Category Archives: Living life to the fullest

Drafting the Famous Five

“We take turns drafting as we make our way south, like cyclists in the Tour de France or geese, changing positions every ten minutes or so when the leader grows tired. I am surprised how much easier it is to follow someone else’s lead in those conditions, stepping where they step, trusting that they know at least something about the way we are going.” —Michael Yankoski in Mapping the Sacred Year

Michael Yankoski reflected on “drafting” when writing about a pilgrimage he made with friends. The walkers took turns leading into the wind, making the way easier for those who followed behind.

Pilgrims draft for each other, cyclists too, and geese. And so do we.

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I’ve been drafting the Famous Five my whole life. Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards were five Canadian women who sought to have women declared “persons,” so that women could be appointed to our Senate.

On this date 87 years ago, April 24, 1928, Canada’s Supreme Court summarized its unanimous decision that women are NOT such persons: “. . .Understood to mean ‘Are women eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada’ the question is answered in the negative.”

The women kept walking into the wind, drafting for each other, trusting that they knew at least something about they way they were going. One and a half years later, that ruling was overturned on October 18, 1929.

Thanks to them, I vote and own property. Heck, maybe someday I could even be in the Senate.

Then again, with everything that’s going on there these days, maybe not.

Nellie McClung: “Women are Persons” Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

 

 

The world’s first sun-heated home? Something to ponder on Earth Day Eve

worlds-first-sun-heated-homeA 1949 issue of LIFE included this article about a house in Massachusetts heated without any furnace at all.

The heat collectors at the top of the house were glass panels in front of metal plates. The sun’s heat waves went through the glass and heated the metal to a temperature as high as 150 degrees F.

Fans then blew the heat down through pipes storage cans filled with a sodium compound that soaked up and stored the heat.

Huh.

Why didn’t this catch on?

The article, written on the cusp of the 1950s, promised that the sun-warmed house “could be the beginning of a big reduction in the approximately $3.5 billion the U.S. pays annually for household fuel.” At the time, architect William Hamby predicted that solar heat would replace all other types of home heating within 10 years.

Or not.

In 1949 we didn’t foresee the oil crisis or believe that fuel resources would be finite. We didn’t foresee the environmental damage of fossil fuels. We didn’t foresee the number of human lives that would be lost because of wars that had the word “oil” at the bottom of the pile of reasons for their development. We were not nearly motivated enough to adapt.

Oh, scientists of today, how about now? Something to ponder on Earth Day Eve.

Canada: A gay summer colony

canada-ad-lifeOur language evolves.

In the May 31, 1948 edition of LIFE, an advertisement encouraged Americans to visit Canada during their summer vacation. “Come north,” the ad read, “to fun in the sun at gay summer colonies.”

The phrase has a slightly different inference now.

And our global relationships evolve.

In 1948, American visitors could “. . . go places and see things in interesting ‘foreign’ cities . . . No passport needed.”

Ah, the age of innocence.

The ad was placed by what was then the Canadian Government Travel Bureau of the Department of Trade and Commerce and signed by none other than the minister, the Rt. Hon. C.D. Howe.

So Americans, come on up. Have a gay time. It’s sunny here now (finally).

Choosing to go uphill

Most work days I go for a lunch-hour walk around one of Canada’s iconic sites—Parliament Hill.

I arrive at the east slope of the hill and descend to where the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal meet. The view of the water and of Nepean Point where Samuel de Champlain holds his astrolabe aloft is motivation enough to descend, even though I know eventually I will have to ascend.

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I discovered something interesting during this daily walk. Like me, many people choose to go down and up this hill every day, but unlike me, they choose to do it over and over again.

Down, up, down, up, down, up.

Some of them do it as part of a torturous “boot camp,” so they carry a medicine ball, or drag a sled with a heavy weight behind them, or tote a heavy pole over their shoulders. Down, up, down, up, down, up, with extra weight to make it more difficult.

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The decision to make life more difficult when we have the option of coasting seems counter-intuitive. Don’t we all long for the easy ride? Life is challenging enough, one would think. Do we really need to make it harder?

We do, actually, because choosing the easy road early in life leads to a hard road later in life. If we want to run and jump and bend and stretch in our later years, we have to run and jump and bend and stretch in our youth. Life requires hard stuff early on, so we can enjoy good stuff later.

Life is full of ups and downs—some chosen, some thrust upon us. Training for the uphill grind is a good idea.

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A tiger and the villagers; An owl and the cows

Strange bedfellows make great stories, don’t they?

This week, CBC news reported the unusual friendship between a red-tailed hawk and some cows. In case you don’t live in Canada, or have somehow not seen a weather forecast in the past few months, the Maritime provinces on the east coast of Canada experienced crazy, knock-your-socks-off, don’t-leave-your-house-for-days snowstorms—repeatedly. In early February, Charlottetown, PEI received five feet of snow in a two-week period, and the storms just kept coming.

Unusual weather makes living creatures do unusual things. To escape the wild snowstorms, a red-tailed hawk took refuge in a barn. The storms were so frequent and of such extended duration, the hawk and the cows became friends.

(Awww . . .)

A few years ago I read about an Amur tiger in the Russian Far East Primorye who actively sought out human assistance. Sadly, human activity caused him to need help in the first place; the tiger had a paw caught in a poacher’s trap. Weakened and in pain, the tiger cried out as it approached people.

(A red-tailed hawk is one thing, but a tiger?)

If only we could figure out a way to discover the kinship of strange bedfellows before a crisis. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

The universe conspires with you

 

universe-coelho

I love the book The Alchemist, and I find its author, Paulo Coelho, inspirational as a writer and a human being. 

Many people don’t agree. I made a visit to the “1 star” section of the Goodreads reviews of The Alchemist and discovered myriad variations on the “What a load of tripe” theme.

Those readers didn’t fall in with the fabled story of a hero journey. They didn’t buy the life wisdoms like the one quoted above. After all, since when does everyone in the universe get what they want? And what about good people who end up suffering?

Coelho recently responded to those concerns with this:

“I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one’s dream. As Borges said in his writings ‘there no other virtue than being brave’. And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.”

I think he means this: If you have the ability to complain about NOT getting what you want, then that means that you’re still breathing, and your story is not over yet. There’s still time. 

Get busy. Work hard. Stop whining, because if you don’t, all you’ll get is more of the same. Fight past all those things you fear. Don’t let them paralyze you into inaction.

If you do, you might be amazed at the machinations of the universe. 

___________________

Consider Paulo Coelho’s 25 Important Points. Read them here: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/09/03/25-important-points/

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