Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A sad day for Christians

It was a week ago today that my dad was flipping through the channels and said "Do you know Heath Ledger? - He's just been found dead in New York" All I remember about the moment was that I was emptying the dishwasher. This news hit me pretty hard. Of course I didn't know Heath Ledger, but like millions of people who benefited from his short life and his great talent, I felt as though I did. I went to see Brokeback Mountain with my parents, and I'll never forget the emotions that this movie evoked, nor will I forget my father leaning over to me during the first love scene in the tent to say, in a loud whisper heard my most of the people in the theatre, "I didn't think they'd do that so soon". Many people think of this movie as a gay cowboy love story. To me, it was much more than that as it explored the complexity of human relationships of all kinds. Heath Ledger played the part of a conflicted man living in a world supercharged with machismo and impossible expectations with incredible skill and honesty. In addition to being a talented actor Heath Ledger was a beautiful, courageous, down to earth, nice human being, a compliment I can't ascribe to the so called Christians who protested the SAG awards in LA.. Only the good die young, may he rest in peace.

Monday, January 21, 2008

My cool new hair cut while chillin' at Seadream House

Various members of my brother Bill's family have spent part of the month of January enjoying the relaxed hospitality of Harbour Island. My parents discovered this beautiful Bahamian jewel back in the 60's through a priest in our parish who was looking for someone to provide housing for a young island girl who wanted to go to nursing school in Canada. I'm sure the fact that my mom had 6 young children at the time factored into her decision to take part. We became instant friends with the Sawyers and their extended family, and eventually my parents came to visit them on their island, staying at a resort called Pink Sands. A few of us children were lucky enough to accompany my parents on their holidays before Pink Sands was bought by Island Records owner Chris Blackwell and turned into a very exclusive escape for the very, very wealthy. Years later my brother Bill and his wife Julie fell in love with the island all over again which lead to their decision to buy a piece of property and build a house. When they aren't in residence they rent Seadream House to people looking for an authentic and affordable Harbour island experience. During times of the year when rentals are slow they graciously make their house available to family members in exchange for a few chores. I had decided not to partake in the annual pilgrimage this year, instead indulging in winter pastimes back home in Grafton. When my snowmobiling buddies disappeared for a week in the Dominican, and the January thaw turned most of the trails into rut filled mudslides, I couldn't help myself from taking a look at airfares to Nassau, which for any kind of a last minute fare reinforced my decision, until I discovered that I had some Aeroplan points that were about to be expired. On a whim, I decided to book. On the surface, I love last minute, spontaneous trips, but I sometimes wonder if the people who spend months researching and planning their trips end up having more fun. I don't think I'll ever find out - I just don't tend to travel that way. My sister Kate also decided to join us at the very last minute. When we got off the boat at the dock and walked towards my parents and another waiting sister, Anne, Kate fell back a few feet and dressed up like a bum. After a few minutes she revealed herself, much to every one's glee. I just love surprises. In any case, here I am at the computer with buckets of rain pouring down on the roof typing my blog. People back home who see me on line are chiding me - telling me that I need to relax, go to the beach, turn off the computer. Well, this is how I relax, especially when its pouring rain. However, I also love listening to the sound of rain on the roof, I love walking or swimming in a nice warm rain, I love curling up on a comfy couch and reading a book, and I love the luxury of an afternoon nap so I'm sure I'll make the best of the rainy weather. Earlier in the day, during a short break in the rain, I stopped into a very typical Bahamian barber shop and had my hair cut. The client in the chair before me had very different hair than me, as did the barber, so this otherwise mundane activity turned out to be a bit of cultural adventure. When asked what kind of cut I'd like, I told the barber that I just wanted to look cool - a tall order for a 49 year old! Most of my hair ended up on the floor, but those close to me tell me I look much younger - not a bad thing I suppose. Emails from my friends back home at Ste. Anne's tell me that its minus 20 (with the wind chill), so I guess I can live with my last minute decision to flee the country for a few days.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Magic, Mystery, and Miracles

For some reason the topic of miracles has been weighing heavily on my mind recently. Perhaps it is a hangover from the Christmas season, when adult Christians are asked to reaffirm their belief in the miracles that underlie their faith, and children are encouraged to accept the miracle of a gravity defying fat man in a red suit delivering carefully wrapped gifts around the world at breakneck speed. Upon reflection, I can't help but draw some comparisons between miracles, mysteries and magic. To humans, certain things only retain their miraculous status if we can't explain them, similar in nature to a good magic trick or a gripping mystery. After all, what good is a magic trick or a mystery once you understand it, or solve it? Having said that, even when we learn the trick, or understand the mystery, in the majority of cases we are still largely dependent on our faith in the person doing the solving or the explaining. A case in point. Most humans will tell you that they understand the principles behind getting a massive aluminium tube full of hundreds of people strapped into polyester seats (a 747), to lift itself off the ground and fly. None-the-less, I think most of us would admit that we barely understand how polyester is made, let alone how a jet engine functions or how 4 of them can work together through a computer program called autopilot to create enough lift to perform the miracle of flight. So when I ask people if they believe in miracles, and they hum and haw, claiming that they have never had any first hand experience with one, I can't help but marvel at the miracle of human ambivalence that allows us to casually accept not only the miracle of air travel, but the mystery and magic of life itself. What of the magic of the screen you are using to view the images projected by the microprocessor in your computer, through your retina into your brain allowing you to comprehend and process this blog and think? Sure we can speak the words that communicate the fact that we understand how synapses fire off small charges in a big mess of grey matter, but honestly, do any of us really get it? How do you even know its grey? Have you ever seen one? And yet we believe. As we come to understand more and more magic tricks of the universe and as the great mysteries of life are revealed, one can only hope that we will continue to give thanks for and continue to marvel at the wonderous miracle of our existence, while at the same time aspiring to create new miracles in the lives of others. For this, to me, represents our true divinity. And the image above - who would have thought that a sandwich spread could lead a cha cha of fellow ingredients to achieve sandwich supremacy. Oh the miracle of Miracle Whip.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Making changes

On my last birthday, I was lucky enough to receive a Garmin GPS. I was familiar with the operation of a GPS from friends who had them, but this was the first time I actually had one in my vehicle working on my behalf. This one arrived in my life just as we were about to head to NYC for a trade show, presenting a great opportunity to put my new back seat driver to the test. Up until that point I had depended on maps, and more recently on Mapquest. Last summer, I took a trip to New Jersey with David and my mom and dad using a set of directions that I'd printed on Mapquest. As we got closer to our destination, my father and I had a bit of a control episode. I was driving and I wanted to follow the Mapquest directions. He was navigating and wanted us to go the way that he had always gone. Since I was driving I prevailed, or so I thought. When we got to our hotel, my dad let me know that he was still very much in control, in a way that only a father can communicate with his son. This was my first sign that change for a male member of my family is not always an easy thing, especially when it involves driving. More recently, on our trip to New York we made good use of the GPS, especially when we made a wrong turn coming into New Jersey via the Lincoln Tunnel and ended up in a bad part of town. Initially we chose the British lady to guide us, but found her tone to be a little bossy, so we switched to the American woman, who seemed a little more detached, and markedly more excitable about reaching our destination. We tried using the the GPS to get around Manhattan on foot, but found that we couldn't connect with the satellites too readily, probably because of all the tall buildings. Unfortunately when we left the city by car, I left the GPS thinking that we were on foot, so we were directed the wrong way down a one way street, but once we corrected that little problem we were back on the right track in no time at all. More recently, I used the GPS to direct me out of Toronto. Starting at Yonge & St. Clair, my GPS lady suggested that I take Yonge Street to the 401. For years I have taken St. Clair to Moore Avenue to Bayview, to the DVP, to the 401. I couldn't believe how difficult I found it to make this change in my routing, but I did it, and I believe it was faster, as promised by GPS lady. Change is a good thing, but they say changing a habit takes 21 days. My suggestion, challenge yourself to change one little thing you do everyday, something as simple as the direction that you brush your teeth in. Then, work up to the bigger things. Look at me, the control freak giving advice on change!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Oh Canada!

I think she's my second cousin on my father's side - a little eccentric, but very successful, owner of a major Canadian chain of purveyors of uniquely Canadian and very tasty chicken. Last year around this time my sister Anne, her husband, my mother and David were on Harbour Island and we ran into my said cousin and her husband, Tim who invited us to dinner at their lovely beach cottage. After enjoying a succulent strip loin that Tim had patiently barbecued, we were all sitting around chit chatting and enjoying the night sky. My dear sister Anne, who I think felt she had connected with Gail at some level, gently touched Gail's shoulder and said "Gail, is there anything I can do?", to which Gail responded, "Well, let me see . . . you could leave." You see Gail says what is on her mind. She was tired, and in her own way she wanted to let her guests know that it was time to go home. So, to follow Gail's lead, I'm going to be frank - I am so glad "the holidays" are over. I think I can honestly say that yesterday, being the last day of the madness that we have built around Christmas, was my happiest day since Halloween when all this started. You can call me Scrooge if you like, but really, I think most people would agree that Christmas has gotten completely out of hand. For one thing, it creates a 2 week slowdown in the economy, encouraging all kinds of excuses like, "well, maybe after the holidays". From a business owners point of view, three statutory holidays within 2 weeks is financially crippling. To make matters worse, Dalton and his weak kneed, vote buying friends have burdened us further with "Family Day" in February. Am I missing something here - wasn't New Years and Christmas and Thanksgiving pretty much focused on family? Ontario's economy isn't exactly in the kind of condition that suggests that businesses should be adding millions of dollars to our cost of doing business. Speaking of New Years - why are we so obsessed about marking the passage of time. Keeping track of and celebrating anniversaries, birthdays - our own and those of many others who have been deceased for decades, is depressing and really quite counter productive, if you ask me. It drives me crazy when CNN's ticker starts saying this is the 103rd day of the year, 262 days left in 2008. Why can't we just look forward to tomorrow, and give thanks for yesterday? Am I ranting. Oops. In addition to yesterday being the last day of the madness, it was also a perfect day for snowmobiling. David and I took my nephew Cole, who lives in California, out for a wonderful, typical rural Canadian day out with friends on our snow machines. Not having the proper winter wear, we called a fellow snow enthusiast who in typical Canadian generosity arrived at our door not with just one, but a selection of winter wear for Cole to choose from. Pictured above is Cole modelling his winter outfit in front of one of our stops, a particularly pretty spot on the way to Warkworth. At one point, Cole said "I love Canada" - no doubt. So all of this put a big smile on my face as I counted "just one more sleep to normality". As I reluctantly count down the last months of my 4th decade on the planet, days like this with Cole make me ache to have a few kids of my own. It's not too late. Trudeau was 52 when he started his family - but then that involved marrying Margaret. Back to the drawing board for me, and all the best for '08 to you and yours. Yes, I know, I'm a hypocrite.