I Am Honoured to Don a Poppy

This is my weekly column. In Canada, Remembrance Day is on November 11th but because it is next Monday I had to write my Remembrance Day column this week:

         

        

English: A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn...

 A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn on the lapel of a men’s suit. In many Commonwealth countries, poppies are worn to commemorate soldiers who have died in war, with usage most common in the week leading up to Remembrance Day (and Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand). The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I secure my red poppy to my sweater and proudly wear the symbol of Remembrance Day over my heart. I get the poppy from a friendly member of the Legion standing guard at the grocery store over his cache of poppies in a container that has seen better days.  I scramble around in my purse for some money to slip into the slot as the purveyor of poppies says, “Don’t worry if you don’t have any money” and then when I succeed in finding a dollar seventy-five, not enough in my mind, but enough for him to say “Would you like two?” And I gratefully accept two.

          So many of us do not carry money anymore, using plastic to pay for groceries and gas and other daily needs, but I am trying to remember to carry it for occasions such as these—for my red poppy around Remembrance Day, for a hot dog sponsored by a charity, for the offerings of the Girl or Boy Scouts, for the Salvation Army at Christmas. These people do not trade in plastic, they trade in real life loonies and toonies, and five and ten dollar bills, and dare I say it — the occasional twenty.

          I think of Remembrance Day as a sacred day, a day of honour, a day I want to give thanks for those who put their lives on the line. I am happy to live in our country of Canada, a country where freedom reigns even though we grouse over the way it is run. We have the freedom to grouse and that is something to celebrate. And this freedom is directly related to those who guard it.

          I am honoured to don a poppy. To wear it with pride. And to share my second one with a member of my family to wear proudly. I am also thrilled that when I went to buy my poppy I was told that the money was not necessary—for it was more important to the man who was offering them that they be worn, than they be paid for. But of course, the money for the poppies is necessary.  I went to the Canadian Legion website and found out why.

          According to the site, the Poppy “has stood as a visual symbol of our Remembrance Day since 1921”, but before that “its presence over the graves of soldiers, and in the fields of honour was noted as early as the 19th century” but the “reason for its adoption over 100 years later in Canada, was due to, in no small part, Lieutenant-Colonel  John McCrae and his now famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”….written in May 1915 “following the death of a fellow soldier.”

          Though there is an international connection, the site stresses that “it is today that the importance of the Poppy as the Flower of Remembrance in Canada is even more evident” and “these red flowers can be seen on the lapels and collars of so many, and this single act ensures that our memories of those who died in battle will remain strong.”

          So, where does the money go that we search our purses for and bring out our moth ridden wallets? “Donations received during the Poppy Campaign annually raise more than $14 million for the support of Veterans and their families.” According to the Legion site, “Poppy Funds are held in trust and the usage is clearly defined.”

          Veterans Affairs Canada once oversaw the production of the poppies, but once it became impractical for them to maintain the operation, the Legion volunteered to take on the responsibility, and the production of the poppies is Canadian based and under strict Legion control and oversight. The Lapel poppy first showed up in 1922 and “serves as a symbol of unity for those who recognize the sacrifices that were made for… freedom and….forges a bond between people of all ages, not only within Canada, but around the world.”

          The poppy has not been without controversy. In a 2010 article on the MSN News Canada Site, “Folo”, Corrine Milic poses this question: “Is there room for both flowers in Remembrance Day ceremonies? A red poppy to remember the sacrifices military men and women have made in the past and continue to make today. A white poppy to inspire a more peaceful future?”

          The words of my generation in the lyrics of “WAR” sung aggressively by Edwin Starr advocate another way to bring peace. He sang:
Chorus: (War) good God y’all, (What is it good for?)

Absolutely nothing,….. Say it again–                                               

(War, what is it good for?) Absolutely nothing….

Verse 4: Peace, love and understanding
Tell me, is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s gotta be a better way
.”

            Until we find a better way, I say thank you to all those striving for peace and freedom. Join me on the 11th at the 11th hour of the 11th month to remember those who have tried and those who are trying to find “a better way.”

A Haiku for this moment

Big Tree with Red Sky in the Winter Night

Night (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Day is done; deep breath ~

A touch of serenity

Peace for the moment.

Published in: on September 7, 2013 at 11:17 pm  Comments (26)  
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The Bliss of Stillness

Stillness n' Peace (View in full size)

Stillness n’ Peace Photo credit: . Dileepan

“Stillness has been an acquired taste.” ~ Sheila from Grace and Space

Time is a precious commodity and is the subject of Sheila’s post today. She says she is a doer, a list maker, someone who likes to accomplish things—and that stillness has been something she has had to learn to consciously appreciate.

I have always loved stillness—I need it to replenish my stores. In stillness my imagination is given free rein. Yesterday I complained that I had “nothing” to say, but in response many of you advised me to enjoy it and use it, and once I took in this wisdom I had peace.

Do you find bliss in stillness, or is it a hard thing for you to achieve?

Published in: on March 5, 2013 at 11:11 am  Comments (50)  
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Bliss is Equal Parts Joy and Woe

A page from scan of book containing a series o...

Songs of Innocence and Experience by poet and painter, William Blake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read many blogs and believe that I am the wiser for it. The other day I ran across a blog called Joy and Woe, and found the explanation for the title intriguing. Jeni  of Joy and Woe is a fellow Canadian, and she said she chose the title for her blog from William Blake’s poem “Augeries of Innocence.” Here is an excerpt from the poem that includes her blog’s moniker:

All is right it should be so:
Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.

I love the simple yet sage wisdom in those words. Once we accept that we are destined for both joy and woe, and that in equal parts they are what make the world go round, then we can make our peace with the ways of life.

Is life fair? A tiresome question. Sometimes it is too fair, sometimes not fair enough—admit it, you have been on both ends of the spectrum of fairness. Life is not objective, impartial, non-discriminatory or fair. But sometimes it is.

Joy and Woe: they sum up life quite nicely. Coming to an understanding of these two elements gives me some bliss.

Do you find that life is made up of joy and woe—would we know bliss if we did not have a little woe in order to measure joy?

Published in: on February 24, 2013 at 11:11 am  Comments (59)  
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~ DESIRED THINGS ~

1976 edition of The Desiderata of Happiness po...

1976 edition of The Desiderata of Happiness poetry collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not sure the universe is unfolding as it should, but I find this prose poem comforting, and I need to be comforted today.  Last night I attended a Christmas Party for my Writers’ Group and one of the members took the time to write this piece of inspiration on a sheet of paper in printing reminiscent of calligraphy and frame it. It now sits on my desk where I can see it and read it at will. I cannot form any more words about the horrific events that took place yesterday and the story that continues to unfold. I hope that this will provide a little refuge, inspiration, and yes, hope for all of us:

                              Desiderata: Desired Things

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy. ~ Max Ehrman ~ written in 1927

I do not want to be trite; I do not want to deny that an unspeakable thing has happened; I do not want to live in denial. I do know that we have to go on; we have to set aside our trivial worries and realize what is really important. And we need to find some peace. While we may not be able to be cheerful or happy right now–we need to “nurture strength of spirit” to shield us.

I have no idea how the people who have to deal with this first hand will do it, but I do know that we can lend a hand in showing them that we care. Here is the address to the school provided by Robin Coyle. Write some words of compassion, address the envelope, and send it to: Sandy Hook Elementary School, 12 Dickenson Drive, Newtown, CT 06482. We can do something.

Peaceful and Calm

Peaceful and Calm (Photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna)

~ They Shall Not Grow Old ~ An Ode to Remembrance Day ~ November 11, 2012

Remembrance...

Remembrance… (Photo credit: Rick Leche)

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning ~ We will remember them.”

~ Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen

There is no romance in Remembrance Day, though the words of Binyon may make it seem so. The fact that “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old” sounds dreamy, almost idealistic, but it is not. Romance is a term often used only for the love between two people, but its definition in part is “the free expression of feelings”. Again, I say, there is no romance in not growing old. “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn” though is comforting in a way. We still need to be comforted at the losses that were incurred; and we still need to remember.

Portrait of Laurence Binyon by William Strang

Portrait of Laurence Binyon by William Strang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We need to find a way in which to honour those who lost their lives so that we can live the life we live in freedom. And though their deaths were in battle, they were not in vain, and I think Binyon’s poem reflects that. Most of those who died were young. To think that they will not be condemned to live life as those of us who age, and go through the perils and challenges that come with aging—I guess puts the loss on a less vulnerable level.

But we should never become comfortable in the loss of young lives – whether the loss is for country and freedom, or as in so many of the battles of today—protection of people and the preservation of life as we know it. It is not easy to understand war and conflict; it is not easy to send our best to protect us, knowing they are in harm’s way; it is not easy to reflect on the losses of the past, or contemplate the challenges of the future.

Remembrance Day is a day for pause and reflection and to remember. But our remembering should be active—it is not just to recall or keep something in mind—it is to keep from forgetting and to commemorate. And we are not just to remember those who gave their lives; we are to remember those who fought, and those who continue to fight in all and every capacity on our behalf.

For years I had no real reference point for Remembrance Day—I was not personally affected by it—or so I thought. I had lost no loved ones, and I did not “feel” the significance of the day. But in school we were reminded, and at church we were reminded, and in the media we were reminded. And we need to continue to be reminded to remember. We need to carry on the tradition “lest we forget”.

Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps there is romance in Remembrance Day, because if we use the definition of “free expression of feeling” for romance, then we should freely express our sympathy, freely mourn the losses, and freely remember those who made and make it possible to walk in freedom.

I will happily and sombrely pause at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month and remember. But it will be a remembrance that has a past, present, and future. One that has life at its core, not death; a remembrance of those who did not get to grow old and weary; and a remembrance of those who saw battle and did come home to grow old.

We shall remember them well; and we shall forge forward and support those who are still involved in protecting us and others. Remembrance is not passive; it is evocative of what we must not forget. I leave you with “A Wish” for the future, part of a poem by Maxine Kendall:

Maybe it is pointless
To wish for lasting peace
For all mankind to lay down arms

peace

peace (Photo credit: Aunt Owwee)

For all fighting to cease

Hope lies in a child’s heart
Not yet turned to stone
A mind free of prejudice
A child not alone

If all children of the world
Held each other’s hand
They could do what we could not
Make a Brotherhood of Man.

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