I am enjoying a summer vacation. During my time off, I am sharing posts from my favourite blog sites. This week is from Roughwighting: Life in a flash – a weekly blog on daily living. This is a story that anyone with a sibling can relate to.
It all began on the Saturday of the Tri-County Swim Meet. A glorious turquoise sky bled into the waters of the pool where people screamed in excitement as my brother won trophy after trophy, culminating … read more here . . . The 11th Summer of My Discontent
I’m enjoying a summer vacation. During my time off, I thought I would share posts from my favourite blog sites. Today is from Tuesdays with Laurie. Her insightful posts give me something to think about every Tuesday.
During recent travels, a walk on the beach had me looking at seaweed as a visual metaphor for the brain… THIS IS YOUR BRAIN Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD, director of the Hallowell Center… read more here . . . This Is Your Brain On Mindfulness
When I attended the Canadian Writers Summit in Toronto, Canada this summer, the daily walk from my hotel to the conference site at the Harbourfront Centre took me through Roundhouse Park. When I walked there my steps slowed, and I had to stop to contemplate the metal tracks and the mighty engines on display. I could not walk through the park apace. Something about the circular shape and the radiating rail lines gave the site a sacred feel. In slowing down, in breathing in the spirit of the place, I felt reinvigorated.
In the early days of rail travel, steam locomotives could only travel forwards. Toronto-bound locomotives arrived at the John Street roundhouse for servicing and light repairs. The turntable allowed the locomotives to be turned around for the return journey.
According to the Toronto Railway Historical Association, the locomotives serviced there were “so attractively maintained that their appearance became known among railroaders as the ‘John Street polish’.”
Today, Roundhouse Park no longer services locomotives, but it still provide servicing and light repairs. Like a forward-moving locomotive, I arrived in Toronto this summer and the John Street roundhouse gave my creative soul a “John Street polish” of a different sort.
We all need a little servicing and light repairs from time to time. Where is your “roundhouse?”
Yesterday most Canadians celebrated a civic holiday. Not every Canadian (some provinces don’t have a long weekend in August) and not all for the same reason.
Because there is no specific occasion for a holiday in August (other than it’s really great to have a long weekend in the summer) provinces and municipalities have creative licence. In British Columbia, it is British Columbia Day. (Okay, maybe not so creative.) In Alberta it’s Heritage Day. (Better, if a little vague.) In Toronto it’s Simcoe Day. (For John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.) Here in Ottawa we designate the weekend as Bytown Days and Monday specifically as Colonel By Day.
Ottawa’s original name was Bytown, in honour of Lieutenant Colonel John By. Colonel By, a military engineer, was the first city planner, and he laid out plans for the area that has become our downtown core. He oversaw the construction of the first bridge across the Ottawa River, a vital link between the provinces of Ontario and Québec. Most famously, he engineered and supervised the building of the Rideau Canal and the lock system that connects the Ottawa River to the Rideau River. (Here in Ottawa, Rideau is pronounced REE-deau, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Pronounce it Ri-DEAU and we’ll know you’re not from here.)
Canadians first had the notion that a navigable trade route other than the St. Lawrence River might be a good idea after the war of 1812, when American/Canadian relations were a little more fraught. At the time, the unquestioned need to maintain water transportation avenues that could be protected from American attack made the prospect of carving through 125 miles of bush and swamp and rock seem not only possible but imperative.
For six years, thousands of Irish and French Canadian labourers and skilled stonemasons endured hellish working and living conditions with high incidents of accidents, disease and death to build the canal and the lock system. Malaria, of all things, was a major threat. They did it because they needed the work to survive, and they believed that their labours would ensure the survival of future generations.
These days we are at peace with the United States. These days our supplies travel by airplane or highway or train. These days, the trade route that Colonel By envisioned, that water transportation link that people lost their lives over, is a place for pleasure only. In the summer yachts fill the locks and cruise the canal.
In the winter skaters laugh as they glide way between Beavertail stands.
I wonder, what would Colonel By think of how we use his creation today? I walk beside the canal and the locks on my lunch breaks in downtown Ottawa. As I stroll in peaceful, malaria-free Ottawa, I imagine Colonel By surveying his city from his vantage point on the great cliff at Major’s Hill Park where his house used to stand. I envision his stiff British bearing as he peers down to watch us walk and bike and boat in the same area where men suffered and died.
I wonder if Colonel By, a man who lived in harsh times, would despair at how we luxuriously and thoughtlessly take his engineering marvel for granted. Perhaps he would scowl over our carefree abandon. Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he would commend us all for shaping our city into one of safety and freedom. Maybe he would give us a rousing Hurrah! for creating a vibrant, economically progressive, multicultural and compassionate city to honour his name.
Read more Rideau Canal history here: http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/history/hist-canal.html
As a child I giggled out loud every time the Sesame Street Martians encountered another Earth object and tried without success to understand it or communicate with it. The ringing phone? Still cracks me up all these decades later.
But these days, when I despair about the harmful actions people are taking in the name of hate-driven agendas, I think those Sesame Street aliens illustrate part of the problem. Groups of people from the same galaxy but different neighbourhoods can’t figure each other out. Research in books leads to wrong or incomplete conclusions. Even if two groups stumble across a common word or phrase, the true meaning of what that sound communicates is misunderstood.
Sometimes the misunderstanding and miscommunication leads to a distrust so profound that people murder each other because of it, without remorse and sometimes with glee.
Sesame Street doesn’t provide the solution, and guaranteed there is no fast and simple one. But if the Martians spent a little more time on the ground with the Earth objects, instead of just descending now and then in their spaceship, they would figure out what a cow, a cat and a chicken really look like.
Perhaps the modern transportation and communications system of our big galaxy will allow people from different neighbourhoods more time to just be together. Then, perhaps, in time, understanding will grow and everyone will learn that a ringing telephone needs to be answered.
Exactly three years ago, on July 12, 2013, I posted a piece called “No time for time.” Perhaps mid-July fosters impatience in me, because lately incomplete projects irritate me. I have no time for time! I repeat the silent mantra, “I want it done now!”
The long-term writing project I’ve been working on? I want it done now!
My overdue house cleaning and decluttering? I want it done now!
Incomplete renovation work? I want it done now!
Any change in plans, setbacks or unexpected obstacles set my teeth on edge. On Saturday, for example, I drove home from my work at a local library with the firm intention of spending the afternoon performing a white wizard cleaning job on my house. I arrived there to discover we had no power; the passing winds of a thunderstorm had knocked a huge tree onto power lines nearby. I didn’t realize how dark our house is during the daylight hours of a stormy day. I could not see well enough to do an effective cleaning job. The cleaning had to wait. Grrr . . . I had no time for time. I wanted the cleaning done now!
I grumped and muttered and stomped around for the afternoon (my family dutifully staying well away from me) while I worked at allowing time for time and accepting what “was” in place of what I thought “should be.”
My thoughts turned to “coconut time” and the piece I had written about it before. Here it is again, in case you have any projects in the works that need time to ripen.
No time for time
When my son was 10 years old, his first zit appeared on his chin. Offended by the mar to his perfection, he pointed at it with a jabbing finger. “What is that?” he demanded.
“Well, now, I’d say that’s a zit.”
“How do you get rid of them?”
“Time,” I told him.
“Time!” He was alarmed. “I don’t have time for time.”
We live in a hurry-up, I-want-it-now world. We want to control what happens when, and manipulate the world to our convenience. We have no time for time—except when we have no choice.
Polynesian countries know the wisdom of “coconut time.” We can’t rush a coconut to ripen; it happens in “coconut time.” What’s more, we don’t need to pick coconuts; they fall when the time is right.
We can’t grow old before our time. We can’t rush a coconut to ripen. And zits, they just take some time.