Saturday, October 20, 2012

new beginnings

For those of you who followed my blog here over the years, I reiterate my gratitude.  I promised that I would be unable to keep from my writing, that I would continue to blog my thoughts, insights and misgivings as they occur, in no particular order, but I have not been able to blog for a long time. Life seems to have gotten in the way somehow and I've been struggling to find anything to share here or anywhere. As I find my way through this drought or block or whatever it is, I hope to find my way back to this blog or a new one. I hope the drought has not been fatal to my voice!


Wednesday, October 07, 2009


I have come to the decision that it's time to put this blog to bed. I will still write -- can't stop myself! And it goes without saying, I will still be gardening. This blog will remain up, just not updated, and I may write from time to time on one of my other sites (see sidebar).

I just have to say, it has been exciting and very moving to connect with people through this medium. So, a big Thank-you to those of you who have stopped by from time to time, to share my love of gardening and life. And Thank-you to all those who took the time to comment, to encourage me and to cheer me on.


Monday, October 05, 2009

green urban activism

how to green the advertizing covering by creating plant pockets!



I have always been inspired by people who have made changes to make the world a better place. You probably know some of them. Or maybe you saw CNN's Top 10 Heroes of 2009, announced on Thursday.

Those people saw a need and found a way they could fill it.

But agents of change can be ordinary people like you and me. We all have dreams, creative desires. I think we are meant to be our dreams for ourselves and the world. By being our best selves, to quote Oprah, we are agents of change for the better in our world, even if only in a small way, in our small spheres.

Maybe the change you long for is in your job. Here's what to do in the meantime.

Or maybe you are contemplating ways to fill a need you see in the world around you. Here are some of the qualities you possess that will ensure you can make those changes.

I just passed a "milestone birthday". It has me contemplating what I will do with the next stage in my life. I'll try to update you here on the changes that I'll be making!


run-away dogs

I've been thinking a lot lately (as you probably could tell from my last post) about the troubles between men and women. And as fate would have it, life immediately handed me many experiences to highlight just those problems: a friend had her husband leave her and her children, but not before cleaning out their joint bank account; a woman friend confessed that her young son rules the roost at home; a long conversation with a friend revolved around the many ways her husband either fails, is unable to or opts out of being an equal partner in parenting; another conversation revolved around the unfolding drama of Jon and Kate (of the TLC reality show revolving around the family of twins plus sextuplets).

A story I've alluded to before, popped into my mind. It involves a little dog who was adopted from an animal shelter. Loud noises always caused the dog to panic and on this particular occassion, the dog manages to escape its safe new home, to start running.
It runs and runs and runs, deaf and blind with all the fears unleashed by the loud noise of an automobile back-firing or something. It does not hear its name being called. It is not aware of its loving, adopted "mother" running after it. Perhaps a faint note of recognition registers in the poor dog's head as it hears its new name being called. Perhaps it is just exhausted. However, it finally slows down enough so that its adopted "mother" can catch it and when she does, the dog is shaking, wild with fear.

Now, all too often, the response of the adopted "mother" here could be to yell at the dog, to try to explain how wrong the dog is to run off, even to punish it for running away, for not obeying when it was called. Or, the loving response is, to hug the dog close, comfort it, soothe away the fear and gently bring it back home.

Knowing the back-story, knowing that the dog had been considered practically "un-adoptable" because it had suffered horrific abuse before coming to the animal shelter, the adopted "mother" understood the dog's fear, understood that the only remedy is consistent, unfailing love.

Maybe it is because I was recently bitten by a protective mama dog. Or maybe it is because I had a dream the other night that I was a stray dog myself. Anyhow, the story popped into my head because I was remembering a question my son often asked me when he was growing up. He asked why he should have to pay for the mistakes other men had made in relation to women, why his intentions would be questioned, why he could not relate to women simply as himself, that depending on the circumstance, women would mistrust or even fear him just because he is a man.

In contemplating the story, it occurred to me that in the relationships between men and women, the dog could be a description of either men or women. Either a man or a woman can run away from love out of panic triggered by the fear of something in our history that has shaped us.

And it's just that unknowable history of a stray dog in an animal shelter that is so similar to the can of worms in our personal and cultural back-stories, that can make us re-live history over and over again.

But we know a little bit of that back-story between men and women. We know men profit from the theme of aggression and violence against women (look at some of the most popular video games ). We know that men profit from their position of power. We know that men and women assume a certain order to life, business and personal relationships based on the stereotypes of men in power. And the story isn't over by a long shot.

However, uncovering that story is only the beginning of the healing that I believe is absolutely essential between men and women. And I'm surprised again and again at how difficult even that is, uncovering the story, being able to tell it, being able to hear it.

And yet, here and there, I encounter hopeful signs:

Why the Global Women's Crusade Needs Men


Sunday, September 20, 2009


Things have changed, and I'm not sure when it happened.

I had a conversation with my best friend M. the other day about relationships and it occurred to me that things have changed. Now, I'm about to use a phrase I always hated when my mother used it, but here goes anyway: I'm old enough to remember the sixties, those heady times when there nearly was a revolution, when young people, full of idealism thought that a new world order was possible, a new world order based on love instead of money and power.

Grant you, a lot of the parading about and speechy-fying was done by the fellas and the meals were put together by women in the background. And then there were even a few men who started taking on more of the "caring" roles. There was talk of real equality and the sexual revolution followed.

However things changed. The pendulum swung back and the majority of those fellas who talked of love and community, sexual equality, soon became even more materialistic and power-hungry than perhaps their fathers had ever been.

What happened to the idea that "all you need is love"?

Somehow, it seems we have fallen into a terrible pit of narcissism, greed and fear. We feed our feelings of isolation, loneliness and shame with material things, and the ideas of social justice and the principle of the equality of all human beings have taken a back seat to our fight for supremacy. If we cannot subdue those we fear, we will keep them out with walls and homeland security. Disappointed by love, we have replaced connection to other beings with collecting things and protecting those things, with violence if need be. And as the desire for possessing things has grown, the value system that placed life before things has crumbled away.

A fantasy of love is out there, an attitude that treats people like objects, to be discarded when they don't meet our needs, still thrill, or fail to meet some criterion or another.

Without an understanding of the divine power of love, we have all too willingly become party to governments who spend a pittance on social welfare services while pursuing policies of economical and military aggression. The social activitist of the 60's now easily defines himself as a social liberal AND a fiscal conservative.

Marianne Williamson in The Healing of America says: "There is so much injustice in America, and such a conspiracy not to discuss it; and so much suffering, and so much deflection lest we notice. We are told that these problems are secondary, or that it would cost too much to fix them -- as though money is what matters most. Greed is considered legitimate now, while brotherly love is not."

I am always struck when I return from travels to countries in the Third World by the response of people to my decision to travel to those places, as if there are no difficult issues, no poverty, no starving children in the First World. The statistics that describe horrific poverty in Canada do nothing to help us see the face of poverty because we turn our backs. Sometimes, travel forces us out of our comfort zone, but not if we can help it, not if we can hide away in gated resorts, hotel developments that are surreal islands of self-indulgence in the middle of frightening poverty and hardship.

The social activists of the 60's have abandoned their commitment to social justice because love of their fellow man would have demanded the hard work of changing and reorganizing the social and political systems that perpetuate the inequalities. The resulting backlash against welfare in America today, Williamson contends, "is not really a backlash against welfare abuse, so much as it is a backlash against compassion in the public sphere."

And to support greed and materialism, one must support domination. And being back to domination, we are back to a world without love.

Many in our country like to call it a Christian country, founded by people who held Christian ideals. If God is love, and love gives life, why do our governments uphold policies that value money over love, the progress of commerce and industry over the value of life (either by destroying the natural environment that supports life or treating human beings as statistics: a "market" or a source of labour, etc.)

I am horrified by the man in India who killed his wife because he suspects that she was cheating on him. Why? Because he believes women are inherently inferior and dangerous creatures. However, I experience this attitude of domination still in our supposedly socially advanced culture.

It is terribly commonplace now for women(and men too) to have "something done", ie surgically or chemically, in an effort to be more appealing as...what, a commodity? While few men say they want this, most men on internet dating sites want a picture first. And the odd, horribly-honest man even admits that he is looking for a Barbie who has had "work done", as incredible as that may seem!

Most profiles on internet dating sites describe a love of walking hand in hand on beaches, or cuddling on the couch to watch a movie, wine and candles. How unrealistic is that? Little talk of chores, dirty dishes, juggling working lives, managing money, sharing values and goals, beliefs, politics, social activism...

In the workplace, it is still commonplace for men (usually in a position of power)to be angry and verbally abusive and expect that an apology (if offered) exonerates them ( it should be understood that they are under stress, etc., while a subordinate who responds with violence or verbal abuse is much more often reprimanded for un-professional behavior).

It is still not unheard of that women complain that the stuff of caring for a house and children is still their territory (often of their own choosing because they do not trust a man to do a good enough job). Relationships also seem to be women's territory as the social niceties often fall to a woman: planning and preparing for the holidays, the sending of cards, flowers or gifts to note the events in the lives of people around them.

Even though we (on the tail-end of the 60's generation) hopefully entered marriages that we stated we wanted to be equal partnerships, we quickly found ourselves falling into the habits we had learned in our homes. Women resorted to feminine wiles to get men to do what they wanted. Men easily gave over the care of children to women. Men expected women to cook and clean and care for them, to nourish them and take care of their needs. Women complained, but did not relinquish these roles that defined them, because they felt their high standards would not be met(rightly or wrongly). Men who might have made the effort to be emotionally available, caring and responsible husbands and fathers succumbed to the pressures of their peers' vision of what manhood was, and abandoned their children and wives, becoming emotionally and physically unavailable, in order to preserve their self-image of power. And with no idea of how to be loving, men and women left unhappy marriages, hoping to at the very least, escape the misery and loneliness, hoping to find true love somewhere else. We taught our children to be cynical, to wonder if true love even exists. Our friends who remain married, also cynical, advise those of us who are no longer are married, not to get married again -- love isn't possible, it's just too hard to "train another man", or to marry for money this time vs love, etc.,etc.!

We tried to redefine "man and woman", but fell back on a simplistic re-working of the same stereotypes we remained invested in: men are from Mars and women from Venus; men are strong and silent, while women are nurturing and verbal; yin and yang; women are mature caregivers, while men are childish idiots, etc., etc. Instinctively, we recognize the caricature and are amused by it. It provides endless fodder for comedians and sitcoms. But it has not been fundamentally challenged or reworked, for all we pretend to be so much more socially progressive than say the Muslim world, or traditional caste-bound India.

However, despite all that, I believe love is possible. I believe love is the only thing that is possible if we hope to survive as a species. Without love, we will continue to despoil the world, violently suppress anyone we encounter that we fear threatens our comfort, sustain our unhealthy narcissism with our greed, and continue to blindly tolerate every injustice.

And on a personal level, without love, we will continue to live tiny, narrow lives of lazy, childish self-indulgence, and never experience what love might work in our lives and through our lives to inspire personal growth and to better the lives of those we touch. We will just have to open our hearts, become vulnerable to love and have the courage to step into it, become the expression of loving-kindness to ourselves, our families and everybody we encounter, if we hope to truly live lives of meaning, even to save our world.
'Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source both of inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species.'
~~His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
some further ideas:

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This is so timely and inspirational. I know I've posted about this guy before, but it's worth revisiting.

Friday, September 11, 2009

the lion whisperer

On a happier note, here's a story about a guy who whispers to, plays and swims with lions.


easy silence

Borrowing the title from a Dixie Chicks song, I am wondering if I should let the day pass without remembering this anniversary of a terrible event; I'm tempted because it is so painful.

We can probably all remember where we were. I was wakened by my Youngest and Other Favorite Daughter who said I should get up and watch the news on TV, that something Big was happening. I can remember the shock and fear that went through my body. Then sadness, because I knew, knew in my bones, that this would not be over for a very, very long time.

I know I'm just one ordinary woman and I have far more questions than answers.

In my travels around the world, I have encountered so many people in the Third World in particular who live the results of the imbalance of power and wealth everyday, whose patience in the "trickle down" theory has long ago expired. While I didn't expect my friends would be rejoicing on this day (they were agonizingly saddened), I wasn't surprised either by the celebrations in the streets by some in the Muslim worlds.

For another Muslim point of view read Rashied Omar: Islam and Violence.

And the reactions in the First World were also so predictable and primitive. Blunt headed. Force and power never ultimately win out unless you are prepared to totally annihilate "the enemy". But who exactly are the enemy? Women and children too?

see Freedom’s Untidy: Democracy Promotion and Its Discontents

And then, what do you do about the niggling doubts within your own camp, those who think maybe we brought it upon ourselves by our oppressive foreign policies, creating a vacuum of thinkers and leaders wherever we enter to "bring democracy", siphoning out billions and billions of dollars from those countries with the natural resources we want with the conspiracy of their puppet leaders, leaving the citizens of these countries worse off than they were before we arrived there to offer them "development", having unimaginable dollars in our war chest all while spending pennies on aid, and giving aid into the hands of corrupt leaders without holding them accountable for anything but furthering our political/financial interests in those countries, aid that goes into foreign bank accounts of those leaders and again subjects their people to another suffocating layer of oppression and heartache.

(On another level, there are those that argue that aid organizations are a self-perpetuating agency unto themselves, or that aid perpetuates the very problems they seek to remedy.

See Dambisa Moyo and Why Aid to Africa Must Stop)

I wasn't surprised that voices of opposition to the US policy immediately after 9/11 were silenced. ( ideas to mull around this comes from Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman's bookbook Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, and Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine )

See Green Day perform American Idiot

And I wasn't surprised that I found ordinary people I knew all around me, Canadians, suddenly identifying themselves with the Christian right and the US and ready to go out there and kill off the infidels and terrorists. The novelist Stephen Lewis said long ago that "when Fascism arrives it will be wrapped in a Flag and carrying a Bible." And several intriguing comparisons were made by some writers to the propaganda tactics of the US government post 9/11 and the fascist ideas of Hitler and the WWII era.

But as all such conflicts have deep, complex histories and no easy solutions, I struggled to find dispassionate readings while maintaining an open-hearted sympathy for suffering on all sides.

During the time since 9/11, among several books that I read related to this conflict, here are a couple of books that I found very thought provoking:

Infidel, by Hirsi Ali, Ayaan

Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, by Buruma, Ian

These two books sparked off a furious debate between the liberal idealists and conservative factions in the West, mostly among European intellectuals and politicians, trying to understand how the values of democracy seem to be working against the kind of society that has been our goal. For a more in-depth treatment of the debates see Peter Collier's article.

However, I have not seen much of this kind of real debate in the media in North America.

I longed to hear voices of reason. I longed to hear somebody speaking of hope and understanding. I longed to hear somebody admit wrong-doing and asking for forgiveness. But that is not likely to happen, is it. Having a conversation is just too hard.

Isn't it?

Conversation Cafes

Consensus Building

Beyond Intractability


Thursday, September 10, 2009


Yes, one side of me is contemplative and I readily admit to being anti-social then. I need lots of time to think, day-dream, canoodle. Right now, it's been a kind of enforced meditation; I'm wondering if there's a reason I have had so many frustrations in the one part of my life that I find so invigorating, my running life. I've already mentioned the probable torn meniscus. Then there was the dog-bite and nasty sunburn, and shortly following that, the broken toe. All of that has had me, by turns, feeling quite blue, then seeing red.

But in the end, I think I've just learned that I don't have as much patience for myself and life's circumstances as I would have liked to think I have. In the meantime...

I'm continuing my studies in Amharic. It was useless to struggle against my need to approach it logically. I finally found, through this Ethiopian adoption blog, some useful links to sources that I can really get my teeth into. I might have initially impressed some people with my Amharic, but my spotty understanding and frail memory would have pretty quickly betrayed the fact that I don't have a clue in Amharic. Now, maybe I have a prayer of getting my head around the subject and I'll be happy if I am eventually as fluent in Amharic as I am in French (that's not aiming too high, perhaps!)

Another blog I devoured recently was Destination Ethiopia by Denise Baker, which describes her year as in intern in Ethiopia with an adoption agency. Read it "back-to-front", if you know what I mean, to follow her story chronologically.



Don't you just love it when people who know what they are doing come and do what they do so well?

I just had blinds installed in my bedroom and I am so thrilled by how fast, neat and tidy the installer was. He guarantees the blinds won't come tumbling down ( as they might if I had tried to install them myself.) And I think they look wonderful. I can hardly wait to have blinds installed on the rest of my windows!