Monday, January 28, 2008

Aging Gracefully

I am teaching a group of teenagers and I see them three times a week. Sometimes they will do whatever they can to wriggle their way out of work. Sometimes they simply want to connect with the person teaching the class. Today was one of those days. It started when E asked me how old I was. I of course said, "You don't ask those kinds of questions."

"Well why not. Ms. S told us how her husband proposed to her."
"I'll tell you what, take a guess and I'll tell you if you hit it."
"24," she asks inquiringly. Now everyone is listening intently.
I smile and say, "not quite," thinking if I were I would scarcely be out of university.
"26 then." I tilt my head and smirk.
M blurts out, "28." At this point, I can't hold it in. I really start smiling, truth be told I was trying not to laugh. "I knew it!" he says. "Madame is 28. Look, she's blushing." Yep, that's how I look when I try to not laugh outright...nice rosy glow, that is.

Class went on as usual and close to the end E comes up and sits opposite me and takes a good hard look at me before saying, "I can't believe you're 28, you look so much younger."

I just love these kids. I wonder if the parents would notice if I took them home with me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When Darkness Falls

As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such a twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

~Justice William O. Douglas

Today I had a chance to browse through a book called, “The End of America – Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot,” by Naomi Wolf. Like I said, browsed, so I can’t give you a full synopsis, but what I read, was disturbing, to say the very least. This book is a wake-up call that brings to light issues of tyranny, democracy, and survival. It is a call to arms…compelling us to face the way the freedom in America is under assault. She draws parallels to the Bush administrations post 9-11 policies and events that took place during the early years leading up to the rise of Nazi Germany, Pinochet’s Chile and Stalinist Russia. She explains how Americans have the wrong idea of what a closed society looks like, how in the initial shut down, for the most part, for most people, life goes on as usual.

She takes one through the steps that dictators in the past who have taken over democracies or crushed prodemocracy uprisings by invoking emergency decrees to close down civil liberties, creating military tribunals, and criminalizing dissent have used and brings to light echoes of these events in America today. She calls to our attention important lessons from history about how fragile civil liberties are and how quickly freedom can be lost. Our fundamental rights and freedoms are being eroded as we apathetically sit back unaware. She clearly outlines the same ten steps that have shut down democracies all over the world at different times: invoke an external threat; develop a paramilitary force; create a secret prison system; surveil ordinary citizens; arbitrarily detain and release them; harass citizens’ groups; target writers, entertainers, and other key individuals for dissenting; intimidate the press; recast dissent as “treason” and criticism as “espionage”; and eventually subvert the rule of law. She then warns and illustrates how the United States is moving towards becoming a more closed society.

Naomi makes us aware of the urgency to become informed, act, and protect our rights and liberties. Although I am not American, being a close neighbour, and looking at the US’s place in the world, any movement the US might make towards a more closed society would have immense implications internationally. To quote one paragraph: “If a democratic America, with working checks and balances, often exempts itself from international agreements when its strategic interests don’t coincide with international goals, would a United States led by a dictatorial regime be likely to subdue in itself any level of aggression internationally or restrain itself from any plunder of resources that it seeks, simply because it was upsetting the rest of the world?

If you don't have time to read the book, I encourage you to watch the video below of Naomi speaking at a university campus. It's a little long, but she goes through most of the points covered in her book.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This is Amrum

"You're a funny bird," laughs my sister, "You know, most birds head south for the winter. And what do you do? Winter comes along and you head straight north."

She's right you know. Just when almost everyone else is mourning the loss of those last summer rays and making their plans to grace those welcoming beaches in the south, I do an about face. I head out north on the autobahn zooming my way along until finally one by one the cars begin to disperse and it is no more. I am now on what amounts to not much more than a lonely country lane, yet still I forge on, urged by the gentle secret whispers of the North Sea. Long fields of flat farm land stretch out around me fringed by forested areas. Every so often I happen upon quaint red bricked houses with welcoming candles gracing the windows. And then, a small village with the same neatly organized quaint brick houses.

I continue past it all. The air grows thicker and mist periodically rests its heavy head upon the fields. The call of the sea is getting louder now. Soon I reach its edge, the very edge where it greedily swallows up the land and makes it disappear into its steely grey waters. But this is not where I want to stop. No, I want to ride the waves until I reach a speck of land that bravely pokes its towhead out of these icy waters and gulps for air. I want to wash upon its naked, lonely shores, be enveloped by its sandy dunes. I want to listen to the wind quietly whisper its secrets in my ear as it gently brushes the hair off my forehead and kisses my cheek. I want to bask in the pale winter sun, soaking up its cool rays. More than anything, I want the moment to stretch out into eternity with the promise of forever in the now, although ultimately I understand that it must cede its spot for another to take its place.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hey Eugene

Have you ever met someone and instantly felt an amazing connection? I'm talking about one of those situations that blows you right out of the water, where you seem to be connecting on all levels with that other person, so much so, in fact, that all you can think is, "wow!" And then, a little while later, something happens that makes you realize that perhaps, although you're completely baffled by how you didn't pick up on it, the connection wasn't mutual. How could this fact have slipped by you? You are now left perplexed, wondering, "what was that all about anyway?" Well, here we have it, Pink Martini performing possibly one of their best songs about just that. Please join me in listening to, "Hey Eugene."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More on Loreley

A gigantic stratification of slate (132 meters above sea) impressively overlooks the Rhine near St Goar. Far below, the Rhine twists its way through a narrow valley which over centuries has been the site of many a tragic shipwreck. German poets have immortalized this place through their romanticized writings. As a result, various legend and lore has come about.

In one such story, it is said that from the top of this rock a ghost-like image of Loreley sang sailors to their doom. As they heard her fascinating, sad voice when they passed the bend of the river, they would become mesmerized with her, crashing their ships onto the rocks. This tale goes on to say that she was once a mortal girl who threw herself from the top of the rock into the Rhine because her lover proved her unfaithful.

Clemens von Bretano tells yet another tale in his novel “Godwi.” Here a ravishingly beautiful woman was cursed to attract men and thus bring about their undoing. Because she could no longer bear this tragedy, she threw herself off the highest point of the rock into the Rhine to put an end to the spell.

Yet another slightly different version of the story is found in a poem written by Heinrich Heine in 1824. He tells of a girl who combs her golden hair and lilts a little song with such a powerful melody that the sailors below, instead of watching out for shallows and wild currents look up to her and crash their boats against the rocks only to be dragged to the bottom by strong river currents which at this point is almost 100 feet deep. Thus their fate was Loreley’s song.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Lovely Loreley

"I cannot explain the sadness
That's fallen on my breast.
An old, old fable haunts me
And will not let me rest."

I do not know what haunts me,
What saddened my mind all day;
An age-old tale confounds me,
A spell I cannot allay.

The air is cool and in twilight
The Rhine's dark waters flow;
The peak of the mountain in highlight
Reflects the evening glow.

There sits a lovely maiden
Above so wondrous fair,
With shining jewels laden,
She combs her golden hair.

It falls through her comb in a shower,
And over the valley rings
A song so mysterious power
That lovely maiden sings.

The boatman in his small skiff is
Seized by a turbulent love,
No longer he marks where the cliff is,
He looks to the mountain above.

I think the waves must’ve flung him
Against the reefs nearby,
And that did with her singing
The Lovely Loreley

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Breach of Reality

I could be anywhere. My mind flits from my "to do" list when I get back home to an altered plane of reality in a variety of different locations. But the reality is that I am sitting in a black Mercedes heading north towards Köln at 180 km/hr. We're in the fast lane. My surroundings whir past me similar to my brain's present mode of processing. Everything outside of the vehicle is in muted tones of brown, grey and white. Winter does interesting things to the landscape. I feel like I am passing through a black and white film with selected objects tinted in sepia. It all adds to the surrealism of the situation. The radio is turned on playing mainly 80's pop songs which carries me back to my high school days. I see peoples faces, remember situations,'s all in there somewhere. Man, it's been a long time. I don't even know if I know their names anymore. Occasionally the music stops and a news clip is interjected. I catch a word here and there but realize that I am presently oblivious to the happenings in the world. And does it really matter anyway? "Charlie get down. Charlie get down." Have I heard that one before? I'm not so sure. Every so often they throw in one I don't know. Even now as I sit here, it all feels like a dream, I can just imagine that it will only feel more so later.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Well, apparently Blanche can hold her own in a beauty contest. Unbeknownst to me she went off and put herself out there with a bunch of other snowmen. She knew I probably wouldn't approve. But what is done is done. There's no going back now. In any case, one must strike while the iron is hot...or I guess before it gets hot, in the case of a snowman. A snowman's life is short so I admire her tenacity to seize the day and live life to the fullest. I just didn't know that a snowman's life could be so full. Apparently her dream was to see herself in glossy print, and now she's done just that and gone off there and put herself out there on the web too. At least she chose a respectable magazine: British Columbia Magazine. Check it out, and you will see what a busy girl she's been. I believe she's the third picture down. Rumour has it that she is now eying Broadway. I have my doubts about that one, but I must admit that I have yet to hear her sing and she has surprised me thus far. Who knew that a snowman's life could be so full?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Steffi's Meme

Thanks to Steffi over at Mausbär's Nähkiste who asked me to complete this meme.

1. Jobs ... where I worked...

If I start at the very beginning...Nelson Golf Course (I worked as a waitress); Vienna Cafe (waitress); The Hummingbird Gallery (frame shop and gallery); I did a short stint as a highway flag person; various teaching jobs - University of Sherbrooke, Red Deer College, Canadian International College, Cegep de Rimouski, Ecole Westview School, School district #23 and School District #8; Publishing - Gage Learning, Thomson Nelson, Mysotis Press; Staffing and Recruiting Consultant - Tech Recruiting Ltd; Biofeedback therapist. (Whew! That's kind of crazy. There may well be a few in there that I have missed but you to get the idea.)

Delicatessen, Amelie, The Red Violin, Lord of the Rings, Princess Bride, and so many other....

3. Places where I've lived ...
I grew up in Nelson, BC, so I guess it's kind of ironic that I'm back. Other places where I have lived in between, in chronological order, Victoria, Quebec City, Rimouski, Prince Rupert, Kelowna, Vancouver.

4. Series...
I don't watch a lot of TV shows but I tend to enjoy "cop" shows: Law & Order; Criminal Minds; CSI

5. My favourite food ...
If you get me started on food, I just may not be able to stop...isn't it everyone's big love? Okay, I'll try to keep it short: cherries, chocolate, lox, crepes (only the way my Mom makes them with berries and whipped cream), whipped goes great on just about anything, cheese, fondu, raclette, pasta, really, I could be here all day.

6. My favourite websites ...
Where does one start? My daily blogroll, of course. For the kind of depends on mood and what I'm looking for.

7. My favourite places ...
Nelson (of course) especially in the mountains.
West coast of Norway (very happy in the Bergen area)
Amrum (this small island in the North Sea is a new favorite place...someday I will live there and write books)
Rocky Mountains (how can one not be happy in the midst of such beauty)
Switzerland (Have had good experiences in both Geneva and Zurich. What's not to like? Very friendly people, amazing food, chocolate, beautiful scenery...ah, the list goes on.)
Pienza (a place where one can forget all their former lives, the incessant business and, perhaps for the first time in life, simply exist)

8. My favourite colours ...
Sapphire Blue
The colour of Lake Louise
Cherry Red
Earthy colours (for my house)

Now I suppose I really should tag someone. Who would like to participate? Let me know. I'd like to see all your answers.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I hold my heart between the fourth and sixth rib for you.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
~Helen Keller

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

I have spent the past two days in what has felt like a snow globe, surrounded by large, white, fluffy flakes wafting down around me. Today I was supposed to head up to the hill to carve up some of that powder. Today, is the day that Red Mountain has a free ski day. There would be tons of people. It would be awesome. But alas, 'twas not to be. I woke up to a forecast of nasty rain warnings.

Ever the optimist, I piled on my ski attire and decided that they just couldn't' be right. I loaded all my equipment into the vehicle and set off with friends. The roads were a mess. They were a mixture of ice, snow, slush, water... nothing pleasant no matter what sort of snow tires one has. Oh, the conundrum. We decided to stop by the grocery store while contemplating to at least push one task out of the way. The produce manager was very chatty and had all sorts of opinions about the hill. What to do? What to do? I knew he was right. I've done the ski in rain before and decided that I'm at a point in my life where I can choose to be picky. We turned around.

Now I had the whole day ahead of me. I was up, it was early, I was dressed for the great outdoors. It seemed a pity to return home to simply crawl back into bed. But then our friend "Blanche" suggested we meet her at the beach. She's not one to hang out indoors. The heat makes her melt, she complains. She thought the weather was almost perfect to get some fresh air. She was optimistic that the sun would show up and we could catch a few rays. She also suggested a polar bear dip, but the rest of us were a little hesitant. So instead, we frolicked in the snow and generally had a very merry time.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Who has not felt moments of extreme pain? Who has never felt, at some moment in life, the desire to give up?

Who has not yet felt lonely, extremely lonely and had the sensation of having lost all hope? Who?

Who among us has not searched for that beacon of light to lead the way? Not reached out towards that ray of sunshine in hopes of deliverance?

No one, not even the rich, the famous, nor other important people are exempt from having moments of solitude and deep bitterness.