Monday, 28 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Oh joy, a buoy!
The Tay River and Canal goes from Perth, Ontario to Lower Rideau Lake on the Rideau Canal system. In the mooring basin in downtown Perth, a triple fountain plays to delight the tourists (and annoy closeby residents). You can put a boat into the river at Perth and follow the river and canal down to the lake as it is marked with navigation buoys. In places.
Friday, 18 September 2009
Would you like to live in a world where you turned over every penny you made to a husband who had been chosen for you, where your main duty was to 'live in harmony' with him and with your sister wives, where you had no access to birth control, you were forbidden television and newspapers and your children could be beaten? That is the life that women live in a sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). This sect is a 'radical offshoot' of the Mormon Church; you may have seen pictures of the women of the sect in, I think, 2008 when a compound belonging to the sect was raided after a complaint of sexual abuse was made by one of the young girls there. The women all wore their hair in a complicated braided style, wore long sleeved and skirted dresses, and were accompanied by lots and lots of small children.
I have just finished a book written by Carolyn Jessop, a woman who managed to leave the strict control of her husband and community. The book is called "Escape" and describes how she grew up in the FLDS, how she became gradually disillusioned with it and how she managed to get out, taking her children with her, and build a new life. The book is riveting, sometimes horrible, sometimes amazing. One of the most saddening parts is the description of her eldest daughter, a young teen when the family left, who went back as soon as she was eighteen and has now become a spokesperson for the sect and is, I gather, quite critical of her mother's decision and book. The book is not objective, how could it be, but I think there is enough in it to make it very believable.
I don't have any problem with plural marriage in the abstract if it were to be as advertised; sister wives helping one another and supported by a man who was even-handed and just to the whole family. In fact, when my children were babies and I had to work at least part time to put food on the table, I often wished there were two of me, or even three. One to satisfy the husband, one to care for the babies, and one to work and look after herself. The situation Carolyn Jessup describes was not like that at all. The family was at war with itself, the husband did things that were lazy and uncaring and the family and community were toxic with fear.
I do have trouble with religions that rely on a 'prophet' (or bishop or imam) to direct the whole community. I have trouble with religions that restrict what their adherents can read or listen to or learn, and that limit their children's schooling. The argument that the children must be kept 'pure' is, for me, a specious one. Children are not 'pure'. They are innately curious; they need to have their world explained to them, using language and examples appropriate to their age level of course, but never talked down to or ignored. And they should never, never be beaten into silence and 'good behaviour'. They should never be persuaded to be afraid.
Carolyn's description of her childhood is full of examples of how the whole community was taught to believe that the rest of the world was malevolent and threatening to them. The children were routinely slapped and spanked to improve their behaviour. Nonconforming wives could also be beaten. Even worse, for me, was the doctrine that to be admitted into Heaven, the children had to please the adults and the women their husbands, to conform to a very stultifying norm, to be unquestioningly obedient. It's a long way from the doctrine of free will.
When I went to my confirmation, as a child of twelve, I was convinced that the Holy Ghost would descend to me and that I would become a good person, inspired by the love of Christ. It did not happen that way and I was horribly disappointed. I remained within my church for many years thereafter but gradually drifted away from all organized religion, finding it patriarchal and top heavy and increasingly irrelevant to the life I wanted to live, a life in which service to my family and community was balanced by self growth. It did not help that as we moved from place to place each new church I joined asked me for money pretty well as the first thing they did to welcome me.
Over the course of many years I have come to understand that no one can be the keeper of my conscience for me. Rules that make little or no sense, tenets of belief that are not clear or helpful, dictates from on high, are all distasteful to me. And it seems to me that a lot of organized religion, of whatever form, thrives on these things. The FLDS is an extreme example; while I read her book my heart ached for Carolyn Jessop and her long journey into a life she could shape for herself.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
This morning my brain feels as if someone has stuffed it with cotton wool, put a plastic seal over the top and proclaimed it 'tamper-proof'. There are lots of Good Ideas rattling around in there, because the cotton wool never does a perfect job, but I can't get to them. Can't pry off the seal, can't get the wool to pull out of the cavity, not sure the ideas will prove useful if I do get to them.
If I can't think, then I should be working at mindless tasks. There are lots of those. I should be stuffing the underwear into the washer, since the pile in the dresser drawer is almost non-existant. The bed linen needs changing and washing too. No enthusiasm. My desk and bookshelves are more than usually chaotic. I could at least file stuff. Yawn. I should certainly be making a list of the jobs I have acquired at the meetings I was at yesterday. I am pretty sure there are five or more. I should be working on one of them this morning, in between laundry loads. Maybe later.
I am on my third cup of coffee, too.
Instead of doing any of these good things, I am alternately reading brilliant posts from the talented (and, I am sure, organized) folk on my Reader, throwing in the occasional very dull comment, and playing Spider solitaire. And losing.
Enough, already. My talented and organized mother, when she found me in this kind of funk, always urged me to pick up one corner of one task and worry away at it. Get just a bit done. The momentum, she would tell me patiently, would then carry me forward and I would amaze myself at how much I could accomplish. And of course she was right. As soon as I finish the coffee, the post and have a wee nap, I will find a corner of something and start in on it. Honest.
If I could only pull the cotton stuffing out of the small hole in the top of my head, that is.
And my coffee got cold while I was doing the drawing. Now I have to go and warm it up.
Friday, 11 September 2009
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
I am about to rant. I know that this is an uncool and totally useless thing to to, but I just (gasp) can't (struggle) help myself. I am going to complain about bad grammar. You can leave now. No? Okay, imagine me writing this between thumps as my head hits my desk.
This afternoon I read an article in one of our local papers in which a woman who describes herself as a graduate in journalism wrote ' [A daughter] has kept my husband, Joe, and I running.' I have just finished sending her as polite an email as I could contrive, pointing out her blooper and explaining how to correct it. I did not explain it by parsing the sentence, for two reasons. One is that I have no idea how grammar is being taught in this century but am pretty sure it is not taught the way I learned (and taught, in my turn). The other is that, shaming though it is, I have to admit that I was not sure how to explain why what she had written was wrong in a clear and concise way.
The Board that I chair had a horrible task at its last meeting; we had to review and approve a huge list of updated and revised policies. Several of us went through the text ahead of time and made corrections to the grammar and punctuation. At the meeting, when we reached this stage of the agenda, I started the item by pointing out that this had been done and urging anyone who had found further errors of this type to mark it on printed copy of the policy in question and hand it to the recording secretary after the meeting. I then went on to explain that I was asking the board members to ignore one recurring error, that of subject and possessive pronoun/adjective agreement. In other words, when they got to something that said "An employee is requested to keep their valuables in a locked drawer during working hours", they were to approve it without whinging about the agreement. This misalignment is done in the name of political correctness; that is, the easiest way to use a possessive without getting into the whole male/female thing is to use the plural. At this, the recording secretary looked at me and said 'I have no clue what you are talking about!'
The case agreement is one of those grammar points that is slipping out of at least American English (and I class Canadian English as American English - we all live in North America after all.) I have heard a Master's student say 'Me and my dad went canoeing.' I have read, in a letter from a PhD, 'Thanks for the help you gave David and I'. It makes my teeth grind. There are other - I guess I have to call them niceties - that are being swept away on the tide. The distinction between 'lie' and 'lay', the difference between 'less' and 'fewer'. The subjunctive. As well, I think the use of tired metaphors is increasing. By leaps and bounds.
You can easily understand what someone is trying to convey in a sentence that contains those errors. But speaking this way, in my opinion, is like going out in public in old, ripped jeans, uncombed hair, uncleaned teeth and food spots on the tee shirt It's sloppy. We all make errors and have bad hair days, but most of us, I think, try to present ourselves to others positively. We proofread and change our tee shirts and check our teeth in the bathroom mirror.
The poor young woman who received my grammatical correction earlier has emailed me back a very nice and polite email, thanking me for the information and saying that if anyone ever pointed this out to her before, she does not remember it.
I used to teach the difference between 'lie' and 'lay' by saying that since 'lay' takes an object, you have to 'lay' something or some one. Usually there was a moment of fraught silence as the adolescents in front of me tried to believe that they had really heard what they thought they had heard. And they remembered it.
Monday, 7 September 2009
The regrettable early prorogation of Parliament was so disappointing to us that we are sending this letter to all of the political parties involved in it, in the hope that if you hear enough complaint you will see the necessity of amending your party's behaviour. Our organization, Lanark Health and Community Services, works in a rural community where, at the best of times, poverty and the illnesses caused by poverty are prevalent. In a time of economic downturn, when the most urgent business of the government should be protecting its citizens, you failed to do so.
We are a community governance board of an organization whose purpose is to provide health care and support to people at risk. Some years ago we decided to manage ourselves not by Robert's Rules, a method that sometimes encourages an adversarial approach, but by consensus. This method requires that we work together, that we hear each other out and that we strive to reach an agreement that is at least acceptable to all of us. It works best when we trust one another to be honest, straightforward and flexible. We make it work because to do so serves the interests of the people to whom we are responsible.
While we do not believe that you will abandon hundreds of years of Parliamentary tradition, we do believe that you should adopt some, at least, of the attitude that we find serves us best. The people of Canada need representatives who care more about the welfare of the country than they do about their own status and personal agendas. Representatives who will set aside an adversarial approach and work together.
We earnestly hope that when Parliament reconvenes all members can decide to do the work for which they were elected and cooperate in the interests of the people of Canada.
Note: this is the first draft of a letter that we actually sent to all of the Party Leaders after the mess last fall. We got one answer, from the Liberal leader, saying he was pleased to hear our views, obviously a form letter. But it made us feel better to send it.
Saturday, 5 September 2009
One of the first photos I saw was this.
A little later, I came upon this one.
The YD is home quite intact, cleaning her equipment after a successful trip, sorting her photographs and, she tells me, writing up the experience. I may fall asleep tonight with images of red canoe bottoms floating through my mind.
I am not and never was a risk taker. I have gone on long distance swims, but never without a boat as escort. I stay away from the edges of even small drops. I drive 115 km per hour on the 401. (Getting caught at 120 km per hour nets you a big fine.) I do not eat wild mushrooms. I am, in fact, quite a cautious person. How, then, did it come about that I have an adrenaline junkie, a happy gambler, a chronic risk taker (you can imagine my voice rising shrilly as the list goes on) for a younger daughter. It must come from her father's side of the family.
I have photographs of my precious child rappelling down a rope from a helicopter, floating down out of the sky under a parachute, balancing on a ridiculously narrow piece of rock on the side of a cliff many hundreds of feet above solid ground, kayaking down a waterfall in Mexico. There is a video of her bungee jumping off a bridge over the gorge at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. She went, hiking, solo, in the Namibian dessert. She has tales of driving in land mine infested territory in Kosovo and Mozambique. When she was robbed on a beach in South Africa, she chased the thief. And that's just what I know about.
Strangely enough, I don't worry about her a lot when she is off on one of her mad adventures. The YD is a supremely competent and skilled adventurer. I feel confident that she knows what she is doing and won't do it unless she believes her skill level is up to it. (Although she has said that once through the Grand Canyon is enough.) Her father worries - enough for both of us.
But I do wonder what she will decide to try next.