Category Archives: Arlene Smith
Some “food” for thought during our summer respite, courtesy of Lessons Learned in Life.
Does adversity weaken you or harden your soul? Or do you change the circumstances?
I will be stepping away for a few weeks of down time in the Ottawa summer sun.
May you also enjoy a time of respite wherever you are and whatever season you are in. Carry this thought with you into that respite. I will.
“When is the last time you physically hurt yourself? What did you do to get the pain to stop? And how long did you wait to do something about it? When we’re in physical pain, we’re usually extremely proactive about figuring out how to make it go away immediately because, you know, it hurts . . .
When it comes to our emotional pain, however, we’re apparently way more game for seeing just how much torture we can endure, wallowing in our guilt, shame, resentment, and self-loathing, sometimes for our entire lifetimes . . .
Forgiveness is about taking care of you, not the person you need to forgive.”
—Jen Sincero from You Are a Bad Ass”
A few blocks from where I live, this flag flies on a neighbour’s house.
I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago, and I my instinctive reaction to it surprised me. For the first time in my life, the stars and stripes made me feel uneasy.
The United States has been many things to me—fun, powerful, demonstrative, advanced, swaggering, egalitarian, right-seeking, loud, over-the-top, and occasionally a little insensitive—and it has made me smile, scowl, throw my fist in the air, cringe, celebrate or roll my eyes, but it has never made me uneasy.
But the sight of our Canada flag combined with that of United States right now does not sit well. It is definitely not a “great again” feeling.
Especially when another flag that flies right behind that first one would not be welcome in many parts of that country.
America, I’m worried about you, is all. I’m worried because that flag really does represent the truth of our situation. No matter how we feel about it, we are interwoven with you. The fates of our two countries are so tied together that we Canadians really need you and want you to succeed. Your place in the world is such that your actions have global impact, and we need you and want you to keep moving forward, upward, outward.
What’s happening now feels like the opposite: backward, downward, inward, like a balloon that has developed a slow leak.
I guess what I’m saying is, in the words of one of our Canadian icons, Red Green: “Remember, I’m pulling for ya. We’re all in this together!”
On a trail, an ordinary trail . . .
. . .through the National Capital Commission Greenbelt near my home, we encountered an unexpected surprise.
The trail is popular with cross-country skiers in the winter, so I imagine the trees got decorated by someone in the festive spirit last December. Theirs was the gift that keeps on giving, because I enjoyed the happy surprise in July.
After I had soaked up the gift and carried on, I took about two steps before I was brought up short by the next “gift” on my path: a garter snake. I was too busy going into a full-body shudder to take a picture, but if I had, it would have looked something like this.
That’s what a full-body shudder looks like.
I like snakes—far away from me. I know they are good for my garden and nature and all that, and that’s wonderful—far away from me.
While I was shuddering and peering into the undergrowth to make sure the snake was well and truly gone, a jogger happened along. To explain why I was standing still and looking creeped out, I used one word.
The jogger broke into a big smile. “Sometimes you just get lucky like that,” he said, and carried on.
I had to laugh. I hadn’t considered myself lucky to have seen a snake before he changed my perspective. He made me think. I remembered that snakes represent transformation and creative life force. I remembered that they are part of the medical symbol, a symbol of healing. For me personally, they are a symbol of unnecessary fear. That is, fear of something that is NO BIG DEAL, and how I conquer that fear simply by recognizing it.
Come to think of it, those ideas are tied into what Christmas is all about too.
I like these Christmas gifts. They didn’t cost a penny, I didn’t have to wrap them, and there was no baking involved.
If only the real Christmas were a little more like that.
Plastic: useful, convenient, ubiquitous, ugly, persistent . . .
My son reminded me of the daunting presence of plastic when he took this photo of a whale made of plastic found in the ocean.
Beauty crafted out of refuse in Bruges, Belgium.
The art of my friend’s daughter, Jennifer MacLatchy, makes me think about the terrible beauty of plastic. She makes art out of what she gathers from the Atlantic Ocean near her Nova Scotia home.
Nova Scotian artist turns ocean trash into treasure | CBC News https://t.co/Xf3eEhELqx
— Arlene Smith (@somertonsmith) June 25, 2018
It reminded me of the plastic we found on my Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip to Bolivia six years ago. I wrote a post then about an imagined future world where our descendants wallow in our discarded plastic grocery bags. Read it here: Paper, not plastic.
I’ve been really thinking about plastic and the price we pay for its terrible beauty.
How do I use it now? How could I change how I use it and recycle it?
There are other ways. There are better ways.
In my earlier post I wrote about a weekend when time slowed down. I relaxed at a friend’s cottage, and the leisurely dawdle in time allowed me to notice images of wings that came to me.
Immediately after that weekend, time accelerated from dawdle to flash and I rushed from activity to activity: social events, my daughter’s graduation from university, travel to the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto and the launch of an anthology that includes one of my short stories. Whoosh.
I did my best to stay in the moment for all those fun and meaningful moments, but I had little time to luxuriate in noticing. Except once.
During a writers’ summit poetry session held in a marquis tent at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, one of the leaders asked us to notice something in our immediate surroundings: one unusual or interesting aspect of the setting. I looked up, around and then down. On the paving stones beneath my feet I noticed something that would have escaped me otherwise: bright platters of colourful paint. The stones beneath my feet were the setting for poetry at that moment, but in the not-too-distant past children had played and created with paint there. I imagined their laughter and playful shouts.
The workshop leader gave me the gift of time to notice.
I’ll pay it forward. Take some time to notice. What gift is there for you that you might not have appreciated otherwise?
The Blood Is Thicker anthology, published by Iguana Books, includes my short story, “Beating the Odds.” Available here: Blood Is Thicker