Sunday, February 28, 2010

I found out today that Americans are attacking Canadian values

Earlier today, I received an email from a Minnesotan friend, passing along information about an interesting series of events on campuses in Duluth being held in conjunction with Israeli Apartheid Week (March 1-7th). If I wasn't swamped with work and commitments up here in Thunder Bay and off to Fort Frances later in the week, I'd drive down to the US with my husband to hear the speakers (all who have been to Palestine), watch the films, and join the discussions. Please see the end of this post for the schedule and detail. I congratulate the organizers for arranging these crucial events to share information on the necessity of BDS to effect meaningful change for the Palestinians, which can then bring the prospect of peace to Israelis.

Having been heartened by the passion and justice of Duluth activists, you can imagine my dismay when I read tonight that the Ontario provincial government voted on a motion on Thursday, Feb. 25, to stop the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid":

The Ontario government recently approved a motion that the term "Israeli Apartheid" should not be used. The motion passed with unanimous support from the Ontario Tory's, Liberals and NDP.

I was shocked to see that the NDP supported this, so I immediately sent out an email to the local Member of Parliament (Federal) voicing my outrage about the provincial NDP's support on this (and I will post a Facebook message to the MPP).

My shock was compounded when I read in an Open Letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty and MPPs (who represent the Ontario populace) that this motion had passed with only 30 out of 107 MPPs in attendance. Hanna Kawas, Chairperson of the Canada Palestine Association in Vancouver, soundly critiques the moral bankruptcy of the reasoning behind this vote:

"I am a Palestinian Christian from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem who survived Israel’s “Original Sin” that uprooted two thirds of the Palestinian people and wiped out over four hundred Palestinian towns and villages from the map of the world in 1947/1948. I am also one of the six million refugees who have been waiting for the past sixty-one years to return to their homes, lands and homeland. I am hurt and outraged at the morally bankrupt resolution of your Legislature. It adds insult to injury.
I challenge any one or more from these “honourable members” of the Ontario Legislature who voted for the resolution to a reasonable and rational debate, at anytime.

In the meantime I just want to tell Mr. Shurman, please do NOT speak in the name of the South African people. In contrast to your unfounded assertion (with no proof) that the term Israeli Apartheid is “offensive to the millions of black South Africans”, let me offer you the facts. The South African peoples and leaders are not offended by the Apartheid comparison, they do support the Palestinian struggle for liberation and if anything is offensive to them, it is those who oppress the Palestinian people (the Israeli regime) and the unquestioning supporters of such ethnic cleansing and war crimes."

Then, reading an Israeli online newspaper, I read that the Ontario MPP who brought this motion to the Ontario government closely equates the term Israeli Apartheid with "hate speech" that could get you arrested and states that those who use it are "attacking Canadian values":

"If you're going to label Israel as Apartheid, then you are also... attacking Canadian values," Conservative legislator Peter Shurman told Shalom Life, a Toronto-based Jewish Web site.

"The use of the phrase 'Israeli Apartheid Week' is about as close to hate speech as one can get without being arrested, and I'm not certain it doesn't actually cross over that line," he said.

This all made me realize that my American justice-for-Palestine counterparts in Minnesota currently have more freedom of speech than I and millions of other Canadians in Ontario. I also realized with distress that my American colleagues against Israeli Apartheid, according to the Ontario government, are "attacking Canadian values." What sort of madness has this weekend's unjust Ontario parliamentary vote wrought?

Please see below for the Israeli Apartheid week events in Duluth, which I urge you to attend if you live in Minnesota:


A series of public events are planned next week at Duluth campuses to raise public awareness about human rights violations in historic Palestine and call for an end to U.S. support for Israel and for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. This includes a call for the State of Minnesota to divest itself of Israel bonds.

The events are being held in conjunction with the sixth annual Israel Apartheid Week, which takes place worldwide March 1-7, 2010. The local events are:

* Wednesday, March 3, 3 p.m., University of Wisconsin-Superior Old Main Room 310: Eyewitness Report from Egypt and Palestine: presentation by Sylvia Schwartz.
* Wednesday, March 3, 5 p.m., University of Minnesota-Duluth Montague Room 70: Eyewitness Reports from Egypt and Palestine: presentations by Bret Thiele, Mayra Gomez and Sylvia Schwartz.
* Thursday, March 4, 12:30 p.m., Lake Superior College Room E2046: Eyewitness Reports from Egypt and Palestine: presentations by Bret Thiele, Mayra Gomez and Sylvia Schwartz.
* Thursday, March 4, 5 p.m., College of St. Scholastica Intercultural Center (Tower Hall First Floor): Short Film on the Israeli Occupation, followed by a Panel Discussion with Bret Thiele, Mayra Gomez, and Sylvia Schwartz. Palestinian food provided by CSS Amnesty International.

The events are sponsored by the Minnesota Break the Bonds Coalition Duluth Chapter, College of St. Scholastica Amnesty International, and UMD Students for Peace.

chemical camisoles

Camisole: Not only a short light garment of soft delicate fabric worn by women when dressed in negligee for night or the bedroom, but also a straitjacket for lunatics in an asylum or criminals condemned to the guillotine.

One of the staggering things that Lisa Appignanesi says she discovered while doing research for her book Mad, Bad, and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors

"is that in 1800 or 1810, the head of Bedlam, the first great public mental health asylum in Britain had sixteen causes of mental illness, or thereabouts, and they were very general things, like misfortunes, troubles, grief, love, jealousy, pride, drink, intoxication, and -- I love this one, religion and Methodism. They were genuine causes. And now we have over 950 pages of very specific diagnoses, which seem to handle every aspect of lived experience, and a lot of them seem to have pharmaceuticals attributed to their potential cure. That's rather staggering ....

the mind-doctoring professions have really colonized our mental and emotional life, we have more and more things that are disordered, that are seen through those spectacles. We find more and more depression, where at one time we would have found unhappiness, or poverty, or any of a multitude of emotional and social problems. But we look to the mind doctors for their cures."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

winter walk

A couple of weeks ago when I was in Fort Frances, I went for a morning walk along the shores of Rainy Lake. Where the lake empties into the Rainy River, an old Railway bridge (1908) crosses the narrows towards Minnesota, US. I stood on the Canadian side of Couchiching shore looking at the American Koochiching / International Falls to take this photo. I was amazed to see an open patch of water on the lakeside of the old bridge as this is the dead of winter. You can see the between space of liquid water and ice and snow through the puffs of wet air.

I walked through the snow at the disputed Pither's Point. The landscape had been covered in hoar frost during the night and we woke up to a white frost-laden wonderland. Besides 3 ducks that swam in the open expanse of water situated at the narrows, on the lakeside,

I heard two woodpeckers but could not see them.

The sound was coming from here.

If you stood real still at the shoreline you could hear a faint shushing sound of ice crystals sighing. Walking against the sun, narrowing my eyes against its brilliance,

I saw the air was filled with ice crystals, with small points of light dashing diagonally to meet me, and realized the sound was coming from the ice crystals as they set free from the trees.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tilikum means friend

1971. Shamu at Sealand, a supposed publicity shot yet which captures animal resistance.

In the 70s, when I attended Hammarskjold High School, art was one of my favorite subjects, that is until I had a terribly sexist male teacher whose pedagogy was so problematic I stopped taking art because in order to continue with upper level art you had to have him for a teacher again. It was his class or no class, and his class was just so uncomfortable for a young insecure female, I stopped.

For another art instructor, who was not sexist but nice, I sketched a picture of an orca for my portfolio, but as he then asked me at the end of the year if he could keep all my work, and me being a terribly naive stupid young woman at the time, gave up all my work. So, I have nothing to show for my years in highschool art, I was too agreeable in those days, especially to male authority. The things I have learned....

Sometimes I wonder how life would be different if a young teenaged woman such as myself could have had some of the experience behind her of a middle-aged woman. Where were the older mentors? In those days, the media spin convinced us that anyone over 30 was old and not to be trusted. I viewed my mother not only as on the other side of the generation gap, but as an old-fashioned Finnish woman who had nothing in common with independent young Canadian women. What was I resisting or protesting in Port Arthur? Nothing. My parents' history and my identity, however, did not match. There was "over there" and here was "here" and how they fit, I was not even aware of, nor interested to think about. I was too busy being independent.

Cosmopolitan magazine cover February 1970

I did not have any political knowledge or social consciousness at all. I was supposed to be rebelling but against what I was not sure, but nonetheless I crafted a hippie wanna-be female identity that looked the part at least. I looked through the Seventeen magazines my sisters and I bought for examples on how to construct my identity--to guide me to feminine beauty in fear of the dreaded ugly-- and when feeling especially audacious and independent and thinking I needed to project a sexual image, Cosmopolitan magazine.

The media images from 1971 show that there is much need for young woman to be empowered by older women mentors who could guide them to better choices. Have women in the West advanced since the 70s? I think many of our hard won gains have been lost, stripped away, and indeed seen as superfluous and unnecessary. In Canada women have taken many steps backwards, thanks to our neo-conservative ruling government, and Canadian women's rights are in decline.

Too bad young Western women are not as apt to take up resistance strategies to their containment into social scripts as some animals are.

The YouTube clip above on Shamu, of course, is part of the story of Tilikum, the killer whale that recently killed a female trainer in Florida.

Yesterday when I posted the photo of the smiling dog, I actually had the death of the trainer at SeaWorld in mind. I was so troubled by her senseless and tragic death, but I couldn't help thinking: killer whale. The animal is called killer whale. Why do we continue to jail these massive predators in tanks for entertainment spectacle? This very problematic abuse and exploitation of killer whales, and opposition to that, has been going on ever since Western society realized what a cash cow killer whales are and set out to exploit their profit potential.

Jason Hribal, in his new book Fear of the Animal Planet: The History of Animal Resistance, makes the links between consuming animals as entertainment and capitalist profiteering clear:

Sea World, for instance, has had fifty-one Shamus. The original was captured in 1965, after animal collector Ted Griffin harpooned the calf’s mother in Puget Sound. Betting with the odds, Sea World would only lease the animal at first. Who knows how long she would last? But, when the young orca made it through the year, the park bought her outright for $100,000. Sea World made Shamu the central figure in its operations. All marketing from this point forward was geared towards her. There would be Shamu commercials. There would be Shamu shows. There would be Shamu dolls and t-shirts. Shamu became, in the words of one director, the park’s “Mickey Mouse.” This orca did, however, have the power to disrupt these well-laid plans.

In 1971, during a publicity stunt, Shamu was being filmed with bikini-clad women riding on her back. Suddenly, she tossed the woman off and began dunking the person underwater. There were two divers in the small pool, but Shamu shrugged them off like little insects. The chaotic scene continued for a few minutes: a hysterical woman, divers tumbling in the wake, and trainers at the poolside desperately holding out poles. The individual would, eventually, be rescued. But the deed was done and the images made the local news. Shamu, apparent to all, was not near as friendly or cooperative as the amusement park would have liked us to believe. Sea World had its first major incident. At the end of the day, though, the orca’s actions were not enough to bring down the park. Operations would continue and, fifty-one Shamus later, Sea World has thrived. It has become a flagship vacation destination with three current locations: San Diego, Orlando, and San Antonio. They have hotels, restaurants, roller coasters, merchandise, and special events. They have adventure camps for grade school and high school students. They have a multitude of animal exhibitions and performances. They have extensive breeding and research programs. Shamu has made Sea World’s owners very rich.

Killer whale (Orcinus Orca)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our dog Bullet

My workload has been keeping me too busy, cramming too many things into a day, so when I come across something that makes me smile, well, it's just too precious to pass by. Like this pooch with a grin and bright friendly eyes. I know it's silly, but how sweet!

This little dog looks a bit like my bird, Sydney. I know it seems improbable, but there is something in the expression, something behind the eyes that reminds me of my lovebird.

This little dog reminded me of the Pomeranian mix that my sisters and I had when we were little until we were teens and even in our early twenties! I think she was about 17 years old when she died. Our dog, Bullet, who we named after Roy Roger's dog from his tv show popular in the 60s, was a joy to us. She went everywhere with us, scampering along the dirt roads of Jumbo Gardens when we started grade school, playing with us in the back lanes of Windemere Ave. when we moved into the city of Port Arthur, grooving with us to our first records in the basement of the Kenogami Ave home our dad built--what she thought of Donovan's LP Mellow Yellow or the 45 Louie, Louie by Paul Revere and the Raiders, one cannot say but she seemed to enjoy them!--and she followed along with us when we moved to Jenny Ketola's old green shiny wood house on Empress Ave, and finally to the last home our dad built on Oliver Road where her stone lies in the back bush somewhere.

I have not gone to visit her grave in a very long time. The woods may be completely overgrown, I fear. I don't think I'll find her grave. Last time my sister and I went to try to find her stone, we were thwarted by heavy branches of balsam and spruce. We tried to find where Isa had buried her but the branches were scratching our arms, the ground was soppy, boggy, and full of roots and sinkholes, and the mosquitoes were eating us alive. Our Isa used to keep the bush somewhat under check when he was alive (although he was more of the live-and-let-live philosophy, of the belief in unlandscaped natural beauty) , but since he passed no one has gone into the woods back of the house to do any clearing or pruning.

Friday, February 19, 2010

for the love of oranges

"I think it was a mother," said my husband as he looked down at the mousetrap. "Come and see."

"Oh my god, I don't want to see a dead mouse! Get it outside! Throw it out! Throw it in the back yard, in the snowbank. The crow will come and get it right away. Hurry up, while it's still fresh so the crow will grab it right away. Get rid of it!"

"Why do I have to always get rid of the mouse?" he muttered as he threw on a jacket, opened the back door, and went out into the cold, dead mouse in a small bag in hand.

We have a mouse highway in our house. Because it is 102 years old, our house has had plenty of time to be discovered by mice. Each fall, a new mother finds her way to the walls, pulled towards the warmth, the labyrinth of pathways hidden between walls, between ceilings and floors, a maze of mouse roadways running up and down from the basement to the third floor. Each fall or winter, I wake up in the dead of the night sure that I've heard the sound of small gnawing overhead. Or was it by the baseboard? Don't tell me it's in my closet! Of course, when you are as quiet as a mouse in the dead of night listening for a mouse, it knows that you are sitting upright in bed listening and it stops.

"I think we have a mouse," I tell my husband in the morning. "We have to get it."

And why wouldn't a mouse like to come to our house, too? Our cupboards are groaning with food. No lack of nourishment. All manners of goods and groceries.

I'm married to a Lebanese, afterall. His motto is "there is no such thing as having too many groceries!" I just scolded him as he came home today, carrying sacks of groceries. "We don't need more groceries! Our fridge is packed! We just went grocery shopping!"

"Don't worry," he said, "I restrained myself this time." Then, casting a look of incredulity at me, he said "Any Lebanese woman would be thrilled that her husband brings home the groceries and you complain that I'm going grocery shopping!" He busied himself emptying the grocery bags.

"Whose going to eat all these groceries! A person can only eat so much. I hate throwing things out," I retorted.

"Look," he said, holding up a gold and green box of sesame cookies laced with pistachios, "barazik from Syria. I hope they're fresh this time."

"You better not have bought any more oranges," I scolded. "We've already got so many oranges, way more than we can possibly eat. Who's going to eat all these oranges we have?" I asked.

I watched him pull out a large mesh bag of tangelos, then a large mesh bag of mandarins, and yet another large mesh bag of red-fleshed cara cara oranges.

"They were on sale," he said, "how could I resist? And look at how nice they look!" he grinned ear to ear, holding up the three bags of bright orange fruit.

The scent of citrus fills the air.

Aimless Love by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

- Billy Collins

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Doorbell

The doorbell rang and I received Lebanon, Lebanon in the mail. I opened it randomly and found this poem. It reminded me of that morning in July 2006 when I went downstairs and turned on the tv.

THE DOORBELL by Adrian Mitchell

I was in bed, the silvery light of dawn
blessing our quiet suburban street,
when the window darkened,
and the doorbell rang.

Pushed my face deep in the pillow.
but the doorbell kept ringing
and there was another sound,
like the crying of a siren,
so I slopped downstairs
unbolted, unlocked, unchained
and opened the front door.

There, on the doorstep, stood the War.
It filled my front garden,
filled the entire street
and blotted out the sky.
It was human and monstrous,
shapeless, enormous,
with torn and poisoned skin which bled
streams of yellow, red and black.

The War had many millions of heads
both dead and half-alive,
some moaning, some screaming,
some whispering,
in every language known on earth,
goodbye, my love.

The War had many millions of eyes
and all wept tears of molten steel.
Then the War spoke to me
in a voice of bombs and gunfire:
I am your War.
Can I come in?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

have you heard any good poetry, lately?

I was reviewing and vetting creative writings for an anthology recently, a process that left me wondering, wondering what is the purpose of this poem? what is the purpose of this short story? why am I reading this? is this of interest? should it be? So, I thought, to restore my faith, I'd post some inspiring creative work by a young Canadian female spoken word artist that says something, that tells me something, that gives me something to think about, that leaves us with something to think about, as Canadians, as thinkers, as readers, as listeners, as denizens of a shared world of contradictions, of unresolved injustices, of increasing intolerance in Canada, especially of Palestine. Starting with our government.

Rafeef Ziadah Toronto spoken word poet, 3rd generation Palestinian refugee:

"We are encouraged to think that poetry shouldn't make sense
and shouldn't move people to action, it's simply self-expression for the sake of art itself. Not to say that artists shouldn't be true to themselves, but when I'm on stage I am not providing a product for consumption, rather a story and a way to connect that story to the audience. It's finding that balance between what's inside you and what message you want to put out and putting it in a way people can relate to and understand."

Shades of Anger: This poem emerged after Rafeef was kicked in the gut by a student at York U in Toronto, who said she deserved to be raped before she birthed her terrorist children.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

off on my sunny trip!

One of my friends reminded me that birthdays are a journey, not a number: A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip.

Monday, February 8, 2010

statistics are sobering

This morning, I was horrified to read, but not surprised to know, that the Army commander of the Canadian Forces Base at Trenton, Ontario has been charged with murdering two women, as well as charged with two home invasions.

That sobering truth of the ugly effects of promoting war and violence yet never acknowledging how far reaching their maniacal tentacles are came on the heels of having heard that a group of 7 young boys looking for firewood were "accidentally" killed by Afghan police. The police, of course, as the report tells us, were in a "hunt" for "insurgents." Canada prides itself on training Afghan policemen. What sort of methods are we teaching them? What sort of sick misdirection are we providing? Canadians will never learn the names of these boys.

On this morning's radio report, I was horrified to hear that Afghan villagers have been leafletted to get out of the area. The NATO troops are going to "cleanse" the area of Taliban. The villagers have to scramble to leave for the showdown the occupiers have planned with "the insurgents." This news made me feel sick. What sort of violence machine have the Canadians become? Where will the villagers go? Is there even a place for them? Should they go hide in the hills? How should an impoverished people leave?

Then, I was looking for some stats on the number of displaced Iraqi people, when I was horrified to stumble upon the news that an American soldier has been charged with waterboarding his 4 yr.old daughter because she didn't recite her ABCs to his liking.

Looking for those stats, I visited Arabwomanblues who writes in clear language the realities that she has had to bear witness since the US led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Here are the official stats she lists (please read her full post for her full report):

From 2003 - present

* 1.5 Million Dead (Lancet report)
* 200'000 reported missing (official)
* 2 Million Maimed at least (official)
* 5 Million Exiled and Internally displaced (official)
* 2 Million widows (official figure)
* 4.5 - 5 Million Orphans (official)

These numbers left me reeling. In 2003, Iraq's population was only about 25 million. Canada's population is about 34 million today. I couldn't help but compare that if Canada within 7 years ended up with more 6 m. orphans or 3 million widows, what would we think? Would these statistics be hard to find?

On Arabwomanblues, not only did I find the shocking stats I was looking for, but also I watched the AlJazeera video on the effects of war on American soldiers that she had linked to. This report states 18 war veterans on average commit suicide EACH DAY in the US and families of soldiers who have returned from many deployments (what a euphemism) to Iraq describe their lives as hell.

Shouldn't Obama, who got the Peace Prize, be responsible for the ugly of war too not just its promotion?

And why don't more Canadians see our Prime Minister as a War Minister? That we live in a war economy? Why do many Canadians still believe the lie that we are peacekeepers when we are in fact active aggressors in killing fields and war profiteers?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

a song about a home town

Song By: Jordan Burnell Video By: Matt Popowich Beat By: Andrew Michael Recorded / Mixed By: Brenden 'Geebawk' Beaudoin Co-Producer: Ronnie LaVia Westfort Films

So many of my friends here in Thunder Bay (including my dear long time friend Merts), have sent me the link to this video, I thought I must post it here to share with you, too. It's nice to see young people telling their stories in their own ways.

Friday, February 5, 2010

unpublished letters from birds

goldfinch caught by my sister, Katja. Find more of her feathered friends at her Red Bubble site.

Musical Variations of a Naked Woman....Qabbani abbreviated. See the full text here.

Two beautiful roosters
Crow on your chest
And sleep.
I remained sleepless.
The hand-embroidered sheet
Was covered with birds,
Roses and palm trees.

A Lesson In Drawing....Qabbani abbreviated. See the full text here.

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
"... But this is a prision, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?"
And I tell him: "Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds."

My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son sits at the edge of my bed
asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
"But this is a tear, father, not a poem!"
And I tell him:
"When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers."

a Christmas card I bought once

When I love you.
....Qabbani abbreviated, see the full text here

When I love you
A new language springs up,
New cities, new countries discovered.
The hours breathe like puppies,
Wheat grows between the pages of books,
Birds fly from your eyes with tiding of honey,
Caravans ride from your breasts carrying Indian herbs,
The mangoes fall all around, the forests catch fire
And Nubian drums beat.

Katja's birds.

Why do you ask? Qabbani abbreviated, full text here.

When I write
I roam light
As a legendary bird.

Canada Geese. from the web somewhere. photographer unknown.

The following poem by Qabbani, I don't know the title, but it's one of my favorites. I never get tired of reading it. Each time I read it, it is new. Now, that's magic.

I taught you the names of trees
And the dialogue of the night crickets
I gave you the addresses of the distant stars.
I registered you in the school of spring
And taught you the language of birds
The alphabet of rivers.
I wrote your name
On the notebooks of the rain,
On the sheets of the snow,
And on the pine cones.
I taught you to talk to rabbits and foxes
To comb the spring lamb’s wool.
I showed you the unpublished letters of the birds,
I gave you
The maps of summer and winter
So you could learn
How the wheat grows,
How white chicks peep,
How the fish marry,
How milk comes out of the breast of the moon,
But you became tired of the horse of freedom
So the horse of freedom threw you
You became weary of the forests on my chest
Of the symphony of the night crickets
You became bored of sleeping naked
Upon the sheets of the moon,
So you left the forest
To be ravished by the leader of the tribe,
And eaten by the wolf.

Nizar Qabbani

Monday, February 1, 2010

smoke gets in the eyes

I'm in the midst of marking so I haven't much time to post. I thought I would share with you 2 photos I took this morning. Each morning, I climb the stairs to the 3rd floor of this old Victorian-style house I live in, to get Sydney, our love bird, from her upstairs sleeping cage. Yes, although an African bird by species, she's a North American bird by culture, as we've put her in the midst of consumer culture: she has 3 cages. One upstairs for sleeping (bedtime is 8:30 pm sharp), one on the main floor where she socializes and spends her day (she loves listening to music, particularly accordion and flute), and one wooden summertime cage which I hang off a tree outside during warm days so Sydney can talk with the outdoor birds.

Anyway, the window in the front half of the 3rd floor faces Lake Superior, faces the rising sun, which you can see beginning its ascent. The sky was spectacular this morning, with a huge thunderbird wing spanning the sky, as if attached to Nanabijou (The Sleeping Giant), a peninsula that protects Thunder Bay harbour. First I tried to get a photo without the chimney stacks, but there was no way. The smoke kept getting in the way, no matter what angle I tried. I gave up. May as well let the smoke get in my camera's eye, it is impossible to remove the technology, the mark of humans on the skyscape. The neighbours' chimneys are puffing out smoke, showing that their furnaces too are working overtime to keep the house warm. Another frigid day.
With the bird on my shoulder I came downstairs to the main floor to start my day. Each night I draw the curtains in the front window to keep the heat in as old windows let out heat once there is no sun, and each morning I draw the curtains open. I sewed dark brown velvet curtains just for this purpose, to help keep this 100+ year old house warm in winter. This morning the sun that was so brilliantly beginning its golden ascent, glowed through the fabric, outlining the row of brass knickknacks that I have received as gifts from various people returning from the Middle East. This morning a small brass urn spoke.

The intrusion of consumer culture. Can we escape it? Get it out of the picture? Watch right to the end.