By a circuitous chain of ironies.
Tags: RCMP, Sam Steele, uniforms, copyright
don’t see many Christmas cards these days. Between Facebook and email, religious cards with traditional nativity scenes have become less popular.
But the scenes themselves haven’t changed much. A mother and child. Sometimes with a father, sometimes not. Sometimes with animals and a stable, sometimes not. Sometimes with shepherds; sometimes with visiting Magi.
And the child is always holy.
But how does an artist paint holiness?
It’s easy to draw a baby. It’s not as easy to show that baby as God embodied.
The Christian church has historically claimed that God – also known as Father, Almighty, Creator, all-knowing, immortal, unchanging – became a human infant. Who is none of those things. At least, not yet.
Tags: Nativity, artists, paintings
A small ceramic Christmas tree sits on a table in our front hall. It’s not much of a tree – about 12 inches high, dark green, with whitish snow flaked on the ends of its branches. A light bulb inside shines out through coloured plastic plugs stuck into holes in the branches.
Over the years, we’ve lost about a dozen of the plastic plugs. The light inside now shines directly out through several holes.
It never was particularly pretty, I suppose. But it’s special. Because it was given to me with love.
It came from Lorraine Wicklow almost 40 years ago. The next summer, Lorraine died of a massive brain hemorrhage.
As far as I know, she had no family, no relatives. Perhaps I was her family. She used to drop in at my office, back in the days when I worked at the United Church’s national offices in Toronto. She always arrived at the very end of the day, just as I was loading up my briefcase to go home.
Tags: Christmas tree
Here we are, into the first week in December, the first week of what the Christian Church has traditionally termed the beginning of a new year.
In the northern hemisphere, we have three different “years.” The calendar year starts January 1. The school year starts in September. And the Christian year starts with the four Sundays before Christmas -- collectively called Advent. The first Sunday is usually about Hope.
Of course, it’s about hope for the coming of a Saviour, a Messiah, a holy person who will show the world how to live.
But is that really hope, 20 centuries later? We already know that child was born, and grew up, and set us an example….
Tags: hope, leukaemia, miracle, extinction
This coming Friday, December 6, marks the 30th anniversary of the deadliest mass murder in Canadian history. That is, if you don’t count attacks on indigenous peoples. They were, after all, just Indians.
Marc Lepine would probably say the same about his rampage at L´Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. They were, after all, just women. Feminists, studying engineering so that they could steal men’s jobs.
Fourteen women died. Fourteen more victims -- ten women and four men -- were injured by his bullets. The 15thdeath was Lepine, when he shot himself.
And there’s no question about his intentions. He left a three-page suicide note, plus letters to two friends, explaining his hostility towards women in general, towards women who wanted to be engineers in particular.
I won’t attempt to analyze his motives. I do want to trace his actions, and some people’s responses.
Tags: mass murder, heroes, Montreal, L'Ecole Polytechnique
Growing older exposes me to new experiences, often unexpected experiences, that make me wonder what I’ve actually been paying attention to, all these years.
Hearing, for example.
As a journalist for most of my life, I’ve needed to hear exactly what people were saying. When quoting people in the public eye, it’s not good enough to print what I think they might have said.
There’s a huge difference between, say, “prosecution” and “prostitution.”
But as I have aged, my hearing has declined. So I wear hearing aids.
When I remember them, that is. I didn’t remember them for a recent gathering. I tried to catch, and translate into comprehension, various people’s comments. But I found the extra effort tiring.
So I tried listening a different way. To the sounds, the tones, the rhythms of speech around the room.
It was like listening to music.
Tags: hearing, music, deafness