Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Shows and Events

Day in the Museum: Part One, Four Senses

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I spent this past Sunday afternoon surrounded by a lot of old things and one incredibly old book. This week I will break up my afternoon at the Stratford Perth Museum into three separate blog posts: today, Wednesday, and Friday.

The Stratford Perth Museum sits on seven acres, its present location, in a big old brick house. It is out of the town of Stratford a ways now, for the first time, when it moved away from the Stratford Festival and the flurry of excitement, to a more peaceful spot. In 2008 they felt they needed more space and made the move and the transition.

I had never heard of this museum, but I suppose I hadn’t really thought about it. I don’t spend as much time in museums as I wish I did. I think most people think of the town of Stratford for the Festival theatre, but there is a rich culture and history in the area. It felt like one however, on entering, but I tend to have my idiosyncrasies with these institutions.

I enter a world of previously owned or used things. I love the history and the mystery of these items I find myself surrounded by, but I am without the ability to appreciate these collections with my eyes. It is my other four senses (excluding taste because it really doesn’t apply here) that I’m left with.

Immediately I realize I probably won’t be able to touch these precious and often times delicate pieces. I assume, rightly from the start, that this Shakespeare folio will not be the exception. The woman who greets us confirms that for me, no doubt spotting the white cane in my hand.

I want to stress that I love history and to imagine where something has been and who may have owned or handled it in the past. I can’t explain my strange discomfort with old things, starting in my childhood and with my fear of pioneer villages on school trips.

I have been to Europe and I swore I wouldn’t miss out on anything truly memorable while there just because I was afraid of…I don’t know what (an experience for another day’s post.)

I do not see as I walk through the museum and these buildings are like libraries, in that there is a sense of hush on the place. That only leaves one more sense: smell.

Smell is such a strange thing to relay to others through words, but it fills me with so much sense memory.

Smell can be nostalgic and it can be distasteful. It can be a distraction for me, totally taking me out of the moment and away from what history and treasures I find myself surrounded by.

Our special exhibit priced tickets give us access to the entire museum and my sister locates things I could actually get a feel for by touching. I spent my time in the Shakespeare exhibit and, unable to feel anything, (I was left with a museum headache) trying to grasp in my mind and imagination, what others were seeing with their eyes.

Festival Treasures: Creating the Wild Kingdom

“The Stratford Perth Museum, in conjunction with the Stratford Festival, presents a special exhibition called Festival Treasures: Creating the Wild Kingdom, showcasing unique pieces from the festival archives.”

It’s here my sister tries to show me the props and masks for view. I feel the strange materials and plastics and she knows not to place my hand on anything made of fur. I have a reactionary reflex alive and well that takes control of my hand, but I tell myself silently to take it easy and not pull away so fast. I’m sure it still shows in my behaviour.

“This fun-filled safari explores inventive ways of bringing birds and beasts to the stage. It will feature costumes, props, design sketches, audiovisual material, documents and photographs to illustrate the process of creating pieces for festival productions of The Birds, Peter Pan, Alice Through the Looking Glass, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and many others.”

I am curious about how these items have all remained in such good conditions for so many decades, through countless performances and I speak to an Archiveist Assistant:

I work in the festival archives. I’ve worked for a long time in the festival but I only recently went to the archives, I was a stage manager before that. Stratford Festival has the largest theatrical archive in the world, devoted to one theatre.

I ask her about how these things have managed to survive for fifty or so years:

Purpose-built facility…climate-controlled atmosphere. Archival friendly tissue paper and acid-free boxes. It’s kept at the right humidity, that’s why it’s so cold in here.

How does this work with keeping all these items from past performances?

We have the advantage of having props and costumes. Most theatrical archives don’t have the room or the money.

We have all the asses heads from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the strawberry handkerchief from Othello, the casket from Merchant of Venice

We recently celebrated the sixty-second anniversary. Back in fifty-three we’re lucky there were people that were far-sighted enough to keep things, especially because they weren’t sure there was going to be a fifty-four season or a fifty-five season, let alone two-thousand-fourteen.
We started in a tent.

How much is kept?

We take two costumes and the main props from all the productions each year.

I ask her specifically about something from Shakespeare’s time period and how that survives:

Bugs, moisture, heat…those are your biggest problems.

For four hundred years it was okay in somebody’s house. In order for it to last that long…biggest thing is moisture and sunlight…just to keep things from fading. That’s why you keep the lights down. It’s quite extraordinary.

So what is one way costumes and props are preserved over the years, in the festival?

For things like sweat and body odour…the best thing is vodka. You spray the costumes with it.

All the blood, sweat, and tears that go into that…all those performances.

This museum was once someone’s home and is now an old house, storing old things. It now houses so much from a past long gone. In Shakespeare’s case, long long gone.

Next time I will write about the reason I went to the museum in the first place: Shakespeare’s First Folio.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir and Reflections, Throw-back Thursday

Tornado: Part Two, Aftermath

Last week (in Tornado: Part One) I told the tale of the day the tornado struck and the

Whirlwind

And now here is the aftermath of that storm.

***

Rural areas around Hickson, 13 km north of Woodstock, and a wide swath south and east of the city showed only too clearly the devastating damage left by the tornado.

***

What happened to your father’s car?

We found out where it was and went to the auto body. It didn’t look horrible. The windows were all knocked out, dents all over the car, but it looked damaged enough. We got the insurance and the things we needed out. I am not sure what ended up happening to it.

***

What did you and Dad do the next morning?

We went out to the farm and I was just shocked. By then already there were chainsaws going, people were cutting up the trees.

I don’t think I did anything but walk around that day from the barn to the house to the driving shed, everything was just completely gone.

Back then they still let you go through all your stuff. I wandered through the rooms. Today they would bring in crews and would need to check the structure of the house before they would even let you go in.

There was broken glass all over and shards of glass were driven right into the kitchen counters. The walls upstairs were completely torn off. My old bedroom was completely open to the sky. My wedding gown had been in one of the spare bedroom closets. We found it stuck up in one of the pine trees. shredded and dirty. Somebody else must have taken it down already because I don’t think I did that.

The little kids swing set was still standing unharmed with pine trees ripped out on all sides of it, from when we were kids. We had that swing set.

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(I used to swing on this set with my cousins when we were growing up. My youngest uncle would live on this farm for many years, after my grandparents retired and passed the farm to him.

My grandfather gave a swing set like this to each of his children for their children. Ours stands there still and now my nephews and niece play on it. It is a strong structure, as strong as the man it came from had been.)

***

What did you and Mom do and see that next morning?

We drove out and as we got there we could see how much damage was done. All the trees were down…tuns of people already, chainsaws going. Mom met her family…lots of hugs and crying, surveying the damage, driving shed gone and debris all over the place.

It was only nine or nine thirty and there were already probably one hundred people there, people…people showing up all the time. Family and friends just kept on showing up.

What damage was there to any vehicles?

The freezer had fallen against your uncle’s car. It had been in the garage and the garage had been attached to the house by a little breezeway. That wall had fallen…on his car, which was in pretty bad shape.

What other damage did you notice?

Outside I looked up and could see the bathroom wall was gone, you could see the bathtub and toilet. The house was quite damaged, especially the top, a lot of water damage. The staircase was damaged with bricks all over the place. I thought I walked upstairs. Sometimes…it’s thirty five years ago and it’s pretty traumatic. Some of the finer parts…I might have forgot. Chaos all day…people working, doing this or that. I don’t know what we did all day. I don’t remember me doing anything all day either…people bringing food.

***

When you first saw it, did it still look like the house you grew up in?

There was a nice stained glass window in the living room, it was all shattered to pieces. Most of the downstairs windows were all blown out. The stairs were all full of bricks.

How long had that house been there?

It had previous owners. It was built somewhere around nineteen-hundred. It was already almost eighty years old when this happened, but it had a double brick layer, a beautiful old farm house.

What did you say and what did they say when you finally saw your parents?

They both explained where they were and what it felt like.

The loud roar of everything being torn up above would have been frightening I’m sure.
She didn’t know where grandpa and bruce were. She had no idea. She stayed crouched beside the oil tank in the basement, next to the furnace.

They were out in the barn milking cows at the time.
They went over to the milk house because it was buried in the barn bank. two walls were buried in the bank and the third wall was against the barn, figuring that would be the safest place. The doors blew open and it got really really windy in there so they moved just inside the barn on or underneath the steps. As they did that there was a horrible loud sound and the silo broke apart and fell down on top of the milk house. If they had stayed where they were they would have been crushed by huge slabs of concrete.

(Grandpa and my uncle laid there, my grandpa covering my uncle and the dog somewhere in there too.)

Was her name Lassie? Didn’t you have several dogs named that growing up?

Quite a few. Grandma liked to name her dogs Lassie. The poor dog. She went deaf after that tornado. She never heard again. Whether it was just stress or the pressure of the wind.

It took their farm but the farm north of them and the farm south were perfectly fine. Then it went over to the next road. It hit the river bed and kind of followed along the river. Then jumped out…there’s one woods along the highway and it went through there and all the trees were just wrecked.

***

(For a while during my conducting of these interviews my two parents spoke of their memories and recollections together. Mom remembered what was necessary to protect the ruined property early on and Dad chimed in with what they both recalled of a particular situation.)

My uncle stayed over night to make sure nobody came out to steal anything. The telephone still worked. Well, I think you could call out but you couldn’t call in.

Wasn’t there some guy? my father reminded her, not having to finish his sentence.

When they were chopping up white birch trees…some guy started loading it in his truck. “Hey! This isn’t a free-for-all!” My mom recounted.

A lot of people were helping out, weren’t they? I asked naively.

Yeah, a lot of people but not strangers putting in their trunk to take home. HE was taking wood. Why would you take wood. You’d chop that up.

(Both their memories intersect and overlap and one had a picture of the details of those days that the other did not or which did not match up at times.

My father still recalls the tornado falling on a Tuesday while my mother does not recall the actual dates, him being better with those sorts of details. That is a trait I inherited from my father. He remembered details such as where the holidays were spent that first year after the tornado.)

We had Christmas dinner down there that first year, Christmas of seventy-nine.

***

What other damage did you and Mom notice as you wandered around that next day?

The chimney had fallen on top of Grandpa’s car.

How were you involved in the days that followed?

We were there constantly, back and forth everyday. I was off work for a couple days.

How did Grandpa seem to be holding up to you?

Confused, in a bit of a daze with everything that had just happened to them.

When did the rebuilding begin?

Grandpa had to decide if he wanted to even rebuild. Someone down the road might have sold their farm to him if they had been ready to retire…I remember him talking about that.

Finally they decided they were going to rebuild and by the next week there were men working to rebuild the top of the barn.

***

Mennonites are Christian Anabaptists who follow the teachings of European religious leader Menno Simons (1496-1561). They believe in pacifism, non-violence and simplicity. The Anabaptists (meaning “re-baptizers”) arose from the Protestant Reformation. They rejected the idea of infant baptism, believing the practice should be a voluntary expression of faith. Their descendants include the Amish, Baptists, Hutterites, Mennonites and Quakers.

. According to their website, The Mennonite Disaster Service was first organized in Kansas in 1950. It was an extension of the Mennonite practice of mutual aid, and the belief that their faith is best expressed through daily caring for one another. When church members or neighbours lost a barn in a fire, flood or tornado, the Mennonites would raise a new barn “to represent the love of Jesus Christ and the power of collaboration.”

. The Mennonite Disaster Service now claims the involvement of more than 3,000 Anabaptist churches and districts. They organize and manage volunteer labour, but do not provide direct material or financial donations to victims.

***

How did your parents find out about their car and all that had happened at home while they were away?

A week and half later mike (his brother/my uncle) and I went to meet them. Obviously, we had to pick them up at the airport and we told them what had happened. They said they remembered seeing something in the paper about a tornado somewhere around here, not if they knew where. Back then you didn’t have the same news as today. They didn’t realize it had hit at home here.

Even your father helped out didn’t he?

My dad was still working, but he came, as a brick layer. He helped fix some of the barn, pens and around the windows and doors. He would come sometimes after work.
There were people milling around, not as many people as the first few days, but it was a lot of mess around to be cleaned up still.

***

Where did your parents live once their home was practically destroyed? Did they stay with family?

They did for probably the first week or so and then their friends lent them a Winnebago they parked on the farm so they could stay right there because they had cows to milk and people were there all times of the day and night.

Did all the animals survive?

All the cows were fine. There could have been some pigs lost. I don’t know if there were some sows outside probably.
But most of the animals inside the barn…the tornado took off the whole top. The top of the barn was full of both straw and hay. It took the barn walls and roof and most of the hay and straw were blown away, but the floor of the barn was left in tact and therefor all the animals below it were protected.
There aren’t that many windows in a barn and they are all solid stone and concrete sides.

What other damage and destruction was there?

There was corn out in the field and it looked like someone just took a big roller over it and flattened it right to the ground. It was just pushed over sideways from all the rain and wind. Most of it wasn’t broken off. It was just pushed over sideways and flat.

One of my old report cards…up in the attic already…it blew to Drumbo, which was ten miles away. Somebody found it in their field. I got it back. Somebody eventually recognized my name and returned it to me. It was a little tattered, but it was still very legible…probably had gotten wet but had dried out and laying in a field. You didn’t know whose stuff was whose. We could have been picking up debris from the neighbours. A lot of it was broken pieces of things. Very few things were left in tact.

What happened next?

And then the clean-up began. I used to go out there every day and bring a basket of laundry home with me every night because everybody’s clothes would be filthy dirty.

Then we started knocking the mortar off, to reuse some of the bricks. Grandpa sold the bricks from the house. The whole structure was torn down. First, salvaging what you could, taking out all your personal stuff, Grandma’s photo albums were in cabinets right in the interior of the house inside closed doors so most of them were okay. She had a lot of her personal effects like that still kept. Anything out oven a room or upstairs was taken away pretty much.

It was a matter of taking all that stuff out and then where to put it. It got taken to a lot of different places. For months and months afterward, when they finally moved into their new house people were returning with boxes and boxes of the stuff they had taken to keep for them.
Many different people came and helped and then those people would take boxes of stuff to their own homes because there was no place to store it. There were no buildings left to put it into.

How long before they got their belongings back then?

It took probably almost a year after before they got all their stuff back. You didn’t know what all you were missing initially because so many people packed it into boxes and took it away. That way a lot of people cleaned up stuff for grandma so she didn’t have to do it all. For months after even food from the freezer was returned, stuff they didn’t even remember they had had.

Grandma dealt with pain and fatigue from fibromyalgia for years at this time. was all the stress hard on her condition?

Yeah she did. I’m sure it was. Sometimes you go on adrenaline initially but yeah Im sure it was hard on her too but she did well considering. Sometimes you don’t really get a chance to think of yourself. when you’re caught up with so many different things and
that was why it was good to be right there. She could go lay down anytime she wanted to.

How long before they could move back into their house?

They didn’t get into their house until almost Christmas. They were just thrilled when they could move into the basement. They just set up sheets to divide and separate the room for privacy.
One couch was rescued but their living room furniture was ruined. They had to buy a new living room set after they moved into their house.

(Years later the surviving couch was still in use in the family room of their little house. The arms were ripped, but at least it was well-worn.)

How long before the new house was totally rebuilt?

It would have probably been Feb or March before they actually moved in upstairs.
By spring all the rest, all the outside was done.
They had insurance so that paid for the majority of stuff. They had someone come in and paint and do all that stuff so Grandma didn’t have to.

How did this affect them financially?

The community, they had a tornado fund. I can’t remember if they got seven thousand dollars or how much they got.

What did Grandpa do going forward?

He took all the pine trees that were wrecked and took all the tree trunks and sawed them into 2 by fours to build the barn. Had to buy some but that really helped with the lumber, to keep down the cost too.

You were pregnant and then a first-time mom when all of this was going on. What was that like?

We spent that whole fall and into spring…almost every day I would go out to the farm. There’d be something to clean up…work at.
I felt fine…I felt good. I would take some days off, but spent a lot of days out there.
Paul and I went out fairly often in the spring.

***

It’s strange finishing the interview with her with Raffi on the television while my nephew sleeps in the next room, reminding me of a time on our old home movies with Raffi on in the background as children. That was only a few years after all this, but now it has been thirty five and I try again to imagine what it was like that day for them all and over the ones to come.

All I and many people imagine of a tornado when we try to picture one is that famous scene from The Wizard of Oz, on that Kansas farm in the thirties, a time long gone. That is even what I use as a visual in my own head.

I wanted to look back on what it was really like, with the only two people I can now ask. I want to thank my wonderful parents for telling their story and for the life they made for my siblings and I after that day that changed everything.

***

Some of the quotes from immediately after the fact I took from the following sources:

Kitchener Waterloo Record

Written by Sheila hannon

http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/environment/extreme-weather/deadly-skies-canadas-most-destructive-tornadoes/1979-woodstock-tornado.html

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Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, Memoir Monday, RIP

Carpe Diem

At first, with the immediacy of social media these days, we must let the sources and updates build up and hold truth before a rumour of a star’s death is to be fully believed.

Robin Williams had a big influence on the comedic distraction of my childhood. I loved him as Genie in Aladdin and just recently revisited his performance when I watched that childhood Disney classic again, after more than fifteen years, with my young niece. That was such a fun part for him to play and he would be forever imprinted in the imaginations of children like me everywhere.

As a child I also loved Mrs. Doubtfire. It was just the sort of family film that I gravitated toward. The scene at the end of the movie where he speaks as his old maid alter ego, about family in all its guises still being family, still profoundly affects me to this very day.

Mrs. Doubtfire: final scene.

I last saw it on Boxing Day.

I loved going to the movies and my friend and I saw Jumanji together, (my favourite Glossette Raisins in hand) and the over-the-top jungle scenery and animals blew me away. His role in that film was a very under-rated children’s epic adventure story. I was thrilled when I got the film on video for Christmas when I was eleven and I even got the board game to go along with it.

In this clip he is his usual wild and wacky self while promoting the release of the movie.

Jay Leno interview.

Of course I am not old enough to know his early roles (the biggest being Mork from Mork & Mindy). His last attempt at a sitcom seemed to be welcomed with relatively positive reactions, but I never did get hooked. To me he was and always would be a movie actor.

Each time a celebrity dies I already, in a sort of morbid curiosity, start to wonder which of them will be the next headline. They die like everyone else and often in tragic ways, but this sort of thing happens to the rest of us as well and the widespread headlines only serve as reminders of the suffering that many people experience.

This summer I’ve already written about such things in my own family and I can’t not write here when these things happen once more. I see them as the most appropriate time to explore what’s really going on with people. Suicide happens at any age.

He was the ultimate picture of the dark and the light battling for supremacy. Often, it is known, that comedians are the most dark deep down and in their pasts and their private lives. I happen to believe that comedy, laughter, and humour are the only antidotes for Sadness, despair and depression. Without the latter there would not be the former, but they each only serve to highlight the other in sheer contrast.

Never Had a Friend Like Me

This song is in your-face and attention-grabbing, just like Williams always was. HE couldn’t seem to be serious in his many interviews over the years. He seemed crazy and out-of-control through that television screen…to me.

I ask myself tonight: What kind of a friend was he? What kind of father was he? In Jumanji the young boy says to him:

“You’re afraid. It’s okay to be afraid.”

Just what was Robin Williams afraid of?

These are the questions I’d ask when I’d see the man in the media and realize he couldn’t possibly always keep that kind of energy up. He must have been all sorts of things off camera that people didn’t see.

Reports of suicide as cause of death are still being confirmed, but reports aren’t often wrong about these things. The most obvious explanation is probably the correct one, even now. Which one of us is going to be surprised at this conclusion? His depression was widely known. He battled drug addiction and alcoholism throughout his life.

He was a Stand-up who, like many comedians, was shy as a child and used the stage and screen to bring himself out of that shyness. HE went to Juilliard with life-long friend Christopher Reeve. He won an Academy award. All of this gave him credibility.

His role in Hook made him beloved. He seemed, a lot of the time, to be a big kid and perfect to act as a character in a world where you never had to grow up. He could be utterly creepy in movies such as Insomnia and One Hour Photo…both of which my brother introduced to me. Great movie roles such as the psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting and radio personality in Good Morning Vietnam showed his true acting brilliance. He made me smile as a barely competent Russian doctor in the movie Nine Months. He had a gift for improvisation and imitation.

I never did see Dead Poets Society, but it sounds like one I would probably enjoy. Any literary themed movie is one I aim to watch, but up until now I suppose I didn’t have it at the front of my mind or at the top of my to-watch list.

On reading up on all the internet traffic since the death announcement I came across a scene from the movie where the Latin expression I have always loved is discussed. I am titling this sad blog post Carpe Diem because it is fitting.

Carpe Diem

Williams seems to philosophize and reflect on the expression while simultaneously putting the fear into his young students about making the most of life before it’s too late…a lesson we often forget ourselves.

This is something I strongly subscribe to in my own life and, especially lately, have been striving for. None of us usually know how much time we have left. Sadly Williams probably knew by the end, if he made that decision to end it all.

I choose to speak, on this occasion, about what I believe is the important take-away. I know how many people suffer in silence or who are desperate for help to be led out of the darkness they are lost in. Sometimes there is no answer that will satisfactorily appease everyone involved or looking in.

Seize the day or one of these days it will be too late.
RIP Robin.

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Memoir and Reflections, Special Occasions, Throw-back Thursday

Tornado: Part One, Whirlwind

For years after it happened my grandma would appear visibly shaken during any summer storm. When the sky would start to darken it was clear she couldn’t help flashing back to the day her world was turned up-side-down.

She was alone in the house on the evening of August 7th, 1979 while my grandfather and my uncle (a teenager at the time) were out in the barn.

My grandparents were simple people, a hard-working dairy farmer and his wife. Their farm was everything to them and a visible sign of all they had built together over the previous thirty years.

***

Woodstock – her electric clock stopped at twenty minutes before seven.
About five minutes after the power failure, the tornado struck.

“It was just terrible,”, Ruby Witzel said Wednesday, fighting back the tears.
“It was a horrible experience – you just can’t express it in words,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
She stood outside her rural home near Hickson, huddled in a red and black plaid jacket, her salt and pepper hair drawn back.

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***

My parents were newly-weds during the summer of 79 and had been married just under two months, barely settled into the home they had purchased on the other side of the town of Woodstock. It was a big enough move for them both, not being overly familiar with that area, away from the farm my mother grew up on. My father had been a city kid all his life.

My grandparents are no longer here to be included in this (although I am certain they would have done gladly). They loved to tell their story and I heard it several times growing up, but now I am left with only old newspaper articles from immediately afterward.

I asked my parents to retell their own sides of that day. My mom was at home and waiting for my dad to come home from work. She had no idea anything happened until after the havoc that spread through the area.

***

When did you first know anything was wrong? I got a phone call. The afternoon was really hot and it was extremely still.

I’m not even sure who it was that called me and said that the tornado had gone through mom and dads and destroyed the farm.
I called to see if dad had already left to tell him to come home right away and they said their electricity was out and they couldn’t use their PA system to page him, but they kind of thought he had already left, but they weren’t sure. So I just waited and I waited and I waited and he didn’t show up so after waiting so long I hopped in our car and I thought I’ll drive to Woolco and see if I can find him
So I get on the 401 and it is completely stopped with traffic and all backed up. I looked at my gas tank it was almost empty. I waited for a little while and my gas tank started going down so I thought what am I gonna do so I turned around and went the opposite way and got back off and tried to go into town but it was completely closed off. There were trees all over the road and wires down.
I had no idea where he was or what was going on. I had no idea where he was for at least two hours probably. He wasn’t coming home and nobody at work saw him. I was in tears driving back to our house not knowing, how to get anywhere. Scared all by myself.

***

What about you Dad. What first tipped you off to something not right? The power went out in the store. I was done work at six and I was ready to go home. I didn’t want to stick around in case they wanted me to do some more work. I went outside and, since my parents went to Europe, I had my dad’s car, a big old Chrysler. I looked north of the mall…I thought holy smokes they’re getting a real bad storm out that way. Down south looked fine, at least what I thought.

***

“It was like a white cloud whirling around. I couldn’t see anything else,” Mrs. Witzel recalled with tears in her eyes.
“I quickly ran down to the cellar and the garage was already blowing away.”

“The wind was really blowing against the cellar door.” she said.
“I could hardly push it open,” she said, leaning against the battered wreck of her son’s new Thunderbird parked in what was once the garage.

(My mother’s two older brothers were both married and had children. My twin cousins were born only weeks before, prematurely. It had been a busy summer of weddings and births and now this had happened. It was simple proof of how my family always pulled together for each other, in good times and in bad.)

“They were in the milkhouse but it’s gone now,” Mrs. Witzel said, motioning to the east where a mound of hay and straw showed where the large wooden barn had been the day before.
“Just after they were inside the silo came down on top of the milkhouse,” Mrs Witzel said.
You can see that God really spared our lives – just by the margin that we escaped,” she said.

(This only served to cement my grandmother’s faith in God. She had come so close to losing more than property that August evening.)

***

So what did you do next? I got in the car and started driving. I got on the 401 and started driving toward home. It was getting darker and it was getting windier. Basically I got close to the cut-off and had the windows up, air on so it was nice and cool inside. I guess I wasn’t really paying attention and all of a sudden it got really windy and then it got dark and I saw something was going on ahead of me so I stopped. There were no other cars that I could see. I suddenly drove into this thing and before I knew it I was all alone. I still had it in drive but I had my foot on the break. Then it was getting worse and worse. I was getting worried and didn’t know what to do.

I just thought: I’m probably going to die. What’s going on here? It seemed like a long time it was doing this. Please stop, I thought I felt the car move, but it didn’t shift too much. I think it was more the pelting of stuff.; I was getting the debris. I didn’t get the tornado; it had already past. It was the swirl of bricks and trees and pieces of buildings.
If it was going on you’d think the car would have been moved, if it was the real thing I probably would have died. It had already gone across the 401 That’s what I believe happened. I didn’t drive into it and it hit me. I was in shock I guess. I didn’t realize what it was until later. Just married and am I going to die and never see my baby? You think the worst. When I laid down I was scared and thought I was going to die. It happened so fast but seemed like it was a long time.

I sat up. I sat for a bit, never getting out of the car, in a state of shock.
A car drove by on my ride hand side. They never stopped to help me, they were in shock too, I recall a kid looking out at me, shocked himself, I looked at him and he looked at me. That car drove slowly past.

***

The Woodstock tornado was actually three tornadoes spawned by the same storm. Two were powerful F4 twisters, with wind speeds of up to 400 kilometres and funnels two kilometres wide. The first one struck southeast of Stratford, Ont., at 6:18 p.m., carving up a path 33 kilometres long before it ended near the town of Bright.

A second, larger tornado touched down northwest of Woodstock at 6:52 p.m. It crossed Highway 401 and struck the city’s south end, cutting a swath 89 kilometres long before crossing Lake Erie and ending in New York State. A third, weaker twister struck south of Woodstock. Two people died in the tornadoes, 130 were injured and a thousand were left homeless.

***

When did you realize it was over and you were alright? I can’t tell you how long before it all died down and I sat up. Shortly after somebody from another car came running up to me and asked if I was okay. He asked me if I was hurt and I didn’t think so. He looked at me and I looked at myself. I didn’t see any cuts. He asked me if I could walk and he helped me out of my car and took me over to his. The men in the car said they were going to go back and see if the guy in another vehicle was alright.

They brought the truck driver and it looked like he was bleeding worse than I was.
They were taking him to hospital and they asked if I needed to go and I said I didn’t think I did.
They got off at the off ramp, next to the OPP station. They didn’t know what to do so they left me there and took the other man to the hospital.

At the station they were just getting lots of reports of what was happening around the county. They said something about up north area. It’s a big area, I thought, so who knows. At the police station I sat and listened, they were busy. “Yes we know there’s a tornado.” I heard them calling in off duty officers to come help. It got later and later so I used the phone. I thought I’d better call home. I called and got no answer. I think I called a few people, no answer. Any time I called I didn’t get an answer anywhere. I think I tried three or four different places.
Eventually I got a hold of your mother and she explained her parents farm had been hit, but everyone was okay, she said.
I was sitting there waiting and waiting and finally an officer said he was going out to a certain area, did I need a ride. I panicked. They were offering me a ride and so I thought I’d better take it.

He went to Oxford Centre first, which was also hit. There was a bunch of damage, getting dark by then. I must have been at the station quite a long time. He had to take another route because of the traffic tie-ups all over. I saw some of the damage. At one point he got out and told me to stay in the car because there were power lines all over the place, not wanting me to get electrocuted.

***

OPP were guarding the entrances to Oxford Centre, a hamlet 2 km south-east of the city, to stop sightseers and looters.
All but three or four of the 30 homes were severely damaged —  The worst concentration of damage outside of Woodstock.

Woodstock wasn’t the only populated area affected. Several tiny communities including Oxford Centre, Vanessa and New Durham were wiped off the map. Damage was estimated at $100 million.

***

When did you finally make it home? Eventually he took me back to our place. I pull in and see her there with the neighbour. I explained the situation. Then I took my shirt off and she cleaned my back because there were a lot of shards that had gone down my shirt. I don’t remember it being sore at all. She told me about her family and I took a shower and went to bed.

***

So Mom what did you do next? I went back home and then I think I got a phone call from Dad saying that he was at the police station and he asked me to come and get him. I said I didn’t know if I could so I said I would go over and ask the neighbour.

I knew them just barely. Maybe I had met them once before or maybe I had never met them. Maybe that was the first time I met them. I went over and their teenaged daughter was sitting on the porch. I told her that there was a tornado and I didn’t know how to get to my family. She went in and told her parents and they didn’t believe her at first, until they came out and went: Oh really!

This all took a long time because it was a long way around and when we finally got to the police station they told me he wasn’t there.
So the neighbour took me back home and as we were coming over the hill by our place a police cruiser comes up from behind us with his lights flashing so we pulled over and let him pass and then he pulled into our driveway and let Dad out.
He had bits of glass in the side of his shirt and he had his story to tell.
by then it was almost getting dark.

***

Friends, neighbours and relatives rushed out Tues. night to help rescue trapped animals and personal effects. They were back again in force early Wed., sawing up broken trees, gathering up boards and twisted sheets of steel roofing scattered like confetti through the surrounding fields.

Hay, straw and surviving animals were loaded on to trucks and wagons and taken to those neighboring farms which escaped the crushing blow of the 200 km per hr winds.
****

What were you feeling by the end of all this, after Dad was home safe? I didn’t realize how bad it was I don’t think until we went out there the next morning. We said we would just come out the next morning, but we should have gone out already that night if I’d known how bad it was.
It was a long night. If I had to do it over again I would have gone out to the farm that night, but dad was exhausted. We were both tired by that point. I had just recently found out that I was pregnant so it was scary. I didn’t know what was going on with everybody.

***

At the Witzel farm, more than three dozen cars and trucks line the road.
As the men worked at sawing the huge spruce and weeping willow trees, women chatted or tried to comfort the shaken Mrs. Witzel.

***

Excerpts were taken from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, August 1979

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Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights

Brooke Williams Blog Tour

Brooke Williams Book Cover

Someone Always Loved You Book Blurb:

His first day on the job, ambulance driver Jay has a horrible accident. The victim of the crash is thrown into a coma and Jay keeps vigil by her side. As their lives, past and present intertwine; a story of love through time unfolds. An intricate drama including adoption, love, suspense, and plenty of questions, Someone Always Loved You is a novel that keeps the mind churning and the soul alive.

Brooke Williams bio

Brooke Williams is an award-winning author and freelance writer. She began her career in radio, both on the air and behind the scenes. She did a brief stint in TV news and then took on her most challenging job as a stay at home mom. During the few quiet hours in her day, Brooke writes articles for a number of clients as well as fiction creations such as “Someone Always Loved You.” Brooke has also written “Beyond the Bars,” a thriller, “God in the Kitchen,” a Christian novel, and “Taxi Delivery,” a Christian Romance. Brooke looks forward to the December 9th release of “Wrong Place, Right Time,” a romantic comedy and the February 2015 released of “Accept this Dandelion” inspired by the Bachelor TV show. Brooke has been married to her husband Sean since 2002 and has two daughters, Kaelyn and Sadie.

Brooke Williams

 

Links:

Website:
http://www.authorbrookewilliams.com/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBrookeWilliams

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/151184.Brooke_Williams

Someone Always Loved You Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/Someone-Always-Loved-Brooke-Williams-ebook/dp/B004H8GBYK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404240094&sr=8-1&keywords=someone+always+loved+you

Email:
authorbrookewilliams@gmail.com

Someone Always Loved You Exerpt:

It was his first day on the job. He had studied the maps for days at a time and he knew the city streets better than the back of his hand. He knew the fastest routes at every time of day. His first passenger would not die on his clock. Not a chance. With the siren blaring, he drove swiftly, but gently, so the emergency medical technician in the back could work without disruption.

        “She’s losing a lot of blood, Jay,” the EMT shouted. “We gotta get there fast, man!”

        “Not a problem,” Jay replied. “I called ahead. They have her blood type ready. Plus we’re already there.”

        Jay only glanced back for a moment. He just wanted to see the look on the seasoned EMT’s face as the man realized he’d just taken the quickest ambulance ride of his career right through the city during rush hour.

The woman darted out of nowhere. In his glory, Jay never saw her.

        The second he looked away had been one second too long. As his eyes fastened back on the road ahead, the ambulance pulled under the emergency room over hang, and he caught the worry in her eyes an instant before the impact. The sickening sound jolted him backward into his seat.

Brooke Williams Author Interview

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a former radio announcer turned freelance writer/author. I spend 12 years in radio both behind the scenes and on the air. I even did a brief 5-month stint in TV news as the on-air traffic reporter at a local station. That was a pretty big disaster since I don’t like make-up, don’t care about my hair, and am rather directionally impaired! Most importantly, I have been married to my husband Sean since 2002 and have two beautiful daughters: Kaelyn, 5, and Sadie, 18 months.

Why did you write “Someone Always Loved You”?

I have always loved to write and I always thought I had a book in me somewhere. When I graduated from college and began my career in radio, I quickly realized that I missed one particular aspect about college life…writing papers! I was still writing, but 60-second scripts for radio are a whole different world from long form writing. I have had an idea in the back of my head to write a book that included a character in a coma in order to examine what she hears and thinks. When I came up with the prologue for a book…a scene that caused a woman to fall into a coma…I HAD to write it. Once it was written, I had to know what happened. I couldn’t NOT write it!

Do you spend a lot of time plotting?

No, hardly any at all. I like to just sit and write and see where things take me. I might have a general idea, but what I write today would be different than what I would have written yesterday. Any plotting I do when I’m not actually sitting and writing would change by the time I sat down so I try not to think about things too much when I’m not at the computer. Sometimes I can resolve issues I have created for the characters and they are always in the back of my mind, waiting for attention again!

Which character is your favorite in this book?

I’m attached to all of them in a number of ways, but the obvious choice would be Jordan. She’s one of the main characters and she happens to be in a coma for most of the book, but we still get to know her rather well through her memories and the thoughts she has as well as the conversations she overhears. A lot of her memories are things that happened to me growing up. That being said, a lot of the things about her are completely made up as well. She has a lot of characteristics I admire as well, such as her self-less nature.

As a mom of two, how do you find time to write?

Good question. I sometimes wonder that myself! I attribute my writing time to the fact that I have been stringent about naptime! My older daughter is 5 and she doesn’t really nap anymore. But she is still okay with going to her room for an hour or two when the baby naps. We still call it naptime, but we both know she’s not sleeping in there! The strangest things happen in her room and surrounding areas during “nap” time. But it’s all the time I have to write, so I cling to it! That gives me 1-2 hours a day to work on writing items. Freelance writing is my career so I often have client deadlines and so forth. Novel writing is my true passion and I do that work as often as time allows. I have carved the time out because I will always be a mom first and foremost, but the writer in me cannot be held back! I know my girls will be in school and away for much of the day soon enough. I enjoy every moment I have with them now. I will have more time to write than I know what to do with soon enough. Until then, I take my hour and my fingers fly!

Do you have any Works in Progress?

Too many to count, really! “Someone Always Loved You” is a self-published novel that I have never been able to let go of, but I have several novels under contract that I AM letting go of to publishers! “Wrong Place, Right Time” is a romantic comedy that comes out December 9th. “Accept this Dandelion” is slated for a Feb 2015 release. And “Mamarazzi” comes out in August 2015. All of those novels are clean romantic comedies…what I like to call cute little love stories. I even have a children’s book under contract for Feb 2016 called “Baby Sheep Gets a Haircut.” I couldn’t be more excited about any of those ventures and I look forward to writing more as soon as possible!

Have any advice for aspiring writers?

The best advice I can give is to keep at it. When I first wrote “Someone Always Loved You,” I actually tried to get it published and failed. I gave up on writing and didn’t go back to it for a full decade. Now I feel like I wasted a lot of time. Getting something published feels like a needle in a haystack scenario. But if you don’t keep looking for that needle, you will NEVER find it! You need to write because you love it. If you love what you are doing, you already win! As for getting published, it will never happen if you don’t try. Keep trying and you’ll find the avenue that’s right for you.

***

“No matter what, someone always loves you.”

It takes a gifted storyteller to be able to weave the separate story lines of many characters into one seamless telling. Brooke Williams does this with precision and skill.

I felt the emotions, the ups and downs of each character, while still able to follow along with the frequent shifts in time. This can be tricky and can make for confusion in following along.

Jay is paying for mistakes he’s made. HE hopes to be starting fresh, but his newest mistake is causing him the kind of guilt that could drive him right back to the trap he fell into once before.
He doesn’t know where he came from and the process of finding out is turning out to be one hell of a ride.

I enjoyed the flashbacks in memory to explain all the main character’s histories.
I am very interested in issues of abandonment in fiction and how it shapes characters.

A woman in a coma thinks back on her life and causes others to reflect as well. One generation to another and hopefully these people can have a better future. Love is the common thread they all share.

Williams creates characters that make you feel. I felt for them all as it was slowly revealed what the connection was between the patients, the doctor, and the ambulance driver. I felt the puzzle being revealed to me one piece at a time.

“There will always be someone in the world who loves you.” I think we all need to hear that once and a while.

***

Thank you Brooke for sharing your story and your wisdom with me and my readers.

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Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Writing

Review of Interference by Michelle Berry

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Today I am pleased to welcome to the blog, author of short stories and novels, Michelle Berry. She is here to promote her latest, Interference, published this month by ECW Press, and I was honoured when she agreed to also let me interview her about her books, this one in particular, and about writing. I knew I could use this opportunity to learn something about writing from an expert in her field.

***

1. Did you always want to be an author? Did you write as a child? I grew up in a house full of literature and art. My mother is an artist, my father is a now-retired English Professor. So I always wrote. I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer. It was just part of me. Part of who I am. I wrote a lot as a child — journals, diaries, stories, even novels. My father and I wrote (and I also illustrated) a children’s book called, “Sailing the Deep Blue Sea” when I was about five years old. It’s quite catchy.

2. What was your first break in your writing career? I would say the first “break” was when Turnstone Press accepted my first short story collection. I was about 7 months pregnant AT the time and thought I’d given birth that second as I jumped up and down screaming. I first published in high school, though (a high school anthology called, “Unicorns Be” )— so that was my first publication. And before Turnstone Press I did publish in quite a few literary magazines (“Perhaps?”, “Blood & Aphorisms,” “The Malahat Review,” etc), so I got a lot of “first breaks.”

3. How do you handle the rejection that goes along with being a writer? I’m still trying to handle it. There is always rejection. Always. No matter how much you publish, how famous you are, how well-received you are, etc.. I’m sure Alice Munro still writes stories that need editing and aren’t immediately loved the minute they are finished. Maybe. I think. I handle rejection by getting first really sad and mournful (“No one loves me,” “I’ll never write again.”), but then I suddenly become angry (“What do they know anyway?”) and that’s what fuels the desire to keep writing, that’s what fuels the work, that’s what makes me a better writer. Writing is all about rejection and loneliness. I tell my students this, but they don’t believe me. They think it’s all chocolates and feather boas.

4. Where did the idea for this novel come from? It creeped up on me. It’s loosely based on quite a few things in my life. My daughter was the same age as Becky and Rachel (characters) when I was writing it, there is a big tree across the street from me, the school had sent home a letter saying that someone was stalking children in the neighborhood, I do play women’s house league hockey, my husband and a friend were going through cancer and treatment, etc.. But it’s one of those things where I combined all that was going on and heightened it, morphed it, faded it, played with it. I wrote around it and through it. Created a story. Used my imagination.

5. What is your daily writing routine? Lately I’ve been teaching so much (I teach online at U of T, online at Humber College and in-class at Trent University), that I don’t have much of a routine. But I usually try for an hour or so a day of good writing — or at least one or two days a week. Last year I rented an office for six months downtown and I would teach Monday to Wednesday and then do nothing but write for eight hours a day Thursday and Friday. It was wonderful.

6. Which character from Interference is most like you? Which one is least like you? Most like me: Maria (sadly, I don’t want to be like her — but she has all my faults — a bad back, kind of ornery to her husband (sorry!), clean freak, worried all the time). Least like me: Dayton (stylish, beautiful, but damaged). Although, to be truly honest, all of the women are a mesh of me — Trish’s behavior when she ducks behind the couch when there is a knock at the door (me!), Claire’s thoughts on death, on cancer. Even Ralph wandering through the snow in his slippers — he has a bit of my melancholy.

7. What is your experience with the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council? I’ve had a few grants over the years. They do a wonderful service. I’ve been on juries for them. Love them both.

8. I have seen a lot of debate on what makes someone an author and when to call them a writer. Do you see a difference in the two and when would you say it’s appropriate to use either one? Yes, I’ve been hearing a bit about that lately too. I’m not sure what I think. I always thought of myself as both author and writer and used the terms interchangeably. But I think “author” is becoming a hoity-toity thing to be these days (not sure I agree with that). I don’t know. I’m both, I guess. I am the author of books that I have written and the writer of books that I have authored. How’s that?

9. How would you define literary fiction as a genre? Good question. My students never seem to understand what literary fiction is — to me it’s fiction that leaves more to your imagination than any other genre writing does. So things aren’t explained and told and shown with such detail. It is subtle and intelligent and often has underlying meaning all through. But it can also be fun and wild — it doesn’t have to be stodgy at all. I consider my fiction to be literary. I don’t go into detail about scenery and appearances. I don’t tell you that a character is feeling blue (I hope), I try instead to show it through how that character moves and talks and acts. I try to give the reader a scene or situation he/she can interpret in his/her own way.

10. Community is the setting of this novel. What sort of neighbourhood did you grow up in and did that come into your writing of this fictitious neighborhood? This is more my neighborhood now rather than the neighborhood I grew up in. It’s an amalgamation of the street I live on presently and of the neighbors and community around me now. Sort of. But it’s fiction.

11. What does the photo album with the circus postcards in main character Tom’s childhood basement illustrate about Tom and his character or the themes of this book? I debated having actual “freak” photographs in the book. But it didn’t work (too costly to do and might seem gimmicky). Tom learns a lot about appearance and about how we all see the world through those postcards and his interest in them. I guess I was trying to say that we all judge all the time, we have our own opinions and views — but we aren’t always right. There are many sides to every issue. People we think are scary because of their appearance, might not be the scary ones. They might be the good ones. Tom sort of sees this by the end of the book — the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

  1. You teach writing and have had success with short story collections and novels. What would you say to anyone hoping to have a career as an author? Don’t do it! No, just kidding. It’s an infuriating business as you are always scrambling to find freelance or teaching work in order to pay for the time you need to write the book. Because of this you never have time to actually write. But I guess the two best pieces of advice I can give are:1. Be a reader. Read all the time. Read the kinds of books you want to write. And think about how they are written and why they were written and what they do for you. And then write. And, 2, write because you have to. Don’t write to get published or “be famous” or — hilariously — “to be rich.” You might as well decide to be a famous actress at the same time. Write because your story is important to you, because it’s all you can do not to write. Because you need to write more than anything. And then get a paying job!

***

I thought “Interference” refreshingly unique (letters and emails sprinkled throughout), starting with a letter home from the school to the parents. Throughout the novel more letters and emails are sent and received. A Cease and Desist order from Build-A-Bear Workshop and the women’s hockey team announcements. There are angry and threatening messages from one spouse to another. A question is posed by a son to his parents about the past. A short correspondence takes place to the director of the men’s shelter and one to a woman who volunteers for an organization driving cancer patients to their appointments.

Michelle Berry’s “Interference” is what good literary fiction should be, a gripping contemporary literary fiction story which forces the reader to think about the deeper questions in life and the things that ultimately interfere with the status quo.

She poses these questions in terms such as: “We’re all a little strange. We’re all different.”

“Life is not fair; life and death.”

“It’s good to have something to look forward to.” This line really did sum things up nicely for me.

I pondered all these things as I was introduced to the people and the families living in and around the neighbourhood of Parkville.

On Edgewood Drive the story opens. A man and his wife rake leaves on an autumn day, while their twelve-year-old daughter plays basketball with the neighbour girl across the street. Berry puts us directly in the mind and thoughts of Tom and his prejudices are laid bare almost immediately when a stranger with a hideous scar across his face wanders into the yard, offering to help rake.

Tom is influenced strongly by being a husband, a father, and a son and has seemingly forgotten himself in the process. I was automatically drawn in by Tom’s memory of an old album full of faded postcards of circus freaks, high up on a shelf in his grandfather’s basement. Does this memory mean anything more or is it simply an example of the sort of judgement that goes on by people against others who are different, in neighbourhoods and towns everywhere?

The man with the terribly disfigured face. The creepy bald man in the brown suit. The still stranger in the dark hoodie watching the schoolyard that only Tom’s daughter Becky has seen. The teenaged boy sitting up in the stands every Wednesday evening who watches the women’s hockey league play. The slow boy who acts inappropriately and hangs around the playground at the school after hours.

Pedophile rings and child porn. Someone is stocking around backyards and peering in windows. Kidnapping and cancer scares. The unpredictable and spurned husband who could show up at anytime.

I see it as the kids vs. the adults in a way. Children vs. adults. Men vs. women. Husbands vs. wives. Each group has their own battles, issues, and things going on that they don’t or can’t necessarily talk to anyone else about.

The women of the neighbourhood interact different with one another during their Wednesday night games and in the dressing room than they do off the ice and during their interactions in their homes and with their spouses, children, and next door neighbours, back on Edgewood Drive.

Just off this idyllic street the ones on the fringe peer in on suburbia and can’t help looking in on what they could have had and probably never will. I was constantly on edge to see who would survive through the winter unscathed.

Michelle Berry provides a glimpse into all kinds of people and she leaves me to wonder how things aren’t always what they seem at first glance. I wanted the residents of Parkville to learn something about their neighbours, themselves, and those different, but no less deserving of a little understanding and acceptance and I came away from reading this novel having learned something about those things myself.
That, to me, is the mark of a well-thought-out and touching view of humanity wrapped up in a well-crafted literary fictional package.

***

Interference Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, August 4: Laurie’s Not the Worst

Wednesday, August 6th: Obscure CanLit Mama

Thursday, August 7th: Cozy Up With a Good Read

Friday, August 8th: Feisty Little Woman

***

I want to thank Michelle B and Michelle M for giving me a chance to take part in the blog tour.
Michelle Berry’s Interference is published this month by ECW Press, Toronto. Check it out

Here,

or

on Amazon.

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Bucket List, Poetry, Special Occasions

One Hundred

Number 15 on my
Bucket List
is to visit the setting of the poem that can always give me goosebumps.

On this one-hundred-year anniversary of the start of Britain’s fighting in World War I England went dark, except for a single light or candle, for one hour starting at 10 this evening, August 4th.
Poppies fill the moat of The Tower of London in remembrance.

It’s unfathomable to me that 17 million lives were lost over the four plus years of The Great War (and I use that term with a dry chuckle). I know what “great” means in this case, large in scope and impact, but I can’t imagine what it was like to be Canadian during those years.

We had no choice. Britain were at war and we were Britain’s young and inexperienced child. We followed them into the darkness and the death.

I have been fascinated by John McCrae’s tragically sad poem “In Flanders Fields” since it was read at our Remembrance Day assembly in school. Now that I am older and love literature and poetry I see it for the meaningful piece of both of these that it is, a brilliant lyrical window into the suffering of combat and conflict that would be the world wars of the 20th century.

I read about the pride and the duty to one’s country; about the trenches with the death, rotting corpses, the blood, rats, and the lice; the shrapnel, machine gun fire, and the poison gas. I can’t and never will understand this hell. I feel a pull to this time in history too for the romance of the love letters written by soldiers on the front back to their sweethearts a world away at home, the toughness and resilience of this period.

It is hard for me to relate to a time when Germany and the German soldier were considered the enemy. Whether it’s World War I or World War II I know that was the case, but having such a connection to Germany with family living there, now I feel stuck in a war inside my head that has long ago been fought and resolved. I don’t have to choose, but in my mind I am pulled back to that time when things were just that black and white.

As for McCrae I imagine him sitting there in the midst of all that death and writing a poem he probably never could have guessed generations of school children would be hearing and taking in as we have.

I hope to travel to this spot. Places in Europe I hope to still visit in my lifetime such as Flanders, Vimy Ridge, or possibly Passchendaele would bring it to a whole new level of surrealism for me.

For now I must settle for reading and rereading the

poem,

and letting my mind stretch to grasp such a time in history that I will never know, but I feel the impact on my own personal view of the world since the guns were silenced and the century I would eventually be born into wore on.

Talk of foes and the ones who once lived, loved, and felt the sun on their faces will never stop affecting me, but back then it would take one more, one more World War would be necessary before death on such a global scale would have all countries involved saying ENOUGH!

I don’t think we’ve quite learned our lesson, on the contrary. I just wanted to explain why number 15 appears on my list and why I even care at all when it is often thought and said that today’s generation could care less.

I once asked my father (ever a cynic) if he thought there would someday be a World War III and he said gravely:
“I think, nowadays with nuclear weapons, that would spell doom and the end of this planet for us all.”

Only time will tell I guess, but for my niece and nephews sakes I hope he is wrong and I hope our world has learned something from the World Wars of the past. Nonetheless, it will mean something to me if I ever manage to check number 15 off my ever-growing list.

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