About digbygirl

Have lived in Nova Scotia, Hawaii, California, Arizona and beyond.

Get on the BAN Wagon!

 

Top View Photo of Ocean Waves

Community activists across the country, many interested in persuading the Canadian government to ban single-use plastic bags, have abandoned hope that their elected representatives will take action anytime soon.  They were cheered by Parliament’s unanimous vote to pass Motion M151 (meant to develop a national strategy to combat plastics pollution) but it could well be another year before anything substantive comes of that.  Halifax is fired up and working toward forming a coalition of municipalities that will also take on the plague of the single-use plastics threatening marine life and producing blight in our bays and rivers.

So while Nero fiddles and Rome burns, activists from Deep Brook, Lunenburg, Clementsport, Annapolis Royal and other small Nova Scotian communities have come up  with their own projects, slogans, and initiatives.  Hell bent on educating politicians and shoppers alike about the hazards of using and distributing toxic plastic bags, they are sewing cloth bags, recycling reusable bags, circulating educational materials and writing rude songs about policies they feel support serious and dangerous public health and economic problems facing the province.

One of my favorite grassroots slogans (courtesy the town of Wetaskiwin) is “Get on the BAN Wagon!” and one of my favorite “groups” of activists is a group of two from Deep Brook.  Residents of sweet and picturesque communities throughout the province are, like Howard Beale (see Network, 1975) “mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore”.

With more information than a Google Search Engine has about the dangers and evils of the world’s plastics addiction, and armed with reports from Environment and Climate Change Canada, as well as well-documented articles in their daily newspapers, they promote their “Boomerang Bags”, clean reusable bags, substitute porcelain mugs for plastic coffee cups and sell their greenT shirts from Lunenburg to Annapolis.  Many of the most enthusiastic activists will never see the south side of sixty again but they are a force of nature.   Women (for the most part) of steely determination,  they go about their business like there’s no tomorrow.  Which, by the way, IS the point.

If shoppers know what’s good for them, they will take and re-use the free cloth bags, and memorize facts about the fish and birds that are either entangled in cheap plastic or ingested in such large numbers that Foundation founder Dame Ellen MacArthur reported to the World Economic Forum that waste plastics will outweigh all the fish in the oceans by 2050.

Our own Church in Action alliance with a local grocery store in Annapolis Royal has had unexpected results.  Designed to provide shoppers at the Independent Grocery Store with alternatives to single-use plastic bags for a period of two weeks, we anticipated providing 500 – 700 clean, reusable bags for the Independent’s Bag Bin.  Reasoning that there might be 300 adult shoppers in the town of 500 and factoring in shoppers from villages outside the town, we thought providing a supply of 700 bags would do the trick.  We knew that most members of our St. George and St. Andrew United Church had already responded to a Divine Message and would not be tapping into the Bag Bin.  Most of them had started using cloth bags long before our Church in Action (CIA) group took plastics education on as a committee project, meaning that 25 – 30 of the town’s residents would not need to dip into the Independent’s reusable bag supply.   It seemed like a slam dunk to make a sign inviting Independent shoppers to pluck a bag from the store’s Bag Bin if they wanted an alternative to a single-use plastic bag.

Surprisingly, shoppers hit the Bag Bin like locusts attacking a family farm in Central California. The 144 Presidents’ Choice cloth bags provided by the grocery store’s enthusiastic young manager PLUS all the donated reusable bags collected by the CIA disappeared within six hours.   Another 35 – 40 bags meant to replenish the bin were added the next day and in two hours the additional bags had gone the way of all flesh.

Having learned a little somethin’ somethin’ from that other CIA, we were prepared, if necessary, to rationalize indifference or even a complete rejection of our bag largesse.  We were clearly unprepared for a level of success demanding that an attack force on the FAR side of 60 swarm our neighbourhoods, seeking every conference tote, each Dollar Store reusable bag,  and all 10K or gala goodie bags cluttering up their homes.  E mail blasts requesting their reusable bags went out to yoga classes, ladies who lunch, and classes of school children forced to timidly clutch their backpacks and run whenever they saw a church lady aimed in their direction.

Although I am not sure what Plan B is, I know I either have to come up lickety split with a huge source of CLEAN reusable bags, or resign myself to a role as a laundress.  In terms of reusable bags, cleanliness apparently is next to godliness.   I am loathe to become one of those community nags who send friends fleeing out the door whenever they see her coming but that ship may have already sailed.

The real answer, of course (right after changing our destructive habits), is a BAN.  Ideally a ban that’s formalized in my lifetime and moves with greater than glacial speed.  Yesterday was too late. Tomorrow is better than nothing but next year is outright ridiculous.

It’s time to Get on the BAN Wagon.

Now.

 

Top View Photo of Ocean WavesTop View Photo of Ocean Waves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stormy Weather, Stormy Daniels and $40,000 Fines for Using Plastic Bags

Storm Warnings.  Less threatening than Stormy Daniels but there is a lot of snow, mild winds and rain still to come.  Which means facing icy roads in the morning if I head out at 8 a.m. for blood tests, a yoga class, and a CIA (Church in Action) meeting with the Premier about banning single-use plastic bags.

 

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Our CIA Committee has been working on a plastic bag initiative for about six months. Initially we approached the Annapolis Royal Mayor and Town Council about banning single-use plastic bags within the town.  The Council sent the recommendation to the Premier who then kicked it back to the municipalities.  But now we’ve been re-energized and encouraged by a unanimous vote from Parliament, hell bent on banning single-use plastics so that corporations like Nestle’s, McDonald’s and Coca Cola will go cold turkey and cease polluting the oceans with their waste, and we are once again rarin’ to go.

Also, inspired by some impressive and strategic activism in nearby towns as well as in Halifax,  Nova Scotia’s capital city, the CIA has decided to go door-to-door.  Thus far, the up close and personal strategy seems more effective than logic or horror stories and statistics about dangers to marine and other wild life (including humans).  The Annapolis Royal Board of Trade has sent a support letter to the Town Council, and individual shop owners, galleries and the provincial liquor store are on board with paper bags.  Most of the early converts, like Far Fetched Gallery and Bainton’s, made the move before they’d ever heard of the CIA but we like to think we’re rewarding their vision and responsible business practices by supporting their businesses with our business.  This accounts, I’m convinced, for my regular purchases of white wine at the friendly government liquor store ( a paper bag / cardboard box establishment)

We have also had good luck with the largest local grocery store and with several dedicated seamstresses at the United Church whipping up lovely, handmade cloth bags they hope to sell for a nominal price at the Farmers Markets, the ban on single-use plastics may finally have reached the tipping point.

The Independent Grocery store manager is installing a Bag Bin which the Independent and the St. George and St. Andrew United Church will fill with reusable bags from several members of the congregation.  We hope this number will grow and that future non-church-going friends will help the Independent and the CIA keep the bin filled with reusable bags for the next few weeks – a month.  By the end of the campaign, we think shoppers will be using their own cloth bags or recyclable ones they’ve taken free of charge from the Independent Bag Bin.

Another nearby community is planning a reusable bag giveaway and exhibit for two days sometime within the next week.  And the town of Lunenburg has a Boomerang Bag campaign that encourages users to return bags to the shops and stores where they received them. One Lunenburg business will only rent their venue to applicants that sign an agreement indicating they won’t use single-use plastics and another is distributing its shampoos to hotels in glass bottles.

None of this has the firepower that initiatives in Rwanda and Kenya have.  Rwanda estimates that 70% of cattle and sheep deaths are caused by ingestion of plastics.  They claim that 267 separate animal species suffer from ingestion or entanglement of plastic bags.  Because of similar dangers to humans and animals, Kenya’s penalties for producing, selling and distributing plastic bags carry a four year jail sentence or a $40 thousand fine.  Talk about Tough Love.  It took the Kenyans three tries over ten years to pass their ban so our paltry time investment of six months seems like chump change.

There has been massive environmental damage done to our planet and small communities like Annapolis Royal can do very little about melting ice caps, pollution in Los Angeles County or Beijing or about the economic or even health and safety  consequences that create increasing millions of environmental refugees each year.  We can, however, do something about banning single-use plastic bags within the province of Nova Scotia and it seems irresponsible to ignore even small-scale problems that are within our power to solve.

Some, of course, might say using 300 to 500 million plastic bags in our sparsely populated province annually is not all that small-scale.  Particularly when experts from the Ecology Action Center and even the environmental committee of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons warn that by 2050, there will be more plastics in the world’s oceans than fish.

In the meantime, I’m hoping the sheer beauty of our homemade cloth and other reusable bags will persuade plastic bag users to opt for beauty.    And while we sew and collect reusable bags, nag elected officials and bore our friends blind with statistics, multi taskers can also enjoy this winter storm that forces us to stay inside, listen to the radio (Thank you, Maine NPR), and also opt for beauty accessible through windows facing the frozen waterfalls, the beautiful Bay, and snowflakes that disappear in the blink and wink of an eye.

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Cold Noses and Tropical Beaches

 

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It’s another beautiful winter’s day in Nova Scotia and the small fishing boats that have been travelling back and forth in front of my deck for years are still at it.  It’s cold and crisp and there are still patches of snow in the yard but until you see the view outside my window, you will not believe how lovely it can be in Nova Scotia in January.

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Still, my nose is cold and my mind is already wandering to Laie Bay on Oahu, a bay with a white, sandy beach that is deserted  most of the year.  I plan to be there in March and even spectacular Nova Scotian sunsets can’t banish the kind of warmth that guarantees noses and toes are never cold.

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Within a month, I will also be in Southern California.  The weather there is not as promising as Hawaiian breezes and warm and welcoming waves lapping the beach at your doorstep but more often than not, it’s pretty impressive.  My older son and several daughters-in-law, grandsons and adopted granddaughters and god children, nephews and nieces are all there.  Friends that dot the sprawling Southern California landscape are also there, creating a different kind of warmth that from time to time, manages to challenge Laie Bay or Victoria Beach for the Friendliest Place Ever prize.

That’s the up side.  The downside is that some of the people I love are in Fresno and others are in Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.  Friends that live in Malibu never hang out with friends from Laguna Beach because they’d have to pack overnight bags before they hopped on a freeway that can span the space between them.  I have lots of friends in East L.A. and Pasadena, Thousand Oaks, Hollywood, Brentwood, Bellflower, Long Beach and Santa Monica.  South Orange County people seldom venture into Santa Monica and Beverly Hills residents go to Diamond Bar or Monterey Park only when they get lost on their way to Palm Desert.

At any given day, an average of 379,000  vehicles will use the 405 freeway.   For working people that have to clock in at eight or nine a.m., it makes more sense to stay home and watch TV or play Naked Scrabble with a neighbour than to spend five hours coming and going on the San Diego Freeway for a one-hour lunch with an aging aunt.  Or for that matter, with a hottie like Ariana Grande.

In short, Los Angeles traffic sucks.

Which is one of the six reasons why I may not visit Southern or Northern California too many more times.  The State of California is wonderful on so many levels and is inhabited by some of the finest people I’ve ever met.  That said, getting around the County requires tenacity, courage, patience, prayer and stock in Uber.  I not only can’t and should not drive on the L.A. freeways and by ways, I wouldn’t drive beyond my hosts’ driveways if Mario Andretti had been my driving teacher.

It’s unlikely I will be able to see half the people I want to see during my visit but still, a meal with my Hmong family, with a few goddaughters, grandchildren, and friends I met when they were my sons’ six year old classmates is worth a little freeway frustration as a passenger and an agonizing trip through Toronto International Pearson Airport (the number one reason I may not make too many more flights to California).

And in truth, the planners for Pearson Airport do make the LA freeway planners look like geniuses and visionaries.

Traffic in LA may suck but navigating Pearson International Airport actually makes travelers want to eat their Glock 45’s.  If there’s a special Hell for Planners, it will be filled to capacity with  the committee  (it had to be designed by committee) that had responsibility for the design and organization of Toronto’s tribute to lunacy.  The work they did in Canada makes Kathmandu’s Tribhavan Airport look like a model of efficiency.

But even thinking about seeing family and friends in California makes me happy.  I have to find a way to hold close the prospect of shared conversations, chats, walks, and hugs  as I belt back a tumbler filled with Scotch and try to find my departure gate at Toronto’s dreadful tribute to poor Lester Pearson.

Words the Silent feel are Beautiful

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The words the happy say

Are paltry melody

But those the silent feel

Are beautiful.

 

Emily Dickinson had it right.

There are far too many “competitive talkers” in the Western World.  I imagine they exist in the Far East, in Africa, and maybe throughout the Third World as well but in North America, particularly, competitive talkers (those people that consistently talk over others) need to be subjected to forced birth control.

Perhaps they could be given a choice:  Hold your tongue or Hold your sperm!  Although admittedly men are not the only offenders in conversations that too often devolve into monologues.   Women, in their determination to channel Margaret Thatcher or Chelsea Handler, often give as good as they get.  Or rather, they end up neither giving or getting what their interruptions are designed to give and get.

And yes, I am aware that blogs are, indeed, a kind of monologue.  Still, they don’t destroy dinner parties, television shows featuring panels of experts, or relationships between countries.  No one has to read blogs and, I imagine, for the most part,  don’t.

Gish Jen, in The Girl at the Baggage Claim, quotes an exchange between Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting for Godot:

Vladimir                                   What do they say?

Estragon                                    They talk about their lives.

Vladimir                                    To have lived is not enough for them.

Estragon                                     They have to talk about it.

Jen goes on to also quote the Persian poet, Rumi:  “I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways.”

Perhaps the public schools should teach listening skills or parents, as they think about passing good manners onto their children, might emphasize the value of active listening in almost every verbal exchange.  Certainly Wharton or Harvard Business Schools, or educational institutions ranging from city colleges to the world’s Top 20 Universities, might consider the value a good listener brings to any business negotiation.  Or dinner party.  Or romantic relationship.

I predict that good listening skills would reward patient and careful listeners with better trade agreements, more profitable business contracts, far more enjoyable dinner parties for all the diners,  a more equitable and strategic division of the spoils of war and more and better sex.

In short, just more.

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Thanks for the Memories…

When I thought about writing a year-end blog about people and places that were particularly dear to me, I did not intend the list to be exhaustive.  As I added photographs and the piece began to take the form of a family photograph album, it occured to me readers might not realize I was only using pictures I had on hand in an easily accessible format.  Even with that limitation, I had a LOT of snapshots in my Document and Download files but I don’t want anyone to assume Hope’s Sweet Boy or Allison’s Sophie is more important to me than human friends, Pat, Patty or Isaac.  I am fond of Sweet Boy as well as Allison’s terrorist puppy but their placement is due more to accessibility and affection than to prioritization.

Sadly, I just did not have available images for my wonderful Hmong Family in Fresno, all of whom pay much more attention, seemingly with joy, to us than to many of their blood relatives.  The Gin Family, all of whom I’ve known since they were born and who assumed responsibility for projects like the Dragon Boat and Lotus Festivals when I moved on, and most of my husband’s wonderful family members are missing in action from my computer files.  Which is probably a good thing or my cyber photograph album would be so extensive, my computer’s memory would implode.

Those Chinese, Hmong and Polish families do not exactly obsess about family planning.  Their mantra seems to be “the more, the merrier” and in regard to each of them, I would have to agree.

Still, as I look at the pictures I do have, I can’t help but reflect on how I have been shaped and molded and certainly enriched by a boatload of diverse, and amazingly kind and gifted people.  Together with foster family members, childhood friends, teachers and school chums, and entire Cambodian, Chinese, and Japanese communities, they have served as my inspiration and my conscience.  The good people with whom I now spend most of my time in Nova Scotia, with the exception of Cindy who keeps me well-supplied with documentation,  continue my education in life, with special emphasis on the importance of laughter, affection, and answering calls-to-action.

I am not sure I subscribe to the  cautionary saying, “You are what you eat” because if that is true, I will be a size 28 before the sun sets.  However, I think maybe I am a reflection of the people I meet, the people I respect and love, and the people who regularly remind me I am frequently full of moose dung.  To all of them and to the Ron Noblets, Warrens, the CORO ladies, Bobby Johns, Sherrys, Lucs, Marcys,  and Mary Krausnicks, the various Chen families that have been part of my life since high school until today, to all the guys at the Lincoln Heights Jail Boxing Club, and especially to the d’Ambroses and Le Blancs, I say “Thanks for the memories.”  I may be full of moose dung and periodically, a weak-kneed weasel, but I am your weak-kneed weasel.

I am grateful for the memories of 2018 and recent preceding years. IMG_2252 Gin Progeny

IMG_5107 Rose and FamilyJudith and former Board President, Rudy Estrada, in Nova Scotia

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Performing at SIAS International University in Henan, China

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Danger, Will Robinson!

 

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One of my favorite environmentalists at my favorite church / center for the environment / refugees and art, (aka the Church of What’s Happenin’ Now {CWHN}), asked me to list three things that made me happy in 2018.

Sounds like an easy task, right?

Wrong.

Iif I used even the most general, inclusive words to describe good health, beautiful scenery, inspiring and inspired friends, supportive children, great music and books, family relationships, a husband that tries to find perfect earrings to pop in a Christmas stocking, and a cat that is a Diva in the most interesting, self-centered sense of the word, I don’t think I could limit my Happy List to thirty, much less three people, projects, or national parks.

What about friends that know you well enough and care enough to send you the perfect book (The Girl at the Baggage Claim by Gish Jen)? Shouldn’t that friend be listed by name? Should we not lovingly describe the joy of having a grandchild who reads more than you voluntarily schedule a sleepover at your house?  Music and films that make your heart soar are too numerous to list and gifts of frequent flier miles, prepaid airline tickets, Tibetan rugs and major appliances should not be squeezed into a puny Happy List of three.  Or thirty.

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if you can look out any window in the house and see vistas that still, even after decades, have the power to astonish, you may be one of the luckiest people in town (admittedly a town of less than 500).   Such good fortune should be both felt and documented.  I would suggest shouting it from the rooftops if I did not, like my Hmong friends, fear tempting  jealous gods to smite me senseless.

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Our adopted rescue cat, more temperamental than Maria Callas, is pickier about her food than any Vegan. She is also endlessly amusing and on the rare occasions when she deigns to cuddle, makes me feel like I found at least a winning ticket in the Canadian lottery.  If she were left off a Happy List, she’d scratch me until I resembled a victim who’d been bitch-slapped by an entire Boyle Heights second generation girl gang.

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Of course I’m happy our health problems are manageable and that between the contributions from the VA Hospital in Maine and Health Canada (which regulary picks up the tab for everything from shingles immunization to surgery, CT scans, blood tests and meds for A Fib), we can still afford fresh lobster and scallops. Which also make me very happy.

I have a son who can work three jobs and still (willingly) build me a little house using firewood and scrap lumber.  Another son scrambles to put a kid through college in a state where an education costs more than war but still has time, energy and enough resources to work with AIDS children and homeless vets.  Both sons give me ample reason to jump for joy.

I suppose if I wanted to dwell on teenagers in my life who think I’m lame and inept, it would take the dew off the rose petal but who in their right mind would dwell on something that happens as predictably as the sun rising at dawn? Most teenagers think they’re smarter and cooler than their aged relatives so we might as well tolerate the thinly-veiled pity of the young and beautiful.  I assume that by the time they’re thirty, a few hard knocks will have shown them the error of their ways.

Friends that appear to be light years away from my own political views could drive me mad if I let them but I’ve found denial is a much more effective coping mechanism than an appeal to logic and human kindness.  No sober person would ever invest hard-earned cash with friends who think it’s okay to shut down a government or institutionalize cruelty to children and no half-way rational person would go on a long vacation with people passionate about passing the buck.  Fortunately,  I have never had enough money for anyone to invest on my behalf and the Blame Game is not exclusively the property of the Left or Right.    Besides, I figure my newly-discovered friends on the Far Right must have been farther right than I realized for our entire relationship. They’ve just recently been empowered to make their views angrily known.

I am not unaware that it’s likely they were in denial for decades about my dangerous liberal views.

Denial.  So underrated as a coping strategy.  When multiple Oscar-winner Ruth Gordon received an award for Harold and Maude way back in the early years of cinema, she attributed her late career success (as well as her marriage to a man seventeen years her junior) to her ability to “never, ever face facts”.  If that worked for Ruth Gordon, I figure it can work both for me as well as my friends who dance with The Donald.  In  two – six years, if there is a God, they will once again have to cut me some slack.  What goes around, comes around.  After all, the needs of the unemployed and working poor that now support the Washington Madness were pretty much ignored by the liberal politicians I supported.  Those same liberals who now are wringing their hands about the lack of compassion in DC.

What goes around does come around and we do reap what we sow.

In any event, we’re all accustomed to a lack of compassion in the political and financial capitals of the world.  We can complain about it all we want when our boys and girls are not in power but we were pretty good at ignoring it when Clinton cut a deal that further disenfranchised the poor or when Obama deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants.  But Obama and Clinton were our guys so we managed to look the other way as long as our own oxen were not gored.  Sound familiar?

So my irate, compassionate pals should spare me the crocodile tears about unkind, even cruel policies that ensure continued injustice.  It’s not the injustices that all politicians manage to ignore when they make it to the White House and Senate that threaten to deliver such a crippling blow to democracy.  The real danger we now face with the Washington fat cats currently in power is the lack of effective checks and balances that protect our institutions and legal system.  An unwillingness to impose discipline on an impulsive, undisciplined, honest-to-God nut case that decides to create havoc with the Constitution as casually as more responsible, thoughtful elected officials would choose a logo for his newsletter represents a threat of terrifying significance.

When George W. Bush said to his detractors after the last Presidential election, “Miss me yet?”, I was able to respond with great enthusiasm, “You bet!”  It had previously never occurred to me that we could possibly elect someone who might make George W. look like a statesman.  Today, in this time of Anything Can Happen and does, the Bushes, Obamas, and Clintons all look like seminary trainees and honorary members of MENSA.  They may have been or still are, imperfect, but they all had enough sense to 1. learn to read and even develop a taste for critical thinking (or they hired people to do it for them), 2. understand and respect the Constitution (or hired people that did),   3. observe the basic rules of courtesy and 4. develop a capacity for kindness.  In some cases, too few, probably, but still, many previous presidents were visionaries or at least had an ability to look beyond the flavour of the day.  They didn’t gut a department after a casual conversation with a shock jock or toady.  They embraced complexity and were willing to listen to opposing points of view as well as to the opinions of the very experts they’d hired to advise them on complex issues.

But no more.

So what do we do now if we wish to maintain a frame of mind that can even think about Happy Lists?  If we pay too much attention to the venality, cruelty, and self-indulgence of a government shut-down or the death of a child in our government’s care at the Border, we will start to despair or worse, become cynical.  But if we ignore the madness and indulge exclusively in denial, it might get worse.  

The  challenge, I suppose, is to step away from time-to-time and as my friend H said in a recent e mail, “I’m trying to surround myself with shining examples of what it is to be a good human being as there is NO VALUE in spending anytime looking closely at what is in the news or the marketplace.”

I don’t disagree with her strategy to maintain balance and keep open the possibility for joy and gratitude when one meets…let’s say Newfoundlanders or a lovely member of the Church of What’s Happenin’ Now.  But we probably always need to stay alert to the presence of a monster under the bed or worse, one that hovers over polling places.  Every now and then when we, strengthened by the beauty of a Sedona sunset or a nurturing contact with a truly altruistic Maritimer, meet up with The Monsters among us, we must use whaever tools we have, time, money, energy or talent, to vanquish them.  Denial may allow us to keep on keepin’ on but vigilance will tell us when our moment has come and when it’s time to use all available tools to try and restore sanity to the Town Hall meetings.   Denial will not hold back the tides but where we can, if we can,  we must.  Whatever small thing we can do to buy time and restore what we can to the earth and society that appear these days to be so tragically, perhaps irreparably damaged, we must.  This may involve coming up for air occasionally to look the monsters in the eye.  If we waste our energies on rage, if we do nothing, or if we linger too long in the cocoons we each want to build around our families, our communities and ourselves, all the people and places that give us joy, that deserve to be on a dozen Happy Lists, will be at risk.

I think it is essential to surround ourselves with shining examples of what it is to be a good human being and to enjoy beauty in all its forms so that whenever we hear “Danger, Will Robinson!”, we will understand clearly why we must stand and face down the monsters in our midst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newfoundlanders in Heaven

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Last night I watched another TV show about the  Come From Away people who landed in Gander, Newfoundland, when their planes were re-routed after  9/11.  All the stories about that experience and the impact it had on both the CFA’s and the Newfoundlanders have been wonderful, including the show Tom Brokaw produced before his retirement, but this latest one was particularly moving. Hearing Gander’s Mayor talk about the loneliness of the residents after the CFA’s left made me weep (or as they say in Hawaii, “cry for happy”).  “They fell from the sky and came to us as visitors.  By Day Two they were friends and by the time they left, they were family.”    One of the Americans, a gay man who had been on holiday in France with his partner, had to return to Paris because he wasn’t on a domestic flight, said being in Newfoundland was like a dream and returning to the terror, heartbreak and chaos in a large city like Paris was analogous to living a nightmare.

That sentiment was one that seemed to be shared by all 7000 of Gander’s unexpected guests.  On that heartbreaking September day when they landed in Gander, there were scarcely more residents than visitors and with only 500 hotel rooms, it fell on the adults in Gander to feed, clothe, find beds and computers and entertain their guests.  Morning, noon, and night they cooked, cleaned, drove their guests to WalMart and church, consoled them, and put on shows.  They tried to cater to all food preferences whether the new guests were Methodists, Mormon or Muslim.  They took them sight-seeing and seemed alarmed when offered money.  The phone bank they set up for the CFA-ers cost the town $13,000 but was free to their guests.   When told by airline staff  there were no pets on the planes, they decided to see for themselves and ended up healing, feeding and walking dozens of dogs, cats, birds and monkeys.

“You can always identify Newfoundlanders in Heaven,” it’s said, “because they are the ones trying to return home.”

The friendships established during the painful, horrific attack have endured.  CFA-ers return for visits or to honeymoon.  Many also returned on 9/11’s tenth anniversary to dedicate a monument and children’s park the people of Gander built (seeded with unsolicited donations left behind when people from Norway, Germany, Mexico, the Middle East, the USA, and other countries left Gander to make their sad journeys home).

A large delegation of residents flew to New York to attend Opening Night of the “Come From Away” Broadway musical, and to reunite with their New York and New Jersey friends, first responders, Twin Tower survivors, and tearful museum staff members.  Once again, they shared tears, laughter, music, dancing and meals the folks of Gander didn’t have to cook themselves.

One CFA-er was told when he again tried to express his gratitude to the people of Gander, “It’s no more than you’d have done for me.”  In a moment of raw candor, the man from New York said, “I’m ashamed to say that’s not true.  If a stranger in New York came to my house in search of housing and food, I would have locked the door.”  Perhaps today he is a little less fearful of strangers.

If nothing else, I think the Newfoundlanders realized that the rock on which they’d built their lives, raised their families, and learned to live with their neighbours is, in spite of the harsh winters and underemployment, a pretty good place to live.  Which, by the by, is how a nearby community markets its town.  “Town X,” say the billboards as you enter the picturesque community, “A pretty good place to live.”  They’re not wrong but their PR people were clearly not trained at Trump University.

Humility, thy name is writ large in Newfoundland and, I hope, the Maritimes.

In any event, last night was a good night for television.  My husband chides me for an addiction to what he calls my “English shows” and indeed, I do have a weakness for Judy Dench, Dawn French, and genteel murder mysteries solved by Morse, Agatha Christie, Inspector Lynley and the team from Midsomer Murders.

Still, when push comes to shove, Canada can also turn out a “pretty good” TV show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dancing.