Family Photos and US Politics

I am sitting in my living room looking at the photos of my family on the piano and listening to the US election results come in on CBC radio on my iPad. One of my children and one of my grandchildren live in the US.
I have long been critical of the first-past-the-post electoral process and what happened on November 8th in the US reminds me vividly and viscerally how poor and unpredictable that antiquated system is and how farcical what we on both sides of the border call “democracy” has become.

However, my immediate, personal concern is about how vulnerable and scary things in neighbourhoods and on Main Street USA may become for the possibility of random acts of violent hostility caused by primitive emotions produced to no small degree by the shabby rhetoric and vaudeville displayed by both sides in this shameful, cynical contest.

Julian Assange has done courageous service in exposing how those controlling the world’s overwhelming superpower really have nothing but disdain for its average citizen and zero appreciation for those killed or maimed in the unfortunate places that they choose to manipulate. If I were a Syrian, Libyan, Afghan, Honduran, Salvadoran or any or any other tragic victim of decades of American hegemony, I might have been indifferent to this outcome.

But having two vulnerable, much-loved family members across the border…

***

Things predictably unpredictable are coming too quickly to a head.

My Uncle Eric

My uncle Eric was my closest uncle and a wonderful mentor.

He gave me my first watch at 7, my first ukelele at 9 and introduced me to photography when he gave me my first camera at 13 or 14, showing me how to use it – the intricacies of combining shutter speed, f stop and film sensitivity to create a properly exposed photo. He did his own darkroom work and had an incredible ear for finding the right, very sophisticated chord on a guitar.

Eric and my mother’s younger sister, Rita, were wonderful to my sister Anne and me. Eric could pull an original bedtime story out of his head and we loved his stories. He was devoted to Rita and welcomed Stella, his mother-in-law, into their home, where she lived for many, many years.

His sense of humour was really original, as one of the macabre photos below and in this short, YouTube tribute I put together from old photos demonstrates.

Here are a few more photos:

Saint Francis – Waaay Back Then

St. Francis Window at St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church - Brampton, Ontario
St. Francis Window at St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church – Brampton, Ontario

Canticle of Brother Sun

Saint Francis of Assisi

1224

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

*********

Even a non-theist like me can appreciate the essential insight and thanks in this poem from the thirteenth century by the one whom I consider to be the first environmentalist – and a fellow Camino Santiago pilgrim!  I left the stanza on Bodily Death in (save for one line) because, religious or not,  we should all care about how we live while we are sharing this place and prepare for a departure eased – made joyful, even – by the sense that we have cared about our “Brothers” and “Sisters” on whom we depend and who, in turn, depend on our faithfulness to all life.

I found it (while looking for something else for a future blog) in my well-thumbed, autographed, copy of David Suzuki’s great 1997 book written with Amanda McConnell, The Sacred Balance.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

 

My Sister’s Journey With Dr. “Z”

My sister, Anne, has gone through seven eye surgeries in the past 14 months, maintaining her sense of humour throughout. Eventually Anne began a history of her experiences. I suggested her story needs to be passed on, and she agreed.

Here is her incredible story in her own, very funny, upbeat words:

My Journey With Dr. “Z”

I would like to prelude my story by introducing myself. My name is Anne and I am a 66 year old woman who has struggled with severe myopia most of my life. You might ask why, in this day and age, did I just not receive corrective laser surgery as many have. I was told that, in order for this procedure to be a success, so many layers would need to be removed from my cornea that it would become dangerously thin. No one would do it.

Because of my extreme nearsightedness, I am particularly prone to developing an abundance of floaters. Floaters are black or mucous-like squiggly forms that swim around in my vitreous fluid and compromise my vision. At my age, all of my original floaters have now had grandchildren.

I also have an astigmatism: an imperfection in the curvature of my cornea; it affects the light that reflects into my eye, making my vision blurry without a corrective lens.

Finally I developed cataracts, but they were surely to be my saviour, as the surgery necessary to help my myopia could now be done and would be covered by the government. Despite all of my problems I was still confident that the cataract surgery would be straightforward.

My nearsightedness, which was almost a minus 15 prior to my first surgery, (minus 20 diopters is legally blind) has always been a challenge for me. For example, years ago I thought I was trying to coax a cat to come to me only to realize, as I got closer, that it was simply just rust on a mail box. Continue reading “My Sister’s Journey With Dr. “Z””

Christmas Day Parang

Our impromptu parang side
Our impromptu parang side

It is always  better than good to get together with family and friends and feast at Christmas. We had nine for dinner and Avril had nine. The two groups combined later at our place for more partying and an impromptu, extremely lively, parang. Parang is a custom coming from the time when Trinidad was a colony of Spain. It is sung mostly in six-eight time and in Spanish. Often the parang deviates into calypso, Trini folk songs and lively, Trinified versions of traditional English language carols. We had two visitors from St. Maarten. Rose’s daughter-in-law and grandson. Having so many musical Trinis in one place made the parang, I now realize, inevitable…

Off topic, but very worthwhile: This amazing, colourful version of Handel’s Halleluja Chorus by The Lydians, a well known Trinidad musical company.

I now know that using the “three photo” option with the 10 second time delay can encourage a lot of frivolity, even amongst adults.  Out of nine photos this was the best – with 94% of the group actually on task. It was obvious that fun was had by all.