Destiny

 

My weekly column for your reading pleasure. Some of you will recognize it as a longer version of a blog I did a few days ago:

“I do not understand how a poem can be better than a peppermint plant.” ~ thich nhat hanh

Perspective is that illusive entity that helps us make sense out of the events of our lives, or, at the very least, gives us a proportion by which to measure those things. thich nhat hanh puts life so in perspective for me. Sometimes I do not appreciate the beauty in everyday things and tasks—okay, most of the time, I do not appreciate the beauty in the everyday—but his thoughts in this poem, found in a short chapter in his book “moments of mindfulness” help me to see tasks as more than necessary evils, and value the things in life I take so for granted:

Planting a seed
washing a dish,
and cutting the grass
are as eternal,
as beautiful,
as writing a poem.
I do not understand
how a poem can be better
than a peppermint plant.

I do agree with him wholeheartedly about the “planting a seed” thing, and even the “cutting the grass” thing, but I will need more convincing on the “washing a dish thing”. I have to admit that I do not embrace the beauty of everyday tasks, and need a little “mindfulness” to convince me. I find the term “mindfulness” somewhat annoying in that it has become somewhat of a clichéd watchword, but if you define it as awareness or thoughtful consciousness then it becomes a clearer destination, rather than a muddy journey.

Everyday tasks are an inevitable part of the human condition. Taking a page out of thich nhat hanh’s book and giving those tasks the same weight as the things we deign as more “important” is one way of gaining a new perspective or way of looking at things.
Hanh evaluates the seemingly unimportant as significant, and heightens trivial chores to a loftier plane. So the washing of dishes becomes just as important, just as beautiful in its own way as something considered more creative.

We label things, and put them in columns or charts and graphs—quantifying them, thereby taking away their essence. I have always found labels wanting, never quite a good fit, just as hanh finds it difficult to see why writing a poem is better than a peppermint plant. I guess it all comes down to the fact that you cannot compare apples and oranges—each is distinct and unique in colour and flavour, in shape and size. Even comparing apples to apples is a dangerous thing—there are so many different kinds, shapes, sizes and colours that grouping them as one entity misidentifies their individuality. We do this with people too—we group them together by colour, language, economics, and heritage, without looking below the surface and seeing each person’s singularity. I am not my white skin, my English language, my age, my job, or IQ score. I am a bundle of all these things—a supersized combo (with pickles) if you will.

Zen Master, teacher, advocate of peace, human rights and justice, nhan sums us up accurately in the last tiny chapter in his book by writing:

We are the children of the Earth
and not separate from the soil,
the forests,
the rivers,
and the sky,
we share the same destiny.

And that, dear readers, puts it all in perspective for me. Even when we are relegated to cutting the lawn, doing the dishes, or writing a poem.

Summer Nights

Charmed by a cool breeze
She pulled her sweater tightly
Around her tanned arms.

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm  Comments (12)  
Tags: , ,

Eh Canada!

Those siblings, July 1st and July 4th,  Canada Day and Independence Day are coming up–and because I work for a weekly I celebrate things a bit ahead of time in my column. So Happy Canada Day and July 4th!

What better way to celebrate our national heritage and bring to the fore our pride and allegiance and stand on guardedness than profuse usage of the interjection “eh”? I think the title of our national anthem should be changed to Eh Canada, as it embodies us so much better than O, which merely hails our great country as something to be praised and honoured but does not pay particular tribute to it. “Eh” acknowledges our Canadianess and accords accolades to our uniqueness.

Wikipedia partially defines “eh” as “ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest….and agreement of a subject”, and I think we can all agree that Canada is pretty great. Eh Canada would draw attention to the fact that we are all in this together and we have a consuming interest in our home and native land. By nature, Canadians are generally agreeable, polite and proud of our heritage—past and present.

Sometimes I will rattle off my heritage to my youngest son—English, French, Scottish, Irish, with a bit of Pennsylvania Dutch thrown into the mix and he will look at me somewhat bemusedly and declare, “I am a Canadian”. And he is right—we were both born here and though we have a lot of ancestral baggage—we are Canadian “through and through”.

As a proud Canadian, I do use “eh” on a regular basis. It is second nature. The way I usually use it is to find concurrence with my opinion, as in “Those flowers are pretty, eh?” I am not looking for discord when I use it, and that is another reason why we should change O Canada to Eh Canada—as in “isn’t Canada great?” or “Aren’t you glad you are Canadian?

The Urban Dictionary defines “eh” as the equivalent to the American “huh?” or “right”. A friend of mine (yes, you Dave) was wearing a T-shirt last week which put “eh” in its rightful place. A large “Eh” was emblazoned on his T-shirt, and underneath it was the statement: “so much more polite than huh.” And I think that is what largely defines us, at least when we put on our party faces. Admit it, sometimes we are not as polite as we are made out to be, but when you look at the whole picture, and compare us to most of the others tromping around on this earth, at least we keep our impoliteness under wraps, and put our best faces forward.

One of the best things I like about “eh” is that it makes us less stuffy while still drawing attention to the subject at hand. At times we are mocked for using “eh”, but it is generally in good humour and as a strong and happy and patriotic Canadian, I can take it. I find that I can go days without using the lovely interpolation (yes I looked up interjection in my thesaurus and came up with this) and then it is sprinkled in almost everything I say. I guess some days I am just looking for a little understanding and concurrence—and what is being a Canadian if not understanding and agreeable (for the most part)?

Wikipedia, with its wisdom, coyness and wittiness says that “eh” is part our national identity and that sometimes our Canadian national teams are referred to as “the Eh team”. The “people’s dictionary” also cites this as a classic joke:—“How did they name Canada? The letters were thrown in a bag, and the first one to be picked was a “C eh?” then “N eh?” and finally “D eh?”. If a classic joke is one that is common or standard or typical, then I have been hiding under my bed a bit too much, as I had never heard it—but hey, it is Wikipedia—sometimes they are a little long on explanation, and maybe a little short on accuracy.

So, next Tuesday in honour of our July 1st. Canada Day, throw around our little Canadian word “eh” with abandon and maybe hum a little “Eh Canada” while you are at it.
How do you celebrate Canada Day or July 4th?

 

Published in: on June 24, 2014 at 11:45 am  Comments (29)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Things that make you go hmmmm…..

 

My weekly column:

I am not Arsenio Hall. I do not drive from Cleveland to LA pondering things that make you go hmmm. (According to Wik E. Pedia, a frequent joke in Hall’s opening monologue was that he still lived in Cleveland and drove to Los Angeles every day to host his (now defunct) show, and on these alleged long drives he pondered life and came up with “things that make you go hmm,….”) His running gag also inspired a 1991 song by the same title which climbed to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This trivia is brought to your attention today as a way of introducing a few of the things that make me go hmmm…..:

1. In the Books & Writers section of the National Post on Saturday, Maryak Siddiqi did a book review of “The Tastemakers: Why We Are Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up With Fondue” by David Sax. I am going to read this book for one reason, and one reason only, and it is this quote from Sax, which makes me go hmmm… Siddiqi says that Sax “crafts an excellent and extremely fun takedown of health trends. It’s a giant paragraph-long rant that begins, ‘Eat more fibre, but be sure to eat less carbs. Drink three glasses of milk a day, so long as you avoid lactose and dairy. Beef is filled with much-needed iron and protein, but you should steer clear of red meat entirely….’. Now does this not make you go hmmmm? No wonder we are so confused as to what to put into our mouths—one day coffee is bad for you, the next day it is the best thing since sliced bread—and don’t get me started on sliced bread which is now at the top of many people’s don’t ever eat list.

2. A certain brand of barbeque sauce which I favour but never buy unless it is on sale is on sale this week at one of the grocery stores. It is usually about $4 a bottle but is on for a buck a bottle for a few short days. So I picked up three. Two are called Original Bold and the other is Chicken and Rib Renegade . Curious as to what the content difference between the two is, I read the ingredient label, thinking that something that was Bold would be much different than something touted for chicken and ribs (which come to think of it is another thing that makes me go hmmmm… as chicken is fairly delicate in flavour and ribs are, dare I say it…much bolder). So here is the ingredient list for the Bold Original flavour: sugar, water, tomato paste, cooking molasses, vinegar, salt, modified corn starch, natural hickory smoke flavour, mustard, dried onions, spices and garlic with a note in bold letters that says Contains Mustard.

The other barbeque sauce for renegade (not complacent) chicken and ribs is made up of—wait for it, wait for it: sugar, water, tomato paste, cooking molasses, vinegar, salt, modified corn starch, natural hickory smoke flavour, dried onions, mustard, spices and dried garlic. It also has the warning in bold letters Contains Mustard.

Now just in case you did not notice the difference, the Bold Original has mustard listed before the dried onions. That is it. That is the only difference—which may mean that the Bold has a little more mustard than the Chicken and Rib Renegade and fewer dried onions. This makes me seriously go hmmm…

And the bold letters seeming to warn us that there is mustard in both concoctions has me slightly concerned. Is there a subgroup of people made up of the mustard police out there? Is mustard really that significant that it must be pointed out so audaciously? This mustard thing makes me go hmmm…. with some trepidation. Why is the mustard being pointed out here? Should we be worried? Hmmmm…..

3. Cupcakes. Why are they so popular? Sure they are cute and made of cake and sometimes decorated beautifully. But I do not get it. Most are too big to bite into without ending up with an icing moustache, and who enjoys having to wipe off their mouth after every bite? I understand kids loving cupcakes—the messier the better. But someone who suffers from TMJ does not have a prayer of eating a cupcake neatly unless employing a fork, which seems to cancel out the whole raison d’etre for consuming a cupcake. This one may not make you go hmmm…but it does me. So I give it a personal Hmmm………….

Life is full of things that make us go hmmm…..these are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg (one of those big guys that are melting, causing us angst, and making us go hmmm…with some alarm.)

What makes you go hmmmm…..?

 

Imagined Freedom

Pragmatically foolish
She cut her long hair
Wet strands fell to the floor
After they dried she gathered up the auburn tresses
and
unceremoniously dumped them in the garbage.
She stuck her tongue out at her reflection in the mirror
Turned on her heels
And fled the bathroom
With its hair dryer, hair curlers, curling iron, and hair brush ~
All she needed was a comb now.

Published in: on May 27, 2014 at 2:17 pm  Comments (18)  
Tags: , ,

To market, to market…………

This is an edited version of  my weekly newspaper column–again it is locally based–but has some food for thought on a wider basis too:

“Food has the ability to bring people together …” – The Stop

Sweet potatoes, garlic and herb bread, treats for my cat, natural bug repellent, grapefruit and mint soap, blackberry jam, a beautiful bunch of flowers for $5, asparagus, Lebanese garlic spread, some meatwiches (yes I made this up but I do not know what else to call them—they consisted of a lovely meat mixture ensconced in bread), and some radish sprouts. Those are the treasures I gleaned from Saturday’s Farmers Market  in our fair town of Kingsville.

I love the idea of a Farmers Market. But more than the idea, I love going to farmers markets. I am so happy that we have one in the heart of town from now until October. The offerings thus far are abundant, and I am sure it is going to grow. I did not hit all of the stands that were set up, more than a dozen on its first venture out of the gate—but the ones I did hit gave me the feeling (and products) I wanted from the market. A feeling of a community coming together to offer not only quality goods but camaraderie—a sense of “we are all in this together”.

The day dawned wet and cool (some might say cold), the grass was wet, but the vendors were there with their game faces on. Every vendor I stopped to talk to was beyond friendly, and those who had products which needed a bit of explanation provided it not in a “I want to sell it to you no matter what” kind of way, but in a lovely conversational way that made me want to buy and not back away.

Farmers Markets have been around for almost 10,000 years according to a web site called coincidentally enough Farmers Markets. Apparently they originated in Turkey and the Middle East and were born from the fact that farm families found they were producing more than they needed for survival so they offered their wares in a farmers market as a way to sell their excess—meeting the needs of local villagers and finding another source of income.

Farmers Markets, so says the article are a “wholly traditional way of selling agricultural and home manufactured products” and were once “integral to society and a part of everyday life” but saw a decline due to “urbanism and intensive farming….the advent of supermarkets and hypermarkets….” and the fact that people could buy pre-packaged food without worrying about seasonality. The article says that people “lost interest in food in general.”

That interest has been reignited—people are again interested in buying their food a little closer to the source, and what better way to do it than by visiting local Farmers Markets? I give the Food Channel some of the kudos for renewing our interest in fresh locally grown produce and to Jamie Oliver, English chef extraordinaire in particular.

According to Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis in “The Stop”, a book about how good food transformed a community (in Toronto) and inspired a movement: “food has the ability to bring people together”. Attending the weekly Farmers Market is not only satisfying in what you come away with to nourish your body; it nourishes the soul of our community. It brings us together as one, and fosters kinship, unity and co-operative spirit, from the group that has come together under the umbrella of the Kingsville Farmers Market to those of us who visit.

Thank you to those who had the foresight and gumption to organize this market. I, for one, will be a regular visitor—not just for the fresh food and imaginative products, but for that unseen yet precious commodity: community.

Three for three…

 

 

I find all sorts of wonderful things on facebook. Here are three:

1.

Here are 12 suggestions.  Which one would you add that promotes self care for you?  Share in a comment below! :)

 

2. “The world needs more Mayberry and less Honey Boo Boo.”

3. “On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%…and that is pretty good.”

Published in: on May 21, 2014 at 12:03 pm  Comments (10)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Prayer

Reverent silence
Holy in its sanctity
Still meditation

 

Published in: on May 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , , ,

Moms

I am a mother
First, foremost and forever
Deep love realized.

 

Published in: on May 11, 2014 at 10:32 am  Comments (25)  
Tags: , ,

Happy B Day Tyler!

 

My youngest son Tyler is 23 today. Twenty-three years ago he decided to come about 7 weeks earlier than his due date. He was three pounds five ounces. Today he is six foot one and over two hundred pounds. What a difference 23 years make.

Tyler describes himself as a man-child: he would fit right in with the Big Bang Theory guys except he rejects them as too stereotypical—and Tyler is anything but stereotypical. He just moved back home a few months ago after going to college in a city a couple of hours away and has his Marketing Diploma and a bunch of skills learned while living away from home. He knows how to cook a bit and clean up after himself, and do his own laundry—important life skills that translate into an independent young man.

He is caught up in trying to find a job so he can start paying off his student loans, and is worried about his future. I am thrilled to have him home, and since I do not know how long he is going to be here, I have to savour the moments.

We have watched Community and Parks and Recreation in marathon sessions. We have an occasional glass of wine together though beer is his drink of choice. We could both eat pizza every night though I think I might tire of it first.

He is my youngest—when he was gone my nest was pretty quiet. I love having him home and do not look forward to him leaving again, but it is inevitable. Until then I will enjoy him, and on his birthday, celebrate him.

 

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 7:57 pm  Comments (23)  
Tags: ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 608 other followers