Respect

When my London-born son-in-law hears or reads something really impressive or heart breaking or touching, he voices or writes the word, “Respect”.  I think it’s a nice response.  If he says it to me, simply, and without explanation or embellishment, I feel that…respect.

I’ve noticed in my world, the world of ‘EDUCATION’ that there is a loss of respect these days.  Readers, don’t jump on my perceptions…it’s just what it is…my perceptions.  I find students are often lacking respect for teachers.  I find that professionals are losing respect, in their words and actions, for their peers.  I find that people in positions of authority are disrespectful to people ‘beneath’ them.  I’m wondering what is going on?

Social media offers us a plethora of disrespectful ‘threads’ day in and day out.  We have, as a people, stopped listening to one another.  Brief blasts of tweets or posts or images, leave conversations dangling, sometimes making us shiver with their hatred, negativity and stone-walling sensibility.

Recently, I had the opportunity to engage conversation with and learn about one soldier.  I had intended to add his photograph to the bottom of a post about my great-grandfather John Moors.  Master Corporal Joe Green was the person who took on the task of cleaning my great grandfather’s Memorial Cross, a sterling silver cross that would have been presented to my great grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow 100 years ago and another to his mother, Grace Rebecca Porter, as a result of John’s death during a German bombing raid in Etaples, France.  He had been lying in a hospital tent in Canadian General Hospital #51…a hospital situated with some proximity to a railway line.

Respect?

Often times a person still hears negative comments about the military.  There are wide-sweeping generalities made about peace and war and defense and aggression.  “They shouldn’t have been over there in the first place!”  Oh…to be ye, who judge.  Oh, to be ye, who remain safe in your comfortable beds, with your comfortable thoughts, with your perfect opinions of other people, other countries, other politics because having been given the power, you would done everything differently!

I’ve been faulted for ‘living in the past’.  But I don’t.  See!  I live here.  I live now.  But, I am absolutely NOT going to lose ties with our common past.  I am always going to engage the touch stones of history, in order to do better.  I am always going to remember.

Maybe it was the fact that I grew up in a military family during the Cold War years…during peace time…that I grew up with respect.

I remember attending high school in Montana.  The MIA were still returning home, some of them, after the war in Vietnam.  In 1969, the students were participating in fundraisers and wearing bracelets to bring their men home.  Many, as my readers know, were never to return.

I picked up the Memorial Cross for John Moors and drove home.  The roads were thick with deep snow, but I felt like I was floating.  I was so elated to be driving home in 2018 with a 1918 Memorial Cross as my cargo.

I  wrote the name Joe Green into my google search.  This is what I found…article written by Cassie Riabko titled After the tour: Canadian soldiers reintegrating into society.  Among the profiles, I learned about Joe.  He made the correction with me, over electronic mail, that he had done two tours, not three, as noted in the article.  He had not read the profile until I pointed it out to him through mail.

Green IMGIn 2008, Master Corporal Joe Green started working in the civilian workforce at Flowserve where he pursued drafting design. “From going from carrying a weapon 24 hours a day to sitting at a computer, it takes some adjusting,” says Green on Mar. 24, 2017. Photo by Cassie Riabko

Master Corporal Joe Green

Three tours overseas (sic)

Status: Active

Master Corporal Joe Green first joined the Canadian Military in 2002, serving two tours in 2006 and one in 2008. His primary role was defensive operations, working in dangerous environments with firefights and ambushes occurring frequently. Most of his negative experiences came from his tours in 2006. They have been connected to his difficulties with integrating back into the civilian way of life.

The main memory that sticks out to Green was back in 2006 when his platoon was called out for a mission to help the American Special Forces Forward Operating Base. He had to stay back while his platoon went to aid as support. That night, none of the soldiers from his platoon came back to base, they were all in the hospital and one, Private Rob Costall, was killed in action. From then on the tour accelerated for him.

In 2008, Green began his integration process, starting a job in the civilian work force. “From going from carrying a weapon 24 hours a day to sitting at a computer, it takes some adjusting,” says Green.

It wasn’t until roughly 2010 where the thoughts and experiences from overseas started to have a major impact on his everyday life. “I started being less involved in the military, I started drinking heavily —  not on a daily level —  but when I would I would get extremely upset,” says Green.

With his job, he would have to drive in the city often. “There would be a chain reaction of thoughts that would lead back to something that happened on tour. I would dwell on it and I would be driving and I would come back to reality hours later in some random location in the city,” says Green.

That was when he realized that he needed some help. He relied on friends that had experience overseas with him for support and he also reached out to Veteran Affairs by calling the 1-800 number.

He was able to talk to someone right away. “One thing I felt guilty about was using the system. I didn’t want to be the guy to claim PTSD to get some sort of claim out of it,” says Green.

He remembers the woman on the phone telling him to leave it to the professionals to diagnose his symptoms as he was comparing his situation to others he felt had worse experiences. Shortly after, his file was processed with Veteran Affairs and he had appointments booked at an operational stress injury clinic.

Green was diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder all related to his experiences overseas in Afghanistan. He was prescribed medication to aid in sleep and also for depression. He soon began to see results.

“I went through treatment in 2012, and I just ended last year. I went through the whole process of weekly sessions for about two years — from going weekly, I was going every second week to once a month to every three months,” says Green.

His process spanned from 2012-2016. In October 2016 he was officially discharged in at the operational stress injury clinic in Calgary. He weaned himself off the medication with approval from his doctor.

“The OSI clinic took really good care of me. I always recommend it to other members who are going through similar situations. However, if they are not ready to help themselves — they have to want to be better,” says Green.

He describes his experience as positive and very supportive from the organizations that helped him. “I don’t have anything negative to say about Veterans Affairs,” says Green. Currently he is serving as a Reservist with the Calgary Highlanders and he has taken courses to earn promotions within the Canadian Military.

Read more on the reintegration of a Candian veteran by clicking here!

criabko@cjournal.ca

Joe Green

Master Corporal Joe Green

Upon reading this profile, I made the decision to write a post that dealt with this issue of respect.  While reading Joe’s profile, I found myself with tears.  I took pause and remembered, in prayer, Joe’s peer, Private Rob Costall.  Joe’s journey has inspired, in me, a new level or respect.  This is the man who all of these decades later, held our family’s Memorial Cross in his hands and with precision and care, brought it to a beautiful sheen.  I received his name through the centrally located Royal Canadian Legion Branch 275 in Forest Lawn.  I had met a most amazing historian, there.

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I received this Memorial Cross (there were two that were sent out, one to John’s wife Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors and the other to his mother, Grace Porter Moors…this is likely the one that I am now holding), kindly, from my father’s cousin JR Moors of Roseville, California.  My Dad’s Uncle Bob had kept it safe and in his care and then left it to his son for safe keeping.  The day it arrived by mail, I was overcome with emotion.

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John Moors medal front

Pte. John Moors Medal The Great War

John Moors back side medal

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And finally, with Joe’s work…the refurbished Sterling silver cross.

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As a part of our experience of respect, I think it is essential that we promise care of the objects that represent our soldiers and their service.  I highly recommend that you solicit the help of Joe Green, locally, in order to tend to these treasures.  Please contact me if you want his information and I will have him respond to your request.

I am blessed.  I am grateful.  I am filled with respect.

My cousin, James Perry, on my maternal side said it perfectly…

“A good polishing would bring back the shine of that silver too, IMHO tarnished medals are brought back to life with polishing, and are part of “Always remember, never Forget” and the sacrifice our families made to keep our world free from tyranny.”

Friends Reach Out Across Time

I continue to be blessed by individuals who somehow land upon a post of mine now-and- again, (quite often, recently), as  it relates to family.  I have often come across old photographs, military medals and treasures in second-hand shops and thought to myself, “I hope that our family treasures are always cherished and remain with our families, somehow.”  Well, in this world of digital imaging, more and more, photographs of our loved ones surface and just as I have shared with others…others share with me.

I am hoping that in the morning, my family members are surprised by these recent gifts from a man who I will simply refer to as Phil.

Yesterday’s e mail, in my inbox, began like this…

“I’ve known for years that your grandparents John & Florence were friends with my grandparents, Percy Hayes (1899-1979) and Mary Hayes (nee Severs, 1909-1996) of Oshawa, Ont. I’m afraid I don’t know the nature of their friendship. Percy worked most of his life at GM. I grew up just up the road from them, my Dad being their oldest son Cliff Hayes (b.1929). I recall being told that your grandpa had moved to Magrath to run the woolen mill, being a strategic industry during WWII.

 

I know Mom & Dad (can’t recall if ‘Granny’ was with them) stopped in Magrath years ago on a trip. I can’t recall if they connected with anyone though. I seem to recall Dad saying there weren’t any/many Moors left there…”

Phil began by sharing two photographs, along with their annotations.  I immediately forwarded the e mail to my father and he very shortly responded via Skype, sharing stories about his three oldest sisters and the three gents that they dated…all horse-riding cowboys.  Off they would go for their rides together, evenings, in the herd pastures of McIntyre Ranch.  *OOPS!  A mistake…Dad has sent me corrections, here.

“It was not Mcintyre ranch herd pasture. It 
was the Magrath herd pasture where all our cows were pastured every day 
!!! Rob worked at the ranch as I recall ‘but even that may be wrong 
cause we all owned horses in Magrath and Raymond in those days even me . 
Love you big good work.”

Dad

It is an amazing thing, this lovely collection featuring my aunties.  Beautiful Margaret is now passed on, but Auntie Eleanor just enjoyed her 90th birthday…as did Auntie Ruth, a couple of years ago.  Auntie Mary, the youngest, was not to be excluded from this set.  Also featured, my Gramma Florence Moors, my Great Auntie Caroline; her son, Orval who flew with the Canadian Navy and would not have lived much beyond these two photographs, having served on the battleship, HMCS Magnificent, (was a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier that served the Royal Canadian Navy from 1948–1957.) meeting an early demise when the plane he was flying, crashed.  His little sister, Joan, is also present in one of the photographs.

Based on the annotations, it seems likely that Auntie Ruth sent some of these archives…some might have been mailed, along with letters, by my Gramma Moors to these friends in the east.

I am amazed by the generous hearts of people who take the time to scan and forward such treasures on to me.  I do not take any of this for granted.

Family, do enjoy and copy and save these to your own archives.  I love you all.  Thank you, Phil, for taking this time.

Ruth Moors Rollingson and Rob Gorman 1

Auntie Ruth with Rob Gorman

Ruth Moors Rollingson and Rob Gorman 1b

Eleanor 1

Eleanor and Bob

Eleanor and Bob 1b

Margaret and Jay Passey 1

Margaret and Jay Passey

Margaret and Jay Passey 1b

Gramma Moors, Caroline, Orval, Joan 1

Front: Joan Gamelin Back Left to Right: Auntie Caroline, her son, Stanley Orval Gamelin and Gramma Florence Moors

Gramma Moors, Caroline, Orval, Joan 1b

Orval Ruth and Dooley 1

Dolly, Orval and Auntie Ruth

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And, here’s dear little Mary Jane.

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Mary Jane Moors

Mary Jane 1b

Today, I enjoyed a yummy lunch at the Blackfoot Diner with Phil and his wife, Cindy, and they generously gave me the original photographs that you see above.  I am blessed.

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We never stopped gabbing the entire time! I got a little emotional when I gave them my good-bye hug. Can you imagine what our grandparents might have thought?

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Cindy and Phil Hayes

Digging Through Archives

My daughter (now, a teacher) and I were sitting together while she was still cozy in her kitty jammies this morning…me, at the dining table, she, on the stairs…she was telling me about a very inspiring Convention session that she attended on Thursday of this past week.  It turns out that the presenter was Ron Wigglesworth.  As soon as I started exploring his posts on the internet, I realized how his contributions to education and to students has been exceptional.  Anyone who has encouraged a connection between drawing and biology is great in my eyes…in fact, I’d have to say that he has done a lot of connecting between diverse disciplines.

I got thinking about archives of various projects and things that my students have explored in the past and I just thought I’d write a post that featured those.  I had fun teaching and in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that I saw the students’ hands, hearts and minds as extensions of my own.  I’m grateful for their hard work, their talents and their commitment.  For me, it was never about the marks.  A sampling…digital…there’s a load of stuff in my photo albums.  And, today, I’m celebrating it all.

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The Struggle is Real

Winter is oppressive this year.  I consider myself to be fond of all seasons, including winter, but as the snowbanks grow, I am in awe of the challenges this weather brings.  I have begun my journey of Lenten observances, but my Nativity display is still parked on the front yard, with no hope of being wedged out of the snow until some of it disappears.  I would guess that the accumulation is somewhere around the three foot mark at this point.

I came upstairs this morning, put on the coffee and then decided to sit and finish reading I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism by Lee Maracle.  Outside, the snow was coming down steadily and there was evidence that it had been piling up all night long.  Maxman was okay to chill out with me and we both eased into morning, without any attachment to screens at all.

Maxman

By 10:30, the book was finished and I felt completely depleted.  Interesting that in the very last section, titled, Last Words, Maracle stated that most readers would have stopped by that point.  I had hung in…decompressing at times, but certainly interested in the honest approach to dealing with the topics that other writers might easily skirt around.  It was a difficult book, heart-breaking in so many ways…only 140 pages, compact, intense but, most important for understanding.

I continue to be very moved by the journey and history of my indigenous brothers and sisters.  With this reading, I received new revelations to the struggles…for women, especially.

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This morning, the snow became a wall for me, insurmountable, while carrying the weight of the contents of this book.  I thought that getting down to the Bow River might create respite from my own thoughts.  Instead, I encountered the desperation of hungry animals.

My eyes seem to be wide open when I am at the river’s edge.  I feel blessed that way.

The first thing I noticed was the gobble gobble sound of a male pheasant as he valiantly took flight, gliding quite a distance from the hill across from me.  A scattering of snow and a coyote bounded from that same location, toward me and Max.  I hadn’t even left the parking lot, at this point, and already  spotted the female pheasant in a neighbouring shrub.  She was going no where!

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I was pretty certain that this coyote was one that I’ve been observing lately, easily identified by an evident limp and a mangy coat. As the weeks of bitter cold continue, a generous food source, in the way of mice, voles and such is becoming very challenging.  The predators are looking gaunt.

Stepping onto the trail, into the deep woods, and along the dark turquoise river, I noticed canine tracks in the fresh snow, unaccompanied by any human presence.  I looked down at Max and told him, “Let’s go another route today, Max.”  As I took pause and looked up, there, only a few meters away, stood one of the juvenile Bald Eagles about half way up a tree.  His back was hunched and covered in a transparent blanket of snow.  As Max and I moved to go around his territory, he took flight, his huge wings opening up directly above us.  Having taken the more traveled route, it wasn’t far and we met two of our friends, both intensely engaged in something else.

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It took Max a short while to respond.  I think he was curious, more than anything.  But, out of nowhere, he let out a wild and crazy barking-frenzy and in response, nine deer took flight and bounded across the landscape.  It all happened so fast that I didn’t have opportunity to react.  The coyotes followed the deer, without hesitation.

A moment’s pause and then, slowly and methodically, three other deer appeared.  I have a sense that these are the younger three and that the adults had reacted to Max’s barking.  Is that possible?  Dunno…  Tentatively, these guys carried on in the direction of the action.  Max and I headed north on the river.

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I wondered about there even being a possibility that coyotes might feed on deer during the winter.  I suppose if one were to fall ill or if the coyotes worked together, their clever approach to community-hunting might provide for a meal of venison.  I just know that in the cold and the snow, I felt compassion for all…the pheasant, the eagle, the deer and the coyotes.

For years, I’ve logged on to a Live Eagle Cam at Duke Farms.  I’ve just recently seen that a second egg has been laid at the nest.  Last year, surprisingly, no eagles nested in that location.  Tonight, the camera is capturing an adult sitting on the nest in a horrible snow storm…

The Struggle is Real.  Please take a moment and check in.

The Visions of Emma Blau by Ursula Hegi

I cranked up Bruce Cockburn’s Bone on Bone this morning, washed up the stack of dishes sitting in the bottom of the sink and thought about the possibilities of the day.  The words of a meditation that was sent to my mail box was sitting with me, “For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is quite simply a full circle, and to be perfect the circle must and will complete itself.”  Bruce Cockburn’s words to Looking and Waiting.

looking and waiting — it’s what I do
scanning the skies for a beacon from you
shapes on the curtain, but no clear view
of you

you’re a warm bright window lighting up the rain
I catch a glimpse of the glow but I still remain
outside where the shadows pool and bleed
chimney silhouettes semaphore in a code I cannot read

looking and waiting — it’s what I do
scanning the skies for a beacon from you
shapes on the curtain, but no clear view
of you

you’re like the leaves that come down from the trees
a suggestion of a springtime to be
crunching underfoot outlined in frost
full of promise for the return of something lost

looking and waiting — it’s what I do
scanning the skies for a beacon from you
shapes on the curtain, but no clear viewv of you

looking and waiting — it’s what I do

Having recently suffered the loss of a friend…having written yesterday about being a grandmother…I do firmly believe that the Alpha and Omega bring us to a place in our journey where there is no distinction, anymore, between the two.  The circle.

What does any of this have to do with Ursula Hegi’s novel, The Vision of Emma Blau?  Previously, I have read Stones From the River and Floating in my Mother’s Palm and in my mind, the same themes are fundamental to all three books.

In Hegi’s writing, there is an unbelievable attention paid to the development of the pysche for each character.  It is as though she builds each person from the inside-out.  We know all of their fears and motivations, their crushing blows to the soul, before we know how this, then, is expressed through the events of the narrative.  If the reader is an empath, this is a deepening experience and the reading becomes rich and heart-rending.  Some of my friends would put the book down for this very reason.

This particular story takes us on a journey with Stefan Blau, a protagonist who teaches us as much about his lineage in the past as in the future, all the way forward to Emma.   Hegi writes this story’s beginning in the same fictional town as this reader encountered in both Stones From the River and Floating in my Mother’s Palm.  About this, I dig to learn more about the author and where better, but on Oprah.com…

About the Author
“When I came to this country as an 18-year old,” Hegi reflects, “I found that Americans of my generation knew more about the Holocaust than I did. When I was growing up, you could not ask about it; it was absolutely taboo. We grew up with the silence.” For this reason, when people asked Ursula Hegi where she was from, she used to wish she could answer Norway or Holland. Hegi soon discovered that it was impossible to leave behind one’s origins. “The older I got, the more I realized that I am inescapably encumbered with the heritage of my country’s history.”

While her first two books, Intrusions, and Unlearned Pleasures and Other Stories, were set in the U.S., it was with her third book, Floating in My Mother’s Palm, that Hegi took the important step of exploring her conflict over her cultural identity. As she explains: “My own acute discomfort at being German is very much at the core of my writing.”

In Floating in My Mother’s Palm, Hegi first introduces readers to the inhabitants of Burgdorf, a fictional German town loosely based on her hometown during the 1950s. With her “prequel,” Stones from the River, Hegi extends her portrayal of Burgdorf’s characters, and the exploration of her own heritage, by including the several decades preceding World War II and its immediate aftermath.

Stones from the River is Hegi’s attempt to understand the silence of towns throughout Germany that tolerated persecution of Jews during the war and enabled a community to quiet its conscience once the truths of the Holocaust were revealed. Hegi immersed herself in historical material on the Holocaust to write the book. “It was an important part of my journey, of integrating the past within myself.” She also asked to interview her aged godmother about the period, who, to her surprise, complied. Hegi is pleased that Stones from the River will be published in Germany next year.

She is currently at work on another Burgdorf-based novel, The Passion of Emma Blau, and a nonfiction work, Tearing the Silence: On Being German in America.

The winner of numerous honors and awards, including an NEA fellowship and five PEN syndicated fiction awards, Hegi is an Associate Professor at Eastern Washington University where she teaches creative writing and contemporary literature. She lives near Spokane, Washington with her partner Gordon Gagliano and has two sons, ages 21 and 24.

To arrive at Emma Blau, readers must find themselves in the ‘magical’ creation of Wasserburg in New Hampshire.  The settings, with their intricate detail and description, come alive for readers and their beauty and mystery somehow create relief from the painful loss within the family, the separation, the hard work and the challenges of being German in a small community before, during and after World War II.

Of such experience of disconnection, Hegi writes, “To detect rot is often impossible in its early stages,” German-American novelist Ursula Hegi warns in “The Vision of Emma Blau.” “It starts beneath lush surfaces, spreading its sweet-nasty pulp, tainting memories and convictions. It entangles. Justifies.” 

It is a marvel how Hegi gets us to America.  We do the ocean crossing with Stefan.  We anticipate the marriages, the losses.  We sometimes feel bitter about what seem to be selfish dreams. His Wasserburg becomes an opulent return to the best of Germany, on the humble and wild setting of the American countryside.  Hegi writes about the ‘real’, not the imagined.  Wasserburg becomes a living, breathing presence that evolves over a century and with Emma, Stefan’s grand daughter’s birth, becomes an extension of her very soul.

If one is not concerned with ‘spoilers’ and doesn’t mind a lot of injected advertisements, this is my favourite review on the book.  If you take on this book, I’d suggest beginning with one of the other two; they have become known loosely as the Burgdorf Cycle.  I would also like to hear from my readers about how you feel about dear Helene Montag, a female character who is insanely frustrating.

This book was intended to be my ‘escapist’ novel over the Christmas holiday, but it turned out to be another connection with the abhorrent racism that lurks in the muck of the human spirit…just another expression of the same.IMG_3748

Inscription inside my second-hand book copy of Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi…love books that include an inscription…this one, perfectly, a sister to her brother, Gabe.

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And my own writing in the front cover of Floating in my Mother’s Palm by Ursula Hegi.

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The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of The Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

This is a quick post.  I read Michael Finkel’s book, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit in two evenings…it was more an experience, than anything.  Written about Christopher Knight, a man who at the age of twenty slipped into a thick wood and didn’t have a conversation with another human being for thirty years, this book is an unusual narrative, with moments of real revelation. I was fascinated by the story and throughout, couldn’t really come to terms with a mixture of emotions…revulsion, sadness, envy or curiosity (of the ambulance-chaser sort).

Honestly, I think it is the most interesting thing that Christopher Knight and the family that knew him, opened up to Michael Finkel enough for him to collect the content for this writing.  So, the process of research and respectful communication of this content was just as fascinating to me and generously included.

I had read, a long time ago, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.  I suppose one could make comparisons between the two books.  However, I think that Christopher Knight’s methodical approach to stealing food and supplies is what, ultimately, kept him alive over decades and in the end, led to his capture.  Enduring isolation of the northern Alaskan wilderness, Christopher Johnson McCandless was in true ‘survival’ mode, leading to the eventual and mysterious loss of his life, probably four months after disappearing.  It was obvious, in reading both, that there were motivations to disconnect from society, but both men did that in very different ways.

From Goodreads, I’ve lifted these words.  I like that Michael Finkel responded to the reader…

I haven’t read this but not likely to. The mere fact that he stole from people that worked hard for what they had…the fact that for 27 years this community in Maine lived in fear because of these unsolved burglaries that he committed is beyond shameful. He didn’t live off the grid. He lived off of other people who worked for a living. “He survived by his wits and courage” ?? No. I don’t think so.

Response from Michael Finkel: “Hello. I’m the journalist who wrote this book. Chris Knight — the hermit — is not portrayed, not for a page, as some sort of angelic hero in the book. Knight himself did not want to be portrayed that way. He confessed to 1,000 break-ins, one of the most extensive burglary cases in U.S. history. He tormented people. But — he also never physically harmed anyone, never carried a weapon, never stole anything of great monetary value, never shattered a window or kicked down a door. He had a wildly unusual idea for how to live, and he lived in a way radically different from any other human you will ever encounter, and he has an awesome and daunting brain — he is, I feel certain, a genius — and he has insights into modern society and solitude and the meaning of life that you will find nowhere else. “Take the good with the bad,” Knight told me, when speaking of how he should be portrayed in my book, and I did. I firmly believe that in the good are some incredible insights, and in the bad is a fascinating true-crime tale. And please note — Knight is receiving no money from this project. A summer camp for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities (The Pine Tree Camp), from which Knight frequently stole, will instead be receiving donations.”

Having read the book, I am glad to encounter this response, as it does represent the book very well.   I felt, at times, compassion for Christopher Knight, wondering what feelings and experiences within him, motivated such a disappearance and disconnect from his life.

As Calgary suffers such a bitterly cold winter, I also truly engaged the stories of survival that involved planning and revising a nest/camp.  The description of winter, alone, is enough to keep me from ever wondering about doing this same thing!

Christopher Knight told this story, as much as Michael Finkel did.  If my readers enjoy adventure or are taken by very unusual characters, this is the book for you.

It was good to meet Michael Finkel and to have him expand upon the narratives that connected him to his character.

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Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris

I’m struggling with writing lately…it’s been so long since I’ve posted to my blog and yet so many amazing experiences have come and gone.  Something that is keeping me from the comfort of writing is that the past six months or so I have had a number of ‘floaters’ appear in my vision; first the left eye, then the right, and now the little squiggles have moved in my left.  It’s as though my brain is constantly having to edit out these obstructions to my vision and looking at a screen just makes it worse.  A symptom of aging, the eye specialists have assured me that, as yet, the retinas are not involved.  As a visual person, this has been disconcerting and I suppose I could write an entire piece about that, alone, but I’m here to write about Solitude.

I met Michael Harris at Wordfest.  The particular session I attended impacted me so much that I ended up purchasing books from each of the four authors and am happy to say that Christmas vacation was the perfect time to curl up and read them all, as well as others from my book shelf.  I had a very intense reading period through the holiday and I spent most of that time alone, eating a little too much chocolate.

I found the book, Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World, compelling.   If you troll the internet, you will see that reviews are either very positive OR are insistent that this is a book written for ‘old people’.  So mayhaps ONLY BOOMERS will like this book.  I disagree!  I think some very discerning and weary millennials are suffering the backlash of ‘real’ disconnection.

I am one of the ‘old people’ who, in retrospect, feel concern for the gradual erosion of our time alone, our sense of creativity and playfulness, our disassociation with ‘uncomfortable-ness’ and our loss of ‘written’ language’ and mark-making.  The past few years, I have become a part of a very odd little subset of humanity…people who watch birds…people who photograph birds…and in my encounters with them, I see a particular kind of desperation to connect with the innate need for genuine solitude and as a result, genuine connection.

Solitude (shortening the title for a matter of expediency) was a book that suited my constantly-inquiring mind and opened up some revelation about the current state of the human family inhabiting this earth.  From what I can see, in my very small sampling of that earth, the author is right on!  This was one of the most invigorating reads that I’ve enjoyed in a long time…well, since reading Kyo Maclear’s  Birds, Art Life and that wasn’t too long ago.

For the first many pages/chapters…I read, turning pages, while curled under a blanket on the red couch.  But it wasn’t long and I pulled out a highlighter.  My review will take the shape of the posting of some of the views that align with mine.  Here are some of my highlighted bits…please, don’t let these bits keep you from reading the entire book!

Do I get a thumbs up for this? (laughing, as I type)

Having driven the 401 so many times, all by myself, with Max, the chapter where Michael Harris explored our reliance on Google Maps and a GPS really spoke to me.  I’m ‘that lady’, out there, with paper maps and slipping in and out of small towns along the way.  I’ve been lost and I’ve gotten off the highway, using the wrong exit.  Those experiences created some initial panic at times but, in the end, I found my way.  I met new people.  I saw surprising things.

These past years, since retirement, I’ve been circling a pond…I’ve been exploring my city…I’ve been traveling Canada by road.  I’ve been traveling inward and seeing magnificent worlds.  It is a different sort of travel…not better or worse than international travel.  The only thing about my sort of travel is that people don’t ask about it.  There is no sort of admiration or public support for my kind of travel.  While one person may see a pyramid, I might be seeing this. The same wonder is to be had…the same awe.

Reading!!  When a person shares something on a social media site, how many people ‘really’ read it, from beginning to end?  I agree with the following insight.If you have not yet read Rebecca Solnit’s A History of Walking…please do.  She is another one of my favourite authors, currently.
Ah….the lost act of letter-writing!  While my Christmas cards have yet to be written, I do try to write letters with intent and it always feels wonderful to put things in the post box. I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandson and solitude.  It’s natural when you’re a Gramma for the first time.

I really treasure the ideas captured in this book.  I hope that my readers will enjoy it as much.

In the meantime, I will continue to nurture and enjoy my solitude.  It has left me, recently, being honest about not enjoying large group events where I must mingle.  It helps me admit my enjoyment of being alone and apart, as well as helps me understand why I enjoy small group visits so much.

 

The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky

At a point, I got myself out of sync on the reading selections for the Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI reading list.  It all began at the reading of Clearing the Plains.  I haven’t reviewed this book yet because, honestly, I still have a chapter to go. (Intense)  This one should be required reading for every post secondary student…but, more on that another time!

Regardless, I attended the book clubs for those few months, as I am always so grateful for the fact that such excellent conversations occur and I learn so much.

The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky did not seem, by its title, to be anything I would ever consider picking up to read and yet, upon the recommendation by a book club member, I did.  While Arno Kopecky is not an Indigenous author, the book was suggested for its connection to numerous Indigenous activists, elders, fishermen and various people impacted by development and encroachment around the Northern Gateway.  This author introduced me to many of the issues surrounding the history and planning for transportation of product in a highly pristine and essential part of Canada.  One might argue that the narrative might be skewed, given that the writer is speaking from a non-indigenous voice, however, I feel that my personal journey addressing the Calls to Action involves a lot of discernment and listening..to many voices.  I have been living in a sort of fog all of these years, where it comes to this discourse.

45. We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of
all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples
a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by
the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal
Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764,
and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between
Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The proclamation
would include, but not be limited to, the following
commitments:

i. Repudiate concepts used to justify European
sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such
as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.
ii. Adopt and implement the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as
the framework for reconciliation.
iii. Renew or establish Treaty relationships based on
principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect,
and shared responsibility for maintaining those
relationships into the future.
iv. Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional
and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples
are full partners in Confederation, including the
recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and
legal traditions in negotiation and implementation
processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other
constructive agreements.

47. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and
municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to
justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples
and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra
nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies,
and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such
concepts.

This book is built for the adventurer and for the person who has a big appreciation for wild parts of Canada that, despite the challenges in favour of development, industry and encroachment, remains one of the few places that exemplify that particular MAGIC that comes with WILD.

My preamble…then, I’ll carry on about the book.  This next paragraph is from my gut…a simple formulation of my own feelings.  Yes.  I drive a car.  Yes. I purchase packaged items.  Don’t throw tomatoes.

The Canadian government has demonstrated tremendous determination to create/grow an economy built on the back of energy.  There is no way that Canadians see ‘everything that goes on’, given the vast and oft-isolated topographical regions of this country, our home.  What we don’t see, can’t bother us.  And yet, living in these far off places, our indigenous brothers and sisters are well-aware of the tapping out of resources, the destruction and the economic hardship resulting from the abandonment of industry as it becomes obsolete or sucked dry.  There are witnesses.

Documentation to some of this…check out Alan MacLean’s photos at this site.  Let’s just take a bit of a look at Alberta.

I’m just going to let you sit with those images.  I’ve been sitting with them, and all I have to say is that things are way out of control and so much about it has to do with economics and employment.  ‘Corporate’ Canada wants YOU!

Enough of a side-lined rant!

The book is a good one…it moves very quickly.  It isn’t a struggle and it is certainly not dark or apocalyptic.  Arno Kopecky and photographer Ilja Herb, take the reader on a magical journey (I felt like I was there) aboard a small sailing boat…well, is forty-one feet, small?  It seems small to me.  Neither of them had prior experience sailing.  So, one aspect of the book is the story of negotiating this boat through British Columbia’s central coast.  So, firstly, this would be considered an adventure book as in this part of our country, the inland passages are linked together by a dramatic network of fjords, islands and lush forested land masses interspersed with inlets.  I was enamoured by the descriptions of place throughout and feel as though I was introduced to the Great Bear Rainforest in a very honest way.

Second to this, I enjoyed the many personal narratives by the people and accounts about the people who, in several cases, gave these men safe harbour, assisted in repairs and often contributed to the content of the book through interviews.  Several participants have committed their lives to the protection of this land and water, knowing full well that this is likely the last great wilderness on earth.  The writer seemed naive at times, meeting such wise and dedicated individuals.

Third, I grew in my knowledge about the history and planning of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway.  My knowledge now exceeds what I’ve picked up over news stories these last many years.  The book was generous in terms of presenting several different perspectives, as well.  I learned that the weather through this region is unpredictable and that the waters to be negotiated are prone to storms and crazy conditions.  It doesn’t take much for Canadians to realize the risk that such conditions pose to wildlife and environment.

The book was beautiful in its rich description of the land, the wildlife, the people and the waters.  I highly recommend this read.  As a result of this reading, I send out unlimited positive wishes regarding our human reliance on non-renewable energy sources and the almost obsessive willingness we have to challenge the delicate eco-systems of our nation, in order to continue down the same path, rather than pour that same energy into alternative solutions.

As of 2016, this… A look at the status of Northern Gateway and other major Canadian pipeline projects

January 2018…of course….lost revenue. 

What comes of all of it is that we need to challenge our thinking.  My readers are either extremely right on this issue OR extremely left…I think that the important thing is that we discern the various implications and decide what is most important to us.  This book revealed to me the physical nature of the rugged coastline, the past issues surrounding the use of oil tankers in even more benign waters…and the high potential for an ecological disaster.

My peeps, as captured by Michelle Robinson.  I love this lady…and I love her archive of photographs!  We were visited that night by APTN National News.

Strong Voices: Stories of Struggle & Strength Living with HIV

Of Advent, Christmas and January, I can say that there are very few remnants; three empty festive cookie containers on the dining room table…a scented candle in one of the bathrooms and the front yard Nativity that is awaiting a bit of a snow melt before it is dragged back to its retirement next to the studio in the back yard.  Except for these things, what remains are the memories of reading voraciously through extreme cold and looking out on to a very snowy landscape.  Max spent a lot of time on the red couch, leaving the house to do his business, quickly, in the back yard.  If we walked, it was in short spurts and then back under throws, beside the Christmas tree.

Max on Red Couch 2

I continue to partake in the Chapters and Chat Book Club led by Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI‘s Michelle Robinson, once a month.  December saw me completing my first full year with the club, as it was my intention through Canada 150, to become more aware through reading Indigenous authors and expanding my knowledge of the calls to action in a process of Truth and Reconciliation.  Needless to say, this community of readers has become so important to me that I will continue through 2018.

Graciously donated to us at November’s Chapters and Chat, we read Strong Voices: Stories of Struggle & Strength Living with HIV, a short read in graphic novel format published by HIV Community Link.   I think that this book would serve as an excellent educational tool and it certainly brought to light the personal struggle of a representational sampling of four members of the Indigenous community, with HIV.

Strong Voices

Images supplied by HIV Community Link: Prevention + Support + Advocacy and used with their permission.

Strong Voices

The contributors to the project were…

The stories shared in this project are the real-life experiences
of four Aboriginal people from the Prairies. We honour the strength,
courage, honesty and love that our Storytellers Michelle, Krista,
Aaron and Bill have offered to this project and the community.

Special thanks to Cultural Resource Adrian Wolfleg for his wisdom, patience
and kindness. This project would not be possible without his participation.

artists:
Grant Smith – Michelle’s Story
Lydia Prince – Krista’s Story
Tank Standing Buffalo – Aaron’s Story
Keegan Starlight – Bill’s Story
Writer: Adrian Wolfleg
Creative Editor: Cherri Lowhorn
Design & Layout: Kathryn Valentine
Project Coordination: Andrea Carter
The Strong Voices Program is a project of HIV Community Link.
HIV Community Link’s mission is to reduce the harm associated with
HIV and hepatitis C for all individuals and communities that we serve.

To begin with, the reader experiences a most a beautiful prayer (atsimoihkan), followed by an elegant description of the Medicine Wheel.  I think to discuss healing or to discuss struggle in this context, such a beautiful prayer and description are essential and I treasured them both.  As the reader is familiarized with the east, south, west and north of the wheel, the graphic novel naturally transitions into four separate personal narratives.

There is much pain captured in such a brief book, as four brave people share their experiences of contracting and living with HIV in a society that has been built upon colonial footings…so, to negotiate through the existing system further isolates, distresses and challenges members of various Indigenous communities.  This book opens up guidance as it conveys these stories through a strong format.  First, the link is given between the story and the Medicine Wheel’s direction…second, the story is told through art and the graphic novel (approachable and reader-friendly) for such intense and sad remembrances and third, a narrator’s connection with the person and the story.  For example…of Michelle’s story, the narrator writes, in part,…

Michelle’s decision to learn more about living with HIV and the physical effects are in
line with the teachings of the Physical Aspect of the Medicine Wheel: getting to know
yourself and how to help your body’s natural healing processes.

Michelle shares that she grounds herself through Aboriginal teachings and ceremonies
like the Sweat Lodge: “I’ve found my traditions and culture. I smudge and pray every day and I participate in a Sweat Lodge ceremony whenever I can”. Michelle says it brought her back to her senses so she can live life to its fullest. She looks forward to watching her grandchildren grow up.

I think that reading this book allowed us to take pause and think about how all of the societal pressures have contributed to the prevalence of HIV and other STIs in our Indigenous populations.  We need to contemplate how/where we can contribute to the solutions.  This book is a terrific resource, to begin.

From Aids Calgary…this…

The goal of this book is to bring awareness of HIV to the Aboriginal communities, where HIV is currently considered an epidemic. Due to social determinants and stigma, Aboriginal people are often diagnosed with HIV at a younger age and at later stages (with an AIDS diagnosis for example). Since 25% of Canadians who have HIV do not know it, our goal is to promote testing and harm reduction approaches while building awareness and support for those affected by HIV.

Beyond the content, I mentioned in the Chapters and Chat circle that I felt myself reading as an English language arts teacher, in part, while reading this book.  I thought that it needed yet one more edit.  But…I’m starting to really question my hang up on some of my reading; about syntax, proper grammar and spelling.  (I’d love to hear from other English language arts teachers on this.) I’m wondering about ‘voice’ and whether I’m reading from a ‘settler’s’ point of view…I’m really thinking about what it means to be an Indigenous author in a mostly colonial world.  I’m wondering about the place of Indigenous authors in CanLit…I’m questioning fair representation of ALL Canadian voices.

These questions surfaced while reading a recent book by Gitz Crazyboy, when all of a sudden, I was hearing his voice as I tracked the written word and had stopped ‘reading’.  I don’t think that makes any sense and I’m laughing at this place in my own writing, but leaving it all as it is.  At that point in Gitz’s book, I put my pencil down.  I will talk about that process more when I review Secret of the Stars.

The book talk was, as always, very inspiring as we passed the listening stone around the circle.  That evening, we attempted to tape our book talk, so I think we forgot to take a group photograph of the session, a tradition that I’ve grown to look forward to.  The people in the circle are becoming dear and treasured friends for the difficult and lively conversations we have.

Thank you, Michelle for the snacks and the hot tea.  Thank you to Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI!

John Moors (1876 – 1918) Recent Connections

This is a very brief post that serves only to express gratitude for the recent and generous connections I have made related to my Great Grandfather John Moors (1876 – 1918).  What a wonderful thing it is to have cousins discover my writings and research and to respond!  These Paternal relations include Charlene, Jacqueline and now, James. Thank you, for your connection. For about 15 years, I’ve been fanatically engaged in research on both my mother and father’s sides of the family.

Some would ask, “Why does it matter?…or… “What does it all mean, anyway?”…but, there is something innate within me that wants to know who my people are.  It is a weakness.

Long-story-short, I have always looked for a photograph of my Dad’s Grandfather, in uniform.  Every Remembrance Day, I was disappointed that I had only the image of his wedding day.    He died and is buried in Etaples, France.  He was lying in General Canada Hospital #51, when during the night, a bombing raid orchestrated by the Germans, decimated most of  the location and killed John Moors. I’ve thought that he should be remembered. Don’t get me wrong.  I was happy about having the wedding photograph…but, imagine my excitement when, randomly, Charlene sent a photograph over the internet from her home to mine…and to, in a flash, have my Great Grandfather’s visage appear face-to-face with me on a screen in 2018.  GAHHHHH!

Enough said…first, our family’s single archive up until now…my Great Grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors in the center front and my Great Grandfather John Moors back right.

wedding jpg best copy of Great Grandfather John Moors

I took this photograph of a photograph that my Auntie Eleanor had hanging in her home.  When it comes to gathering family history, I’m not super fussy about archival quality of images.  It’s a simple blessing to have  moments of history sustained and easily available to as many family members as is possible and as quickly as possible.  I think I’ve written about this before…that ‘in the day’ how would family members even include one another in these histories?  We are sooo blessed!

Here he is!  My Great Grandfather!  What a handsome man!  My father said he had striking red hair, much like my own Grandfather Moors did and now, my own beautiful daughter.

John Moors Great Grandfather

I’m hoping that Betty Silver’s daughter has an opportunity to see this as I know that she was on the look out for the very same image, saying (as other relations remembered) that a large framed photograph of John in uniform hung in the family dining room.

Second to this, Charlene shared what looks like a younger image of this John.

John Moors Great Grandfather 2

He looked dapper.  I try to imagine as I look at this image, that here is captured the 13 year old who came by ship, on his own…a British Home Child who worked very hard on at least three farm placements including Elora and two outside of Guelph.  This was likely taken during his Hamilton days.

And finally, a family photograph including my own Grandfather John Moors, his young brother Robert (Bob), his sister, Grace and his mother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors.  Mary Eleanor had striking dark eyes and hair…I see a lot of my father in her.  This would have been taken some time after the passing of their father and husband John Moors.

Grandfather John Moors

And finally, something that I just received tonight…icing on the cake!  My first cousin once-removed, James, has provided photographs of front and back of John’s military medal.  I’m so grateful that unlike so many families, this object has been cared for and cherished so that now, so many years later, all can enjoy.  Blessings on my family for their generous work.  My cousin, Teddy Witbeck, has been doing a remarkable job working on our family tree on Family Search.  As we continue to piece together our history, his work can be accessed.  Trust me, you will have a great head start that way!

Love you all.

John Moors back side medalJohn Moors medal front

I’ve written away and had much support attaining John’s military record…this medal assignment was included there.

John Moors (17)