Category Archives: taking care of our planet

Canada and America: Sharing feelings

A few blocks from where I live, this flag flies on a neighbour’s house.

Canada flag with stars and strips on the red sections

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.

Rainbow flag behind the Canada flag with stars and stripes

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!”

Really thinking about plastic

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.

Art installation - Whale made out of plastic found in the ocean

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.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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.

piles of plastic garbage found on construction site

 

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.

I want to live like Jane too

Seven years ago I wrote a post entitled I want to live like Alex. It was a tribute to a man I admired. Last week Alex’s wife, Jane, died and over the past week I have found myself thinking, “I want to live like Jane too.” They were a twosome in so much of the good they did in the world. Together the quiet but powerful pair took action instead of waiting for others to take care of things, they spoke up even when it wasn’t the popular option, and they fulfilled needs.

She died on her ninety-third birthday and, like her husband before her, it was standing-room-only at her celebration of life. Like her husband before her, the church filled with an overflowing multi-faith, multi-generational, multi-cultural assembly of people whose lives she had touched.

All those people were there because, if the world were full of Jane McKeagues, the world would be a peaceful, joyful, love-filled, strong, just place.

If I lived like Jane, I would greet everyone, always, with a big smile and make each person feel that he or she was the most important person in the room. I would travel often and engage in spontaneous, curiosity-driven conversations with people to get to know them and to get to know what I could do to help them. I would speak truths quietly so as to engage, not offend.

If I lived like Jane, I would embrace reading aloud to enrich the experience of books. I would think deeply about what I have read and lived, and I would tell stories to inspire people. I would speak when necessary, but only with the fewest number of the most impactful words.

If I lived like Jane, I would tell people how grateful I am for their friendship. I would challenge my body, my mind and my spirit throughout my whole life. I would honour myself, but care for my family with deep devotion they never doubt.

People have been known to ask “What would Alex do?” when faced with a difficult situation. Now they ask “What would Jane do?”

Because we want to live like Jane too.


Please read my other Alex and Jane stories and be inspired!

I want to live like Alex

Seeing the mountain

 

 

 

Failure to communicate: A lesson for our galaxy from Sesame Street Martians

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.

The biology of story: Pick up, listen, restore

I spent the weekend in Toronto, Canada at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Hundreds of writers from across the country gathered at the Harbourfront Centre to share ideas, learn from each other and evolve as writers.

Are you surprised I chose to attend a session entitled “The Biology of Story”? 

At the session, Amnon Buchbinder, associate professor of screenwriting at York University, talked about the “interactive documentary” he created to explore the idea of stories as living things.

Buchbinder’s documentary, found at www.biologyofstory.com, outlines three principles.

1. A story is a living thing

“A story will choose to be with you, but you have to choose to pick up the story.” —Nigaan James Sinclair

If you want to drive a writer crazy, ask them, “Where do you get your ideas?” You might hear something like “Out of the clear blue sky.” Perhaps it’s a matter of writers choosing to pick up the stories—those living beings—that come to them.

Watch: Stories are living beings. Period

2. Living is a story thing.

“Listen and you will see your own story will speak to you.” —Jean Pierre Makosso

Do you drift aimlessly from one event to another in your life? Are you listening for what your story—living being that it is—has to tell you?

Watch: Listen and your story will speak to you.

3. Not all narratives are stories.

“A real story is the possibility of restoring the world.” —Deena Metzger

Buchbinder writes: “We live in a world crowded with narratives. Many of them lack key properties of story. This accounts for the lifeless and/or destructive forms that some narratives take.”

Watch: Stories are about wholeness

Buchbinder’s documentary encourages us to pick up the stories that come to us, to listen for what our own stories have to say, and to work with those stories to restore the world.

I just sent you a story. Pick it up, listen, restore. 

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.

%d bloggers like this: