Look Again

It looks like a lake. It’s not.

It’s a reservoir of water that is unsuitable for drinking and for swimming. It’s maybe not so hot for wildlife, either.

“radioactive material, high bacteria content,
and abnormal pH levels”

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Posted in Language and Communication, Photos of Built Stuff, Photos of Flora, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Redux: Daphne

Apparently, Daphne has moved on from being a tree, and has established her own food line. I wasn’t sure if gyros were Turkish or Greek but, apparently, doners/donairs are Turkish; gyros are emphatically Greek. Both have their roots in the Ottoman Empire.

Apparently, a couple named Garlic popularized them in America. You can’t make this stuff up.

Would I have noticed this package if it hadn’t been for last week’s Daphne-in-the-cupboard? Not a chance.

Posted in Laughing Frequently | Tagged | 2 Comments

This Dark and Finest Hour

In early January, I saw a photo of Winston Churchill on Twitter. An anniversary of some sort? No. It was posted by Rudyard Griffiths (co-founder and moderator of the Munk Debates) along with this tweet:

Is it just me or is it odd there is no one in this “dark hour” that has the means or wherewithal to genuinely comfort Canadians? From premiers, to the PM and GG, to the media or any public figure, we are bereft of an authentic, credible voice of moral authority and succor.
Rudyard Griffiths on Twitter, 2022 Jan 06

I think Griffiths is right: We don’t have any one person who is “an authentic, credible voice of moral authority and succor” with the “means or wherewithal to genuinely comfort Canadians” as Churchill and King George VI did in WWII. But I’m not sure it’s odd.

Let’s look at the structure of our polity. Our federation (with only occasional con-ness) aggravates our tribal tendencies so that we can end by identifying as much or more with our province as with our country. That gives us a whack of leaders, but the ones we most identify with don’t speak for (or to) the whole country.

Let’s look at the unelected players. Our current Governor General is a decent and accomplished woman who might have taken on the role played by King George VI, but she is a short-timer: a stranger. It was ever so in Canada. Five-year appointments are the norm: Governors General are then hidden under a bushel of official duties and gone before we get to know them or the light they might bring.

Let’s look at the elected players. Our Prime Minister is currently taking flak, even internationally, for calling unvaccinated Canadians anti-science, misogynist, and racist. Each Premier plays more to their local audience/voters than to the national stage. I see no one who can be Churchill to our need. I see no one who is even inclined to try.

Let’s look at our popular culture. Not surprisingly, it’s about celebrity, not gravitas — dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner — and this is a situation that calls out for a serious manner and a reputation for service and duty. Some celebrities might speak to niche groups, but I see no popular figure who could carry it off, culture-wide.

Let’s look at pandemic experts. Some public-health officials have carried some moral authority and offered some comfort for some of this journey. Some have not. But I think even the best are limited by their necessary focus: To my eye, they lack a whole-of-society perspective.

Finally, let’s look at that supposedly “whole” society. We are fragmented, if not fractured and fractious. We count ourselves French and English and BIPOC. (Some identify just two groups: First Nations and settlers.) We have no common religion: Indeed, we have less religion now than ever. We are woke and decidedly non-woke, city cats and country mice, young and old, rich and poor, male and female and LGBTQIA2S+.  Now we’ve added vaccinated and un. And on it goes.

So, I don’t think we can look to a single Canadian figure for leadership that transcends partisanship or self-interest or occupational bias/blinkers or self-identity or identity assigned by others. Instead, I think we have to take leadership where we find it, and wherever we can get it.

Working with retired military officers I learned about the concept of an informal leader. There is a formal hierarchy, for sure, but often what really makes things work is the influence of an unauthorized leader at the group level. Someone who steps up.

We can all be that leader. In small ways, we all likely already are.

In a rare smart-aleck moment I responded to Griffiths’ tweet.

I’m not too busy . . .

His response?

Go for it! You have 280 characters.

OK, I will. Using this venue I have way more than 280 characters. If I could, what would I say to all Canadians by way of comfort or inspiration?

We have been forced into a conflict:
we did not choose this virus or all the death and distress it has brought.

We did not choose this uncertainty:
we did not ask for medical experts to disagree among themselves,
sometimes drastically;

or for self-serving charlatans to lie to us,
sometimes convincingly.

We did not choose this destructive positive-feedback loop:
oppressed by 24/7 coverage seemingly designed to foster our fears
and to make money from those fears.

We did not choose this divided government structure
or the apparently irrepressible impulse of politicians
to divide us further for partisan advantage.

We did not choose this astounding science,
in which an almost unprecedented vaccination rate is still not enough.

We did not choose to live in pandemic times,
but no one chooses their times.
Now we can only choose how we will live. How we will be.

We can choose to be patient with others and with ourselves,
while we persist in doing the right as we see the right.
We can choose to be humble in our opinions,
knowing that what we see as right may be different tomorrow than it is today.
We can choose to focus more on helping those who have been hurt
than on blaming that hurt on those with whom we disagree.

We can choose to set aside our special interests.
We can choose to be a band of brothers and sisters,

standing calm and firm and united.

We can choose to bear ourselves so that if Canada lasts for a thousand years,
Canadians to come will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

With thanks to:

For another take on this, check out Jen Gerson’s column here. In a post script she addresses the question of fostering the institutions of a civil society.

In other words, we’ve responded to this pandemic with more of an authoritarian mindset than a liberal one. Yet we lack the capacity to act as an authoritarian regime, to actually enforce the requirements and restrictions being dictated for our own safety. So our governments vacillate, trapped between cracking down and easing off, demanding compliance yet being unable to coerce it. This gives everyone the justified sense that our leaders are flailing and incompetent. We’re left with the worst of all systems: we lack the will to crack down and the cohesion to come together. 

We’ll emerge from this pandemic not a more resilient, more unified nation, but instead one that is increasingly embittered and distrustful of our neighbours and our institutions. 

Posted in Feeling Clearly, New Perspectives, Thinking Broadly | Tagged , | 16 Comments

A Great 2021

With their end-of-year update on my blog-hosting account, my provider wants me to know that they appreciate the 11 years I’ve been their customer. OK, fair enough, I guess.

With their awkward end-of-year video of photos I posted online in 2021 — awkward because the video has no coherent story line or theme — Facebook wants me to know that they’re still keeping track of me in a slightly creepy way. OK, it’s hard to see how to avoid that.

But with their end-of-year update on my new videos and the views thereof, YouTube wants me to know that they think I had a great 2021, creating and posting. And with their end-of-year update on the PC Optimum® points I’ve earned and redeemed, Loblaw (Where/when/why did the “s” go from “Loblaw’s”? And is it too late to change it back?) wants me to know that they also think I had a great 2021, getting and spending.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

OK, enough. Unlike Queen Victoria, I am not amused. Who asked these businesses to report on my year?

For me, the slow creep of these unsolicited, intrusive, and presumptuous retrospectives just crossed a line. What’s next?  My local pharmacy congratulating me on a year-over-year drop in chocolate purchases? The LCBO totting up my annual wine consumption?

News flash: Attention all organizations.

Butt out.

I know that I can’t keep you from collecting data on me. Have the courtesy to keep it to yourself. Don’t rub my face in it.

Moreover, I do not mark, measure, or value my year in the narrow ways that you can track, count, or assess and I do not appreciate you presuming to do so on my behalf.

I do not need, want, or value your year-end summaries and commendations.

If I ever wonder how much activity I engaged in with your entity, I’ll be in touch.

Over and out.


Posted in Feeling Clearly, Officialdom, Wired | Tagged , | 12 Comments

That’s the Gods for You

In the Before Time we visited Zanjero Park every year to see the burrowing owls. As a wildlife viewing opportunity it was a bit artificial: The owls had been transplanted to this location by humans (from their own chosen location, now overcome by development by humans) into burrows created by humans. You may note the common factor.

Anyway, the park was adjacent to a big freeway for easy access by the aforementioned humans and to a farmer’s field for easy access to food by the also-mentioned owls, who seemed to ignore/tolerate the freeway in return for being able to hunt for small iggly-wigglies in the irrigated field. Over the years we reliably saw at least one owl on every visit.

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Posted in Appreciating Deeply, Photos of Fauna | Tagged | 8 Comments

Serving-bowl Face

Daphne: An exemplar for, “Be careful what you wish for.” Or, maybe, “Be precise in what you ask for.”

You remember Daphne. (I remembered Daphne as Diana. [Sorry, ma’am, I won’t make that mistake again, at least not until the next time.]) Anyway, she (Daphne, not Diana) was the one who prayed to Zeus to protect her from Apollo’s advances and got turned into a laurel for her efforts which was, I suspect, not precisely how she envisioned it playing out. If Zeus’s transformative activity were a curling shot, I’d be hard-pressed to score it any higher than one out of four. Apparently it didn’t occur to Zeus to fix the problem at source.

Why was I thinking of either goddess, or one goddess by either name? Because I opened a cupboard door, and there she was: Diana. Daphne. Who-ever.

Posted in Laughing Frequently, Photos of Faces | Tagged | 7 Comments


On this New Year’s day, I wish you sprezzatura for 2022.

…other languages dish out positivity a little better than us. They have a splash of what the Italians call sprezzatura, a careless, thrown together nonchalance or indifference to life’s curveballs.

Not quite ready for that? Then you could aim for respair.

But one English word surely stands above all others from the corners of the dictionary. I mention it all the time, because I’m determined to bring it back. Or bring it anywhere in fact, for it never really enjoyed more than a day in the sun. “Respair” has just one record next to it in the Oxford English Dictionary, from 1525, but its definition is sublime. Respair is fresh hope; a recovery from despair. May 2022 finally be its moment.

Indeed. May 2022 be the moment for many good things.

PS   Thanks to Reader John for this link to a delightful Guardian article on reclaiming long-lost positive words.

PPS  Me, I’m going to continue my one-woman campaign to restore “take” to its former place in the sun.


Posted in Language and Communication, Laughing Frequently | Tagged , | 14 Comments

The Untold Story

The date? January, 2021.

The place? The magazine rack of my local drugstore.

The topic? A retrospective on COVID-19 in 2020.

The next steps? None. I’ve stopped. I can’t walk and hold this thought in my head at the same time.

What thought?

That’s the worst magazine cover I’ve ever seen.

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Posted in New Perspectives, Thinking Broadly, Through the Calendar | Tagged | 6 Comments

The Best Scene

The best camera is the one that’s with you.
Chase Jarvis

Well, OK, I can see the truth in this. Of course given both the opportunity to prepare and the thought to do it I want a different lens for landscapes than for birds, but if I don’t have any camera with me, however inadequate it might be compared to hypothetical perfection, the shot is lost entirely. It’s hard to see how that’s a good thing, even if all I have is my phone camera.

Similarly, the best scene is the one that’s in front of me. Of course I appreciate iconic scenes in ideal lighting conditions and the time to find the best place to stand, but even a standard road-trip yields lots of things worth photographing, even in insufficient light and even through the car window.

Bridges, for example, at dawn and past dusk.

Two bridges - one at dawn, one at dusk.

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Posted in Appreciating Deeply, Laughing Frequently, Photos of Built Stuff, Photos of Landscapes | Tagged , , | 10 Comments