Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Tree called Sacred

Over the next few posts, I will serialize one of my tree poems. This tree poem is a puzzle, too, like my poem An Ancient Riddle Found Standing in the Backyard.

I live on the sides of mountains
in filtered sun, sheltering under the shade
of trees alive with the sound of songbirds
that visit me from the North.

Avocados, banana, jackbean, red-seeded sword bean,
earth nut and monkey nut live alongside me.

I never stray from the Equator.

I call Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, Guatemala,
and Ecuador my home, and lately, Vietnam 
but my roots are Ethiopian and Yemeni.

Arab traders carried me to their homelands
With me, created rituals for well-being,
prosperity and the nourishment of friendship.

Imams tended me carefully in their gardens,
guarding me like a secret.
In return, I danced through their veins,
keeping them awake for night prayers.

In Mecca, the Sultan declared me sacred,
but in Turkey, I was grounds for divorce
if a husband failed to offer me daily
to his wife.

Friday, December 23, 2011

trees have rights, too

Olive tree within a traffic circle within an illegal Israeli settlement within the Occupied West Bank.

Regardless where you stand on the question of Palestine, watching the destruction of olive trees as shown in the video clip above calls into question the tactics Israeli settlers have taken up. Uprooting and burning olive trees? All to claim their rights to, what they call using the Old Testament names, Judea and Samaria, but since the creation of Israel in '48 became known as the West Bank; otherwise known as Palestine. Speaking to the further compartmentalizing of land for political and ecocide purposes yet masked in the rhetoric of claims to "my home," the West Bank has been divided further into Areas A, B, and C:
The Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three geographic areas. In Area A, in which most Palestinian urban centres fall, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for security (although the Israelis routinely enter Area A at will) but in Areas B and C, which comprise over 80 per cent of the territory, it is the Israelis which are responsible for security. This means Palestinian police are not permitted to protect Palestinian civilians from Israeli settlers in most of the West Bank. The problem is, of course, that the Israelis are not doing this job either and so it should come as no surprise that 95 per cent of settler violence occurs in Areas B and C.
Whether the Palestinian land is categorized as A, B, or C, it seems there will be more uprooting of its trees and destruction of its natural environment to build more homes for Israeli settlers. The Israeli Housing Ministry announced last Sunday that it will build 1028 new homes in ...where? Well, here are more terms to obfuscate the question of where these homes are going to be built: 
According to a statement by the ministry, 500 homes will be built in Har Homa in south Jerusalem, on land occupied during the 1967 Six Day War; 348 in the West Bank settlement of Betar Illit; and 180 in Givat Ze'ev, which lies between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
According to official Israeli terms, lands south of Jerusalem are known as Judea, and lands north of Jerusalem, Samaria. In other words, the homes are for Israeli settlers and will be illegally built on Palestinian land that has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

I invite the uprooters of trees and their supporters to watch a short video from System Change. In this clip, Canadian Maude Barlow argues for the movement towards making laws to encode the rights of protecting the trees, forests, oceans, rivers, streams, wetlands, and ecosystems, those interconnected systems of life. She argues for a sacred relationship with Nature, a  reclaiming and honouring of these beings / systems of the Commons, protecting ecosystems from marketization, resource extraction, and privatization.  I wonder how --and hope that-- the question of Palestine can move forward when the rights of Olive trees are enacted. And let's not forget water as praise for the River Jordan is sung reverently over the holidays. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Canada is not a religion; it's a country

Rick Salutin on weaing a niqab while taking the oath to become a Canadian citizen. If the clip above doesn't work, look here.

 Here are some thoughts he shares, worth thinking about: 

  • people say the niqab doesn't reflect Canadian values but citizenship isn't about sharing particular values, it's about sharing the country.
  • his grandfather, Himan Salutin, couldn't have been a citizen if he had to share Canadian values of his time; he was an anarchist, He came here from Russia in 1910 and went on strike immediately. That's way he was seen as unCanadian.
  • Women who wanted the vote were out of step with Canadian values, too.
  • Today's ultimate Canadian value, medicare, was denounced as unCanadian when it was  introduced.
  • Canadian values are always going through change. If they weren't, Canada would be a religion, not a country.
  • People who don't share majority values, play an important part, even if they never ask to. Sometimes they help change those values; other times, they help cement them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Let's all wear niqabs and high heels to protest Kenney's state racism

 Last Monday, Immigration and Citizenship Minister Kenney issued a public decree that women wearing a niqab or burka will have to remove them to say the oath of Canadian citizenship. That in Canada this is targeted at what is less than a handful of women clearly exposes the fears of said minister and the Conservative government he represents and not the impediment to clearly hear the oath, as is his so-called reason. It's only fair and open, says Kenney, if the women want to "join the Canadian family." Our open family. Oops. He just made it clear we are close-minded. He forgot to clarify, too, what type of family he's talking about, which from all the other narrow-minded regressive positions he supports, is clearly not only patriarchal and heterosexual, but also white and Christian -- Evangelical Zionism preferred.

Tabatha Southey has written up a response in the Globe and Mail about Kenney's legal meddling in what women can and cannot wear. Her article, part of which I've excerpted below, chastises Kenney for constricting women's choices. (Meanwhile, in the comments section of Canadian newspapers, one is accosted by the rabid racism and xenophobia that is surfacing in defending Kenney). In her piece, she compares her apparel choices with other women and suggests that whether the choice is high heels or a niqab, what business does the government have in restricting women's choices? Are we a democracy or are we not? I'm reminded of the phrase many years ago when a Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau (Liberal), asserted that "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation"....Those days of inclusive federal thinking are, sadly, gone. As dead as the tailing ponds of the Alberta Tar Sands and our government's Kyoto commitment.

Many people consider high heels and miniskirts to be degrading to women. High heels can restrict a woman's movements. Fitted clothes objectify women, which is intrinsically demeaning to them and prevents them from achieving equality with men – so the theory goes.
Yet women have never worn less and achieved more in the public sphere than they do now, and so – arguably – there goes the theory.
My own feeling is that if it were the men in our society who wore the four-inch Louboutins, we might well theorize that this reflects their privileged position in society: Men know they'll never have to stand all night, or chase after a bus, it would be said of the men in pencil skirts.
Mr. Kenney feels that veils are fundamentally at odds with 'Canada's commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion.' Many Muslim women have told him so, he claimed. But surely neither Mr. Kenney nor an unidentified lobby of concerned Muslim women should be making wardrobe choices for adult women, for any occasion – because that is at odds with Canadian values. He's the Minister of Immigration, not Anna Wintour.
Veils are spooky and challenging to many people. You might feel cut off from a woman if you can't see her face, and thus disadvantaged. I'm not sure why people feel they have a right to see a woman's face any more than another part of her body. When my eyes meet the eyes of a veiled woman at my No Frills when her child is yelling about breakfast cereal, they speak volumes, as does her body posture, as quite often does she.
If there's a barrier between a veiled woman and me, it's on my side. It's made of any preconceived notions I might have about why she's wearing what she's wearing, and what it says about her ambitions, education, self-esteem and status in her own household.
I refuse to make those assumptions and I regret any rule that enshrines them. Just as I ask those assumptions not be made about me, based on my shoes. Click, click, click.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

on the other side of blue

If you are feeling blue, here is sound and eye therapy to lift you up, but not in that saccharine way that just makes you feel hopeless--hence, more depressed about the state of the world. The song is "Meadows of Heaven"; it is 7 m. long, but be sure to listen and watch the whole thing.

Written by Finnish musician Tuomas Holopainen (lyrics below) for his band, Nightwish, the song is from from their album Dark Passion Play (2007). Nightwish's music has been called "symphonic metal." Now, do not let that categorization stop you from listening! You will fall in love with this song; it is very captivating. The person who put together the visual clips for youTube has done an amazing job visually mapping the rise and fall, the hopes and despairs, encoded in the song's musical story.

While Tuomas looks like he crafts his metal persona as a cross between Johnny Depp and Keith Richards, in the lyrics for "Meadows of Heaven" he takes up the persona of the little boy inside the man.

Meadows of Heaven. Tuomas Holopainen

I close my eyes
The lantern dies
The scent of awakening
Wild honey and dew

Childhood games
Woods and lakes
Streams of silver
Toys of olden days

Meadows of heaven

The flowers of wonder
And the hidden treasures
In the meadow of life
My acre of Heaven
A five-year-old winter heart
In a place called home
Sailing the waves of old

Meadows of heaven

Rocking chair without a dreamer
A wooden swing without laughter?
Sandbox without toy soldiers
Yuletide without the Flight

Dreambound for life

Flowers wither, treasures stay hidden
Until I see the first star of fall

I fall asleep
And see it all:
Mother's care
And colour of the kites

Meadows of heaven

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grandpa said....hang on to the wind

Erkki Rankaviita singing "Pappa se sano," a traditional Finnish folk song. Rankaviita, who was born in 1927, is an award-winning folk singer known for old-style humorous working-class folksongs that carry social truths.

"Pappa se sano," which translates roughly to "Grandpa he said" is entertaining and interesting, both for its humour and its historical and social commentary on class, family, and gender roles. It is very much from the oral tradition of story-telling. The video above captures that sense of gathering in the tupa/ the kitchen/living room of the house and sharing one's stories through song.

His song tells a story about Grandpa saying let's buy a house, but then how will we eat? How will Grandpa buy those pretty earrings for daughter-in-law? Grandpa wants more riches; Grandma wants more loving..

He also sings "You, me or somebody else." More Finnish folk songs here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

snow calligraphy and a plume on the lake

I saw this snow calligraphy on the ice this morning. What message might the hand of the wind on the canvas of snow-on-ice etch?

I woke up a bit groggy and a bit later than usual, but I knew that Tassu would be waiting for me and the lamb bones, so I popped my cosy stockinged feet out of bed and booted it down to pick her up. As usual for Sunday a.m., we walked along the shore of Lake Superior. In years gone by, there would have been a solid ice cover at the shore in December, but winter is no longer as cold and as hard as it used to be. Today, the December ice and water seem to be in a shifting relationship of give-and-take. Even they don't seem to know what to make of it; what is expected of them. What is water one day will be ice the next, what is ice one day may transform into a low rolling wall of vapour, but even on the coldest days, you will see eyeholes or cracks of water and hear the susurration of water as it breathes and laps against the edge of ice.
If you stand quietly by the lake shore early in the morning, you will hear the whispers and groans of ice and water as they find space for each other in the same place. Sure, sometimes you hear a loud snap, but when you turn to look, you see harmony.
The ice is thin; last week much of the shoreline was still water. Last time I walked along the lake, I stopped to watch a big circle of clear ice float and feel its way along the shore, as if it were travelling to a place to call home. Two smaller ice circles bobbed behind it like ducklings paddling behind their mother. I saw a few ducks last week, but now all I saw was this ice bird looking out from the snow dusted ice. 
I stood looking at this clear sweep of ice ribboning its way out into the lake for quite awhile. Did someone pull a toboggan way out on the lake? Would someone be so foolish to go out on the ice now when it's so thin, unpredictable, and mortally dangerous? I noticed a thin line running along center of this plume, as if it were a tire tread. Did someone ride a bike way out on the lake ice? Impossible, I thought. The ice wouldn't hold them; they would have broken through and fallen into the lake.
The plume left its own question mark. So, I'm not sure, but I surmise that this is a natural pattern made by shifting plates of ice.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

visual poetics or poetic visitation? Suheir Hammad

Suheir Hammad's recent visual poetics.

Her new poetry project is a multimedia initiative — Hammad in her own words, with activists and artists helping her sing the visual tempo, in an exquisite short film “dreamed, directed and created,” as she says, by Waleed Zaiter. Zaiter is a New York City-based animator, designer and alchemist, according to his website