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Archive for November, 2009

Trouble

It’s been a busy week around here, as you may have noticed from the complete lack of attention I’ve given to this blog (and Facebook and Twitter, for that matter).

Part of the reason came to us Monday night, when we surprised our daughter with the one thing she’s wanted more than anything for years: a puppy. It all happened pretty fast. We only found out about her on Sunday, and by Monday, my husband and I were on the road to Abbotsford through rush hour traffic to meet her and, it turned out, bring her home.

Are we nuts? Possibly. But the look on Isabelle’s face when she saw her for the first time made it all worthwhile.

5 1/2 pounds of sleepy cockapoo

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It never rains…

The old adage holds true today, literally and metaphorically. It’s pouring here, with twice the average monthly rainfall for November expected in just three days. I live in an urban rainforest. November isn’t exactly noted for its arid quality at the best of times.

At the moment, things around here are less “life imitating art” and more “weather imitating life.” It’s a deluge. Too many people close to me are dealing with too many Big Things at the moment: ageing parents, major health issues, angry divorces… a lot.

The other night, one of those had-to-be-there moments gave one of those people a tiny break from the weight of all the Bad Stuff and had her in gales of laughter, the kind that leaves your cheeks and stomach hurting for ages afterwards. For those few minutes, there was no Stuff, just laughter. We all need more of that, I think. It’s too easy to get bogged down by all that’s stressful and energy draining. Sure, we have to deal with it, but having a little fun while we do makes it all just a little bit easier.

I was thinking about how much a good laugh changes the tone of my day when I read my fabulous friend Pam’s most recent blog post this morning. Fun is good. Go read her post, but in the meantime, here’s one of the videos she posted about the Fun Theory. Seems like a great idea to me.

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It’s Remembrance Day today. We sat together as a family and watched the CBC coverage of the ceremony at our nation’s capital, as is our tradition on this morning. I’m a total mush about the occasion. The faces of the teary-eyed old men make me cry. Most of them don’t talk about their experiences easily, if at all, but the older they get, the more easily the tears seem to come. These are men who were brought up to believe that men don’t cry, and the seeing the stripping away of a lifetime of stoicism when they stand and remember breaks my heart.

And then, of course, there’s the mother, chosen from among those who have lost a son or daughter to represent all mothers. She puts a lump in my throat every year, whoever she is, her presence all the reminder I need to think about the fact that every single soldier is someone’s child.

Whatever political good comes or doesn’t come from Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, 133 Canadians have been killed there so far, mostly by improvised explosive devices. Their loss has added a fresh poignancy to Remembrance Day services here. TV coverage shows bigger crowds at every venue. There are children in our country who once again know first-hand what it means to lose a parent serving overseas. What was beginning to seem to some to be irrelevant history is new again, and with the new relevance, the boys killed in WWI and WWII are no longer too distant to mourn for those who had started to forget. Instead, they’re reflected in the faces of today’s soldiers, and we remember.

I’ve always believed in the importance of Remembrance Day, so I like to see the crowds, see the tomb of the unknown soldier covered completely in poppies, see hours of national TV coverage devoted to the day. But the heart of the day is always in the individuals, not the crowd. Here are some of mine:

– my paternal grandfather worked as a trainer at in WWII, in a job that meant he readied too many boys to go off to be killed, and it was too much for him to bear. He died a few years later, unable to recover from what his job had meant;

– my great grand uncle served with the Australian forces in WWI. He was wounded, but went on to live decades more. As the family genealogist, I was thrilled when Australia released digital versions of WWI service files online and I was able to read where he’d been and exactly what had happened to him. These are an invaluable resource to anyone researching WWI military history. You can find them here;

– my great uncle learned to swim when his ship was torpedoed off the coast of Africa in WWII. The story goes that he came ashore wearing nothing but his boots. He had a lucky unlucky streak: he was on two torpedoed ships and got hit by a jeep during his service, but died fifty years after the war at home in Scotland;

– during my teaching practicum, I invited a holocaust survivor to speak to my grade eight class as part of our unit on The Diary of Anne Frank. His story captivated us and silenced even the biggest handful in the class from the moment he showed us his Auschwitz ID tattoo until the end of his tale. I’ll never forget hearing his experiences and seeing the distant look in his eye while he related them because he was there, seeing it all over again, as he spoke;

– my best friend’s husband currently serves in the Canadian Navy. He served in the Persian Gulf. He’s away for a few days on an exercise, but it otherwise home at the moment. Long may that continue.

Whom do you remember?

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I’m just back from seeing A Chorus Line at the Centre in Vancouver. I loved it. I saw the movie years ago, long enough to have forgotten pretty much everything except the premise and the closing number, but I was looking forward to seeing it again. And now I remember why I liked it the first time around. I love some of the music in it, but mostly, it appeals to my writer soul. It deals with exactly the thing that interests me most as a writer and one I’ve mentioned here before: the story behind the persona. The dancers in the show each come with a personal history that makes them unique, even though they have to be identical when they are dancing, and the show explores that. The director wants to know what makes them who they are, even though he specifically says he doesn’t want any of them drawing his attention when they’re in the chorus line.

We were lucky to see one of those moments when something happens that isn’t in the script and the actor has to keep going and fix it. I enjoy those moments, the sense of connection they seem to create between character and audience. Tonight, one of the characters, Cassie, was in the middle of her long solo dance, alone onstage, when she fell hard on her butt and one of her dance shoes went flying way up over her head and landed somewhere offstage. In true professional style, she simply got up and danced the rest of her solo with one shoe on. The only indication that it may not have been part of the script (it wasn’t) was when the director told her to “pick up her shoe” and head down to the basement with the others to learn the song, and his acknowledgement of the loss of her shoe made her smile. But even so, it wasn’t obvious that it was an error. She literally fell on her butt alone onstage, but because she kept dancing, kept smiling, and never let on, most of the audience didn’t have a clue she wasn’t supposed to do that.

So now I’m going to bed with “What I did for love” and “One” running through my head. Not a bad way to end the night.

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Falling Back

It’s that time of year again. Saturday night we got our extra hour, and now it’ll be dark before afternoon’s even had a chance to take hold.

In the place I call home, at the corner of the Canada/US border and the Pacific Ocean (well, the Straight of Georgia if you’re being picky), we’ve begun the few months that can stretch our inner resources to the limit.

Sure, much of the rest of Canada has a well-deserved reputation for hard winters. They laugh at us when we get any real amount of snow because we’re ill-equipped to deal with it here individually, where many of us have all-season tires on our cars all year round, and municipally, where we have too few plows and sand trucks to deal with “real” winter. That’s okay. We get our own back on Valentine’s Day, when the flower count in Victoria always numbers in the millions while a lot of the country is still buried under dirt-crusted white stuff.

But in the meantime, a West Coast winter has its own challenge: rain. It doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but you’d be surprised. I have friends who’ve had to move away because of it and others who rely heavily on prescription lamps and mid-winter trips to sunnier climes.

It’s not the rain itself that’s the problem. The rain can be pretty, and it sounds lovely against the roof snuggled in at home on cold winter evenings with stew bubbling on the stove. 20091017_K_1000757-2

But with the rain comes the grey, oppressive clouds. They settle over the city for days at a time so that it never gets truly light out before the sun goes down and it’s dark again. It can be tiring and dreary and depressing. Yet most of us love it here, and not just in the summer. Why? Because no matter how wet and dark it gets, every once in awhile, we wake up to a day where the sky looks like it did yesterday:20091101_K_1000774

The sun shines from beyond that expanse of blue, and it turns out that rain polished everything up so it’s all green and clean and lovely in the sunlight. And in just a few short months, it’ll be time for this again:April Flowers

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