Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Island Soldier

Royal Newfoundland Regiment of WWI

I grew up on Change Islands in NL.  Many people served and still do who are from or have roots in our town but I always think of those who were lost in the first and second world war on Newfoundland on this date. Their pictures hang in public halls and family living rooms. They are remembered yet in memory they become abstract sometimes.  We recall their stories and their lives while at the same time we forget how very human these men and their familes were.

I wrote this little ballad this morning as I thought of one young man who died at Beaumont Hamel, Pte Archibald Porter who did not get to leave descendants or tell his story.  He was 18 when he died.  He could be any soldier but it isn't, it is Archie whose body was so destroyed he was listed as missing until his mother Lucy implored a local man to investigate if he were truly dead.  He was and a telegram came with a medal and a cheque from the war office a year later with the sad news.  I think of him every Nov 11 simply because I think somebody should.

Island Soldier
He walked the trails that we all walk
He laughed in the air we breathe
He fished the sea from which we take

The bounty he bequeathed

He rolled his baccy on a creaking dock
He elbowed his friends in joke
He sang aloud many a song
He lit up many a smoke

He chewed a blade of grass and wondered
At what was past this land
And he grinned and said “I think I’ll join”
And find out that first hand

He travelled far across the sea
How he missed that crimson sky
that warmed his island home each night
and bid each day good bye

He suffered in a foreign trench
While an island breeze swept though
The memories of an island boy
Who did what boys must do

He wrote that things were going well
While his heart beat in his throat
For death knocked on his door each day
though he dare not tell them in a note

The world he saw was a muddy hole
Where he waited for the day
To live or die at chance’s choice
In a place so far away

She walked the trails that we all walk
Laughed in the air we breathed
Until a telegram came through
With all that he’d bequeathed

A small salary and a metal disc
All traded for a son
But the king was happy as was the land
That the war was finally won

He traveled far across the sea
Far from the crimson sky
That warmed his island home each night
And bid him fond good bye

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer of Islands

The sun poked through today after a few days of mist and rain. Appreciation for the sun is never greater than on those kinds of days and the joy of its heat drove me to the pond for a walk alone to think and consider what is next for me in my life.

My book is all but complete...it has been put away in first draft for the summer. School lets out and this busy house, full of my kids and two extras who found their way to me, will be empty much of the time as I make my way to the islands as much as possible, spending the months of July and August in exploration of the Isles of Notre Dame, Fogo Island, Twillingate, New World Island and of course Change Islands.

The Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Barn is under construction.  It is an exciting time. The fish plant is operating once again and we expect a successful year. Optimism for a bright future for Change Islands seems to be the overall attitude going into the summer and employment certainly plays a role.

So this summer, keeping with my penchant for doing whatever I want, I've decided to spend my time getting to know the other islands. I want to travel and spend time at Fogo Island, up around New World Island and in Twillingate. I want to explore the history of all the places, their connection one to the other both in the past and now.

I feel that the island communities have a special resourcefulness, a unique place in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador's past and can continue in that vein into the future.

I've decided to record my island adventures here in the blog so prepare for some amazing photographs this summer.

Tonight however, I am alone. I will  be enjoying some quiet time chatting online with friends and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.  I hope you all enjoy your evening and your summer.

Here are some photos from my last jaunt to Change Islands.

Bobber on the Water

Little boat in Farewell

Life Saver in Farewell

Mist on Salt Water Pond

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Social Media Boundaries; I love you but you're getting blocked.

Blue Boats in the Tickle at Change Islands

Having a snuggle with my favourite Newfoundland Pony Jigger on Change Islands.

The other day a person sent me a message through face book. This is a person who is a friend of a friend of a friend shall we say. I have never spoken to this person in my life, have never really given her any thought in any real sense though I do know who she is. She isn't a face book friend though she's never been blocked or anything because, well, I don't know her enough to block her. Mostly she is just sort of irrelevant.

And then I get the message. It appears in the "other" box  and it has several lines which are terse and taciturn and somewhat accusatory. To make a long story short, I pointed out that her contacting me was bizarre and untoward, denied her weird and unfounded allegation, and then blocked her immediately.

It was obvious from the fact that she messaged me that I, a stranger, was somehow on her mind and that she felt compelled to inform me of her disapproval of whatever her, frankly,  delusional mind had decided I was doing wrong.

Social media is a strange thing.  You have to get used to the idea that people are watching and that perhaps you don't know who they are. And from that lurking and creeping they will come up with a conclusion about you that, while potentially sound, is entirely dependent upon their own perceived notions of how one is supposed to conduct themselves.  In other words, they must approve of you.

Once you get used to being watched and judge you have to filter out that which serves you from that which doesn't. I love social media, all of the Internet and I take the bad along with the good.  I have sold books, gotten jobs and made lifelong friends using social media. I've also seen the darker side and I've had a few really unusual characters try to attach themselves to me in one way or another.

I am fairly open on Social Media and people who meet me in person often comment that I'm quite like my online self.  I pretty much am. No I don't put every single secret out there on the web but guess what, I'm not going to do that in person either.

Social media is a useful tool but it's only a tool and you have to maintain complete control of it. You can't become fixated on the one dimensional profile of a person you haven't met.  You do not have to consider the feelings of a person who really isn't part of your life except from behind a computer screen. I accept that I am not every body's cup of tea but I am fine for many.  And if some, one gives me the heebie jeebies in anyway, insults or abuses me, they get the big bad block without explanation. Being on my friends list or even accessing my public profile is a privilege and I get to deny it to those who don't deserve that privilege.

I think more people should do the same.

When somebody wanders into my world with no other purpose than to disturb it for their own, strange and disturbed reasons, I have no qualms about removing them.

I send them off with compassion however, because things must not be safe, secure and happy in their own world if they feel the need to intrude upon a stranger's.  I wish them well in my mind and move on from there.

Wishing  people happiness doesn't have to come at the cost of my contentment and peace. I am quite willing to do it silently behind a wall of cyber protection.

Also, the photos above having nothing to do with the post but hey, they're nice pictures. They'll make you smile and smiling is all I want you to do after this post.

Because all of you, well most of you, I know only through the Internet and so far, I like you all just fine.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Partridge Berries and Ponderings on a Thursday

Kate of the Cove

Every pony deserves to be loved by a little girl..or two!

Beloved Kate of the Cove

I don't know what people see in crack. Partridge berries are so much better. I just made buns with the juicy little marsh candy that grown in the marsh and hills of our fair land and I like to call them marshcandies. The buns were light and fluffy with little tart juicy berries bursting with flavour in each bite. I know it's an unfair comparison as I've never availed myself of the crack but I can't imagine it's any better.

Here I sit, the dinner is cleaned up, my dessert enjoyed and it's the evening before Good Friday. Did you know that I was born  on Good Friday? Yes indeed I was. And in my world since that time I've always referred to it as Great Friday.  I suppose it might even be considered by those who understand my incredible worth, as Magnificent and Awesome Friday.

But I don't have that sort of ego.  I really truly don't.

Tonight I partook (uh?) in a political conversation that was a great discussion with varying points of view and low and behold, I was shocked to discover that one fellow was not so much about debate but insulting those whose view points were different from his rather steadfast and, may I add, simplistic ones.

And so it went that he accused me of having a certain amount of ego. Well no, I really don't.

See ego is when you think you are superior to others.

What I am is confident. I know who I am and what I want and what I am capable of. I know where I excel, I know what I'm good at and I know what I suck at. And because I know the latter I don't spend any time doing those things.  I focus on my strengths,. It is just sensible to do so.

And most of the things I'm good at result in success.  But the truth is rather my ego being being buoyed up by any success I have I'm usually quite humbled by it, mostly because no success I ever had was accomplished without an incredible amount of hard work and support from others. Because one of the things I excel at is encouraging others to find the very best in them.  I think when people really trust and understand that you look for and find the best in them and value them for those qualities it's appreciated.

I don't have to work at that. I truly absolutely love human beings and I know that everybody has something that makes them incredible and I find it every single time because it's what I look for.

Confidence is not ego.  Confidence for me means that YOU can be as successful as you want to be and I will not attempt to knock you down but rather I'm quite happy to build you up and give you the accolades you deserve.

I once read something that stuck with me forever and perhaps it's one of my most guiding principles.

It said this. "Know that you are at your core, divine, special and unique. Also know that each person  you meet is exactly the same.  Ego is when you live by the first part. Martyrdom is when you live by the second.  Happiness is when you live by both."

One thing I've learned from my dissenters is this--they have value.  Every time I have a discussion with someone, particularly someone who practices a certain brand of judgement and insult,  it reinforces my own assertion that integrity and character are of more value than success, that kindness is of more value than intelligence and that I have far too much of all of those to be insulting people on the Internet who obviously have had struggles of some sort in their lives to lead them to such a cynical and angry way of being in the world.

Now I'm no pushover, don't get me wrong. I may be accused of many things but a lack of backbone isn't one of them.  But sometimes the fight isn't worth it. There is a limited amount of energy in a person's body and expending it on somebody who takes delight in insulting and degrading you seems a rather wasteful way to expend it.

So I ate marshcandy, wrote a blog post, smiled a lot and I hope even the angriest and most hurtful among us, have as pleasant an evening as I intend to have.

I am all alone this week and heading to Change Islands with my girls to visit our new pony Kate of the Cove and to find the island peace I've craved all winter.

Oh yes, we own a pony now. How can one be unhappy when one owns a pony? I will write more about Kate soon. She's special.  Take note of the photos!

Time for Downton Abbey now!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day; The Light Underneath

It's a quiet Monday, St. Patrick's Day and a holiday here in the province.  It's the kind of day that allows for a quiet introspection, a revisiting of the recent times and a chance to consider what I want the spring to look like.  The new moon on March 30 will be a time of renewal and the beginning of the spring for me and the time until then preparation for that time. Spring cleaning of a spiritual and mental sort perhaps.

This past week I traveled into the woods on snowshoes. The sun shone above as I made strange tear drop shaped marks in a blanket of fresh white snowflakes.  On my sojourn into the quiet of the woods I came upon a light from beneath the snow, shining through.  It was just a trick of the sun, a reflection of its bright rays on the crystals of the snow that made it seem as though the light came from underneath.  I allowed myself that fancy as I snapped photos of the glowing crevice.

Perhaps, I thought,  it was a path to an underground fairy house, a crack in the time-space continuum or the pathway to some underground world where a population of a different sort lived and loved and ate and fought.

All of these thoughts were just my imagination playing which is a nice exercise for someone who makes their living off the creation of stories.  The weaving of tales requires a mind that is free of constraint and pretending there is another world down there, or out there, is part of my own exercise in that freedom.

As to the light on the snow. Indeed it was a trick of the sun and a reflection.  But it did make me peruse the idea that the sun shining on the snow also shone on me.  And that it created the same light in my heart as it did in that place where the snow banked in the perfect pattern to reflect the light above.

The rays that shine on a person will directly influence the light that shines out from them. It encourages me to make sure when I'm dealing with people that the light I shine on them is the best possible one.  I need to make sure the brightest and kindest part of me illuminates the best part of them so that they're given the best opportunity to shine.

The whimsy of this is not lost on me. I'm in that sort of mood, where I would, if I could, shine a beam of happiness onto everyone.  And as I clear out the cobwebs, move things and make way for a bright start to the spring season I'm hopeful that the sun that shines on us all finds its reflection with ease.

Such a mood may be fleeting but while it exists I'll enjoy.  Fanciful thoughts that bring sublime happiness are the kind of light I love best.

That and a visit with the fairies.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Excuse me sir; Which way back to Canada?

Finally, after months of bombarding the government with letters people concerned about the situation with the Manolis L, correspondence is coming from the Minister, Hon. Gail Shea about her ministry's stance on the situation. There were no surprises there of course, a very standard form letter with very little substance or opinion with the original signed by her honour.  I'm not concerned about a form letter considering I've encouraged so many people to write to her that it might be a tad overwhelming for her or her staff to reply to them all.

However I do admit that I was creeped out somewhat by the part I've bolded below.

Ministerial Correspondence Control Unit / Unité de contrôle de la correspondance ministérielle
Fisheries and Oceans Canada / Pêche et Océans Canada
200 Kent Street, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E6 / 200, rue Kent, Ottawa (ON) K1A 0E6
Telephone / Téléphone 613-992-3474
Facsimile / Télécopieur 613-990-7292
Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada"

This department has a "Ministerial Correspondence Control Unit?"


I was so taken aback I contacted a Member of Parliament to find out if that was indeed a "thing."

It is indeed, a thing.

Is this new?  Do all ministries have them?  It is indeed and, well, yeah, every letter is made by this unit on behalf of ministers.  Creepy.

Am I the only one weirded out by the fact that it seems there is an entire department dedicated to controlling the correspondence that comes from the ministers to the citizens?

That we only get to read what meets approval by this "unit" and not the true feelings of the minister on the topic.

Are the ministers so incapable of forming valid opinions they can't write or be responsible for their own thoughts? Well it's either yes they can but aren't allowed, or, they are incapable.  Unsatisfactory.

Are they so untrustworthy they need oversight so they stay on message? Again, neither yes or no, satisfies.

I actually feel sorry for the ministers too.  The absolute indignity of it.  To be so incapable that your employer needs "control" of your outgoing correspondence. Or to be capable and unable to personally make people aware of that.  

It's frightfully undemocratic.  It's terribly insulting to the ministers.  It's creepy to those of us who like to have a certain flow of information between us and those we elect.

And it's remarkably un-Canadian.

Basically this "unit" is a group of individuals who sit and write letters all day using bland language designed to bore the constituent to tears halfway through with the hopes they will be so delighted their dear minister responded they won't notice that it came from the "correspondence control unit."

I feel like I've stepped through a crack in the time-space continuum, wound up in some parallel Canada where an alien force controls the democracy.  It's a place that gives the appearance of a smoothly efficient country where in back offices there are rows and rows of obedient and smiling workers tapping out letters on identical Dell computers.  

But peel back the rubber skin of the employees and you find some octopus-like creature slurping and slithering its tongue in the space between the ears of this empty humanoid, droning sentences like "we are monitoring the situation" and "we continue to engage" ad infinitum while their laser beam eyes suck your common sense out through your nostrils as tiny particles of light until you too are walking around with the same serious cognitive dissonance.

Quick, look away!

This department is there to control the message of course.  Because as is painfully obvious in the house of Harper, the message needs to be controlled. Why without such departments you would have Senators and MP's and ministers just saying all kinds of things and getting in all sorts of trouble with scandals happening left, right and centre. (perhaps the correspondence control unit prefer "right right and right"?) 

Oh...wait a minute...scandals and trouble?

This begs the question, How bad would it be if they didn't have these controls?

Ministerial Correspondence Control Unit.  Surprisingly, they didn't even get clever and call it the Fair Correspondence Unit or anything.  

Fake lakes, fake last-century wars, fake letters--can we please start using fake tax dollars for some of this stuff?

I think it's simply wrong for a minister not to have the opportunity to correspond without interference.  To perhaps even make a mistake.  Of course they will err, embarrass themselves on occasion and maybe have to answer to their leader but at least their actions will reflect who they are as people.  

And it's the people that were elected and appointed to their portfolios.  Or are they too one boiling pot of water from Calamari Fettucini like the "unit"?

I kind of feel sorry for these ministers.  Imagine being elected as a MP, then becoming a minister,  in this great country and when history looks at your correspondence in fifty or a hundred years they find it was all written by the unit instead of you.  

Your mark on the country would be devoid of any sense of who you were and anything you did because, well, you didn't do it, the unit did.

What mark would you  have actually made if all you did was sign the papers placed before you by the octopus people?  At least in the olden days the  executive in your office was someone you knew who drafted what you wished to say and you had input and a relationship with the person who sent the letter on your behalf so that a constituent could at least find themselves perhaps just once removed from their minister.

And you could be assured that at least the minister was the person who actually controlled the message.

Our parliament works under tight regulations(well it used to) that allows for participants to be human, to fail and to be righted through the debate with the opposition and that nifty little thing we ourselves have at our disposal to be part of the system called an election.

A Ministry Correspondence Control Unit  sounds alien and I think doomed to failure. Because all of us out here, we outnumber them and we're still very human and like to connect with those we elect.

We like our correspondence to come from people, not units.

Meanwhile I'm looking for that crack in the time-space continuum so I can slip back into Canada where ministers are free to write letters and create their own spin all by themselves.

I think it will appear next year, the date yet to be set but highly anticipated by those who like our octopus on the ice at a hockey game, not composing letters from the ministers of the country.

Then we'll slip back through into real Canada where our elected officials are permitted to be humans, fallible and authentic.

With something an octopus doesn't have.  A backbone.


PS.--my aliens are not a gestalt race of telepathic beings who live in the 42nd century but a current breed of spineless octopi-like creatures disguised as humans from the present time universe parallel to this one.  They write letters. 

Any resemblance to Oodkind is purely coincidental.  Just sayin.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

It ain't heavy unless it's heavy.

It's a quiet Sunday and it's been a nice light weekend. I've not had to leave the house and have just caught up on my writing and I have the Oscars on the tube while I chill and eat a bit of dark chocolate.
Ready to shovel some snow

I wrote a sarcastic political post and saved it for another day. Today I'm not in the mood for heavy.  I'm not in the mood to write about the state of the world or the crisis and troubles people are having.

I am choosing to keep it light and the fact is things are pretty light here in Book Land.  I'm well into the novel with a completion date closing in with most of the first draft on schedule to be finished in three weeks.

What else?

Helping a casting agent out for a reality television show is one thing.  I'm looking for crab and seine fishermen and that probably will give a clue.  Cold Water Cowboys had an excellent premiere and they're not looking to replace anyone but to possibly add a couple of new captains should a second season happen.  That's fun!  If any one of my recommendations makes the cut I'll be thrilled.

Also television related, while visiting the capital I was interviewed for the television talk show Syllables on NTV to talk about the Manolis L issue.  I guess this is pretty heavy, an oil spill ruining our bay is hardly light conversation but I'm confident we'll be able to make a difference to the situation if we keep working on it.  And if a disaster happens it won't be because we didn't do our best.  It'll all be on the government and they will pay.

The plus is a trip to Change Islands next Sunday to meet and form the steering committee that will continue to pressure the government on the issue.  Also spending some time on the pony barn planning.

Some days I long for the days when I just wrote poetry and pretty stories but taking some times to help the community and province I love seems to be a small sacrifice.

And the best thing is the planning of the pony barn which is under design.  The application has been sent to Aviva and we'll be working over the upcoming weeks to make sure things come together and are signed.  It's exciting to see all the hard work come together into a concrete project and I really look forward to the exciting part--the party in September that will celebrate our victory and the ponys' new home.

It's a lovely thing, to have life fall into place, and to kind of go with the flow.  The heavy parts, well they're only as heavy as you make them.  There are important serious issues but the level at which you stress about them is entirely a decision.

Maybe I'll have time for poetry in the summer.  I'll be spending all of it on my island and cannot wait. So many good things planned including a community garden, another-as of yet unconfirmed project-- I've been asked to help out with using my writing background, a photography workshop, and the editing of the book.Oh and there is a teaching opportunity that I'm excited about as well. There will be trails to walk and breaths to catch and of course ponies to pet and ride.

It's a light post tonight and light is how it should be.  It ain't heavy unless it's heavy and it's only heavy if you carry the load instead of laying it to one side and spending time on the easy stuff when the opportunity presents.  Now back to the Oscars.

Some are wearing Gucci.

I'm wearing jammies.

Oh, Brad Pitt..gotta go!


Friday, February 21, 2014

When One of our Own Goes Missing; Help find Loretta

Loretta Saunders is missing.

Her family is in that  desperate space between wanting to hope and fearing the worse.  It's a parent's, nightmare, a sibling's torture, a family's worse fears.  It's a space we never hope to inhabit.

The news is full of the Saint Mary's University student's disappearance from her Halifax community on February 13, they have found her car and the people who were driving it in Harrow, Ontario have been arrested and charged with stealing the car. 

Law enforcement are considering the matter suspicious now on February 21th, over a week after the Newfoundland and Labrador native vanished.

According to a CTV new article,"Saunders's car was found earlier this week near Windsor, Ont., and Halifax police issued arrest warrants for Blake Leggette, 25, and Victoria Henneberry, 28.
Ontario Provincial Police arrested Leggette and Henneberry earlier this week on charges of possession of stolen property, which were stayed during a court appearance Friday in Windsor.
One of their lawyers said they were also remanded for six days to give authorities from Nova Scotia time to bring them to Halifax."

But news stories only tell part of the story.  To read today's update go here.

When people go missing oftentimes to us they're a name on the television with a photograph.  We are reasonably horrified and express much concern.  Perhaps we pray or show support through social media.

All of these are good things but often after some time we let that slip by and sort of shuffle it into the back of our hearts. Perhaps the reality of the situation is a bit too difficult to cope with.  Perhaps we're afraid to look at a person that could as easily been our family member, our friend.

Still, Loretta Saunders is one of our own.  She is from Newfoundland and Labrador. Her parents reside in the province as do most of her family and friends.  This could easily have been someone from our family.

It hits too close to home to ignore.

So we here in the province stare a little longer at the photo, read a little more.  Do we know the family? Is there a connection?  

I read the story of Loretta like all of you and shared it on my Facebook page at which point a friend of mine here in Central Newfoundland messaged me that she was closely connected to the family of the missing woman and her sister, Delilah who is now in Halifax and that the entire family is absolutely distraught  over the situation.  My friend is worried to distraction.  I asked if I could help perhaps by helping in the fundraising effort and she said yes. She wished to remain private and I respect that.  How a person deals with this sort of thing is very personal, some of us our loud and out there, some of us offer support from a quieter place. Each way is valid.  

While it's mostly about "where is Loretta?" it's also about "who is Loretta?"

A person is not a newspaper article, a case number or a photograph on a Face Book meme. They are the sum total of all they have been, who they are at this moment and the potential their future holds wrapped up in the intricate web of the relationships and memories they've created from the time of their birth.  

The photographs of Loretta  Saunders show a happy person with a full life. She is a graduate student, she is in love, she is three months pregnant. She has so much to look forward to.

Loretta's family knows who she is to them. We can never even come close to knowing, no matter what I write here, no matter what you read elsewhere. Only they know. But what we can do is catch a glimpse of the person through their eyes.

She shares a past with her sister, her mother, her father and all of her family and friends.

She shares her present with all of those people plus a boy friend, friends and faculty at her school and the baby she looks forward to in seven months.

Her potential was summarized in a message from a professor at SMU and Loretta's Thesis supervisor who had worked with her for over 8 months says  "Loretta is a uniquely brilliant student the likes of whom don't come around often. The last time I met with Loretta Saunders, two weeks ago today, I had never felt more inspired and proud of a student. We discussed herthesis project, which she had carefully presented in a proposal that was the best written project I had ever read in seven years of university teaching; teaching well over 1,000 students. I even told her so."

When a person disappears from their lives it rips a hole in the fabric of a family.  Family members tear apart their own lives to try to find the loved-one, trying to stay optimistic, trying to cope.

That concern prompted Loretta's sister, Delilah,  to fly in from her home in Vancouver and she is now there, alone, trying to spearhead a campaign to find clues, to find answers, to find her sister.

Compounding the fears of the family is the fact that Loretta was working on a thesis about the missing and murdered aboriginal women in this country--an epidemic of them--and now has become one of the former.

Adding to the situation for the family is their concern for the sister, Delilah,  there searching  there for days with no one from her family to be with her.  For a time there was no support as she waited for news about her sister all alone, a responsibility no person should have to assume themselves.

Family has met her there now. But it's still a burden.

They simply don't have the financial means to leave their works, fly to Halifax, be there indefinitely. It costs too much for this regular Newfoundland family.

But they are there, today they're doing press conferences, a group are putting up posters and the family is working hard to find Loretta.  

Friends have started an online fundraising account to to help the family financially during this time.

I am appealing on their behalf for anyone who can to assist this family.  To help seach for Loretta and to help this family find their missing loved one, to bring them some reprieve from the turmoil of this time in their lives.

After all she is from this province which, related or not, makes her one of our own.

You can help in several ways.

Join the Facebook group  and offer moral support to the family of Loretta Saunders.

Pass the word around on Twitter hashtag #findloretta

Donate to get family to Halifax with Delilah to support her and help look for Loretta HERE

Share this post and ask your friends to do the same.

It's the least we can do when one of our own goes missing.

Thank you.


Friday, February 7, 2014

"It's Permanent...until it isn't."

In light of the recent events regarding the decision by DFO to not remove the oil from the sunken ship Manolis L that has been leaking since last March I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided that trying to get this resolved from the outside is not going to work. I’ve decided to infiltrate the government and fix this from the inside.  That’s right, I’ve made the decision to become a minister in Stephen Harper's cabinet. I’ve given it serious consideration and study and after investigating current ministers I think I’ve figured out exactly what I need to do.  It’s really simple, which brings me to step one.

I have to get simple. I think a few rocks to the head will do the trick or a game of shinny without a helmet. If I still have an IQ of over 100 after trying those things maybe I’ll watch a few Rob Ford Videos and use up some remaining grey matter trying to figure out what the hell he’s on about.

Once I’ve lowered my intelligence getting elected will be easy. Can you say Election Reform boys and girls?  Oh yes, that wonderful new bill they’re just putting through parliament to be in effect for the next time we get to mark our X.  No more robocalls, just plain old disenfranchising the voters who would vote for the other side.  Have you heard the new CPC slogan?  Welcome to Cheaters R Us.” Catchy and kinda nails it uh?
With that taken care of I just need to shed my desire to care even one iota that anything I say makes me look like a complete and utter imbecile. Things like, “This is the permanent solution until it isn’t” and “A fisherman from Fogo says we’re awesome!” will become part of my regular dialogue.  I must be subtle. I can’t just say I’m an idiot. I need to prove it by my actions.

Then I must learn to spin. Not the making yarn from sheep’s wool(the kind they try to pull over your eyes) but the kind where no matter what kind of douche bag you are you make it seem like your douche- baggery is really a good thing.  “Did you kick that kitten?” “The kicking of kittens is an integral part of the country’s economy. Without the occasional kitten kicking the price of gasoline would drop and then there would be a drought in Saskatchewan. Vote for me so I can save Flin Flon.”

The casting away of principles is also important.  They have no place in the Harper government.  Also, do not ever pay a senator’s expense bill to get him out of trouble unless you do so and don’t tell the Prime Minister because you absolutely must never do such a thing unless you need to do it but don’t tell the Prime Minister.

String hiding is also a skill you must learn.  Invisible thread allows your puppeteer to control you without it being very obvious. If you’re one of the unfortunates that is made into a hand puppet then practice wiping the grimace off your face every time you give a speech with Harper’s hand up your arse. In the case of Peter McKay it’s wipe the smile off your face…but…I digress.

I must always remember that the Harper government is opinion optional. You have one option. Don’t have an opinion.  However should you require an opinion at some point one will be provided to you. Please copy it in triplicate and use all three wisely.  You may not be given another opinion. Stealing the opinions of the Prime Minister is allowed, indeed it’s encouraged. He’s that kinda guy-fist bump!

So there you have it. These are requirements to become a minister in the cabinet of Stephen Harper.  I think I can meet all of them quite easily.  Anybody up for a game of shinny?  A fisherman from Fogo says we’re awesome! Oops sorry kitty, but at least Assiniboia is taken care of. 

Seriously though, keep the faith.  A Tory government is somewhat like a cofferdam. In the, er, unusual sentniments of Fisheries Minister, the Hon. Gail Shea, “It’s permanent…until it isn’t.”

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Being Alone and Lonely

It's a quiet Saturday morning and the emptiness of the house surrounds me like a shroud.  It's as easy to get maudlin and melancholy as to get motivated but I'm going to go with the latter.  Being alone is something to appreciate.  Certainly for someone with my strong independent streak it's absolutely desirable to have alone time.  How I suddenly came to have so much of it is irrelevant.  Life has a way of forcing you into these situations where you have to cope with that which you did not expect.  It's happened here recently and there is nothing to be done but carry on.

Today the sun shines and the air has a hint of potential.  Spring potential. It's one of those shiny days that teases you.  Since it's the first day of February you know spring is a long way off, but the taste of it is on your tongue when you go out into the mild air.  It tempts you into longing and away from sitting in the present which is the only place you can truly sit.

It's a domestic day today with laundry and cleaning and dusting at the forefront. It's also an administrative day as I write some content for a website and create ad copy for a magazine.

It's a writing day but only in a research sense as I once again immerse myself in the happenings of Change Islands' life eighty years ago.

Lately I've been longing for the days of poetry. When inspiration and the time to follow up on it with words lived side by side. Perhaps these upcoming days alone will create those opportunities again.  Perhaps that's the very reason for them?

The key to being alone and doing it well is to really like the person you're alone with.  I enjoy my own company and never really do feel lonely.  Lonely is a desperate place and I've always observed that the decisions people make out of loneliness are the ones that often lead them down the road to the most miserable times of their lives.  They settle for less than they deserve rather than learn the satisfaction of being alone and thriving there.  Opportunity frequents the quiet but people, desperate not to be alone, can't wait for the sound of it.

With billions of people in the world no one need ever be lonesome however when finding themselves in that place it might be better, instead of falling into the melancholy of it, to move towards the motivation part of it.  Go give someone a helping hand, bake them a bread, knit them something, reach out and make their lives a bit fuller. After all they may be a tad lonely also.

For someone as social as me one might think being alone would be a hardship.  It isn't.  Instead I sit down and write and then get up and do.

A full life is one of balance and the quiet times are when I create.  In the same way your strength builds not during the workout but during the rest period of a fitness program, such is how your emotional and mental strength builds in the quiet times.

And so I am alone.  Alone should not be your master, it should be your servant.  I will not serve the silence, it shall serve me.  Enjoy your day.


Friday, January 31, 2014

It's all about a stallikin.

Yours truly with Jigger last summer

This rare and endangered breed will find hope in the promise of the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary Inc.

The votes are in, the judges have made their decision and the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary has been awarded the grand sum of ninety thousand dollars in the Aviva Community Fund Competition!

I have spent quite a number of times in the past few days talking to people and a question that arises frequently is why I personally took on this cause.  I’ve answered that this province was built on volunteerism and community spirit and I’m just one of many.  That I like to elevate people and that it’s not about me, it’s about everybody doing what they can.  I am someone that prefers to dwell on all of the contributions of others—too many to mention—but I thought I would give it a bit of an explanation as to my own personal motivation since it’s been asked so much.   Perhaps it seems rather insane to some to spend hours and hours devoted to something you don’t get paid for or really get credit for just because it’s there to be done.  It’s not unusual, I see people giving of their time more here in Newfoundland than anywhere but here is my own personal motivation.

You see, for me,  it’s all about stallikins.  Now you all know what a stallikin is right? I am unsure of the spelling but phonetically that is how you spell the word.  Basically a stallikin is a scrawny crooked stick, a tree with branches missing that isn’t particularly attractive but entirely functional and serves a lot of purposes particularly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

This month—January 9 to be exact—held the sixteenth anniversary of my father’s( Harold Parsons) passing.  It is a difficult day and it tends to make me melancholy and introspective.  In order to cope I went back to the memories of the rest of my family and their support during that time.  I believe that all you leave behind are your stories and it through their anecdotes that I got to know my father as the man he was even before he was my dad. 

And of all the stories told about him at that time I recall one in particular.  It was told by my Uncle Bruce and it was about how, when he was a young boy, my father bought him a hockey stick.  Yes, it was a real honest to goodness hockey stick.  This was a big deal back then and from what I recall, a surprise gift on no particular occasion. Times were difficult, money was hard to come by and yet, my father got him a hockey stick that, of course, became his pride and  joy.  I do think though, that the memory of that gift might be more of a treasure than the hockey stick. 

In any event, at the time I asked my Uncle Bruce “Why do you think he did that?” and he replied, “I guess he got tired of watching me play with a stallikin.” 

The humour was wonderful but even more so was that it solidified in my mind one of the key character traits of the man my father was.  He was the type of man who, if he saw a need, without a thought, provided a solution if he could.  I think it’s a common trait in Newfoundlanders but my father had an abundance of it and I grew up watching that but even more so, upon his passing it was impressed upon me that this very characteristic was the most valuable of all his good ways.  Yes he was patient and kind and had a great sense of humour.  He was understanding and listened well and is still the most intelligent man I’ve ever known but all of those attributes would have meant much less if he had simply sat in a chair and done nothing with them.  

I grew up watching him join committees and go to meetings and writing letters on behalf of others to this authority and that.  He was well read, educated, possessed an ability to comprehend big picture issues and bring them down to the basics.  He was not a sideline type of person. Neither am I.

What does that have to do with the ponies and the Aviva Community Fund competition?  Everything.   I came home to Newfoundland write books, fiction of all things.  I’m a poet really so perhaps I should just be sitting in a corner making up rhymes.   But all my life, my father, who didn’t once engage in any sort of traditional discipline, has been looking over my shoulder.  In all things I look and think if it’s something he would do or approve of.  I always get a yes when it comes to helping others. 

 I come back to this province and I see Netta LeDrew and her ponies. She gives her entire life happily to them and their needs are great.   She does it so well, her love of them is the biggest love you ever saw. Her devotion is beyond measure and her gift to the province of trying to preserve this heritage treasure is worthy of great reward.  She uses her gifts and talents to the fullest, a trait that I have deepest respect for.

We all are meant to use the talents we have to the fullest.  I happen to have a knack for writing.  I also have, as some might call it, the gift of gab.  While this may not be appreciated by all, it’s served me well  and it’s served others well, because  I’ve chosen to take an active part in making my voice heard to the betterment of the lives of others particularly towards those things that benefit the community and the people I love the most, Change Islands. 

I am incapable of halfway measures. I’m in or I’m out and if I’m in I will not stop.  I will lose sleep, forget to eat, and do whatever it takes to reach the goal.  You all saw that. Many of you stayed up nights with me.  I don’t care if people don’t like what I’m doing, if it’s a good thing, good people will want to be part of it. The rest are kind of irrelevant.   There will always be the dissenters, the negative people, those who minimize and who criticize and that’s fine. They write their story, I write mine. 

The best part of anything is the people.   I love people.  I love finding out their particular abilities and seeing them utilize them fully and I see resourcefulness and a skill set among the people of the islands that stands out.  This tiny town of just around two hundred with talents takes me aback and makes me wish I was more like them.  I can’t sew beautiful quilts, I can’t knit, I can’t crochet, I can’t carve beautiful wooden art but what I can do is write and what I can do is participate.  I see Netta LeDrew playing with a stallikin and  I see Jessica  Porter at just sixteen trying to help her and it’s inspiring.  I think of all the people I know who want to be a part of a good thing and I figure they could all chip in a bit.  So I asked people to help and they asked people to help and we were all a part of a wave of good things that culminated in the grand prize of ninety thousand dollars towards a facility that will make Netta’s work easier, make the ponies lives better, impact our community and give others the opportunity to know about the treasure that is Change Islands.

Netta could have sat out the game but instead she picked up a stallikin and started playing. She plays harder than anyone I’ve ever known.   Least a person could do was get her a hockey stick.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year in Review and a Year in the Making!

Me;  It's been a good year.

I was out for a drive yesterday and took this photo--

The epitome of Newfoundland in winter.

Slob ice in Little Burnt Bay

One step in front of the other, sometimes with sand between the toes, other times with running shoes or rubber boots and most recently with the crunch of snow underneath snowshoes. Such is how we make our way through each year of our life, marked off by human hands on a calendar in our infinite and wasted need to organise and categorise our world.

And this is the day we mark of the the beginning of a new year.  Today, January 1, 2014 is New Year's Day according to our calendar.

For someone like me, who loves beginnings this is a day I embrace.  The energy of all of those who feel optimistic about the upcoming year is palpable and I do so I love the joy of others.

Today I made my resolution--to continue to be as happy as I can be and to take as many people along with me as possible.  It's simply a reaffirmation of how I spent last year.

And oh what a year it was.  The best one ever full of exactly all the right people.

Life comes down to the wonderful people in it and this year mine was overflowing.  I have met so many amazing individuals this year, too many to count.

Just a few of the amazing people that stand out are  in no particular order:

The Stairs family;  an outstanding family here in Lewisporte who host music shows featuring world class musicians and have a recording studio in the basement of their home--a renovated Salvation Army Citadel--appropriately named Citadel House.  Through them I've met award winning musical acts that have MusicNL nods, ECMA awards and nominations and even a Juno prize winner.  The Stairs family have become friends, their girls take turns babysitting mine, we attend shows regularly and will be there for their Open Mic night on January 3.  This homeschooling family with ten(yeah makes me feel like an underachiever) children are truly special and a blessing to my life.  I look forward to working with them in the future.

The Cranfords:  my good friend, Jerry and his parents, Garry and Margo, owners of Flanker Press, the largest publishing company here in Newfoundland.  Great people with who I share a common goal--to bring the stories of our people and our province to the world.  I hope to finish a book for them to publish at some point this winter.

Sabrina Whyatt, musician, crab fisherman, business woman, television personality and all round sweetheart.  I interviewed her about her autobiography that was released this year. I think I may have been the first to do so.  She was one of the Newfoundland entertainers of the year and a very interesting person.

Bill Rowe;  What can I say?  He's a legend in Newfoundland and well known in the rest of the country. He is former Liberal party leader, host of Open Line on VOCM for over 30 years and best selling author.  It is in the latter category that I connect most with Bill and we've forged a nice new friendship over the past year.  I attended the launch of his last book in St. John's and then brought him out here to Lewisporte with the help of my friend Dean Stairs who hosted a book signing and reading at Citadel House.

I've met numerous local authors--reviewed quite a few of their books, talked to people at all levels of government, interviewed a plethora of interesting people and enjoyed every single interaction.

And interspersed within these familiar names are the extraordinary people I've met and befriended that you wouldn't know.  A great many of those joined with me as we forged into new territory in the Aviva Community Challenge Fund, an endeavor we undertook to try to win a new barn for the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary.  With a population of 200 our community came second to just one other cause(by a few hundred votes in a city of 200,000 no less) and exceeded the necessary 20,000 vote mark in a remarkable show of teamwork, community spirit and resourcefulness that still leaves me breathless in bewildered and grateful at its scope.  People reached out and found every possible connection and with each one taking different approaches and with the talent of each individual being utilized fully we reached the finals. The sanctuary will get $5000 and on January 28th after a panel of judges have looked at the results of the semi finals judging us on community impact, sustainability, the budget and our entire proposal which resolves around a provincial effort to save the Newfoundland Pony from extinction, we will know who the winner of full funding for their project might be.  The sanctuary has a chance, and we gave them the chance, everyone of us by working together.  I've never been prouder to be a Change Islander or a Newfoundlander and I've never known with greater confidence that we can do anything we set our minds to--if we work together.

And it is to that end I also started an effort to convince the Federal government to make a permanent solution to the oil seeping from the sunken ship Manolis L off the coast of Change Islands a priority.   I am very concerned about what one member of our group called a "ticking time bomb" and it is, in fact some form of that.  For when all 520 tonnes of bunker C oil spills into Notre Dame Bay it will be disastrous for then region and indeed will impact the entire province.  And while the environment minister Leona Aglukkaq ignores our request for financing of such an operation the provincial government sits mute on the topic with not one word of solidarity with the thousands of people in the region who want this resolved and who will be affected by the disaster and indeed the MHA who lives in the Isles of Notre Dame seems very unconcerned as well.  He should be locking arms with his people as they beg from attention on this matter and instead he separates himself from his constituency. Perhaps he doesn't realise that he isn't an employee of the government but rather an employee of the people with a review coming in under two years. Perhaps he will redeem himself and help us find a solution.

I feel though, we will resolve this problem in 2014, and that the right people will come forward to ensure it does.

I miss my Ontario family and friends, specifically my older daughters and my sweet grandson. And my friends, especially the St. Mary's ladies, Denise Fergusson,  Anna Ferguson, Janice Middleton, Nancy Harper, Carol McLeod, Darlean Morris, Rosemary Radcliffe and in all the naming of them feel for sure I'm missing a bunch.  I miss my Tavistock neighbours and friends also.

Now, the snow piles high, the sun sets on the first day of the year and I sit here with a nice gin and tonic drinking to a most perfect year gone by and another laid out before me.  A chocolate cake is cooling and a pork roast and cod au gratin are on the menu for supper.  My family is healthy, my home is warm and my friend gave me snowshoes to explore the trails that transverse the town.

My entire year will be devoted to one thing--my resolution--and the writing of my book.  I am looking forward to the winter's hibernation.  I feel 2014 is going to be another amazing year and I look forward to watching it unfold with more of exactly the people I need to have in my life.

Happy New Year and much health and happiness to you all!