Wednesday, December 31, 2008

in solidarity for new year's eve

Israeli jet bomber over Gaza. photo by Shareef Sarhan, from my friend Nahed Abu-Asbeh's Facebook page. Nahed is living in Palestine. I met her in Germany 8 years ago. She is wearing black these days.

Earlier, I was talking on MSN with my daughter and my younger son who are in Bahrain and they told me all New Year's Eve's celebrations and music have been canceled because of the violence in Gaza. They were looking forward to celebrating their first New Year's Eve in the Gulf, but it'll be a quiet family evening.

In fact, Across the Arab World New Year's Eve's parties have been canceled. In Dubai, through an official order, people are asked to mark New Year "'with a somber tone as a token of solidarity' with Palestinians and Gazans."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

4150 people per sq. kilometer

Getty image

Imagine this: 4,150 people per sq. kilometre. Frankly, I can't. I'm so spoiled by the expanses I walk through each day here in Thunder Bay that I can't even imagine what 4150 people squeezed into 1 sq. k would look like. I look out my window as I type and I see a huge empty yard, my garden under its winter blanket. The snow is untouched except for squirrel steps crisscrossing the place. I don't see my neighbours.

In Gaza, you can't escape your neighbours.

"You can tell those moving about Gaza City by the mattresses on the car roofs. The streets are mostly deserted but some people are shifting from one house to another, trying to guess where the bombs might land and put distance between themselves and possible targets," writes Mohammed Dawwas. He tells us that like his 9 yr old son, Ibrahim, The Gazan Children [are] too scared to go outside."

Last night on Democracy Now Dr. Mustafa Barghouti explained that:

"Gaza Strip is the highest densely populated area in the world, with almost 4,150 people in each square kilometer. When you start bombing the place with bombs that are one to two tons heavy, then you’re determined to kill people and kill civilians and innocent people. I’ve just heard Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister of Israel, saying that Palestinians should go away from Hamas and Gaza. Where should they go away? In which place? Where? Which place they can go to, when Israel is putting Gaza for two years under total blockade, by sea, by air, by land."

My husband and I looked at each other and wondered, to which corner of the kilometer should the Gazans go to hide?

Family Warned But Nowhere to Run by Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera English

Monday, December 29, 2008

Why don't I hear about war crimes on Canadian tv news?

BubbleShare: Share photos - Find great Clip Art Images.

from Bubble on Sabbah's blog

I don't bother watching the mainstream news in Canada. It is too biased, whether CBC or CTV. I just go online or watch and get translations from my husband who tells me what the Arabic media (via satellite) are reporting. It's when you move outside of mainstream boxes that you can see how narrow "the news" is. What bugs me the most is how it's framed and what is left out. It's just so blatantly biased that it riles me. Do they really think folks are as stupid as they want us to be? No wonder most people are online these days. You can access all sorts of reports and images directly from the people affected, not the mediators of the mainstream press who try to whitewash bloodbaths.

Ola Madhoun writes from Gaza:

"How can a victim describe its own death after she was deprived of her soul? This is my profession through which I try to express my crushed and slaughtered soul, touching the bodies of the dead in the streets. But I can't ignore this trust I carry in my hands under the eyes of the world which refused to admit our suffering, our poverty, our sorrow and our right to live."

Greg Mitchell writes that the even the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz voices a more critical perspective on the assault on Gaza than does mainstream US media, and he cites a number of Israeli journalists, including the quotation:

"A million and a half human beings, most of them downcast and desperate refugees, live in the conditions of a giant jail, fertile ground for another round of bloodletting. The fact that Hamas may have gone too far with its rockets is not the justification of the Israeli policy for the past few decades, for which it justly merits an Iraqi shoe to the face."

Even the Jerusalem Post reports on the question of the violation of human rights in Gaza that Jewish American law professor Richard Falk asserts.

Occupiers and colonizers are supposed to protect the people that have been subjected to their policing. That is the Geneva Convention. That is what the lessons from World War II supposedly brought in. So, what is happening now in Gaza? As Richard Falk and Ali Abunimah (and others) assert, these are "war crimes carried out against occupied people and refugees with impunity."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the transformation of the oppressed of the Holocaust

Palestinian refugee woman 1969. UNRWA Photo by Munir Nasr

Today, an accessible history lesson for those unsure about the "Palestine/Israeli conflict."

"We knew our resistance would cost us dearly, but we were ready to save our lands from the foreign invaders. Those oppressed in the Holocaust were transformed into the tormenter of the Arab population in Palestine."

The Palestinian story: Remember us

Sat, 27 Dec 2008 18:55:08 GMT
By Anna Denise Aldis and Dex A. Eastman, Press TV

When the passage of time finally brings the men of many lands to the tables of judgment, politicians from countries that have emboldened Israel with their silence will gaze into the eyes of delegations from around the world only to see the same eyes gazing back. Remember us for we may not be at that table.

There are reasons for this.

We were once free to roam the lands of our fathers, to feel happiness and to cry when in despair. From the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River was our realm, but how were we to know what they intended to do to our nation.

They provoked wars and committed the most terrible of sins against the Jewish population, but when it was time to compensate, they put the burden of their own wrongdoings on our shoulders. One nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.

Everyone had a say, the then president of the United States Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the leaders of the Zionist movement and even the representatives of Anglo-Jewry opposed to Zionism. There was no need to canvass Arab opinion.

They sat at round tables, signed agreements, sent the text to other powers for approval but no one consulted us. Remember us the native people of the ancient land of Canaan, Palestine it was called.

We protested, signed petitions, held rallies but to no avail; the process of nullification had already begun. They had decided to create a 100% Jewish state for the Jews of the West who had suffered under anti-Semitism in Europe. Nobody asked whether we were even responsible for the anti-Jewish propaganda in Germany. Remember us who sought your helping hand when they threatened us with annihilation.

Why were we for decades the main victims of the horrific massacre of the Jews by the Germans, Rumanians and Hungarians?

United under the Zionist slogan of 'A land without a people for a people without a land', certain powers opened the floodgates by telling Jews that our land is one that lacks inhabitants and must belong to a nation with no land.

They helped the 1948 creation of Israel based on the 'Judenstaat' which had been envisaged in 1896 by the founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl.

Then the flood suddenly hit us. We were no longer welcome in our own homes, our own towns and villages and on our own lands. They tried to bribe us into leaving the land of our ancestors. They promised to pay for all our expenses for us to leave Palestine and settle in neighboring Arab states.

But how could we leave? How could we leave our homes, our lands, the graves of our fathers and the hopes of our children? How were we supposed to forget and make our children forget that we had roots in Palestine? We objected.

We knew our resistance would cost us dearly, but we were ready to save our lands from the foreign invaders. Those oppressed in the Holocaust were transformed into the tormenter of the Arab population in Palestine.

Remember us in 1948 in the unarmed village Deir Yassin where 254 of us men, women and children were awakened from our sleep with the sound of bombs ripping through neighboring houses. Irgun and Lehi terrorist groups had received orders to uproot us, the Arab population of the village.

They threw bombs into our houses and slaughtered all of us they could find. About twenty-five of us were brought out of our houses on a 'victory tour' and then to a stone quarry where they shot us in cold blood.

The Red Cross came to understand our fate when they looked into our lifeless eyes and at nearly 150 of our maimed bodies abandoned in a well.

Several of us survived to tell the story of this indelible blemish carved in the pages of Zionist history.

"I saw a soldier grabbing my sister, Saliha al-Halabi, who was nine months pregnant. He pointed a machine gun at her neck, then emptied its contents into her body. Then he turned into a butcher, and grabbed a knife and ripped open her stomach to take out the slaughtered child with his iniquitous Nazi knife," Halima Id, a survivor of the attack, told her sister later.

They failed to plant fear in our hearts for what is home if it is not to be cherished?

Remember us in 1953 in Qibya when our women were preparing meals for the men and children and nearly 600 Israeli soldiers moved toward our village. We heard explosions, screaming and artillery fire, but the collapse of our roofs and the following darkness was the last we saw.

The then commander of the "101" unit, Ariel Sharon, later said that his leaders' orders had been clear on how to deal with the village. "The orders were utterly clear: Qibya was to be an example to everyone."

Original documents of the time showed that Sharon personally ordered his troops to achieve "maximal killing and damage to property".

UN observers say they saw our bullet-riddled bodies near the doorways and multiple bullet hits on the doors of our demolished houses and that we had been forced to remain inside until our homes were blown up over us.

They then wished to deny us presence in neighboring Lebanon, which had allowed us refuge from the anti-Semitism victims turned against us.

Remember us in 1982 in Sabra and Shatila. The Israeli army watched as the murderers they had provoked against us entered our two Palestinian refugee camps in the southern outskirts of West Beirut.

Us women were lying in houses with our skirts torn up to our waists, our children with cut throats, rows of us young men were shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall.

Our babies were lying like discarded dolls on the streets, blackened because they had been slaughtered more than 24 hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition.

We were tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey.

3,500 of us were slaughtered; some of us men as young as 12 or 13 were killed with our arms and legs wrapped around each other, picturing the agony of our death. All of us had been shot at point-blank range through the cheek, the bullet tearing away a line of flesh up to our ears and entering our brains.

Award-winning Middle East correspondent Robert Frisk recalls that "On one blackened wrist a Swiss watch recorded the correct time, the second hand still ticking round uselessly, expending the last energies of its dead owner."

Remember us in 2002 in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin where hundreds of us were buried alive in our homes. Our bodies were crushed and smoldered by buildings when the heavily-armored Caterpillar D-9 tore down our homes, our shelters and all of our belongings.

The IDF was fulfilling the orders of the then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon who in 1956 vowed to "burn every Palestinian Child that will be born" in Palestine. "I would burn him and I would make him suffer before killing him".

They struggled for a fortnight to bury our bodies and the evidence of the atrocity. They piled us in houses and when the pile was complete, they bulldozed the building to bring its ruins down on our corpses. Then they flattened the area with a tank.

Remember us in 2008 in the Gaza Strip where the bombs of hatred rained down on us to prove that world New Year celebrations have no meaning. They called into action F16 bombers and apache helicopters to put fear into the very hearts of our nation even though we had long been left with no real method of defense.

Over 230 of us were killed and 800 of us were wounded. Remember us!

Let world leaders hold imprecise debates about what constitutes a massacre. Let Israel and its allies cover up their crimes. You can even call the state built upon the ruins of our homeland 'the de facto democracy of the Middle East'.

But as our bodies lie in mass graves in our backyards, know that we are the children of Palestine -- a nation of people who as our last words utter the Muslim declaration of faith (Shahadatain) and pass on our mantle of resistance to the next forgotten person.

Remember us...

'The Palestinian story' is the title given to a series of articles that will look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a different perspective than that of mainstream media. 'Remember us' is the first part of the series. The writers have dedicated this article to the many Palestinians that have lost their lives in the deadly Israeli attacks on Gaza on December 27, 2008.

If you would like to contact the writers please write to

Saturday, December 27, 2008

a cyber saha through the West Bank

I went for a cyber walk through parts of the West Bank today. I was not expecting to, but in the manner of a saha, I aimlessly wandered there with my mouse.

I did not go for my walk this morning. I had decided instead to do some yoga and then I got on my rebounder and jumped in front of the tv. The news, however, made me too upset as I wonder, how much more can the Gazan people withstand? And the Israelis say their assault has only begun? Is this how a year ends and a new one begins? The Israelis' bloody inhumanity is like a crown of thorns they lay on the world.

Palestine Walks: Vanishing Landscape.
Slide show with Raja Shehadeh narrating excerpts from his book Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape (2007).

Walking beside Apartheid Wall. directed by Ameer Qaiman and music by Tarek of Al Quds University.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

my mother's angels began the week

mun Äidin enkelit. my mother's angels

mun Äidin enkeli. my mother's angel

a tonttu from a vanha Joulu liina. An elf on an old Christmas linen from Finland. My mother decorates her home each Christmas with her Christmas linens and angels.

Part of the food spread at my mom's 75 birthday drop in party, which included suolakala voileipä or salted salmon sandwiches, karjalanpiirakka, piiparit, almond cake, cheesecake, fruit cake, quinoa salad, and many other delicious edibles. Lots of coffee was served. There were many guests.

After many days of delicious edibles, morning walks are a must. I left for my morning walk today rather late, 10 am. Anna and Eero, visiting from Finland, came over last night for supper with their new son, Aleksi. Again, more delicious edibles. This morning I decided to sleep in. A gal is entitled to that every now and then. When I left for my walk it was -21c.

A dusting of snow fell last night. It is not a cliche to say the day was magical.

The air was crisp and clear, the sun was brilliant, the snow was glistening, and the sky was crackling blue. I saw starlings eating mountain ash berries, pine siskins eating birch catkins, and redpolls burrowing in the snow.

I took the shortcut on the path through the woods which used to be an old toboggan run.

The scrub bush up close; it's a tangle.

The path along the creek was plowed nicely, but even so, after 5 k of trudging through the snow, one feels a bit breathless. My cheeks were frozen by the time I got back home.
The winter lights at my home.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh. Little Town of Bethlehem

O Little Town of Bethlehem cards

About the hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem, the Rev Stephen Coulter, Rector of Pimperne in Blandford Forum, Dorset said

he can no longer bring himself to sing the lyrics of the hymn as he believes they are too far removed from the reality of one of Christianity's holiest sites.
He said: 'At the service I took the opportunity to bring the congregation’s attention to what life is actually like there today. I can’t bring myself to physically sing the words, especially the opening line "how still we see thee lie".'"

He's not the only minister with a conscience, as 2 years ago, parish priest Father Paul Maddison

"A priest from the Diocese of East Anglia, England, has decided to replace a live Nativity scene for a replica of the wall encircling Bethlehem in protest of the Israeli separation barrier."

from People's Geography~Reclaiming Space

"The view of Bethlehem is now obscured by the massive Apartheid Wall which Israel has built in and around the city."

Bethlehem today is very different than the romantised Bethlehem we imagine. Below is a letter I wrote that was published in our local newspaper 3 years ago, that explains my history with the hymn,

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem

was a song I loved singing as a girl. When December came around, my sisters and
I couldn’t wait for the Christmas carol section of the Port Arthur News Chronicle. The song we all looked for was “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem.”

We sang it every Christmas Eve, standing in front of the TV.

The first stanza especially resonated in my young mind. The lyrics spoke of a
redeeming hope lying deep in the dark – a dark of which I in my naivete knew nothing about, yet somehow sensed was part of my future.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

For Grade 7 art class, dreams of ‘the little town of Bethlehem’ still echoing, I
made an indigo-blue batik of Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph traveling outside its gates, and a silver star in the night sky. Thirty-six years later, my mom still
hauls it out at Christmastime to pin up on her living room wall.

But never once, during all those years of singing Christmas carols, doing Christmas art at school, or learning about Christmas in church, newspapers, or TV did I hear about the inhabitants of Bethlehem and its surrounding region --
the Palestinians.

Many Palestinians are Christian, the original Christians, going back to Jesus
Christ and the Apostles, but the word Palestinian was not part of the Bethlehem I had been taught to envision.

The little town of Bethlehem I learned about was idyllic, a dreamy vision of hope, a sanctuary in the desert, a place where Jesus, the savior, was born. A metaphor for the redemption of humankind.

Over the years, I have come to question the ‘kind’ part of the phrase.

What would Jesus say about Apartheid?

Recently, I found out about Dheisheh, located near Bethlehem. Home to 11,000 people who live on less than half a square kilometer of land. Dheisheh, a refugee camp, is home to the residents (and descendents) of 45 villages who were expelled after the state of Israel was created in 1948.

Since 2003, Dheisheh has lost 21 residents to Israeli attacks, 5 of them
children under the age of 17. In addition to invasions by tanks, attacks by Apache helicopters, raids by Israeli soldiers, curfews, barbwire, closures of schools, 70% unemployment rate, severe shortage of water and electricity, the residents now have to deal with the 15 k long, 25’ tall Israeli-built “security” wall that encircles Bethlehem and region.

I wonder, if Mary and Joseph and the 3 wise men had to travel to Bethlehem today, would the soldiers manning the apartheid wall let them through? Would they have had the necessary travel documents from the Israeli government arranged months in advance? Or would they, like their descendants the Palestinians, have resigned themselves that it would be impossible to pass through to Bethlehem because of the Wall? That the degradation wasn’t worth it?

I wonder, what sort of batik would I have made if I had known this human unkindness?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

a Ghada kind of woman

Ghada Mohamed and me

This is the 2nd Ghada that I know; she is Egyptian Canadian, and had come to Thunder Bay to teach Economics at Lakehead University, but she has since left. The 1st Ghada that I met was also Egyptian, and like the 2nd Ghada, her forte was holding huge dinner parties for women, the more food and the more women, the merrier. These women had a natural talent for organizing and getting people together. I miss those women-only fantastic parties; there was much laughter, dancing, talking, and eating. This photo was taken Feb 15, 2003. Ghada no. 2 and I attended and spoke out at the march and rally here in town when there was a worldwide call to protest against the upcoming US invasion of Iraq. It was freezing that day; about -25c, terrible windchill, yet there was a big turnout of local people--even moms with babes in arms--who walked against the winter winds to add their bodies to the mass that believed then and believe now that invading and occupying Iraq was and is wrong.

Ghada Hussein Al-Almy from Iraq. Rand Corp. photo

This is another Ghada. I don't know this Ghada, but it seems to me that the name, Ghada, is a very strong name. The Ghadas I have known have been intelligent, strong, determined, efficient, friendly, open, warm, and no-nonsense women. The Ghadas I have known did not let an inhospitable climate or adverse unfamiliar surroundings dampen their determination to get things done--in fact, they were the first ones to say, hmmm, what can I do here?

This 3rd Ghada seems like a Ghada kind of woman. Much of the news from Iraq, whether tv, newspapers, blogs, or personal reports, pounds us on the head with the death, destruction, tragedies, ongoing horrors, injustices and irreconcilable problems. This, of course, is crucial to know, to keep in mind, to try in our own way to speak out against, to do something about. Turning a blind eye, moving away with a click of the mouse, or excusing oneself by saying "it's too complicated to understand" or "it's not my problem" or "what's the use?", makes one part of the problem, not the solution. Taking the stance to not be informed of the terrible happenings done in our name is a place of privilege.

Yet, as someone who takes her politics to heart, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of hope. Especially, in these times of the normalization of war, oppression and occupation. Like the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, Canada in Afghanistan also is normalized in our media and in our cities, and speaking out against our country's military presence there gets one painted as not "supporting our troops". And too many folks would "just rather not talk about it"; 'it' being those things that are contentious, that can cause disagreements between and among neighbours, families, friends and colleagues.

So, hope is sometimes an illusive thing.

But today, an unexpected feather of hope blew in. Today, one of my friends forwarded to me a recent article on the tradition of Iraqi women's resistance, and I have to say, I felt elated after reading it! These Iraqi women are inspiring! They refuse to be beaten down by despair and are out there making a difference. I love their idea of taking culture as a weapon! They, too, are taking back their streets:

"Almy is a Baghdad University professor-turned-"theater resistance leader," as her fans call her. In the wake of some of Iraq's worst suicide bombings, she and her troupe decided to use culture as a defensive weapon, producing and staging plays that mobilize the audience against violence and killing.
The open-air dramas typically run for two weeks at locations around Baghdad where bombs have been exploded by extremists. Almy's statement to the extremists is simple: "You will not take away our way of life, or our culture."

'We are trying to use culture as a weapon," Ghada told us. "We want to make the terrorists feel the strength of our culture.'"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If you want to become whole

the stained glass window of a Catholic Church I passed late one cold evening while walking downtown Port Arthur. Something was going on inside so the light glowed out in the dark.

If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.

- Tao Te Ching

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

the quality control of Finnish female PhDs

Kotiapulaisen Kirja ~ Homehelper's Book
Just when women start making some gains, the border police move in and questions arise about how capable they really are. In Finland there is now a higher number of women obtaining PhDs than men...

so what do some "experts" come up with? That the quality of those PhDs may be less than "the old days"....that is, the old days when intelligence was only a male prerogative!

"The number of women with Ph.D's has skyrocketed in recent years. At many Finnish universities, women account for two thirds of Ph.D. graduates.

Meanwhile some experts are calling for doctoral graduate production to be reined in.
Some experts say there are too many Ph.D. graduates and that quantity may be taking precedence at the expense of quality."

Ladies, get back to the kitchen!

Monday, December 15, 2008

shoes have magical powers

If you've grown up in the West and/or are familiar with Hollywood movies, you will read Dorothy's ruby red slippers as absolutely magical. What this pair of shoes can do!

even Miss Piggy agrees that "shoes have magical powers."

Shoes are read in many different ways, depending on historical and cultural context. They are gendered and classed and imply all sorts of meanings. Dorothy's glittery shoes magically take her places in The Wizard of Oz. This empowering potential of red shoes has been used as a creative metaphor for women, including the RedShoes on Court writing group I belong to.

The Red Shoes with Norma Shearer, is one of the best films of all time, and worth a watch.

And who can forget the message of Karen in The Red Shoes?

Shoes can be disempowering. Like with Karen, shoes can hobble you and prevent you from running or even walking. Shoes can deform your feet. Shoes pick up dirt. When something is trod upon, underfoot, it is crushed. To step on someone is not a meaningless metaphor.

The bottoms of shoes, like the bottoms of purses, are the most vile filthy surfaces, even dotted with fecal bacteria and other unpleasantries. Thus whacking someone with your shoe symbolizes the lowest of the low contempt you hold for that person, which shows you see them as less than human, as does throwing your shoes in disgust --- at the most idiotic president of the US and everything his corrupt regime represents and has done.

My husband and I laughed so hard and cheered on Iraqi journalist, Muntather Al-Zaidi, who recently threw his shoes in disgust at Bush when he visited Baghdad and began his blather:

"...[His] appearance at a news conference here was interrupted by an Iraqi journalist who shouted in Arabic — “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog” — and threw one of his shoes at the president, who ducked and narrowly avoided being struck.

As chaos ensued, he threw his other shoe, shouting, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.” The second shoe also narrowly missed Mr. Bush as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki stuck out a hand in front of the president’s face to help shield him."

Arabwoman, as well as many others, places what Muntatha Al-Zaidi has done as an act of resistance, long overdue. In this one non-high tech act of throwing his shoes at Bush in public, Al-Zaidi cuts across the pretensions of office and exposes the lies and the dirt of the Americans.

Seriously, a high class act. With a used pair of shoes! Such a loss of face for the US in the entire Middle East and Arab world.

What the out-going Bush and his wicked cronies need is to be buried under a pile of stinking shoes:

"NOTE: Speaking of shoes and the White House, Skip Mendler of Honesdale, PA has a great idea. He suggests that everyone who is disgusted with the outgoing Bush/Cheney administration send a shoe to the White House. Just imagine a pile up of a million smelly old running shoes in the White House mailroom! I think he's got something. Spread the word!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

my sisters' art

1. my sister's art.
My sister, Katja, made this wonderful creation for her recent ArtZoom exhibit at the Northern Woman's Bookstore. The hawk was one of a pair that took over the skies above my sister's backyard this summer. When the hawks first moved into the tallest trees in the back woods, we thought, cool. Their high pitched shrieks were the first sign of their presence. The female was hidden in a nest high up in an old balsam; the male sat at the tip of an old white spruce, regal, then swooped around. After awhile, though, we noticed that all the other birds, the chickadees, goldfinch, cardinals, sparrows and nuthatches, scattered and hid while the hawks were around. The air became awful quiet except for the shrieks of the raptors. I'm not sure if the hawk in the picture has a field mouse in its talons?
Katja created the background for this image from the rusty relic at Rabbit Mountain. Things get reborn in unexpected ways when sisters go for a walk.

2. my sister's art.
My sister, Della, made this wonderful faerie for the first Faerie Night she held in December 2006. My sister, Della, makes faeries from found stuff. When she goes out for a walk, she looks on the ground and finds bits 'n bobs that she turns this way 'n that then tucks them into the see-through purse she found in the grass at the Hellfire Club. Last Friday, she held her 3rd annual Faerie Ancestors evening. Every fall, Della goes into a creative frenzy making faeries in her back workshop. Her husband, Nick, has to call her back to reality at suppertime. In December, my sister, Della, puts together an elaborate evening display of the new faeries, each with its own unique, intricate setting, in her magical 18c Abbey house in Ballinaclash. Women come from all over the county to see the faeries, an invitation and donation at the door gets you in. Della gives all the money to the homeless in Dublin; she dropped off 1700 Euros on Monday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

since Christmas is coming, let's talk about reindeer

still from The Last Yoik in the Sami Forests?
The reindeer of Samiland are like the Canadian caribou, except the animals of North America are wild. And like the caribou, the reindeer, and the forests and tundra of the lands of the indigenous peoples of northern Europe and Canada, suffer from romanticization, exploitation, abuse, the dire effects of climate change, and human disregard and disrespect.

Does Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer know that his kin are in trouble?

Canadian caribou are in a steep decline, but does this news ring out like Jingle Bells?

"The massive Beverly herd, which roams the tundra from northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan and well into the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, once numbered about 276,000. But a just-released survey suggests the number of caribou cows on the calving grounds of the massive Beverly herd have fallen by 98 per cent over the past 14 years."

Last Yoik in Sami Forests?, a documentary by Hannu Hyvönen, tells of the effects of neoliberal corporate greed and consumer apathy on the much beloved reindeer of Samiland.

You can watch The Last Yoik in Sami Forests? on YouTube. I recommend watching the Epilogue first.

part 1

part 2

part 3

part 4

part 5

part 6

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Arabia in Finland

I bought this small round plate for .25c at a yard sale down the street from me a few years ago. Gleefully, I brought it home and added it to my collection of other small plates that I have amassed over the years; most have been gifts. Like many other Finnish Canadians, I have a number of various small plates like this up on the walls--a collecting pastime that the Japanese seem to like to do, too. On the back of this plate it reads: Arabia Finland. Toivo G. Utrianen. Utriainen was a prolific Finnish artist who wanted to spread beauty around. He said, to me the forest is my temple. He said, I am not a frequent or eager churchgoer, but find God in nature and that's where I find stillness. Without belief the world is empty.

The back of this plate reads: Arabia Finland. Lapinäiti. Lapp woman. Design: Anita Rantanen-Siewers.
The Saami people and culture is a common theme appropriated by Finns for inspiration in art and for tourism, especially the Santa industry and all things Northern, much like non-native Canadians use First Nations peoples and their cultural symbols and meanings. For example, take the inukshuk (pardon the pun), which has seen increasing appropriation and commodification, from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the cover of books (that don't even have one essay by an Inuk writer despite purporting to be a book showcasing Canadian writers!) to realtors:

"Our team has chosen the Inukshuk to symbolize our business. We are here to guide you safely and comfortably through the sale and/or purchase of your cherished asset, your home."

But back to Arabia. The back of this plate reads: Lappalaiset Nuotiolla. Lapps by a Campfire. A. Alariesto 46. Made by ARABIA FINLAND. I'm not really sure if Andreas Alariesto was a Finn or Saami (or both), but what I am sure of is that there is an industry that has emerged from his work, which was a creation of his imagination. Now, I'm not against promoting the arts, for certainly artists need to make a living, too, and we should value "arts" much more than we do, especially in policy, but I do think how that art is produced and taken up is an area for discussion.

image from Suomen kasvot. The Face of Finland. (1948). One of those rummage sale books I've amassed. Some major Orientalism happening here. It's a photo of the artistic director of the Arabia factory making (or pretending to touch up for the photo op) a nude nubile African woman while an Egyptian feline looks on and another topless lithe black female poses regally in the background.

I remember as a young girl wondering about this name "Arabia" that I saw stamped on the bottom of bowls and plates. It sounded so exotic. I remember asking my mom about it. What does it mean? It's just a name, she replied, the name of the company, and went back to her work in the kitchen. The company, Arabia, has a 130 year history in Finland. The old factory grounds is now a suburb of Helsinki called Arabianranta, or The Arabian Shore, which until gentrification was an area of many homeless. I laughed when I saw the names of the streets because in typical Finnish fashion of lumping all exoticism and differences together, the street names are an Orientalist jumble: Cairo, Damascus, Korea, Siam, Syria, Indian, Java, Sumatra, Japan, Arabian Road and Arabian Shore, and just a jog down, Berlin, London and Paris. Only in Finland would Japan find its way into Arabianranta...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Squirrelling down

no, he's not sideways, he's just squirreling down the tree trunk sideways

I think I sniff peanuts!

Listen, lady, I need to get back to my gathering work.

We had a heavy snowfall

of light snow

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Door Knockers

~ photo by Abdi Sami

Door Knockers

"A young girl in the historical village of Abyaneh [Iran] demonstrates to Rick the difference between the two door knockers. In the old times the door knocker to the left was used by women and the one to the right by men. Since they sound differently the women in the house knew whether the person behind the door was a man or a woman."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Katja Maki Art Zoom @Northern Woman's Bookstore

~ birthday card to my daughter, Yasmin, made by her aunt, Katja Maki, showing our (grand)father, Kalevi Maki, as a young man on his first (and only) motorcycle, and our (grand)mother, Ritva Orvokki, as a young woman in summer.


present the photo art of


Saturday December 6, noon - 9 p.m.

To celebrate Art Zoom, The Northern Woman's Bookstore will offer 10% Off all Northwestern Ontario Writer's books

For more information, phone 344-7979
or go to artzoom.

The Northern Woman's Bookstore (65 Court St. S) is proud to take part in this year's Art Zoom, featuring local artist, Katja Maki.

Katja Maki is a photographic artist residing in Thunder Bay. In her work, she combines photography, digital technology and painting to create mixed media photo art. One of her art pieces was recently selected for a juried
exhibition at Definitely Superior Art Gallery. Katja is proud to be one of the founders and organizers of the SuperiorFinn MidSummer Arts Festival. She is also a writer and has penned poetry, short stories, and critical pieces, as well as a children’s book. Both in written text and visuals, Katja’s work engages with Finnish migrant experience, ancestors, nature, landscape, and contemporary identities, particularly gendered realities.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Women may be possessed by mink, so I read

When I went out for my morning walk on Tuesday, I had to look way out past the ice sheet to find the few remaining goldeneyes, mallards and Canada geese. Lucky I had my binoculars with me this time, or I would've thought they'd flown south yesterday.

I saw a huge flock of about a 100 ring billed gulls gathered at the edge of the ice having a party. They were sitting on the ice, nonchalant as can be, undeterred by the fierce westerly winds whipping along the shore. Suddenly, as if a signal had came from some mysterious voice, an urgent call from beyond the blue, the entire flock shot straight up into the air. This tight cloud of flying gulls hung over the ice, with the birds at its outer edges dispersing into wider and wider rings, like ripples from a spiraling gyre, while a breakaway stream of birds flew silently single file over my head. I was the sole audience. Transfixed, I watched this morphing body of birds shapeshift before my eyes, then suddenly the bird ballet ended and the cloud descended in a rush back onto the ice.

These beautiful bird clouds are all around us.

The ice made constellations spangled with dusty stars.

Orbiting like a flying saucer. But after walking further along the shore, I thought that opening to the other side might be less celestial and more a watery portal

where the mink comes up for air. I was surprised to see his chocolate brown body swimming in the icy waters, as you can tell from my haste to catch him. He likes to travel the edges of water, hunting for his favorite food, muskrat. He must like birds, too, as I saw a bundle of white feathers and a scattering of delicate bones on a rock nearby

his rock pile home. He is both hunter and hunted. Trapped not only for his glossy fur, which I once read sometimes ends up being made into scarves and shawls in China, the mink also has a thick layer of fat below his skin that is used to make mink oil to prevent wrinkles on human faces and to condition leather shoes and bags. But mink is not only a commodity, Mink is also a clan. When other animals burrow away for the winter, the mink continues to lead an active life throughout the cold weather. He likes to burrow and slide in the snow, too. If you look close, you can see the white patch at his throat [click on the photo to enlarge]. He has a good sense of smell, because after climbing out of the water and slipping in and out between the rocks,

he turned to stare right at me

then went out hunting again.