Sunday, May 31, 2009

To pray, to wish, to do . . .

At some point in our history, the ideas espoused by Adolf Hitler must have seemed to make sense to some segment of the population. A man doesn't rise to control an entire continent from a position of power in a vacuum. This past week I watched two movies - first Valkyrie, and then The Reader. I knew what I was in for with Valkyrie as I had seen numerous trailers and ads, but The Reader was a complete unknown, (aside from it's recognition at the Academy Awards), and a pleasant surprise. I found both to be exceptionally good movies with a number of good, thought provoking messages. When we know something is wrong, how culpable are we if we do nothing to correct it? Is it enough to pray for a resolution, or to wish for a better outcome, or are we obliged to take action. I would argue that we all have the potential to curb evil, not only in our prayers and in our conversation, but in our actions. I'm not sure that it is enough for able bodied people to stand by while evil is being perpetrated, any more than following orders that go against your notion of what is right is a justifiable excuse for hurting others. Having said that, I believe that as a first step, we can pray, we can hope, we can encourage and we can think positive thoughts, but we mustn't be hesitant to take the next step when we are called to do so.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blossoms, blossoms everywhere

While walking to the spa yesterday, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and scent of the display of lilac blossoms, so much so that I made recurring note in my PDA calendar to remind me of this annual event. I want to know when exactly when this peak of perfection is, so that I can anticipate it and look forward to it. Quite frankly, at this time of year, when we are surrounded by so many of the wonderful characteristics of spring, its hard to imagine ever needing a reminder, unless of course one harkens back to just a few weeks ago when we were surrounded by the grey, dull remains of winter. On the weekend a friend and I helped my mom plant seeds in her vegetable garden. No doubt the rabbits appreciatively watched us from their secret hiding spots, eagerly anticipating the green sprouts that will offer themselves up for munching before too long. Birds who have been busy renovating last year's nests are now hatching their young, leaving eggshells strewn about as they sing songs of celebration. And then there are the dandelions. Last week, bursting with colour, this week, nothing but a long string of a stem, supporting hundreds of ugly heads of seeds turning a perfectly trimmed lawn and turning it into an eyesore. Spring - is it an accident of evolution, or one of the perfect blessings of creation?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A horse named George, you say?

One of the lead stories on the CBC news last night tells the story of the RCMP presenting Queen Elizabeth with a horse, formerly named Terror, now named George, after the Queen's late father. He is a very handsome horse, and the Queen looks well pleased with the gift, although this article appears to have reignited the old monarchy argument, and it seems as though not all Canadians are pleased that we have a Queen, let alone that we are giving her horses. I for one like history and tradition and am all in favour of retaining some of the pomp and circumstance of days gone by. I've been to London many times, but only once did I catch a glimpse of the Queen, at which point I did feel a special "warm" connection to Britain and the old gal. I never tire of visiting her many homes and museums. Good for tourism, that's for sure, and as they say, it's not always what you know, it's who you know - and I'm glad that we are in the Commonwealth. Inspired by the Queen and the RCMP, my mother and I stopped by the humble barn where I board my horse, (Sophie) at Valleyview Stables, a stone's throw away from Ste. Anne's. Sophie is very pregnant, due to give birth towards the end of June. Despite her extra tonnage, Sophie seemed to be in uncharacteristically good humour - I even got the sense that she was happy to see me (for a change). We had a bit of a nuzzle or a snuggle and then she resumed her habit of stall pacing while chewing on bits of hay. Valleyview runs a first class operation, with a collection of very fine mares, stallions, geldings and 2 friendly cats. Horses are such beautiful animals - so strong and powerful, and yet there is often a sadness in their eyes. I have stopped riding for the time being; for one thing my allergies usually act up after about an hour in the barn, and Sophie, once broken, was not a good ride for me. I always felt she had plans to unceremoniously dump me into the dirt at the first opportunity. I'm hoping her offspring will be a little better natured and more to my liking, at which point I plan to take up riding again.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The slow ride home

I realize that I may sound boastful, but this is not my intention in saying that today, for Mother's Day, I granted 3 wishes for my Mother. The first wish was to accompany her to mass. My mother converted to Catholicism about 59 years ago when she married my father. Since then, she has been a devout Catholic and an avid church goer. As a mother of 7 children, she would line us all up on an old wooden bench in our Sunday best. She was always active in the church and by going with her to mass today, I honoured her faith in return for the gift of faith that she has passed on to me. The second wish was to take her out for breakfast. My mother and a couple of church friends look forward to our Sunday breakfast, usually at a local greasy spoon, as does my dog Massie who waits in the car eagerly anticipating a few table scraps. Today we were turned away from one of our favorite spots due to an over abundance of Mother's Day diners, but we ended up at another nice spot on the south shore of Rice Lake in Harwood, called Buck's. The third wish was to visit Father Hood's mother May at her new home; a nursing home in Cobourg, where she moved on Friday. Mother Hood is a wonderful graceful woman with a sharp mind and a quick wit. Before the group of 12 parishioners (see Jim's Blog, April 21, 2009 "Never Assume") focused their attacks on me, they accused Father Hood (among other things) of putting the parish at great risk by having his 92 year old mother live with him in the rectory. Hard to imagine. Mother Hood has settled into her new home with an positive outlook and an optimistic spirit. She is by far one of the liveliest ones in the place, and was so very appreciative of our visit. Twenty years ago, my dad's mom lived in this same nursing home from what I remember, she was well taken care of. I once went to visit my grandfather at a nursing home in Toronto. He was a little slow getting around, so I held the elevator door for him. I felt badly that I might be holding up some of the residents who shuffled into the car ahead of him, so I made some kind of an apology, to which one woman replied, "Don't worry, time is all that I have left". Growing old, especially in an institutional setting, must seem like the rough end of a long road. As a society, it seems to me we should be make a better effort to care for our loved ones in the twilight of their lives in the same way that they cared for us when we were helpless - in our homes, and in our arms. May God bless all the mothers in the world, for where would we be without them? Pictured above is a painting by artist Paul Murray entitled "Aunt Emily", a copy of which hangs over the front desk at Ste. Anne's Spa, meant as a gentle reminder that patience truly is a virtue. I love you mom.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The changing face of Canada

Yesterday, I was forced to choose between attending a first communion party in Grafton for the son of a friend, or the confirmation party in Toronto for the niece of a friend. (From now on, everyone referred to in my blog will be referred to as "a friend" to avoid the possibility that my new found group of 12 faithful followers from St. Michael's will be tempted to continue to use my blog to draw erroneous conclusions about the nature of my relationships. I hope this self censoring won't interfere with your enjoyment of this place in cyberspace). Back to the story. For a number of reasons, I ended up going to the confirmation party in Toronto. I was a little late leaving, so I ended up missing the actual church part, and headed directly to the reception, which was held at a small restaurant called the Sky Ranch, at Dufferin and Eglinton. The restaurant also specializes in Argentinian food. Across the street from the restaurant is a place specializing in falafals and another selling some kind of Filipino speciality. Driving from Yorkdale and the 401 to Dufferin and Eglinton, one drives past a number of other shops of varying origin. Same thing happens driving along Finch Avenue, College, or Bathurst, through Woodbridge, Maple, or Brampton. A world within a city, on our doorstep. Upon entering the Argentinian steak house, I immediately felt the energy of the South American people, the beat of the music, the smell of the food, the lively conversation all reminded me of trips I've taken to "Latin" countries over the years. These people have a love of life that enriches our sometimes reserved, and often quite boring "North American/European" tradition. As the night went on, I was reminded of a camping trip to Sable Beach that I was invited on a few years back by some of the same people hosting this party. As a boy, I was an avid cub scout/boy scout and venturer. I loved camping. However, my memories of camping didn't include the kind of all hours dance music and drinking that this Argentinian crowd subscribes to. As a white guy amongst mostly brown Latinos, I felt a little out of place, especially if I made any attempt to join in the dancing, the laughter or the drinking, as apparently I was born without rhythm, and dance to a completely different beat. I have learned to enjoy eating much more, and have broadened my range of food choices immensely, as is evidenced by my bulging waistline. At this particular gathering there was a mix of families from Ecuador, Argentina, Italy, Ireland, and other places, I'm sure. Toronto, and for that matter much of Canada, has become such a rich weave of multicultural tapestry, all living side by side in relatively perfect harmony. We are so fortunate. So if you haven't already, open your mind and wander into some of these "foreign" places. You will be rewarded with warm hearts and wonderful food. If your experience is anything like mine, your life will be enriched and enhanced.