About digbygirl

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

A Little of This, A Little of That

 

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This is our last week in Laie, a place with an empty beach, a Mormon College, a Foodland Store and a Cackle Fresh Egg stand we pass on the way to buy dinner at the Shrimp Trucks.  There’s not a lot going on here, which suits us just fine.  We’re both content with laziness, reading in the middle of the night, knitting when the spirit moves us, and staring for long periods of time at an ocean that changes every hour, sometimes every minute and certainly everyday.

We eat lots of papaya, drink good coffee and guava juice, and on celebratory occasions, Ted’s wonderful chocolate and Haupia pies.

For people interested in moving beyond the Bay and exploring the East West Center, the Pearl Harbor Museum and Memorial, Diamond Head, and a wealth of art and nature centers, Laie Bay is not for them.  Perhaps because we’ve been there and done that several times over the decades we’ve been coming to Hawaii, we’re happy just remembering the Waioli Tea Room in Manoa Valley, the fabulous snorkeling at Shark’s Cove, swimming with spinner dolphins, and hiking to Waimea Falls.

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We don’t actually have to brave the traffic to revisit wonderful places frozen in memory and can indulge ourselves in doing a little of this, a little of that, and not much of anything.

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I read a half-dozen books at a time and my friend puzzles and knits into the wee, wee hours.

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 We admire beautiful orchids and even the pods that fell off the spider lily bush are breathtaking in their perfection.

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And there’s always the beach at the backdoor, stretching out past Hukilau Beach to Kuhuku and Turtle Bay.

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A little of this and a little of that can, if you’re in the mood, add up to a whole lot of Something.

The Temptation to be Happy

 

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After fifty years of benign neglect, the Laie Beach House has had a facelift.  Like good facelifts, the snips and tucks are not immediately apparent but gradually, a new chin line, a slightly smaller nose, or in the case of the beach house, a new roof, a new door, screens, a modest bathroom reno and a little paint and lipstick demand a double-take.  A round of applause as well as a future rent raise appear on the agenda.  New curtains and floor mats inspire awe and surprise and suddenly, a long-time guest turns to another to whisper, “Wait, are those NEW slipcovers?  Is that a Keurig coffee maker?  Omigod, has the backyard been clipped and tidied up and has ALL this happened in just the past year?”

We loved the shabby chic beach shack for over a half-century in the same way one loves a sweet, eccentric aunt who wears twelve year old slippers and a frayed thrift shop robe.  We always suspected if we slapped some blusher and eye shadow on Auntie Em,  gave her a new “do” and bought her a dress from Nordstrom Rack, the old geezers at the nursing home would have to be held back with a whip and a chair.  Now we fear “outsider” renters will be descending on the Laie Beach House with pockets full of money and a thirst for a Keurig brewed cup of Kona coffee.

Still, it’s all just fabulous and if it’s taken fifty years to get here, well, just remember Speed does Kill.

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But we are here again on H and J’s Excellent Vacation during which everything and not much of anything happens.  We don’t go to concerts or museum exhibitions. We don’t line up for pina coladas at the Turtle Bay Hilton or mai tais at the Haleukalani in Waikiki. We don’t swim with the dolphins (although the turtles outside our backdoor do get a friendly Aloha as we float by) or visit Diamond Head and we don’t shop for shell and coral earrings.  We do walk down the beach, read in our beach chairs at the water’s edge and if we are feeling particularly energetic, we manage to paddle around and pretend we’re snorkeling.  If we’re feeling uncharacteristically sociable, which may happen on a weekly basis, we drive to the Shrimp Truck for dinner or to the fruit stands near Turtle Bay for fresh papaya, limes for our gin tonics, and maybe a sweet, fresh pineapple.

For me, this is a perfect follow-up to a month in Los Angeles, an exciting experience I previously thought was reserved only for affluent white people and /or minor celebrities.  Apparently, if you play your cards right and imply, because of advanced years and failing health, you won’t be visiting LA too many times in the future, kindly friends roll out a welcome wagon designed to let guests die happy.  Since I don’t plan to leave this mortal coil anytime soon, I may have to devise another scam to ensure I get to hang out with a friend’s private chef or travel first class on Hawaiian Airlines.  Which, by the by, is to economy travel what the Orient Express is to the Greyhound Bus.

Had I realized the extent to which I’d be feted, I would have made a greater effort to lose weight before my plane touched down at LAX.  I’d also have packed better clothes, shoes other than flip flops and might even have shaved my legs.

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Reunions with former drama students, CORO colleagues, Hmong friends from Fresno, the Ladies of Laguna, my favorite chiropractor and her remarkable family, Sias pals, culinary extravaganzas with my publisher and godchildren, beloved gay and straight friends, family members, BFFs, arts colleagues, former employees and forever friends collectively provided me with quite a fun/food-filled ride through the City of Angels.  In N Out Burgers, corn beef sandwiches at Cantors, Mexican food with old neighbourhood friends, breakfasts with grandchildren, unbelievable meals prepared in advance by an inspired chef, St. Patrick’s Day briskets for another wonderful family reunion, enough Lao / Chinese food to feed half of Southeast Asia , baked shells courtesy of Santa Monica’s star hostess, Taylor’s London Broil, H’s Silver Palate Special, a vegetarian feast with Lauren and the Black Swan, on and on and on.  It’s not hard to understand why starving people in the Third World hate us.  And why I can barely squeeze into my Big Girl Clothes.

I may have exaggerated the dangers of the aging process and the state of my health but death by gluttony could definitely be in my future. As I waddle among guests cleverly disguised as the Literati of LA and Long Beach, I plan to beg those people that will be hosting Book Party/ Beer Busts (with artisanal beer, of course) to skip the food and go right to the ice chests with the booze.  I would never turn my back on good white wine and gin (lots and lots of gin) but I truly may not need more food until it’s time for Tiu Poder’s Coquille St. Jacques in mid-October.

I am hoping to reel back the conspicuous food consumption while I am in Laie although the sushi and sashimi are sadly very tempting.  There may be nothing for it but to return to Nova Scotia in a muumuu which I can wear throughout the summer.  Perhaps I can introduce a new collection of billowing garments to the ladies of Annapolis Royal if Holly at Bainton’s can be talked into replacing her size 6 stock with an attractive display of Hawaiian prints that look suspiciously like Granny gowns.  I’m sure if she introduces colourful muumuus as a new and refreshing line of summer wear for chic and well-fed Maritimers, no one will be the wiser and she will make a fortune from Plus 16’s who have been co-opted by friends that live large and enjoy it.

Sadly, it isn’t just heartless Republicans that forget that 10.3 million children in the US are at risk of hunger.  According to the USDA, 49 million people in the USA, more than the entire population of Canada, live in households struggling to find enough food to eat.  If  you were raised as a Catholic girl followed by a tour of duty at the Unitarian church, that’s a hard number to erase with white wine. Morning-after soul searching would be a whole lot easier if the gap between my generous, hospitable friends and those children who suffer during school vacations because they don’t receive free government lunches was not so dramatically wide.

But hey, I ate the food and drank the wine.

I am now wavering between defiant rationalization, ambivalence and embarrassment at how easy it is  to fall off the compassion wagon and just plain wallowing in lovely and loving First World Memories.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here we are again on H and J’s Excellent Vacation during which everything and not much of anything happens.  We don’t go to concerts or museum exhibitions. We don’t line up for pina coladas at the Turtle Bay Hilton or mai tais at the Haleukalani in Wakiki. We don’t swim with the dolphins (although the turtles outside our backdoor do get a friendly Aloha as we float by) or visit Diamond Head and we don’t shop for shell and coral earrings.  We do walk down the beach, read in our beach chairs at the water’s edge and if we are feeling particularly energetic, we manage to paddle around and pretend we’re snorkeling.  If we’re feeling uncharacteristically sociable, which may happen on a weekly basis, we drive to the Shrimp Truck for dinner or to the fruit stands near Turtle Bay for fresh papaya, limes for our gin tonics, and maybe a sweet, fresh pineapple.

For me, this is a perfect follow-up to a month in Los Angeles, an exciting experience I previously thought was reserved only for affluent white people and /or minor celebrities.  Apparently, if you play your cards right and imply, because of advanced years and failing health, you won’t be visiting LA too many times in the future, one’s friends roll out a welcome wagon designed to let guests die happy.  Since I don’t plan to leave this mortal coil anytime soon, I may have to devise another scam to ensure I get to hang out with a friend’s private chef or travel first class on Hawaiian Airlines.  Which, by the by, is to economy travel what the Greyhound Bus is to the Orient Express.

Had I realized the extent to which I’d be feted, I would have made a greater effort to lose weight before my plane touched down at LAX.  I’d also have packed better clothes, shoes other than flip flops and might even have shaved my legs.

Reunions with former drama students, Hmong friends from Fresno, the Ladies of Laguna, my favorite chiropractor and her remarkable family, culinary extravaganzas with my publisher and godchildren, beloved gay and straight friends, family members, BFFs, arts colleagues, former employees and forever friends collectively provided me with quite a fun/food-filled ride through the City of Angels.  In N Out Burgers, corn beef sandwiches at Cantors, Mexican food with old neighbourhood friends, breakfasts with grandchildren, unbelievable meals prepared in advance by an inspired chef, St. Patrick’s Day briskets for another wonderful family reunion, enough Lao / Chinese food to feed half of Southeast Asia , baked shells courtesy of Santa Monica’s star hostess, Taylor’s London Broil, H’s Silver Palate Special, a vegetarian feast with Lauren and the Black Swan, on and on and on.  It’s not hard to understand why starving people in the Third World hate us.  And why I can barely squeeze into my Big Girl Clothes.  I may have exaggerated the dangers of the aging process and the state of my health but death by gluttony could definitely be in my future. As I waddle among guests cleverly disguised as the Iiterati of LA and Long Beach, I plan to beg those people that will be hosting beer busts dressed up as Book Parties to skip the food and go right to the ice chests with the booze.  I would never tun my back on good white wine and gin (lots and lots of gin) but really, I may not need more food until it’s time for Tiu Poder’s Coquille St. Jacques in mid-October.

I am hoping to reel back the conspicuous food consumption while I am in Laie although the sushi and sashimi are sadly very tempting.  There may be nothing for it but to return to Nova Scotia in a muumuu which I can wear throughout the summer.  Perhaps I can introduce a new collection of billowing garments to the ladies of Annapolis Royal if Holly at Bainton’s can be talked into replacing her size 6 stock with an attractive display of Hawaiian prints that look suspiciously like Granny gowns.  I’m sure if she introduces colourful muumuus as a new and refreshing line of summer wear for chic and well-fed Maritimers, no one will be the wiser and she will make a fortune from Plus 16’s who have been co-opted by friends that live large and enjoy it.

Sadly, it isn’t just heartless Republicans that forget that 10.3 million children in the US are at risk of hunger.  According to the USDA, 49 million people in the USA, more than the entire population of Canada, live in households struggling to find enough food to eat.  Introspection would be a whole lot easier if the gap between my generous, hospitable friends and those children who suffer during school vacations because they don’t receive free government lunches was not quite so wide.

But hey, I ate the food and drank the wine.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Reason Why 40 Million People Live in California

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It doesn’t take long to get back in the swing of life, California style. My re-entry has been, admittedly, at a pace a few steps beyond hyper-speed.  In eleven days, I have traveled  eight different freeways, had what I consider meaningful visits with 42 people, eaten in seven restaurants, consumed a little too much white wine for a sensible A Fib patient, and gleefully gobbled up enough food to feed a Ukranian family of four for a month.

I will be a lucky Plus Size woman if I have gained only five pounds by the time I leave here.

Tiring?  Yes.  Foolhardy? Probably.  Worth it?  Hell, Yes!

There are still 38 family members between Fresno County and Orange County to visit before I head to Hawaii on March 22. After that, there are book parties and dinners back in California, a visit with Little Lindsey, the Human Tornado, in Ohio, and a three-day paella party with my husband’s family in Virginia.  By that time, it will take a fork lift and two economy seats to get me between D.C. and Halifax and at least a personal intervention by  Oprah and her Weight Watchers colleagues to get me back on the right track.

When I left Nova Scotia, my goal was to see at least half the people I wanted to see during my 43 days in (mostly) sunny California.  I have already seen about half as many as I hoped to reach but if I accelerate the pace and try to squeeze in even more, I fear the time spent with each will be reduced to a meaningless Meet and Greet.  I also think the effort it takes to physically get from more inaccessible places to other places on the edges of a County the size of many Third World countries may defy the laws of logic, safety and nature.

Still, I don’t plan to make too many more visits to California.  At close to 80, one doesn’t actually plan to make too many more visits anywhere.  I suspect that future trips involving air travel will be taken on domestic flights to western provinces or to London which, surprisingly, seems easier to reach from Halifax than Los Angeles.

Yesterday I had a reunion with drama students I had known and loved when I was in my 30s and they were teenagers.  Forty six years later, they are still full of piss and vinegar, still bonded to one another, and although touchingly sad about those that have passed on to places beyond our power to reach, still joyous.

The night before that, I shared a divine dinner with six of my favorite people in Los Angeles, one of whom has just written a book I predict will be a literary sensation (“Guesthouse for Ganesha”, coming to a bookstore near you on May 7).  Another member of this rarified group is designing rugs that take your breath away, each an art piece that took years to design and have hand-woven in Nepal, Oaxaca and Iran.  It’s amazing to see young people that take the time they need to create art that will enrich the heart and mind and possibly the user for many generations.

Another dinner companion was a 30-something artist who also takes the time it takes to create really great art.  He is planning an exhibition that challenges description.  Suffice it to say, his work is a testament to art AND craft with beautiful hand-built frames that weave in and out around huge painted images that engage the imagination and soul. By the time it’s ready for prime time, his first exhibition will have taken almost ten years to paint, build, and assemble and will be worth every minute of every year it has been in the making.

It’s breathtaking to be back in Los Angeles, a city that moves at the speed of light, and discover people that think about their work for years and spend more months and years producing it before they even begin to think about presenting it, exposing it to public view and selling it.

I think it must take great effort, even sacrifice, to do this.  A lot of other jobs are necessary to keep food on the table while the artists internalize what they want to create.  I don’t know if it’s always worth it but I think in the case of the exotic young rug designer and the inspired painter living in the hills of Mt. Washington, the end products are totally worth the thoughtful process and time that ensures their  completed work is splendid.

Aside from beautiful art, I am visiting beautiful friends.  Last night I slept in a bed roughly the size of my entire bedroom in Victoria Beach and by noon I had enjoyed two long swims in my beautiful friend’s beautiful swimming pool.  If I were a better person, my husband’s weather report from Annapolis Royale this morning would fill me with guilt.  But my character is a work in progress.  I am just happy God has been good to successful sit com producers from the 80s and also hasn’t treated the friends with whom they share their good fortune too shabbily.

There is no place I would rather live than Victoria Beach, Nova Scotia, and no friends I value more than my Nova Scotian pals.  The artists living and working in the Maritimes are as inspired as any found in the largest cities of California and in spite of the flowers and sunshine and super California King size beds, I would probably try to chew off my own arm if I had to drive in LA traffic everyday.  It would distress and depress me if, most of the year, I did not get to spend time with the kindred spirits that happily seem as drawn to Nova Scotia as I am.  Still, good friends and sweet family members, wherever you find them, make life worth trips even through the Misery that is Pearson Airport in Toronto.

It’s good to be back in California and if indeed Hippocrates said “ars longa, vita brevis”, he was onto something.   “Art IS long and life IS short”  and it’s worth a few jaunts through a poorly planned airport to be reminded of that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Get on the BAN Wagon!

 

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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.

 

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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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