1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, FTSF, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, SoCS, Spotlight Saturday

Bad Words and Battlefields, #FTSF #SoCS

As the days grow darker, I wonder about why darker is harder for people.

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Sleep and internal clocks and SAD (seasonal affective disorder) are the ones that are most felt this time of year.

I get my time from my iPhone, which turns back an extra hour automatically, (will do so again tonight) rather than the clocks on appliances. I like that hour, as there’s a time for everything, even the chance for more sleep, something I blame pain more on than anything else when I don’t get enough of it.

Darker is the start of winter, but it is summer somewhere. Australia and New Zealand are down there, waiting for me, but life goes on until then. I go in to the colder, darker season in Canada with an appreciation for where I live. Christmas means darker, but with that five o’clock darkness, come Christmas lights. Christmas makes me happy. I let the additional hours of darkness bring me peace and reflection. I try not to focus on word meaning all of the time, letting my sensitivities get the better of me, but why is dark bad and light good anyway?

Our fears hide out there, just waiting for the right moment to leap out and scare us?

I’ve written about this before and probably can’t sum it up any better now, as Daylight Savings comes upon us for another year. I do wonder why and then my answer comes, as to why blindness is feared like it is. The idea of being left in darkness for the rest of one’s life is scary, I get it. Still, black and dark are so entrenched in our consciousness as things unwanted and feared. Whether it’s skin colour of another or a state of seeing/not seeing the world. Will we ever get away from such associations?

November is one of those more difficult months for me, at certain moments at least, as I look back over past experiences with these thirty days. Things happened to me in this month I won’t ever forget, things that have left solid impressions on the person I am.

Zooming out to a broader picture, it means solemn thoughts of war for Canada, with Remembrance Day (November 11th) and this year’s 100year anniversary in particular. I feel worse about the subject of war (the lessons we’ve learned and those we yet haven’t) than I do any dark morning or evening come too soon. Just as many lives were lost in the four years of World War I during bright, daylight hours, just as much death and carnage. Likely, more, as the armies needed the daylight hours to see what they were doing. Night would have been when it was smarter to hunker down in separate trenches wherever and whenever possible.

I think of every ghost, set adrift across those European battlefields, and I am haunted by the heaviness of so many souls lost.

And I go onward to November 11th this year with a heavy heart once again, though I don’t know exactly why that is.

I think of that word often and I don’t need Halloween or a day devoted to wars to do so. This month holds memories, like the hauntings of a shadowy realm.

I have all things monsters and ghosts on my mind still, even with Halloween in the rearview mirror for another year. Darker days mean winter and winter means ice.

I had to go to the easiest accessible book to me and that was my shelf of all seven Harry Potter stories to find my random word.

I did
point
and a wintery word is what I got.

Black ice can be a danger on the roads in Canada, in the months ahead. Scary.

Harry Potter stories use ghosts and monsters to great effect. The ice forms when the monstrous, hideous dementors show up. (Read the series to learn more about those.)

A fascinating representation of the things that scare us, threaten to remove all happiness, like the depression that is sometimes seasonal and sometimes all year round.

If you can, look at what darkness brings that is pleasant and happy, rather than those things it hides or covers up or frightens you with. Maybe, one day, we can change some of the feelings around what darkness represents.

What’s good could be bad and what’s bad could be good.

This is the weekend of
stream of consciousness prompts
for another
Finish the Sentence Friday
in early November.

I am back and taking part, after several weeks of distractions and elsewhere’s. Also, I’m writing blog posts and prompts, while avoiding something I should really be doing instead. This is okay, I suppose, but I know I need to get back to it shortly.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Feminism, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Poetry, SoCS, Spotlight Saturday

Men and Beasts, #SoCS

I am glued to the news, but pushing myself to move.

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It’s France, Britain, and the United States and Canada is staying as the peace maker, as always, offering to help, but not directly with war tactics.

The centre of it all is the war in Syria, that’s been going on for six or seven years now, with no real end in sight.

The name #45 has given Syria’s leader is
“MONSTER”
and, if he is gassing civilians, he is just that.

I don’t know any of these “leaders” of these countries. I don’t know their hearts or their true intentions. I wish a lot of things, just me and my simple-minded self.

I wish the best for Syrian civilians, those left there, at risk, and also those who’ve come here to Canada and migrated other places. It must be so hard to see your home in such turmoil.

I wish Russia would stay out of that country, but they seem to think they’re helping. They claim any poisoning, to former spies in Britain or to people in Syria, is not them, a hoax, a lie, a distraction, a plot.

Lies. Lies. Lies. Which governments aren’t lying?

Why are all these, seemingly mostly men, doing this? They blame, shame, claim. It’s lame.

Clowns. Beasts. Monsters among men.

I want to shake them all. Where does it end?

I feel like I am living in the first season of Downton Abbey, after the no return event, assassination that began World War I in 1914.

According to Google:

The direct cause of WWI was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. However historians feel that a number of factors contributed to the rivalry between the Great powers that allowed war on such a wide-scale to break out. Apr 20, 2016

One country erupts, or perhaps two countries clash, and, eventually, other countries get involved, take sides, and suddenly the edge of the cliff is underfoot.

In a university library, I was turning the pages of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s personal journals the other day, carefully as I could. I read her words, what living through the 1914-1918 years was like. It was horrid, even from the safety of Canada. We, sheltered from direct danger and conflict, watch with morbid fascination, but with relief and my guilt, that at least it’s not me and my loved ones in any immediate threat.

I turned to the page (November 11, 1918) and she spoke of the end of the war, after herself being glued to the news of the times. She didn’t know another world war was to come. I don’t know now.

I am rather excited about this though, speaking of monsters:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-WGaZaojFc

This movie, “Mary Shelley,” is a snapshot of the times, when Frankenstein was written. It’s about feminism, sexism, and in today’s Me Too moment, a girl of Shelley’s age, getting involved with Percy Shelley is a scandalous, wrong thing. Then, it was what it was.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45115/art-thou-pale-for-weariness

She fought to prove she could be just as good as the men, coming up with a truly classical ghost story, as it was. So much more because science and us humans, we wonder about defeating death and the limits of science in an unknown world.

Though, I ask myself and my literary/literal mind, just who are the monsters anyway?

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Lay Down Your Weapons #RemembranceDay #SoCS

I am trying to write about war.

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On this November 11th, I try to put myself in the place of, say, my grandmother. She lived through World War II and yet I feel like I never even scratched the surface with her. She spoke of that time in her life, more than most, but yet not nearly enough.

I am trying to get down the words, at least a beginning to what could become a novel some day. November is not only Remembrance Day, but it is also National Novel Writing Month and, at this rate, I am not likely to make the fifty thousand words that is the ultimate goal.

I have a near stroke when I think of the setting I want my story to have. I worried that this piece of writing required too much research. NaNoWriMo isn’t supposed to be about doing research. That comes later. Just write.

In a way though, I feel I’ve kind of being doing my own form of research, for many years. I’ve been fascinated by history for as long as I can remember, most especially World War I and II and the 20th century. I’ve watched documentaries and read up on lived accounts of those years. Still, as much of an empath as I feel I am, it is hard to put myself in that place.

How would it feel to be living during World War I or World War II anyway?

I listen to true and up close accounts of soldiers, in the trenches, between 1914 and 1918 and the rats and the mud and the stench of death all around you.

I’ve listened hard to personal accounts in interviews, Jews and other victims of the carnage. I am writing a story about a woman, her mother, and trying to raise three young children/grandchildren during such days. I am trying to put myself in their shoes. That seems, though I am a human too, to be a difficult task, a goal, one I am fighting hard to reach.

I love my country, am happy to be Canadian, but I am no patriot. I wish political parties and affiliations didn’t exist. On a day like November 11th, I don’t glorify war, just like I don’t glorify it any other day of the year. My goal, in learning about it and writing about it, is to try and make it not repeat itself, like I have that power.

All the talk of bravery gets to me. Of course, it would be scary to be caught in a war, but to make the decision to go and fight in one is different altogether.

I feel like I am being disrespectful. I know it’s a sacrifice to risk losing a leg, an arm, or one’s life to war. I speak the truth of it, but what it is is ugly and awful and, I believe, unnecessary.

I heard a song on the radio earlier today, one that very nearly brought me to tears, about how we’re all one, all family, every one of us. We are from different countries, continents, cultures, and races certainly. Some say this makes us different in ways that cannot be altered. Others sing those songs of coming together as one, in humanity.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday, #SoCS (Remembrance Day Edition)

I wish walls were never built and lines never crossed in anger. I am not in control of most of this. Losing limbs seems, to some, to be a possible price to pay for freedom and democracy. I just want to write about war. I don’t want to see any more. People say, when it comes to us imperfect and often boastful humans, that will never be the case.

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TToT: Dog Days of Summer – Memory Locations and Yahoo! #10Thankful

“Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.”

“I have a message for my fans. Whatever you want to do in this world, it is achievable. The most important thing that I’ve found, that perhaps you could use, is be passionate and enthusiastic in the direction that you choose in life, and you’ll be a winner.”

—Steve Irwin

I’m just here, on this final long weekend of the summer, watching Crocodile Hunter videos on YouTube. I loved him. Not sure how it started, but I loved him for his Australian accent and for his larger-than-life personality, but mostly because he had so much passion for animals. He seemed to know, instinctively, what his passion in life was, when I did not feel nearly as sure of my own. I guess, the more I listened to him speak, I suppose I hoped I would figure that out, like something from all that energy and enthusiasm he used to put forth might rub off on me.

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And so I dedicate this week’s Ten Things of Thankful to Steve because I was hardly even writing at all when he died and I didn’t get to write any sort of tribute back then.

Dog Days Are OVer – Florence + The MAchine

Thankful for popcorn, not candy.

🙂

Sounds like a trip to the movies, doesn’t it? In this case, when normally it’s such a difficult choice between those two things when approaching the concession stand, it’s not a matter of any choice this time.

It’s another catchy and memorable line to help me break up notes in Twinkle Twinkle on my violin.

It is a little hard to explain, but it’s one more reason I am loving the surprises each time I have a lesson. I am learning faster than one might imagine. I have my moments of course, long way to go yet, but I am building the foundation for my future as a star violinist, at least in my own circles in which I currently travel.

I’m thankful for a glass of champagne and some delicious fried chicken tacos after my violin lesson.

A lovely evening, late dinner out on a patio. The drink wasn’t to celebrate anything in particular, other than another successful lesson. I thought that worthy enough of a beginning of the week celebration just then.

And then, don’t get me started on those appetizers. Wish they had been my whole meal.

Have you ever eaten coleslaw in a taco? Topped with the kind of fried chicken that could beat KFC any time.

I’m thankful that Brian and I were able to, after a few starts and stops, get most of Episode Two: Ingredients Listed recorded of our podcast, Ketchup On Pancakes.

I had it all planned out, and it takes a certain amount of planning to be ready to record.

Then something is missing. Either one or both of us just isn’t feeling it. There needs to be a certain kind of mood and I knew it might be this tricky. The whole structure of our podcast is how we interact as siblings. That relationship can’t or at least it shouldn’t be pushed or else we end up sounding less like ourselves and more like we think two people on a podcast should sound. That is definitely what we don’t want.

We are going by no real time table at this early stage. We are taking our time and not rushing or pushing it. It comes out naturally, organically, when it’s meant to be.

Thankful for all the lessons I’m learning about editing.

This is nothing new, or shouldn’t be, for anyone who claims themselves a writer. Editing is part of life and ever more is it becoming so as I write more.

Well, this is a manifestation of that same skill development I’m learning. It is hard, when it is something you’ve created, to cut some of that out. It just isn’t practical to keep everything. An hour is what we’re aiming for with this podcast, when many are less than, but we are following our own instincts and not paying attention to what anyone else may be doing.

And so I create and then we execute that creative vision and then we cut out and trim and edit and narrow down.

Hope to have our second episode finished sometime this month. A lot more to learn.

I’m thankful for the arrival of September.

I realize what this signifies to most people. I don’t long for extreme cold and snow either. I just dislike extreme heat and humidity. Just because September means one month closer to winter isn’t enough of a reason to dislike it. Now, if I were going back to school in any traditional way I might understand.

To me the cooler nights and decrease in hot hot days is when I’m most comfortable. I love the way the scent in the air changes. I love the apples.

I’m thankful for the release of a truly modernized take on travel, place, travel based writing, and so much more.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR-AND-CHIEF – Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel

September 1st was the day their first publication came out. I like that their first one is focused on firsts.

I hope to have a piece I’ve written published here one day.

I’m thankful for bees.

I spoke of apples above. Well, I wouldn’t have my apples if it weren’t for bees.

And so, after one patio lunch this week which included sharing my meal and a lovely final day of August afternoon atmosphere with them, I can gladly say: thanks for not being too loud with your buzzing and thanks for not stinging me. Oh, and thanks for all you do with the pollinating of the flowering buds on the apple trees.

With all the fear of Zika virus lately, so much so that lots of bees were killed in the States from some attempt to kill dangerous mosquitos – I am able to carry my long standing phobia of bees and put it in its proper perspective, enough to appreciate the apples I hope to enjoy in the days and weeks to come.

Millions of bees dead after South Carolina sprays for Zika mosquitoes

Of course, I am not at any immediate risk from those virus carrying mosquito pests, threatening the lives of so many unborn babies either. There’s got to be a better way to handle it.

I’m thankful for birds and Canadian birds especially.

I thought of this the other night, hearing a flock of geese outside, and proud to live where I live, that they are known as Canadian geese.

Whether it’s the squawking of a bluejay or a sea gull or even the cawing of the crows I don’t like quite so much.

Then there’s the haunting sound of the loon.

http://nationalbird.canadiangeographic.ca/bird.asp?name=Common-loon&id=1005

I’m thankful for the first of two men to have a profound affect on me.

September 2nd is the anniversary of the death of J.R.R. Tolkien.

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lord-of-the-rings-creator-tolkien-dies

I am currently working on writing about Tolkien’s participation in World War I where he easily could have been taken far too soon, depriving the world of so much.

When he did die, many years later, he died an old man.

Not everyone is so lucky.

I’m thankful for all that Steve Irwin (Crocodile Hunter) gave of himself, until his heartbreaking death ten years ago.

“If we save our wild places, we will ultimately save ourselves.”

“We don’t own the planet Earth, we belong to it. And we must share it with our wildlife.”

—Steve IRwin

Larger-than-life. No doubt.

Interview

I’ll never forget when I heard of his death. I was moving out of my childhood home and into my very first house.

I didn’t exactly find it to be an unexpected end to a life. All that time around all kinds of creatures and it was bound to happen. It was a fluke thing, when all other days he had come out alive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeydzMjP4Oo

Very few people devote their whole lives to animals. I wish there were more Steve Irwins’ in the world because animals are constantly about to be found on the nearly extinct list and people are afraid of things they don’t understand, animals included, and that is why Steve did what he did.

“I have no fear of losing my life – if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it.”

“If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.”

—Steve Irwin

Crikey!

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Never Forgotten: My Promise to Those Who Came Before Me, #TGIF #FTSF

I write about my family often.

With stories of

Bloodroots and Blood Ties,

I discovered there was such thing as a bloodroot, on one particular family hike in April.

Had you ever heard of such a thing?

I think it is a wonderful metaphor, as far as the natural world, as we are all connected, to it, and to each other.

Roots go deep and this week’s Finish the Sentence Friday is a deep one, with Kristi of

Finding Ninee

As for my own family story, I’ve discussed things like

Milestones and Siblings

and also

The Ties That Bind

ties, blood, roots are all common themes in my writing, as you can see.

Long ago, my family came to Canada, from living in Europe. I really don’t know that far back, especially on my mother’s side. They’ve been here longer.

It all seemed so far back in time that I didn’t know how to reach it, which has left me focused more on the events of the 20th century and the two world wars that have left their mark on the 1900s.

My father’s parents lived through World War II. My father’s mother spoke of those years often, and her childhood that proceeded them. Her thick accent and often mixed up German/English made it hard to follow a lot of the things she’d say. I would listen, focusing hard, banking on my sharp memory to be able to recall the stories and the details later on.

This was a mistake. I was only just beginning with writing back then, as an interest, and (like a person not wanting to miss something in the moment, who does not take a photo to capture the memory) I did not write down what she spoke about, as she spoke it.

There are a few occasions where my brother recorded my grandfather and his marvellous storytelling abilities. He grew up on a farm, in a small, close community. His stories, though life was likely hard in ways I can’t really understand now, his anecdotes are mostly humorous in nature, silly schoolboy pranks or things he and his brother and sister got up to.

I have plans to go back and listen to his recorded stories, to see how many I could now get down in written form, in the hopes of possibly, one day, writing a short book of his adventures. This, along with my grandmother’s diaries (which I’ve spoken of here often) are things that tie me to their lives, even now and that helps me feel closer to them, even though they are gone.

That’s how stories have made it this far, through generations, even as I sometimes doubt my plan, worrying that I am telling things someone may not have wanted. The last thing I would ever wish to do would be to misrepresent another’s words or life in any way.

I think about what my grandparents did to get through those tough years, war and hunger and fear, and I want to honour that somehow. My plans for that would be to try and write a fictional story, a novel, loosely based on their lives and that time in history. I have not figured out how to go about that yet. It seems like such a daunting project.

Then I watch documentaries and read about World War I and I wondered why I was so obsessed with that war too. I’ve decided that I can’t help imagining what my great grandparent’s lives must have been like during that time period. I know so little. I want to know so much, much much more.

When it comes to my roots I am spellbound, mesmerized, haunted by thoughts of what once was, as a direct result of where I am now, at this exact moment in time and where it is I’m going. I would not be here if it hadn’t been for them, for all of them. I just don’t want them to be forgotten, as I don’t want to be forgotten a century from now.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Poetry, Special Occasions, TToT

TToT: My Weekly Antidote to Cynicism – Lest We Forget, #10Thankful

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early

–Gordon Lightfoot

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

This week was less like the last, and more like it must have been forty years ago. It felt gloomy. It was windy and rainy, just like it was, this time in the month of November, when the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in lake Superior.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

Okay, so I usually put a lot into these weekly posts here and enjoy doing so, but this week, for the first time, a lot has hit me all at once. Not sure I can keep it up to my usual standard.

This week’s been an emotional one, starting with Remembrance Day, Friday the 13th, and the unexpected horror of more terrorism and violent attacks came as a total surprise, but my week was not through with me yet.

Ten Things of Thankful:

For the way the children in my life remind me to appreciate the simple things.

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For the honour to be asked.

A friend wondered if I would do something for her and her daughter, be a reference, and I was just so pleased to be the one she would come to.

For the work another friend put into something, she hoped I could use on my blog.

didyoureadmylatestblogpostyetimage-2015-11-15-02-55.png

She didn’t have to do this, but she did it anyway.

For the way history comes alive for me, even forty years later.

In the eighth grade I had a history teacher, Mr. V, who gave us the lyrics to a song as a school project. He played the famous song in class and I learned about the wonder and the power of our Great Lakes.

Gordon Lightfoot recalls the night of the SS Edmond Fitzgerald’s sinking

It was the first time, after studying Canada’s founding fathers of Confederation and being bored out of my mind, that I began to really care about history and I learned what it could mean, as a true teacher of the past and also future, as far as lessons go.

For freedom, even if I don’t always appear grateful for what I have of it. And for poetry, written 100 years ago, that gave me a way to connect to a long ago event like World War I:

The Changing Shades of Flanders Fields’

Sometimes I feel like I don’t appreciate the sacrifices made, as is so commonly spoken about on November 11th (Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day) whatever you know it as.

The Complicated Task of Never Forgetting

This is not true. I know I am lucky because if those wars hadn’t been fought, who knows what might have happened, but I just feel so morally opposed to war that I have trouble.

I know. I know. Nobody likes war. I am thankful for other perspectives, even when I have a really hard time understanding.

I got the chance, on Remembrance Day, to listen to an interview with a Canadian soldier who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. He lost both his legs, fighting for a cause he believed in. Although I felt myself beginning to shout at the TV screen, a few times as he spoke of why he wanted to go and fight, I tried really hard to understand his point-of-view. I had to at least try and I am thankful I made the effort.

For the writing and the lessons from Anne Frank and her life and for my blog, the diary to my modern world.

My father saw that there was a new documentary on her life and he asked if I wanted to watch it with him.

The subject of World War II, in particular, he and I have both always been interested in. As completely horrible as it was, unthinkable, I am glad my father showed me that stuff, because it’s made me a more compassionate and empathetic person, and for that I thank him. I also thank Anne for being who she was, as courageous as she was, at her age and through all she went through. Her writing is what I admire most and I am thankful her work was shared.

For those who made sure, even after she no longer lived, that her writing lived on for her.

Her father, Otto Frank, and for the family’s friend and Otto’s employee, Miep Gies, who discovered the diary and kept it safe until Anne’s father returned and saw that it get published. I wish I could have had the chance to meet her. She seemed like a really cool old lady, even in the 90s:

Miep Gies Wallenberg Lecture

I once more, after this past summer’s visits to the Anne Frank exhibit, and with this week’s reflections on wars, began to let myself fall down the path of listening to Holocaust survivor stories, through YouTube interviews. This can be a difficult place for me, so I had to watch myself, or it could become all too consuming. I know when and where to leave things, to remain positive and grateful.

For VoiceOver.

Just thinking about where people were during the thirties and forties even, compared to now and today’s modern age of technology. Truly amazing to think about.

Believe me, I don’t only think about this at this time of year, but all the time actually. I am lucky to have electronic devices that talk and read to me, opening up the world and providing all the information I could possibly need or want.

This makes things so much more accessible, of course, but it makes it harder to hide what might be going on in the world, compared to when Anne Frank and millions of others were suffering and being persecuted and killed.

These things are still going on, but we can’t pretend anymore.

For my safe home in Canada.

I know the fear of these times we’re living in, with terrorism as a global problem. I am not naive enough to think things can’t happen here or anywhere, but I know I am not a refugee who has no choice but to flee my home. I have not been caught in a terrorist attack. Not yet.

For the modern healthcare that is at my fingertips and at the ready when a family member is in need.

I felt the not-so-unfamiliar feeling in the pit of my stomach, the deep down fear for my brother’s health and the kidney transplant that is only just over two years old. It is a fragile balance.

Here I was, just last week, complaining that I worry sometimes about my own kidney failing, but the truth is that I haven’t been hospitalized in fifteen or so years, but my brother has had to be plenty of times in the last five or six years alone.

Well, the reason I easily could have avoided TToT this week is that things are still up-in-the-air and that still scares me a lot to think about, because he’s always had a complex medical story and nothing is clear yet.

I haven’t slept, after what happened in PAris the other night (which already gets me on edge) and then I heard how unwell my brother has been all week. I hadn’t realized he felt this bad.

I spent the evening in emerge with him. I can’t help but want to go to him at times like this. We are close, in our sibling bond, but because we’ve both gone through some incredibly complicated medical crap together over the years, and I would never want anything to happen to him. I needed to see to it that he was going to be alright.

So, hopefully things with my brother get figured out.

Over the next few days to a week I hope for that and I will go forward and let the start of the holiday season warm me, starting with my favourite Parks and Recreation character, to launch the season officially:

Nick Offerman shares his thoughts on Oprah’s Favourite Things

Forget Christmas music starting to be heard on the radio or the Santa Claus Parade. Nick knows how to usher in the Christmas season something fierce.

🙂

Last week, Canada’s new leader, Justin Trudeau, was sworn in. He has been big news and the New York Times even had an article where they referred to him as:

An Antidote to Cynicism in Canada

Well, as crazy as things may have gotten this week, Ten Things of Thankful is my antidote to cynicism.

After all that’s happened this week, I will try to go forward and into the holidays, and try to remember these words and to follow them:

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

–Kurt Vonnegut

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In Flanders Fields’: One Hundred Years Later, #JohnMcCrae #InFlandersFields

Somewhere out there there is a field, a field full of silent meaning and distant regret.

I’d like to see this field, to experience the meaning of a poem up close. I will get there one day. I will stand in that spot.

It’s a field full of red…red flowers that grew out of the mud and the graves.

Red blood, having made way to red flowers.

I don’t know why I’ve developed such an attachment to this particular field, so far away. Why does its sadness mean anything at all to me?

Most times I get concerned when November 11th approaches. I feel anxious, like I don’t feel what everyone else is feeling. I know it’s no jolly holiday to celebrate, but there is a certain intense pride that comes out in the hearts and voices of many Canadians, with the ceremonies and the laying of wreaths in remembrance. Canada has lost a lot in war and I can’t feel proud of this.

I am proud of the poem one Canadian doctor wrote, one hundred years ago. He lived, not so far from where I live. He did, what I know can be done with literature, he used words to mark so many things, a shared humanity.

He went to fight in France and Belgium and he lost his life, but not before he composed a poem that would one day be read to me, every single year, in school, when November arrived.

In Flanders Fields’: Canadian children recite our 100-year-old poem

What did my four-year-old niece’s school do, with her and the other children today?

What did they say to explain today to her and the other children?

I can’t even explain it to myself. I listen to stories of loss and death and suffering. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.

I don’t always understand poetry, as much as I love literature, of all sorts. So why do I want to cry, any time I hear the lines about those red flowers?

Pieces of red velour, representing all that valour. A moment of observed silence. Eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

The pride I can’t quite feel makes me worry about my level of respect toward so many humans, those who lost their lives, fighting for so many reasons, but I know it’s not about me anyway. I am not the point. I did not have to fight directly, to sacrifice, for the freedoms I have.

The closest I’ve seen the affects, happened, not in a distant world war, but in the 21st century.

http://www.honourthem.ca/masterDetail.cfm?ID=165

It happened to family, family of family.

I did not know Tyler Todd, but he was only one year older than I am, when he died. This fact practically knocks the breath from my body.

I feel like a jerk because I don’t know why we were there, why that happened, why why why?

Afghanistan is so far away, farther even than Europe, even as the veterans from the conflicts of the last century fade, there are those who are suffering the loss, new and again.

I am just some silly idealist, who doesn’t understand why peace can’t be maintained. I want peace, don’t understand why we can’t just have it. What am I missing? The realist in me knows.

And so I return to the poetry, because that, at least, is something strangely beautiful I can cling to, when I need to feel more. When I need to try hard to understand. It makes sense of the nonsensical, or at least attempts to put the images and the realities into an order out of all the disorder and the chaos.

It’s a hard life. It’s a hard life. It’s a very hard life. It’s a hard life wherever you go. And if we poison our children with hatred, then the hard life is all that they’ll know.

It’s A Hard Life

And so I look to the markers of the past, like poppies mark graves of unknown soldiers, unknown to me anyway.

Ever since I wrote about the start of World War I,

100,

I think about the war that began these rituals we follow.

And I will mark the occasions, as 1914-1918 and one hundred years hence.

I try to write in eloquence, as McCray wrote on that battlefield, but I fall short of the mark. When I hear the stories, when I think about the life that was lost, of the family who know loss now…

I can’t just sit back and feel pride, when I put my own brother in that place, when I think that he could be that one taken by war, in a day when we should not romanticize the idea of war, as was done in 1914 and I am unable to let go of my reaction to this day.

This is not the time or the place, some would say.

Or is it the perfect time to say so?

I can’t speak the words “sacrifice for one’s country” without the lump in my throat and the feeling of something so wrong. No disrespect meant, really, to all.

With the swearing in of Justin Trudeau I hope for peace, with Canada leading the charge. I hope for it, while so many acknowledge the losses suffered.

I want to explain myself, to discover my own paying of some tribute. Instead, the lines of “In Flanders Fields’” run continuously through in my head.

I am sure the feeling must be strong there, on 11/11/11. I have never experienced those bagpipes up close. I’ve only listened on the television. I hear the pain in the voices of the families. I watch the broadcast, live today.

What War Memorials Say About Us

I can now say I’ve been at the memorial, in Ottawa, but the crowds weren’t there. The day, though just as grey, was silent and still.

I don’t wish to stand amongst the crowds, but I do long to stand in that silent field.

I want to write (a blog post, a poem, a work of fiction about WW I/II). I want to pour out my idealist/realist thoughts. I need to see it for myself, that field.

I’m rambling, I realize this now, and still I press on. I’m free to pour out my thoughts, to write, and no war rages on around me as I do so.

John McCrae fought and wrote, in that war so long ago now, so one hundred years later I could write in a peaceful time and place, about war, about peace.

My country is silent now, but I write. And as I write…

“Fire!”

The planes fly low and the bagpipes play their mournful song.

Gun shots. I will never understand such symbolism as this and I hope my insensitivity isn’t a problem, but I need to speak.

Isn’t that why all the fighting was done? So I could be free to state my feelings on what war means to me, how we mark the peace and the lives lost to achieve it, and why I just can’t follow the crowds?

McCrae wrote of poppies, crosses, larks, guns, torches, loved ones…

***

We are the dead.

Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved,

and now we lie

In Flanders Fields.

***

I feel pride in the poetry and I always will. This is why I keep writing, why I wanted to write, not to let these words ever be forgotten.

Why I am proud to be Canadian.

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