Curiosity is terminal

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Learning Curve

I have had three violin lessons.  I am reading music a little,  and I can find 4 notes on the A and E strings.  I can play a halting but recognizable "Twinkle Twinkle." Moving from one note to the next is not quick, but my teacher says I am faster and my ear is coming along. I am trying to trust her on that.  

It's not music yet.  Don says he can "hear" my tension, but that I am more relaxed today than I was three weeks ago.  

I have had enough years of learning new things that I can be amused now at my tension and frustration.  I know that when a skill is sufficiently out of my comfort zone I feel absolutely wooden in the steps and I feel like I might never get it.  Not that that makes me less tense or frustrated, but perseverance is easier now.  

Whenever I am learning something new, or when I am teaching someone a skill,  I remember Rhonda from my first job.  

When I was 17 I got a job as a carhop at an A&W drive-in.  I was so thrilled.  When I was a child it was a great treat to go to the A&W with my parents.  I  always thought the carhops looked so confident, walking down the walk with trays full of rootbeer in frosty mugs.  I learned right away that the trays are slippery and the mugs are heavy, that the change clip on my belt would jam at inopportune moments and that it was not easy to manipulate the small sheaf of paper money we wore wrapped around our middle fingers with just one hand.  I watched Rhonda, who was incidentally also tall and graceful, carry a tray in each hand and be able to set one deftly on a window, manage payment for the order with one hand and then take the second to it's destination.  She  was calm, cool and collected.  I was in awe.  It took me three days  to even have the nerve to talk to her.  "How long have you been doing this?"  I finally asked her, expecting her to tell me months and months.  I was floored when she answered, "Since last Wednesday."

Carhopping was easier than driving, knitting, sewing, building a house or decently mentoring a carpentry apprentice, parenting and just about everything else I can do. And carhopping was definitely easier than learning to play the violin.  But I still think that moment with Rhonda, and the fact that in a week I was as good and confident a carhop as she was one of the most instructive ones in my life.  

Hey Rhonda?  Wherever you are: Thanks.  

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Hand That Feeds Us...

Yesterday was Earth Day.

The Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance had a little gathering.  We started at 5:30 pm in the parking lot of the Enbridge office, which, by the way, has no signs identifying it and has 2 surveillance cameras on each side of the building.  That's it in the left of this picture.

There were some DIY and waste reduction demonstrations going on at a local community space a few km away, so we walked there together with our signs.  We walked on the main street that runs through town and we got quite a few honks and thumbs up.  

The Liberal campaign office happens to be on the way, so we thought we would stop and say hello.  We had big cards for our local liberals asking them to join us in defending our coast.  We had called the office to see what time they close and we were told 7 pm.  We arrived around 6.  

We took a few pictures and then a member of the group tried to go in and say hello and deliver the cards.  The doors were locked, and they forgot to turn the sign over.   

So we just left the card.  As we were about to leave, a Liberal supporter or volunteer arrived with doughnuts.  As she was approaching the door she said, "biting the hand that feeds you, are you?" 

We were not confrontational with her, and we told her we thought it was rude of them to lock her and her doughnuts out, wished her a happy Earth Day and continued on our way.  I meant to go back before 7 to see if they unlocked the door, but I was having a rather nice time at our celebration and I forgot.  

The Liberal whose sign can be seen in that last picture was once upon a time a School Trustee.  She was the trustee for the elementary school the Offspring attended. Said school was about 100 years old and it housed the neighbourhood public school,  the Programme Cadre French program, and the YMCA's daycare.  We had a thriving community association.  It was a beautiful old school.  (remind me sometime to tell you about the aesthetics, or lack thereof,  in Atmon) It had 12 foot ceilings and soaring windows. It had tall raised panel doors with transom windows over them.  It had wide hallways   and some wood floors.  It had character.  Beginning around 1990 the district stopped doing major maintenance to the school and it was beginning to suffer.  It had an old boiler that was not being properly maintained, its paint was chipped and peeling  and they stopped replacing windows.  The floors were not getting regular maintenance. It looked kind of slummy if you didn't love it.  (Aside: I also attended this school when I was 10.) In 1996 the district started trying to close it.  One of its infuriating arguments was that it was going to be too expensive to perform all the necessary repairs and maintenance.  The district's stated objective was to have a few superschools and close most of the neighbourhood schools.  We started a group called Save Our Community Schools, and we fought hard to keep our school and the others open.  All the community schools were housing other programs and I think we all had programs that brought in some revenue, like the Y in our school.  

Having Programme Cadre in the school was so wonderful.  We shared all our celebrations and in the english program we had the opportunity to learn about Quebec culture.  One of the celebrations we looked forward to every year was Carnivale, which gave us a whole week of fun activities, beginning on Monday with a pancake breakfast.  We invited our trustee to breakfast, and to show her all the wonderful things we were doing in that school.  I will never forget greeting her and welcoming her and thanking her for coming.  She had brought two men with her, and she was shaking as she took my hand. She did not meet my eye.   She was not gracious.  She was not friendly.  She did not make any attempt to engage with any of the parents or the children.  I thought then, and I think today that she is a coward and a small, small human being.  

We meant no violence, no harm whatsoever in visiting that office.  Some of us are constituents.  But we are certainly not represented.  Everyone at our rally cares deeply about the planet and our ability to exist on it without destroying it.  

I have to wonder, who is biting who? 

h/t to my friend Adam for the pictures  

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Winter and Spring on a Merry Chase in Atmon

The seasons in Atmon are completely unpredictable and unreliable.  Last summer was hot and bright and unrelentingly green.  Some summers turn brown and dusty by July.  Everything looks to be tired of the sun, gasping for a bit of rain or fog that never arrives.

This past autumn was very weird indeed.  The leaves turned colour on one side of a lot of trees, and there was a lot of very bright, but almost translucent yellow.  In the evening sun the trees that line the next street over seemed to have their own internal light source.  It was eerily beautiful.  A lot of trees turned a kind of soft brown, like milky tea, and the leaves stayed on all winter.

I love winter.  I am mostly fine with  the cold, and it can be very cold, although it seems less cold than the winters of my childhood.  I remember long stretches of -20 and -30 and -40 were not unusual at all.  I can't remember the last time it was -40.  We did have a few intermittent weeks of nearly -30 this year.  If it is cold it is usually sunny and bright, and if it is not, we can have everything covered in a glittering coat of hoarfrost, which is really beautiful, even if I never do seem to get a picture of it.   But winters can be long, sometimes getting underway early in October and lasting until April.  And we are all tired of it by then, no matter how much we like to ski or  snowshoe.

Spring some years makes the winter worth it.  Some years it is spectacularly colourful and fragrant.  Two years ago it even drowned out the smell of the pulp mills.  Instead of sulphur, you smelled apple blossom when you went outside. I don't remember that ever happening before.

This year winter and spring are having a hell of a good time with us.  Spring has started two or three times already.  Four weeks ago we went out to my  parents and shovelled  3 feet of snow off the north side of their roof.  It had been melting at the top, but the melt water was cooling and freezing by the time it got to the north overhang. Under the 3 feet of snow was a 12 inch ice dam. Three weeks ago we had 3 feet of snow in the yard, and then the temperature rose to 11 or 12 and the snow receded a foot from the edge of the sidewalks.   Then it snowed for 3 days.  Back and forth for three weeks.  Yesterday I had a tenacious little bump of snow around the trees in the front yard and bare lawn.  My vegetable gardens are completely bare and begging to be tidied up.  This morning I opened the door for the cat.  He saw this:

He gave me a look and a noise that I am quite certain was, "WTF?" and went back to bed.  

Two weeks ago we started the  tomatoes, which look like this this morning:

I don't suppose they are going outside in any hurry.  

One of my favourite harbingers of spring are the Seville oranges that turn up in the grocery store.  My grandmother always made marmalade in the spring, and my mom does too, occasionally.  I made marmalade once a few years ago.  Its a big job.  Slicing all that fruit nice and thin takes a long time, and a Seville orange has nearly as much mass in seeds as in peel.  It needs to be soaked, then reduced, then mixed with sugar and cooked.  Nothing much happens in the cooking for more than half an hour, the whole thing is just reducing.  But after 35-40 minutes or so, the caramelizing is obvious, and if you don't watch it it gets too dark and rubbery.  That was my first batch.  I still thought it was delicious, even if it was overcooked.  This year I spent nearly 2 days on a whole batch.   I'm happy with it.  

 Just as the first of our short warm spells started, I finished these

plus a second pair of the striped gloves for my mom, and we all laughed that it was good I was finishing up the gloves and mittens just in time to put them away for the year.  I guess winter got the last laugh on that one.  

I know the first day of spring is in March, but it is almost never "spring" here then.  Today is my parent's wedding anniversary (50 years!) and in the 36 years they have lived in their current house, this is one of only 3 years that the snow is not gone entirely from their front yard by their anniversary.  This day is always the beginning of spring for me.  Have a happy one.  

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Disturbance in The Force

I have been thinking a lot lately about blogging communities.   I started blogging after 10 years of reading and lurking and sporadic commenting, because I wanted to fully join the conversation.  Over the years I have learned about bloggers,  and grown to know their voices and to care about them.  I really like the community of progressive bloggers and it is a relief to know there are others out there who care about the things I care about.  

A few bloggers have disappeared lately.  A few of them have announced their departures.  A few not.  In some cases, there was a change in tone before a disappearance which may have led more bloggers than myself to wonder if someone was okay.  Last week Lorne talked about the nature of this community and about missing people we have never met. 

Today  Jymn  posted a letter that made me ashamed.  Gretchen wrote to him to tell him that she was alarmed at the tone his blog had taken.  She said things that you should say when someone you care about is melting down.  I nearly quit reading Jymn’s blog this week.  It alarmed and frightened me.  And I didn’t know what to do about that.  I have been thinking about the way his posts make me feel- frightened and small and misunderstood- all week.  And also wondering what the hell to do, because if I felt frightened and misunderstood,  Jymn, saying these things, must feel really really bad. 

This sounds unrelated but it is not:  Last fall at a community meeting about serious city budget cuts, 0.002% of our population turned up.  Maybe it was apathy that kept some people away.  Maybe it was ignorance.  But I bet two big reasons were: "I had something else even more important," and "I don't know what to do to help."  After the meeting, discussing this with my partner I said, "what we need is a movement where we all turn to someone else and say, 'What can I do to make something easier for you?' "

I think of myself as a caring individual.  And someone I cared about was in pain.  If I want a movement, maybe I gotta start it myself.  

Jymn: What can I do to make something easier for you? 


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Help Me Out Here

So I am wondering if one of my four* readers can help me out?

I am trying to understand this nonsense about the Pacific Carbon Trust, and the notion of carbon offsets.  

As I understand it, a carbon offset is money paid by a polluter to a non polluter to keep not polluting, or possibly to some person or business to do some green thing like put a scrubber on a smokestack or plant a tree.

And the Pacific Carbon Trust is some kind of an exchange for these offsets?  So schools and hospitals are supposed to give the trust money so that  businesses like pulpmills can replace polluting equipment?

To editorialize that question: And the Pacific Carbon Trust is some kind of an exchange (or racket?) for these offsets?  So schools and hospitals (which have no income) are supposed to give the trust money so that businesses like pulpmills (which have quite a bit of income) can replace polluting equipment?

Maybe I will just disclose this:  I happen to live across the street from a hospital.  While I cannot possibly tell you how much energy it consumes, though I would guess it to be a lot, I can tell you that it does not seem to be a great provider of atmospheric pollution.  Likewise the two schools that are five blocks from me, one east and one west.  I also happen to live in a nice little geographic bowl, surrounding which are three pulpmills, three chemical plants and an oil refinery.  Let me tell you, they are definitely providers of atmospheric pollution.  People here in Atmon have been known to speak of the smell of money.  One of those mills was the recipient of a very very large amount of money with which to replace a big part of the mill last year.   When the prevailing winds are just right, and the clouds are just right,  our little hamlet still smells right "rich" if you get my drift.

I suppose I can kind of see that if I plant a tree, it might possibly "offset" the carbon emissions of my natural gas furnace, although I wonder how many trees it might actually take.  But this trust business I don't get.  I think it was supposed to help BC and its people, but if it takes tax money from schools and hospitals (which do not generate income) and gives it to privately owned companies (which are presumably turning profits), how does that benefit BC and it's people?

If someone can explain this to me I would be grateful.  I feel a little funny asking, because, well, it looks to me like the emperor is naked.  And that can't be right can it?

*I actually have 5 readers, but one of them lives in my house and we have talked about it, and we agreed that we didn't understand it.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Old Dogs, New Tricks

I have decided to learn another language.  My first lesson is tonight.