Category Archives: life

My mother and your mother . . . Who’s It?

I woke up this morning with a childhood rhyme running through my head.

We used it to determine who was “It” in games of tag, or blind man’s bluff, or kick the can, or whatever. We all stood in a circle with one “duke” extended. Someone said the rhyme and pounded a different fist in the circle on each word.

My mother and your mother were hanging out the clothes.
My mother punched your mother in the nose.
What colour was the blood?

Whoever owned the duke that coincided with the word “blood” yelled out a colour.

“Orange!”

The person then carried on hitting fists in the circle on each letter of the colour word.

O-R-A-N-G-E.

Wherever the word ended, that person was It.

I spent some time puzzling over why—heavens why—this rhyme popped into my brain. I hadn’t thought about it in at least four decades. I moved on to analyzing the words. How gruesome! I then pondered who came up with this violent ditty first. What kind of society normalized hand-to-hand combat amongst mothers?

I made me realize the responsibility we have for today’s children.

As children we carved out gun-shaped pieces of wood and played Cowboys and Indians. Guess who always won? Now I cringe about the violence AND racism.

Speaking of racism, another popular It-picking rhyme we used as children started with the words “Eeeny meeny.” Remember that? Would we ever think of using the version we did in the 1960s and 1970s now? You couldn’t pay me to.

But my friends and I played those games, and then went home to mothers who didn’t come to fisticuffs with the neighbours. We recited those rhymes in the playgrounds of schools that taught us about other history and other cultures. Because of the stability and the education, we were able to grow into adults with an expanded world view.

Our responsibility for today’s children is to provide the stability and ensure the education for all, so that violence and racism affect the fewest members of our future generation.

We’re It!

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I know they’re millennials and I’m old, but . . . I need depth of moment

Skaters arrived in my city and hurled themselves down a steep, curving ice track at speeds of more than 50 km/h.

crashed ice starting gate

Crashed Ice starting gate with the Chateau Laurier in the background

The ice cross downhill athletes performed the feat on a track constructed in a breathtaking setting beside the historic Chateau Laurier and inside the Rideau Canal lock system. Who knows if anything like it will ever happen again in Ottawa?

Red Bull® Crashed Ice was an event not to be missed.

Off we went on Friday night. The sky lit up for miles around with the flashing light show. The bridge on which we stood over the Rideau Canal vibrated with the thumpa-thumpa of the non-stop pumping music. We craned our necks to see over the huge crowds and tried to figure out what was going on. We needed to deduce the action for ourselves because the young announcers for the event failed to live up to the basic requirements of their job description; that is, letting the spectators know what is happening. Information arrived to us in spotty patches. Skaters flew out of the starting gate with no warning. We didn’t know who most of the skaters were, where they were from or even what event they were skating in. I’d guess that five of eight skaters had backflipped down the track before the announcer informed us it was the semi-finals of the freestyle event. The commentary consisted mainly of “Whoa! Wow man.”

The Bytown Museum lit up with Crashed Ice lights

The Bytown Museum lit up with Crashed Ice lights

In the end, I didn’t marvel as long as one might expect over the daring of skaters who, by choice, (no one shoved them from behind off the starting block or anything) leaped off a precipitous ledge into a steep, icy hairpin turn. I didn’t gape at their breakneck (literally) speed.

Instead I mused about how we as a human race seem to be losing depth of moment

No need to know or remember the names, the inconsistent commentary seemed to suggest: You can Google everything later. Were you looking down at your Twitter feed when a skater whizzed by? No worries. It’ll probably be on YouTube.

Before the Internet, before search engines and social media, the announcers of such an event would have felt the weight of their responsibilities. They would have known that they were the sole, fleeting source of information about the happenings unfolding in the moment. They would have felt some urgency to get the 5 Ws and the How to the spectators at the time. Our younger don’t feel the same pressures.

We are drifting away from “living in the moment” toward “living in the moment we look up later.” 

I know they’re millennials and I’m old, but I like to live fully in the now with all the information I need for that moment.

I won’t need to look anything up later. I’ll be too busy enjoying the next fantastic deep moment. 

The Crashed Ice track under construction in the Rideau Canal lock system, with the Chateau Laurier in the background

The Crashed Ice track under construction in the Rideau Canal lock system, with the Chateau Laurier in the background

 

 

 

 

Crossing lines

Adults yammered on and on around a little boy about 3 years old. He grew bored. Squirmed. Squiggled. Stretched out on the floor.

mazeTo entertain him, I handed him a sheet of paper with a maze printed on it. Happy to have any distraction he sat up and began to trace the path as if meditating with a finger labyrinth. The boy’s finger made its way over the printed paths with delightful disregard for lines that might be in the way. After blowing through any number of twists and turns that might have blocked progress, his finger reached the end. The boy raised his arms in victory.

“I did it!” he proclaimed.

“Yes, you did,” I affirmed.

Who was I to dampen his enthusiasm? Why tell him that crossing lines isn’t always that easy? Why burden a child with the idea that some lines are best left uncrossed and sometimes it’s hard to figure out which ones.

Better to let him savour his accomplishment. Better to send him out into the world ready to obliterate barriers blocking his path. Better to equip him to cross the many lines there are that need to be erased. Better to encourage than discourage.

He’ll figure it out.

And the adults yammered on.

Everything is exactly as it should be

In every given moment, we have everything we need.

Roads not taken are well not taken.

Paths that challenge us lead to the highest good.

Failures tell us we are early on the path of learning and must keep working hard, not that we are on the wrong path.

People enter and leave our lives at the perfect time for the perfect reason, even when it feels oh so wrong.

People who harm or frustrate us teach us timely, necessary lessons.

Injustice opens our eyes to the need for higher potential and leads to greater good.

Everything is exactly as it should be.

stanley-park "The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone." - Oswald Chambers

Riding the tiger

Photo courtesy of jinterwas on Flickr

“The one who rides the tiger can never get off.” —Chinese proverb

What does that ancient wisdom mean to you? After I stumbled upon the proverb recently I found different interpretations.

1.Once you decide to tackle a powerful challenge, you can never give up.

Very few people choose to “ride the tiger,” or take on powerful challenges. Why would they, when a comfy life without peril is an option? Most people choose paths with multiple outlets,  and contingency plans. Safe, but not very interesting. Those who do step up to the fierce and noble animal must do so knowing that they are in for a wild ride that they must see through to the end.

2. If you connect yourself with something dangerous, it will attack you if you decide to disengage.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” Michael Corleone says in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. We need to choose our companions carefully, because the dangerous ones don’t want us to stop the wild ride. Wrong associations, drugs, bad business deals, and many other choices entrap us. They are a tiger that allows petting at first but once mounted shows its fangs.

3. Once you set yourself on the path of enlightenment, you will not be able to stop. 

“One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions,” Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr wrote. He wasn’t referring to spiritual growth but it applies, because once a person opens up to enlightening ideas, they can never go back to the way life was before.

4. People often set off on paths that lead them to get trapped by their own wants, desires or prejudices.

Life can eat us alive. The title, position, status, or persona we have built may choke us, but we refuse to relinquish it.We may take on more and more until we are overloaded and incapacitated. We refuse to stop or escape, making us a prisoner of our own keeping.

5. Society is addicted to technologies and science.

We rely on our fume-spewing automobiles. Could we imagine life without our power-depended gadgets? Each scientific advancement brings the need for more science to solve a new problems born out of the new technology, in an endless quest for utopia.

That’s a wide variety of interpretations for sure, and all apt in their own way. What does riding the tiger mean to you?

 

Roundhouse: Servicing and light repairs

Roundhouse Park

Roundhouse Park

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?”

Roundhouse Park

Roundhouse Park

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