Monday, September 29, 2008

wild raspberry bushes

wild raspberry bushes

by the creek, grow wherever birds drop their seeds (for birds love their sweetness),

adding colour to the muted fields of autumn

I came upon this brilliant mass of wild bushes, tansies, and late season goldenrods in the fields at the other end of my morning walk, past the old Pool 6 land.

I looked up and saw 2 deer, one with its antlers silhouetted against the sky, walking along the ridge above this tangle of wildflowers and berry bushes. The deer disappeared down the ridge. Deer love wild raspberry bushes. They eat the berries in summer and graze on the stalks and the leaves, in spite of their fuzziness. I saw there were trampled areas inside the bushes, like deer had laid down to sleep inside their fuzziness.

I know because I walked through a deer trail that weaved through the bushes with the dogs, trying to get a closer look at what kind of bird was that in the tree?

You can't get to the ridge, I tried, but it's not accessible to people, just deer that don't mind stepping through a deep boggy ditch filled with water and chocked with cattails. A ditch has been dug around this ridge. You can see the ridge at the far end of the bay. Tassu and Musti always head down this slope to slurp from Lake Superior. A paddle of 13 coots scooted away from the dogs. The ridge that you see on the other side belongs to the mound of earth that was trucked in to cover the creosote blob that was sucked out of the bottom of Lake Superior. Some of the creosote blob and contaminated earth was trucked away to other places for "treatment" and "disposal" (your community?) -- the blob was 8 football fields in size -- a vestige is still lying ghostly here under the earth, inside this ridge, waiting. They say the cattails and grasses and wild flowers will clean it.

Wild raspberry bushes are claiming the old railway tracks, too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McVicar's Creek in Autumn

The world is full of as much beauty as there is pain.

Sometimes on my way back home up the path by the creek I continue past the usual turnoffs I take and continue instead to the end of the path, where it meets up with River St.

a closer look at the creek bed. It appears like bayou waters but it is boreal.

The waters were patterned with the trees lining the banks. This fallen leaf was on its yellow way to Lake Superior.

Actually, I think there is more beauty than pain. It has to be. Beauty is unending, but pain can stop.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kauhajoki Tragedy

I would never have imagined it, that something so violent could happen in Kauhajoki in times of peace. Kauhajoki is not far from my home place of Juonikyla, that I left so many years ago to immigrate to Canada with my parents and sister, Katja. Here I am at one of the "busy" intersections in Juonikyla (or should I say the intersection in Juonikyla?) with some of my cousins and my friend, Anna, who was born in Canada but now lives in Helsinki.

My sisters and I went shopping "downtown" Kauhajoki that summer of 2001. I bought that big yellow bag that you see hanging from my shoulder. Those are some of our bags on the bench, not a homeless person curled up, although my sister's shoes make it look like there's a person there.

My idyllic memories of smalltown Kauhajoki, however, were shattered this morning by the terrible news of the killings in Finland at a technical school, ironically called The School of Hospitality. I was sitting at the kitchen table, munching on my just-baked manoushi pie and enjoying a cup of coffee, when I heard the radio announcement. The newscaster only mentioned that this school killing happened in Finland, so when I opened my computer and received news from my cousin, Ari, that the tragedy happened in Kauhajoki, I was really shocked. Kauhajoki is such a small place. It is so quiet there. It is off the beaten track. What a terrible way to put this obscure place on the worldmap.

I send my deepest condolences to all the families who lost loved ones, many who were young women, and to the traumatized survivors, their families, and to the whole community. I can imagine how they are feeling, so much death around them. Such senseless violence that visited them, by their own hand. It must be terribly heavy on the heart to have this "home-grown" tragedy.

I read that the killer had copies of the Columbine videos and they were his favorites. He lived in a world that extended beyond the boundaries of Kauhajoki. Maybe all this media attention which sensationalizes these sorts of school-boy-on-classmates violence has to stop. It seems to get them the attention they crave, in their small, twisted minds. Posting their own videos beforehand on YouTube to ensure more media notoreity. Sadly, the killer was probably "an average guy". Your neighbour's son. Your brother. Your classmate.

Of course, access to handguns, is dismissed as having nothing to do with tragedies like this. Or the glorification of guns and the increasing normalization of militarization and of war as honorable. Of course, access to handguns is not the only determining factor, as many things work together to create such unbalanced thinking and acts, but surely, if one did not have access to a handgun the ensuing violence would be on a lesser scale?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


synkkä is a Finnish word that means gloomy, bleak, dark, black, or dreary, depending on how it's used. Synkkä taivas ~ a gloomy sky. Synkkä sää ~ dreary weather. Synkäät ajatukset ~ gloomy thoughts. Synkkä epätoivo ~ black despair. Synkkämielinen ~ depressed or melancholic. This sky reminded me of that word.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lake Superior

Mun Äiti would like this photo because the flag of Finland appears to shimmer through.

Eastward. Nanabijou's head

Southward. Nanabijou's feet

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lake Superior shore line on Sunday

Grasses by the lake shore. Directly overhead soared a bald-headed eagle, sweeping the shoreline with its fierce gaze.

Inside the grasses, a Greater Goatsbeard gone to seed, its featherlike spores mirroring the snow white eagle's head.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Barbie mugshots

When I was a young girl in the 60s you were lucky to get one Barbie doll (or Midge, as in my case). And Barbies then were for "older girls"--not 3 year olds. Whose dad would've bought their daughter a Barbie for her 3rd birthday? No one's. Fast forward to the ever-increasing consumer lifestyles of the 80s. The 80s in Canada really entrenched the idea of buying too much of everything.

Barbara Kruger art

The motto "I Shop, Therefore I am" became cultural currency in the 80s. Many thought it funny -- a defining feature of their personalities -- and bought bumper stickers for their cars, or just threw the expression around like loose change, when if fact it is a pathological sickness of neoliberal capitalism that has resulted in terrible human, social and environmental costs.

Now, when my daughter was a young girl (late 80s) she had oodles of Barbies, despite that my husband and me never bought her any. But despite that we didn't approve of them, Barbies ended up scattered all over the living room floor, upstairs in our daughter's room; they were everywhere. Not only did our daughter receive a number of Barbies each birthday party, her paappa, my dad, used to buy her a Barbie just because. Especially he couldn't resist any Barbie that looked like a Princess, which was his nickname for our daughter. Further, not only did she not have to wait until she was 8 to get a Barbie, she was overloaded with Barbies at a very young age. However, she has only 3 Barbies left of her massive collection as we used to give them away to any young girl who came over. The 3 are forgotten, stuffed into an old pink Mickey Mouse suitcase in the garage.

My daughter, like other girls whose moms and dads didn't control their collection [i.e. these Barbies will never be collector's items as they are not in their original packaging, or original condition, and there are WAY TOO MANY of them, unlike the one-per-girl Barbies of the 60s], couldn't help but cut her Barbie's hair. Often her Barbies got a whole new look.

No only did she like cutting Barbie's hair, she liked trying out the application of make-up on her face. Afterwards, they looked decidedly unprincesslike.

Today Barbie has been branded to death; indeed Barbie is now a "total lifestyle brand...encompassing everything in a girl's world -- from clothing to furniture, cosmetics and electronics" . As part of their Think Pink promotion, Mattel is working hard at promoting "healthy" (Barbie stuff) lifestyles:

Seems the Mattel corp believes in girls. Believing in girls through Barbie candy rings? My daughter just bought this Think Pink junk in Duluth. Original sticker price $3.29, on sale for 25c. What a markup for sugar, corn syrup, artificial colours and artificial flavours and a plastic ring. Packaging and plastic. Made in China for Mattel. I wonder if they believe in the girls working in the factories in China, too?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What bees ask of us

This is Penny's honey. I order two 4 litre ice cream pails from her each spring. We go through a lot of honey in this house. One pound of honey equals 55,000 miles of work, so you can imagine how many miles of energy 4 litres equals. Penny's bees make glistening gold perfumed honey. A piece of buttered toast with a spoonful of honey drizzled atop is quite heavenly. So, too, a large dollop dropped into a cup of hot tea. Thank goodness we find bees fuzzy and cute, because how they actually make the honey...

Why are bees so fascinating? Sometimes I see that they spent the night sleeping on a flower instead of returning home to the hive. At this time of the year, bees especially love visiting (and sleeping on) the globe thistle, golden rod, purple coneflower and breakbone fever plants in my flower garden. I thought, why is "busy as a bee" such a popular expression, but not "drowsy as a bee"?

Bees bobbing in the wind in the center of the yellow flowers of the cup plant by the high bush cranberry. The cup plant is about 8' tall. It is called a cup plant because the leaves fit together in such a way at the stem to make a cup-like depression to catch rain and dew. Butterflies, bees and birds drink water from this "cup". Besides having once been a source of chewing gum, the cup plant also has medicinal and sacred qualities. In my yard it is just a decoration --and pollen haven, of course.

I'm not sure if bees tell each other about where to find water with a waggle dance like they do for flower information.

This bee was dreaming inside a hollyhock at Armi's on Warnicke Lake. Pollen was all over the petals. I think the bee was drunk on the scent of the flower and could no longer move.

Armi's hollyhocks, grown from seeds Urho brought back from Minnesota, compete with my cup plant for height and endurance against winds,

winds from across the lake in her case. The hollyhocks ring the erratic resting on Armi's front yard on the shore of Warnicke Lake. I went out last Saturday for -- you guessed it -- a sauna. The water was cold; I jumped off the dock with a bit of trepidation. But the sauna was hot.

The hollyhocks and mallows were covered in bees in all stages of delirium.

Some were upside down, dusted with yellow pollen, barely hanging on. Others were lolling on the bench outside the sauna, and one was almost comatose on the mat by the sauna door, so I pulled the mat to the side so no one would step on it.

A friend of our family, Laith, who was once a beekeeper, took some interesting photos of Yemeni bees and a Yemeni beekeeper when he went traveling through Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Yemen recently.

I think a lot of bees visit our yard because it is a chemical free sanctuary. Of course, that means there are a lot of dandelions in spring and early summer, which means there will be a lot of dandelions finding their way to my neighbours' yards.

"What bees ask of us is simple: a world free from poisons and other stressors, with places where they can nest and a sweet, season-long supply of flowering plants. In return, they offer to teach us their deepest lesson yet. Much as a honeybee belongs to her colony, so we humans belong to the living community of the Earth. The wild lies all around us, and we draw it in like breath. Our lives are indivisible from the lives of insects." Candace Savage. Bees: Nature's Little Wonders.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Barbie, Midge, Fulla and Razanne

I never did get a Barbie when I was a girl; my parents bought me Midge. My Midge had freckles and flipped out reddish ginger hair. I immediately disliked her. She wasn't the "real thing", i.e. Barbie. She looked "different", i.e. not the blonde-haired Barbie that was the heart's desire of many girls. Well, at least I didn't get Skipper, which was the doll my little sister, Della, got. My sister, Katja, being the older sister, did get Barbie. Her Barbie looked very 60s with her short blonde bubble cut hair-do and cat eyes. Mostly, I sewed my own doll outfits. Even back then we couldn't afford to buy them, and now! seeing the prices charged for vintage Midge and Barbie outfits, oh boy! Those little plastic shoes that always got lost? They're $150 a pkg today. A 1960s Barbie: $1524.

Find your Barbie Katja and sell it on e-bay!

Seems that 50s and 60s Barbie stuff is the stuff of dream collections, too, these days, for different nostalgic reasons.

Some people suffer no such nostalgia, but re-signify Barbie, giving others a fright.

Still others want to transform Barbie into more pleasing molds. Get rid of her cleavage. Her "Western" look.

Even Mattel in seeking new markets, produces a series of collectors dolls that include a Moroccan Barbie and Leila, "a Muslim slave girl in an Ottoman court". Orientalism for children.

Saudi Arabia banned Barbie. Then a Syrian company jumped into the market and created Fulla, who they marketed as a kinder, modest version of Barbie. Who doesn't lie. Yet,

"Despite the effort to create an Islamic fashion doll, Fulla and Barbie are more closely related than the Saudis and others might like to admit. Fulla may frequent the souks of the Mideast and Barbie may hang out in the malls of America, but they were "born" in the same place - China."

Some girls, however, still prefer Barbie:

"Jyza Sybai , a lanky, tomboyish Saudi 10-year-old, visiting Syria with her family for a short vacation, disagreed. 'All my friends have Fulla now, but I still like Barbie the best," Jyza said. "She has blond hair and cool clothes. Every single girl in Saudi looks like Fulla, with the dark hair and the black scarf. What's so special about that?'"

"Beyond symbolising the ideal Muslim woman, Fulla also reflects a growing trend towards the commercialisation of Islam by entrepreneurs who have realised the gains to be made in selling Islamic values."

Cashing in on dollydom, Razanne was created. You can buy her online and shop by theme. Razanne has proven to be very popular as every single one online is Out of Stock

even the ones that don't seem quite right.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Squirrel Sanctuary

The problem with having a garden that is like a sanctuary, is that it is... a sanctuary. You can take some time and just relax. Just look out at the plants, listen to the water trickling, the bees buzzing, the birds chirping and not worry about things.

sanctuary, [L. sanctuarium, from sanctus, sacred. SANCTITY]. A sacred or consecrated place; the temple of Jerusalem, particularly the most retired part of it, called the Holy of Holies; a house consecrated to the worship of God; a church; in the R. Cath. Ch. that part of a church where the altar is placed; the cella of an Egyptian, Greek, or Roman temple; a place of protection; a sacred asylum; right of affording protection; refuge in a sacred place; shelter. [from my '69 Webster's]

Birds and bees and small creatures come to my garden sanctuary daily.

The squirrels are quite comical. Although I know they can be a nuisance. A squirrel just chewed a huge hole in the lid of my garbage can, trying to get at something inside. They often grab all the sunflower seeds for themselves, leaving few for the birds, who fly off once the squirrel shows its face and flashes its fluffy tail.

They compete with the crows and the bluejays for the peanuts I set out each morning. Often they are there first and are in no hurry to leave.

You get to like them, even if they are rodents, and rather scruffy ones at that.

They are

quite curious

about you, too

So when I saw the squirrel that somehow had gotten red paint on its tail (did one of my neighbour's spray paint it to mark it?) on the ground in my garden early this morning, I was curious why it was hiding behind the hops and the Lady's Mantle. Why wasn't it springing about the yard, knocking over the wooden owl, or leaping along the tree highway or digging into my flower pots making a mess like it normally does?

It didn't move when I came near, so I knew in a flash. Like the bluejay that had hopped into my yard and hid under my lettuces, it too was dying. It had come to find a safe place to die. I knew this at once. I bent down and saw its slow laboured breathing. Had someone poisoned it? Did it get into some toxic household chemicals in some garage somewhere? I was afraid, like with the little blue jay that had brought its death rattle to my backyard, that the neighbourhood cats would smell death and skulk around in a flash to get it. So, to give the squirrel some peace, I quickly went to the basement and got a laundry basket. I placed it gently upside down on top of the squirrel so nothing could get at it. When I went back 10 minutes later to check on it, its eyes were still, so too it's breath.

So that's the problem with having a garden that is a sanctuary. Small beings will come there for sanctuary.