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Sunday, November 7, 2021

Breadcrumbs

a poppy for Melrose, 
made by Pops
My granddaughter reminds me of my daughter, and somehow my mother too. I was sure there was an old photo of me at her age (with my mother) that would prove the family resemblance. I finally found it and...not so much: another reminder that memory is reconstructive.  

Searching for that photo reconnected me with other photos, with smudged handwritten letters, with artifacts, all imbued with other memories and past relationships long lost. These symbols quickly evoke, elicit, inspire memory and imagination. They're powerful: I cannot see a badger hair shaving brush and not think of my Dad.

Someday will my granddaughter go through these objects too, and what will she construct about me? Will she find me in a book? Or in a film? A toy? A favourite candy? A song? My flat cap? A drawing? Maybe the garden poppies? 

I don't get to decide, do I? She will reconstruct me anew, but I will be intentional and leave all the breadcrumbs I can, so that she can find her way back to me, forever, and she will never feel alone.  

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The best thing about October?








Although I love a good costume, I'm not much of a Halloween fan except for one thing: horror films. October brings many. My parents initiated my appreciation, unintentionally. They shrugged off notions of youth censorship so I watched whatever film was playing at the drive-in, or wherever they took me. Even I remember thinking at the time: should I be watching this

Beginning about age 6, I watched whatever they watched: Walking Tall, The Towering Inferno, etc. Two films were particularly memorable: Deliverance and Race with the Devil. This early exposure fueled a quick and unpredictable trigger for irrational fear, and a life-long love for horror fiction beginning with Stephen King. Just a kid, I read The Shining and Carrie before the film-versions were released. He helped make me a reader, igniting my imagination and making me a curious observer of human motive; even then I noticed that heroes and villains were defined depending on the circumstances. Some of those reading and viewing experiences are frozen in time. I can still inhabit the memory of the original Halloween film when Michael Myers drives the stolen station wagon around town, seeking victims. At one point, a character yells at the car and Michael slams on the brakes. That scene still evokes a simultaneous desire to freeze and run. 

I think good horror fiction inspires empathy and it awakens our senses to social ills. Isn't Carrie essentially a story about bullying? Think Rosemary's Baby, or The Babadook, or Get Out. These films encourage us to examine what has power over us, and how/why we use power. Think real-life horror: Trump, for example, whose story trapped us all in runaway train case-study on democracy's fragility. Yikes.

Thanks for the shudders, Mom & Dad. Now back to more movies. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Low

I love this river. It's alive; it verbs its way into a new state each season, quite reliably. 

I have walked it thousands of times and this Fall it whispers "ice," yet it also says peace, and calm, and "pay attention." I know that it will be frozen soon, snow-covered, dreaming of Spring, hanging with saskatoon berries again.  

But this year, it's different. It's low. Like a new low. Almost everything is exposed and it invites me off the path to uncover new places and peculiar skeletons: a car battery, a radiator, a spoon. But also, children's names written in its sand. Here too are it's reliable stones, waiting to be overturned or skipped across what water remains.    

Its current state reminds me that I don't know everything about this river. Although I've been walking next to it for over 30 years, it still holds some secrets, some surprises. It will be strong again; even when I am impatient, even when I worry, this river will do what it does. This river reminds me that lows are temporary. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

I wish I had a flame-thrower.

source
Since March 2020, living in Alberta and surviving a pandemic has been, um, interesting. Of course the entire world has experienced ups and downs but our struggles have been compounded by our particular government, loathe to admit their number one job during a crisis: public service. No matter where you live, maybe you can relate? 

I need to vent. 

First Wave

  1. Fear
  2. Toilet Paper
  3. Social Distancing
  4. Our government: let's fire people.
  5. Anxiety and confusion.
  6. We told our daughter not to visit us. *heart breaks* 
  7. Visit relatives through windows.
  8. Celebrate health care heroes.
  9. Masks everywhere except on Facebook.
  10. Hunkering down & resilience.
Second Wave
  1. Government: let's keep everyone in suspense.
  2. Government: mixed messages are still messages, right? (Some MLAs resist restrictions).
  3. Government: we would prefer if more of you died. 
  4. Perseverance
  5. Tick, tick, tick...
  6. EVERYONE STAY HOME AGAIN.
  7. CANCEL ALL PLANS (except politicians who have to go to Hawaii, and such). 
  8. World Ending (January 6, 2021)
  9. Eat everything.
  10. Hunkering down & resilience.
  11. Celebrating health care heroes.
  12. Some churches can't remember the golden rule.
  13. Government: get vaccinated now.
  14. Government: let me be clear; Alberta will never have vaccine passports.
  15. 30% of Albertans begin doing "research."
  16. 70% of Albertans get vaccinated 12 minutes after they're eligible.
  17. Our premier takes a camera crew with him to go hug his mother. 
  18. Government: get vaccinated now but we can't tell you if we are vaccinated or not.

Third Wave:
  1. In their "spare time," doctors pick up extra jobs being activists (to fill the void in government leadership).
  2. Fatigue.
  3. Hanging on.
  4. EVERYONE STAY HOME FOR TWO WEEKS. 
  5. Infections and hospitalizations dramatically decrease.
  6. Government: But, rodeos!
  7. Government: "Open for summer; open for good" & "BEST SUMMER EVER." lol, facepalm
  8. Government: here's some money to get vaccinated (suck that, vaccine passports). 
  9. Welcome relief (temporary). 
  10. As summer continues, the predominant facial expression is side-eye.
Fourth Wave:
  1. Government: our non-plans for rising case numbers are data-based; also, let's make sure kids aren't protected this Fall.
  2. Where's the data?
  3. Government: [away-from-office auto-reply]
  4. Um, hello?
  5. Hello?
  6. SCREAMING INTO THE VOID.
  7. Doctors organize daily demonstrations begging for basic restrictions for children & other vulnerable people.
  8. Government: here's a video and see, it's not pre-recorded like the Christmas vacations ones were. 
  9. Covidiots complete their covid-19 Facebook degrees.
  10. Covidiots begin protesting at hospitals.
  11. Government: we're fiscally responsible but here's more money for anti-vaxxers (suck it, people who already got vaccinated).
  12. Government: we still can't declare our own vaccinations statuses.
  13. Reporter: "But health minister, people are dying!" 
  14. Government: "That's good feedback for us."
  15. WTF?
  16. Rage flame-throwing (aka writing yet another MLA letter).
  17. Government: here's a vaccine passport but we named it something else stupid and confusing. 
  18. Next? Perhaps the military will be deployed to help save us from our government & covidiots? 
  19. Rage wood-chipping.  
  20. Hunkering down & resilience. 


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Things one should outgrow:

source
confirmation bias.  

Like an idiot, I went on Facebook for a while. It really is a wasteland of human confirmation bias, providing a spectrum of dopamine hits, head-shaking, and outright gasps. 

New to me is the "Barnum Effect," which I argue is another form of confirmation bias, our susceptibility to believe what feels affirming. As some credit to circus guru P.T. Barnum, "there's a sucker born every minute." Despite this, I'd still like to identify as an INFJ, which confirms the emotional power of these psychological blind spots.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

For someone else?

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Yesterday, I voted.  

In my three decades of voting—both provincially and federally in CanadaI have voted across the political spectrum. Is that your experience too? Over the years, I voted based on limited information, or out of fear, or anger, sometimes in protest, sometimes in reaction to scandal, sometimes convinced by empty arguments founded in whataboutism. Sometimes, I voted with little contemplation, aligned with family and/or other groups of people, aka tribalism. 

The current political grind makes me understandably cynical about politicians who continue to devolve to be more partisan, unable to work together on anything. Can you relate? In Alberta for example, we have the worst provincial government since the province was formed a century ago. Faced with unprecedented unpopularity, daily calls for resignations, protest after protest, no one in that party is steering the ship. Their strategy? Pander to their conspiracy-theory minority base. Ignore every scandal or defend hypocrisy. Lower taxes yet download all costs to municipalities. Collaborate with no one. Stream endless bullshit. Gaslight and double down. Hence, storm after storm, we drift. 

Sigh. So does voting really matter anymore? 

Absolutely. Please vote. If we check out of politics, we will not even contemplate (let alone combat) the issues that we remain dogged by: wealth inequality, privilege, xenophobia... Right now, idiots are protesting at hospitals and harassing schools! The Trump years continue to highlight democracy's fragility and yikes, there are our climate challenges too. Despite disillusionment and cynicism, we must persist. Why? 

Time has proven that voting matters and policy change has improved our lives, drastically. I mean it's a simple example, but as a child I had never even heard of recycling. Think of our extended life expectancy and enhanced quality of life, communication and technology innovations, a more educated society, improved social justice policies, and so on. I recognize that many of these examples should be followed by "for some" in parenthesis. It took me much too long to realize that voting is only the first step; regardless of the outcome, I must remain engaged after election day. I will choose accordingly, with my wallet and with my voice.  

Yesterday, inspired by allyship, I voted for my granddaughter's future. If you are struggling for reasons to vote, perhaps there's someone's future you might vote for too? 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Things one should never outgrow:

(grand) baby love. 

No words yet, but she's already a story.

She's comedy: she will suction cup to her Mom's face if necessary. She's suspense: during road trips, will she continue to sleep or will she wake and go all chaotic good, neutral, evil or ALL OF THEM AT ONCE? She's horror: sometimes she maintains eye contact while she fills a fresh diaper. She's a love story: she smiles and giggles and cuddles and clasps her hands over your fingers and plays a game we invented together I call "stand up & fall down." So much fun! She's a documentary: curious to engage with almost everything, she inspires me to exceed my reach and (re)discover anew all that's rote. She's definitely the main character (House Slytherin, maybe? haha), the star really, and she's riveting—she tells a story I and the other so-called grown-ups forgot: how mind-bending and joyful first perseverance and determination is—a theme this world needs times one hundred. 

I can't wait for her words. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

Honest (albeit odd) observation: as much as I love sunflowers, it's a tad creepymaybe even intimidatinghaving a staring contest with a flower taller than me. I've never had to punch a sunflower, but I will if it shit-talks me. Just sayin. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Father's Day?


For the first time in many years, I had to work this past Father's Day. I was a bit bummed, and then I remembered: father's day is kind of stupid. Right?  

Sure, pick any day to get together and celebrate, if you want, if you can. Give cards or gifts or drink beers or facetime. Whatever. It's all good. Unless it isn't, because let's be honest, some fatherswhether it's a temporary phase on notare shite. 

Speaking of a stench in the room, for me, father's day smells like my ever-present imposter syndrome. Perhaps I'm not a shite dad, but I've had some episodes that should have meant cancelation. Sigh. So my struggle with the day is the struggle with the label. I am uncomfortable with the traditional father paradigm, and I cannot peel this skin off. It's rooted deep. Like so many boys, we once compared our fatherstheir physical strengths, their numerous accomplishments, their effortless confidence, their undeniable prowess. Eventually we recognized our dads were human and yet we were determined not to make the same mistakes. But we did. And somewhere in there, those original unrealistic notions became ideals and manifested themselves in toxic ways because fatherhood has a way of highlighting one's inadequacies, selfishness, and all the dormant flaws. Big time. Becoming a father, I felt it alllove and gratitude and joyalso overwhelming bewilderment and fear and frustration. Why couldn't I get my shite together and fix things?

After many years now, and especially this year, fatherhood feels different; I'm a grandpops. Thanks to time and space and experience, I'm finally free to embrace an ongoing and (much-needed) progression of fatherhood (manhood, personhood), inspired by the essential aim to EVOLVE. I am in love with evolution these days! Hence, I continue to shuffle off those old ideals, redefining fatherhood, hoping this version of me is still enough for my grown kids. In the spirit of ongoing imposter-soaked honesty and authenticity-seeking, following are those times (thanks to my daughter and my son) I felt most like my definition of a father: 
  • when I cut your cords
  • when I read with you and sang with you
  • playing RAWRRRR!
  • watching you sleep
  • "Did you give me a hug yet today?" 
  • that time you sang at the concert in Grade 3
  • that time you broke the rocking chair at the school assembly
  • skiing & snowboarding
  • all our holidays together, including that weird hour we spent in Crooked Bush, and always, always, always catching frogs on the farm. 
  • your wedding
  • snowmobiling with you
  • peeling your drunk self off the driveway in front of our home
  • searching a shallow stream for your cellphone
  • when you drove me home from Edmonton once (and made fun of me)
  • watching horror/comedy movies with you
  • giving you a hundred dollar bill
  • whenever I say, Jesus.
  • e-transfers (Jesus.)
  • when you got tattoos (Jesus.)
  • making cookies for you
  • when you phone late
  • when I’m far away from you
  • when I apologized
  • right now. 
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