Friday, 28 October 2011

The Purpose of Creation

For the past few days I’ve been transferring changes from a printed copy of my novel manuscript to the electronic copy. The manuscript pages are then set aside for my afterschool children to draw bird’s nests and monsters on, as it is the only paper in the house right now for drawing.  So yesterday the children only had five pages to draw on, and today they will have closer to twenty.  My work becomes a vehicle for their work.  Sometimes I wonder if this is the height of usefulness my novel will achieve: as fodder for little people’s imagination.  I suppose there are worse endings than having your life’s work turned upside down so someone else can be creative.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Lessons from Africville

Last night I watched the documentary "Remembering Africville." Africville was a part of Halifax where 400 black families lived, owned land and paid city taxes for over 200 years. In 1964, the city of Halifax wanted to remove what it considered a blight and encouraged/coerced residents to relocate, immediately razed their homes, and gave them only $500.00 compensation, dismantling a cohesive community in the process. They did all this under the idiom of doing what was best for the people living there.

That kind of top down decision making is still hard at work today. Politicians make assumptions, call in so-called experts and pay them a lot of money to make recommendations for our best interests.  Frankly I’m getting a little sick of it.  The Government of New Brunswick tells us that Hydrofracking is for our own good; we need the industry and the money it brings because the people on welfare are taking too much. Hmmm.  Really? The people on welfare are taking too much?!

 Fifty years ago the mayor of Halifax should have visited the church in Africville, spend some time with the people and listened to what they had to say about their community. Then he should have given the citizens the services they had been paying for all those years, plus a little bit more.

 And that is what the government needs to do today. I don’t know what experts they’ve been talking too, or how much they’ve been paying them for all their good advice.  But they would be much better served listening to the people they are supposed to be representing.  And it would be prudent if sometime soon they would stop putting money in the pockets of industry and start providing the citizens of New Brunswick with the services they are paying for.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


I’ve been thinking a lot about friends lately.  I’ve moved numerous times in my life and know that it takes a bit of effort to make and keep a close acquaintance.  In my most recent move, I was lucky that a few friends came quickly and easily to me; like an ember waiting for a bit of oxygen we burned bright the first time we sat down for coffee together. It felt like my deepest nature was understood.

It is not always that way.  On another move I remember saying to my sister that after a year I felt like I had made one intimate friend.  Sometimes familiarity is more of a slow unravelling; a strand here, one there before the bond begins to grow.  It is my experience that this kind of friendship can’t be rushed, and years later even it is still possible to overstep privacy and damage intimacy.
Perhaps it is the difference between people who are essentially similar to your nature and those who are not.  In any case, I am grateful for all my friends, and grateful I know how to go out and keep meeting new ones, as each person teases out 40 years of interests, ideas, mistakes, learning, and more:  Recently I attended a reading by author Molly Peacock and she challenged us to think of our art as a conversation or gift between friends, not as a solitary act carried out in isolation at home. 
Think of that! The act of creation as an expression of intimacy shared between friends.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Way of Change

Yesterday I attended my community garden’s Fall Harvest Party. Someone had rigged up an overhead projector with photos documenting the project from the first meetings, to the lawn before it was dug, the arduous double dig process, the marking of plots and finally the gardeners gardening, and their growing plants.
Later, we cycled downtown where protesters demonstrated against corporate greed, and a host of other social injustices. The systems we rely upon have failed us for decades - the food system, the healthcare system, the government system that cares more for business profits than for the common good of all citizens and the planet.

On our way home we saw a strange animal. It hopped like bunny, but clearly was some kind of rodent. It moved slowly, and without grace. Finally it dawned on us that it was a squirrel without its tail – a necessary balance to its body for speed and agility. Society today is like the squirrel without its tail; it limps along getting by, but is not really thriving, and we need to start growing it a new tail.
The protests and the garden party are intricately connected; The more community gardens the more healthy communities they help build, which leads to less isolation, less mental and physical illness. And when we change our neighbourhoods, we change our cities, and we change our province. And by then the government will have had to change too, because more and more of us will be strong enough to say: this isn’t right for me, for my neighbour, or for my landscape.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Things We Hand Down

I was reading this morning about the Grandfather Akwiten canoe, which was returned with great feeling to the Maliseet first nation after over 150 years of “being away” in Ireland. The canoe was built by Maliseet craftsmen in the early 1820s and is believed to be the oldest birchbark canoe in the world.  It got me wondering how many of us consider ourselves "craftsmen" and how much of what we create today will likely be revered and respected by our children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. My guess is not many and not much.  People are slotted in to the bureaucratic machines that pay them, and then they buy stuff: technology that ends up recycled or in a landfill every five years or so, houses that are then filled with mass produced pressed-wood furniture, and toys that are made of plastic. 
Those few who perservere in the arts to become craftspeople, and I would argue everyone should have this opportunity, can barely make a living. They either have to conform to the 9-5 convention where they don’t have the time or energy at the end of the day to create, or work p/t for minimum wages and not receive any benefits such as healthcare. So what message is our current consumer society spreading? That creation and self-expression is sacrificed for high production and a paycheque, and I doubt future generations are going to give a damn about our pay stubs.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Local Food

I am beginning to suspect that the growing interest in local food is a boon to feminists.  You might think, how can a focus on making your own soupstock and canning your tomotoes be a feminist concern?  Well, women's work, including kitchen work has long been undervalued, a fact which is reflected in the minimal wages (if any) earned by homemakers.  However now that we are starting to wake up to the importance of local food processed in home kitchens as a source of health and wellbeing, this work is becoming valued.  A value that extends from the farmer and the farmer's soil to the home kitchen and cold storage shed. 

I felt immense satisfaction making a homemade chicken soup stock from the roast chicken bones from yesterday's dinner.  When one of us comes down with a cold, I will be able to nourish us with this stock, knowing all the yummy fresh produce that went into it.  And now it is not only I that am satisfied, but a growing horde of other local food focused home cooks providing for themselves, and their families. What better aim for a feminist than to feel satisfaction for her accomplishments, and to have them valued by the community she lives in.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


Last night I had friends stop by for dinner and a sleepover.  I made a wonderful pasta dinner with sauce.  The sauce included roasted onions and tomotoes, garlic, grated carrots, celery, mini-tomotoes from the garden, fresh basil, red pepper, sundried tomatoe and zucchini.  My friend was amazed that everything was made from scratch.  I sometimes forget that not everyone knows how to whip up a healthy and delicious supper using fresh ingredients.  This is something I'm good at, and I can start and finish the whole process including sausage, garlic bread, pasta, and sauce in a half hour.  Of course it helps I have a box of fresh veggies delivered once a week, so I have the farmer to thank who takes care of the veggies before they get to me.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Set Backs

So for the past few weeks my son has been able to find his friend easily in the playground, and then he leaves the comfort of our company to run free and happy to his friend; they hold hands and take their place in the playground.  Alas this morning his friend was not to be found.  The temperature was below zero, and we stood, and walked, and shivered in vain.  As the time wore on my son moved from holding my hand, to clutching it, to clutching my arm, and then holding my entire arm with two of his.  Sigh. And then the bell rang, and he held tight until I was in the school building with him, us inbetween two of his kindergarten classmates, with him crying, and me trying to pry myself loose.

Being in the school might not have been so bad if I had bothered to comb my hair and put an elastic in it, rather than have it poking out here and there from the braid I had slept on the night before.  And also perhaps if the hem of my pajama bottoms weren't peaking out from under my long skirt, as I was planning to retreat back to the bedroom to read when I got home.  Is it any wonder my son doesn't want to let me go, as he more than likely wants to come back home and curl up in bed with a good book too.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

My own schedule

Tomorrow is Monday.  Right now I am in my PJ's; my son and I are having a pajama day.  So I sit in comfort and reflect on how tomorrow I will wake early, play with my son for an hour before walking him to school.  When I come home I will read, write, and maybe do the dishes.  But everything I do between 8 am and 1 pm is done on my own schedule with my own whims and fancies. There is no price to being able to let the morning unfold as it will, as you will it.