Jul 31, 2011

Leaving the Farm

The only problem with summer vacation is that it happens during the summer. Here on the farm, summer's an awful busy time. Wonderfully busy, that is. Plants are finally growing and need constant watering and weeding. Harvesting has begun - scapes, garlic, berries, cherries, beans... Time to start prepping for winter vegetable planting.

Tomorrow we go away for 5 days of hike-in camping at Forbidden Plateau. Once we're there it will be paradise, but for now I question the wisdom of having to rush through and arrange so much just to leave this paradise. In addition to the usual packing and planning and finishing work stuff mayhem (including patching rat holes in the tent -the joys of storing things on a farm), here's some of the farm tasks we have to arrange these days:
- someone to do the chickens: 3 sets of chickens need food water and freedom each morning, and precisely at dusk to be locked back in safe for the night
- buy enough chicken feed
- someone to water the garden: turn on 3 timers each morning or night, and set up sprinklers in 4 different patches not yet set up with drip tape
- cut the grass paths throughout the garden so they don't overgrow the rows
- dehydrate 5 days of food (sarah started on beef jerky, beans, rice, granola, snack bars... two days ago)
- harvest and process fava beans
- harvest and hang to dry the final row of garlic (25 dozen)
- move the water trough and electric fence so the cows are on fresh grass so they don't try to escape to greener pastures
- set out a fresh batch of garlic at the roadside farm stand
- set up climbing trellises for the beans to grow up onto

At the same time, construction of the cabin bedroom extension has reached another critical point. Today we have to finish "chinking" - filling in all cracks and gaps in the clay/woodshaving walls so that they can dry while we're gone. And order straw, sand and burlap so that when we return we can start the first layer of mud plaster inside and out.

Plus a community soccer game. And oh ya, mom's coming for an overnight, so we gotta make the place look nice for grandma. (Mom, if you're reading this, it actually always looks perfect, not just when you come :) Luckily, that means that at least for a while today the boys will get some parenting instead of just frantic us trying to squeeze a final 2 weeks of Things-To-Do into 24 hours.

When our 10th anniversary came by in early August, we waited until November to have our romantic B&B getaway. Now 2 years later we have our systems and our support network arranged a bit tighter so we can squeeze in a bit o' fun, but at the same time the farm is running deeper in our blood. I am very much looking forward to this annual camping adventure with good friends, but at the same time there's something unsettling and Wrong about leaving the farm when there's work to be done (said in the voice of Almanzo's Pa).

Jul 27, 2011

I even love Macaulay Culkin

Actually I don't. I think he's annoying, a lousy over-produced child-actor, and at least on-screen quite a snot. So why did I cry when his character died?

Short answer - because I'm a dad. My wife's posting tonight describes it better than I can. Both of us posted yesterday about how we stepped up to stop a drunk driver - which required leaving our kids to witness the scary scene alone - to which one Mothering Magazine reader commented:
“Yeah, you did have a choice. You could have called the police. Clearly you could have gotten security if they got there so quickly What on earth were you thinking? This was terrible modeling for your children! To me this is the anti-mama bear, you chose to act in a way that traumatized your children!"

Sarah has already, as always, posted a beautiful response about universal maternal love. Being her loving husband, I always have a bit more to say, so here it is:

1. I'm amused that no-one wrote the response to me. Is it societally OK for Dad to abandon the wee ones to play superhero, but not mom? Would she chastise Arnold for leaving his kindergarten class to go stop the bad guys in Kindergarten Cop?

2. The "call the police and stay out of it" response is a pretty normal cop out (forgive the pun). Kinda like Grandma telling me to move home from Africa, get a real job and send money to Peace Corps to go do that development stuff (um, grandma, Peace Corps are just college grads just like me - someone else's grandkids.) This was a rare opportunity where there was no doubt about the need for intervention, no significant danger to taking action, and direct and immediate action was the only option - by the time we'd spoken to the 911 operator that driver would have already been on the road and we would have all just been praying that the police would catch her in time.

Yes the police are thankfully there for our protection, and in a more dangerous situation perhaps would have been the only option. But we Canadians especially have become so dependent on the police, the government, the experts, care homes, even the non-profit community, that it's become too easy to abdicate our civic duties. We teach and model for our children to "do the right thing," and sometimes that means doing it ourselves, not calling in someone else's parents or grandkids to take care of it for us.

3. That care-for-the-world heart-expansion that comes with parenting, which Sarah paints so beautifully, isn't just for moms. I hated Home Alone, and especially that child brat star, every time I saw it (video selections are limited at the African pastor's house where I lived then). Then years later, while we were pregnant with our first child in Texas, I suffered through another horrible Macaulay Culkin waste-of-2-hours-movie - My Girl. But when he died at the end of the movie I started crying. A child had just died, and I was a parent (to be) of a child, and John Donne's bell tolled and GONG!!! I was a parent. Part of the universal community of moms and dads and grandparents and aunts and uncles who care for and about the children of our world, and that love and care is so powerful that it gushes over the feeble white-picket boundaries of our little nuclear families.

When we left our children "home alone" to watch us struggle with that drunk woman, we weren't abandoning them. We were directly and actively caring for them and for all children. Yes it was a trauma for them, yes I wish it hadn't happened, and yes I wish that the police or security or another onlooker could have been there and allowed at least one of us to stay with the children. But not for a moment, then nor now, have I doubted that we were right in taking action.

Jul 25, 2011

How to Stop a Drunk Driver

There's nothing like being bitten and accused of assault to cap off a great day at FolkFest.

It's 10:30 pm, Alpha YaYa's music is still floating across the farm, and we and our tired children are with a group of folkfest leavers waiting for the shuttle. A very drunk, disoriented woman bumbles through us, muttering this and that, then leans against a car still talking to herself. Still we wait.

Then suddenly, somehow, the woman has keys and has managed to open the car door, is getting in, and the crowd all watches and wonders what to do. My brave wife knows - she defies the group bystander effect (the more people present, the less likely anyone will do anything to help) and leans against the door to keep it open as she asks the woman how much she's had to drink.

"Tourist bitch!" the woman shouts, trying to shut the door, trying to push my wife away. I put my sleepy child down on the long grass and move in to help. She's somehow managed to start the car, so I lean across to turn it off while Sarah tries to hold her down. CRUNCH, the woman's teeth bear down into Sarah's bare forearm.

Now I'm 3/4 into the car, holding her down by the shoulders and arms, careful not to get bitten or kicked, all with one arm while trying unsuccessfully to remove the car keys with the other. She's punching and trying to hurt me, swearing, then screaming that I'm assaulting her. I'm summoning my calmest, most compassionate energy to try to communicate that I'm just trying to get the keys to keep her safe, but her ears have drowned in the empty gin bottle on the passenger seat.

I do feel calm. I've done this before. Too many times, trying to get the keys from my dad. Borrowing the truck and not returning it until a binge is over. Convincing the doctor to have his license suspended. Letting the air out of all tires and putting a new steering wheel lock (which still didn't stop him). At least this time I don't have to maintain a relationship with this woman; don't have to weigh the relative importance of possibly damaging a father-son trust with possibly killing an innocent child.

For Sarah, that's the turning point, the motivation to step out of the paralyzed crowd and take action - innocent children. Our own children right with us; other children and families on those streets she was about to swerve onto. Mama Bear on board, and teeth or no teeth that woman isn't going to kill anyone's children on her watch.

At long last security arrives and we can attend to our own terrified, crying children. For days we'll be trying to explain the dangerous effects of alcohol, the importance of citizens stepping up to responsibility, the good fortune that we were never much in danger (unless she'd managed to get it into gear.)

They've just witnessed their first act of true violence - violence against their own parents and, from the drunk woman's perspective, perpetuated by their own parents. I hope it will be seared into their souls not as a moment of violence or fear, but as a necessary act of compassionate force, motivated and tempered by a love for children, for their grandfather, and for a sick woman who for at least one night was kept from harm.

PS - just to be really clear, I didn't show any bravery in supporting my wife and subduing a much-weaker person. It was my wife taking the risk by stepping out of the crowd to initiate the action. Here's what she wrote about it on her MamaRenew blog

Jul 23, 2011

Island Folk Fest

Aint nothin' better in this world you know
Than lying in the sun with a radio

Except when that radio is live music on 5 stages, and there's hundreds of other folkie folk friends lazing around in that sun while children dance in front of the stage. And a friend on stage. And other friends selling drums and hats and wares at their booths.

Folk Fest for me is a little about the music, and alot about community. Jhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifust devoting a whole weekend to enjohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifyment, creativity, food, people - it's alot like camping.

I'm talking about the REAL Folk Fest, by the way - Island Folk Fest, just 8 minutes down the road at the base of Mt. Tzouhalem on Providence Farm. Sure, the Vancouver version was big and fun, but this one is ours, has lotsa local talent as well as imported eye-poppers, lotsa friends, and just smaller and more intimate. Part of our moving to the island was a switch in allegiance, and the quality music and magical atmosphere made that easy.

We also get to host musicians - this year, Mojave, a lovely couple from Tofino. We'll be leaving in a few minutes to watch them perform, and in return for providing a bed we get free admission, lunches, a quiet space with snacks and drinks to get us through a long day.

OK, time to put on a flowery skirt and bare feet and summon my inner Janis Joplin (never too far beneath the surface.) See you there?

Jul 21, 2011

Boys of Summer

How do a dad and two boys enjoy a summer afternoon on the farm? Throw a baseball around. Take apart the tractor and end up making it worse. Kick the soccer ball around. Dig up the dirt pile covering the future grey-water pit and use it to fill in the holes in the soccer pitch from when 7-year-old Galen learned to use the excavator 2 years ago. Dig some more dirt and build a bike jump in the forest. Take down the last storm window while the boys get their bikes and helmets. Finally buck up that log across the forest path while the boys do more and more daring jumps that'll make their Mama sweat. When the chainsaw gets stuck, use a long strong branch and a stump to make a lever that the boys sit on to raise the log back up.

Then inside for some quick liver burgers and fried potatoes, a long "childhood story" of various mishaps and almost-arrests on my first ever trip to France, a soft sing-along of Sweet Baby James, and a delightful falling asleep with Galen on my shoulder and Zekiah on my chest.

Four chores done, three games played, one impressive scratch each, and only one broken farm implement. We may be a long way from circus camps and roller coasters, but there's no shortage of summer thrills here on the WildSide.

Jul 20, 2011


Today's blog is brought to you the word "Yes." What a great, under-used word. A word and a spirit I try to bring more into my life.

As a parent I try to meet my children with YES more often. "No" is the automatic parental reflex. An innocent "Can I..." and we're already thinking of a reason to deny them. NO to snacks, NO to a quick game of cards, NO to a family outing, NO to second helping of dessert. On my good days I let YES be the automatic response, the default, unless I then think of a compelling reason to say no. YES my boys, I'm here for you, YES we can enjoy life, YES i love you in this positive giving open way, YES.

I want to say YES to my friends' spoken and unspoken needs. YES to my tired wife wanting me to clean. YES to the school committee recruitment, YES to Quaker meeting involvement, YES to the community ready to embrace my involvement. (Of course, Sarah will be the first to tell you I'm a bit too good at this type of Yes; sometimes there's a healthy balance to No also.)

YES to being hopeful about the world, even a Harper-led government and Tea-Party-led US Congress and whoever it is running BC. YES to listening, to honest dialogue, to looking into the heart of those with different opinions and needs and priorities. YES to constructive engagement, YES to solutions.

YES to YES! Magazine, a positive inspiring look at how to make the world better, not at what's wrong with it. Yes to the Canadian Friends Service Committee, YES to Farm Folk City Folk, YES to any organization that brings out the good and builds connection and helps create a world we can all believe in.

YES to Pivot Legal Society, who just put out a YIMBY kit, counterbalancing NIMBY-ism("Not in my backyard") supporting people to say "YES in my back yard."

YES to Chantey Dayal and Chantell Foss and all the artists and poets and dancers who bring creative energy into a hungry world. YES to Dancing Star Birth, which responds to the over-medicalized birth industry not with criticism or judgement, but just with a quiet strength that brings pregnant couples to a place of believing in their own strength and the strength of their incoming baby.

And a big whopping incredulous YES to the founder of Dancing Star Birth, my beautiful wife Sarah, who was brave and crazy enough to say Yes to me 12 years ago and so so many improbable times since (she said Yes to a water buffalo yesterday, more on that soon.) YES to Meg Ryan's fake orgasm - I'll have what she's having. And YES to the country music industry which can unabashedly reduce all this happy drivel to a concise Brad Paisley tune:
She said YES! I said WOW!
She said When? I said How about right now?
Love can't wait, then I asked if she believed in fate
And she said YES.

Jul 17, 2011

Blame it on the Rain

It's not the rain that's getting me down; it's the incessant complaining about the rain. The #1 greeting or Facebook status these days is lamenting the "lack of summer."

We celebrated yesterday's morning downpour with a family hottub in the garden, with children ecstatic about this good fishing weather. And how adorable they looked in their slickers and umbrellas heading off to the Duncan Daze parade. No worries about it raining on their parade - they had a great time. No-one got sunburnt or dehydrated, no-one wearied from the heat, no scrambling for that one shady spot along the parade route. Just warm wet happy puppies playing in the summer puddles.

If 2011 isn't the Best Summer Ever, would it really be the weather's fault? Sure there could be more sunbathing days, but my garden would also be thirstier, and I'd have constantly greasy hands from kids' sunblock. Our lemonade bills are down this year, and backyard baseball games last much longer on cloudy days with green grass to lie in.

This cultural obsession with the weather feels like just another externalization, a shedding of personal responsibility for our state of happiness. Our boss, our god, the economy, the government, that Things-To-Do list (like someone else wrote it), our achy back, that counter that needs scrubbing, and of course those damn clouds - all these things jump in our way to achieving true happiness, to doing what we really want to do. "If only X and Y and Z, then I'd have time, then I'd have no stress, then I'd do what I really want. Then I'd be happy."

I'm not looking for the silver lining behind the cloud. I'm looking at that cloud straight-on and appreciating the rain for my fields, the coolness for my house, the shade for my head, the astounding gradations of grey, the lack of crowds at the park, the beautiful eyes of non-sunglassed friends, the puffy aerial variety show. I've looked at clouds from both sides now, and still somehow refuse to allow something 10,000 feet above my head to disturb my Peace. It's mine to create or destroy, and I will not lean on an permeable accumulation of condensed water vapor as an excuse to not live fully.

My glass is half full, dammit, and if it's half-full of rainwater than it's that much sweeter to drink from.

Jul 16, 2011

Mr. Mentor

Mentor. Role Model. Splendid signs of middle-age and new ways to give and explore.

I've had many mentors, many older folk I look to for guidance and inspiration. When I shadowed the Africa Area Director for Heifer International in 1997, it was the first time I saw a profession I wanted, and bluntly asked him for advice on how I could have his job in 10 years (it ended up taking 12, but I followed his advice to the letter - minimum 3 years overseas, a few more languages, and a Masters degree). Dan and Anne were only 5 years older during Habitat training, but to 26-year-old me they were the international-development-savvy professionals I hoped to become. Beth Scott quickly transitioned from ACCES boss to mentor for how I want to be with people. My beloved piano teacher, her activist husband, some of my beautiful friends here in the valley, even my boisterous pure children - so many people who show me new ways to the light.

As I get older and wiser, I love being increasingly on the giving end of this mentoring deal, though as always I learn just as much as the younger (usually) mentee. It's a challenge not to preach or fall into the illusion that my path should be their path, though entertaining and flattering when they do it themselves. But to offer my life and perspective and choices up as a reflecting wall for others to gain some new ideas or insights about their own path, that is a true gift for myself as well as (hopefully) for others.

As I see these young adults embarking on the exciting, life-defining phase of their lives, I feel surprisingly little envy. I LOVED being that open-to-life's-experiences youth, ready to embrace and challenge and feed on whatever the world could offer up, but feel no need to go back there myself. I'm equally in love with this more settled but still-growing phase, and can vicariously keep that younger experience alive through these connections with others at different points along the journey.

This musing is inspired by our current house-guest, a just-19-year-old college freshman from Sarah's undergrad college in Michigan. Each year we host one student for a 2-week life-work experience, and the past two years the guests have been extraordinarily open in their exploring and sharing. As we introduce her to the How and Who of us, we also get to question and relive the decisions we've made and continually make that bring us here, and see ourselves through pure open new eyes.

For example, her first blog posting depicts our idyllic marriage. Subsequent posts paint a beautiful picture of our work, children, land, etc. I read it and wish I could be those people, then remember that I am!

Of course if she stayed longer she'd also see dark and tired days, the uninspired and over-busy days, but just as I don't hide those in my writing, I hope I also don't hide those from her as they naturally occur in our cycle. If I'm truly setting myself up as a learning post, it needs to be an honest and complete picture of one possible reality.

So thank you, dear Charlotte, for being so thirsty and drinking from our oddly-shaped cup for a spell. Know that we receive just as much as we give and learn just as much as we teach, and hope that together we can continue to inspire the better and best in each other.

Jul 12, 2011

100-Metre Breakfast

This morning celebrated Sarah's birthday, and also our visiting intern Charlotte's 19th birthday, with fresh strawberry shortcake, whipped cream with maple syrup, and carrot-plum-kale-apple juice. All from our garden (OK, the whipped cream from our cow share up the road and the flour from our grains CSA two farms over).

Breakfast yesterday: strawberries on granola, potato-egg pancakes, and strawberries, kale-spinach-crabapple yogurt smoothie. Again, every ingredient except the granola from our garden (or from the root cellar or canning shelves from last year's harvest). Backyard bounty.

Cheap, local, fresh, organic, healthy (eaten within an hour of picking), low carbon footprint, supports the local economy, and so so so satisfying. And oh ya, yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Jul 11, 2011

Trash in the Pantry

Seven days without the kids and we've been Doin' It non-stop. But more like bees than rabbits.

Each day we walk into one room/space in the house and give ourselves 2 hours (often stretching to 4 or 8) to make it ours. Move furniture, scrub, re-paint, repair, re-vision. Room by room this house of 3 years is becoming ours. We've been here long enough to know our patterns and needs, and to suddenly be able to re-invent how the space can support us. I always know I'm in trouble when Sarah goes quiet for a minute, eyes rolling back and up for inspiration, then she slowly starts with, "What if..."

Yesterday, Sunday, the Lord's appointed day of rest, I looked behind the door at the top of the stairs at the perennial mess of bags, vacuum attachments, mop, apron etc and declared that to be my room of the day. What I really want to brag about isn't the clever design that now how us able to (a) keep bulk storage items handy and (b) open the door on a regular basis. It's the materials used.

That support beam is more of the McClean's toolshed I took down last summer (it's also featured in 2 chicken coops, the new bedroom extension, soccer goals, and many other new lives). The cross pieces are salvaged by my friend Eric from his painting jobs. The shelves are someone's old cedar fence in Abbotsford that also became the rental cabin's ceiling, shelves and trim. The top shelves are from the basement cupboard I removed last fall. And all the screws were salvaged from the cabin extension project.

Anne Murray was thinking of these shelves when she sang When Everything Old Is New Again (featured here with a classic 80's hairdo and kimono, and skateboarding Muppets).

The result of this labour of love isn't just a clever storage area. It's the release of energy that comes from de-cluttering. It's the time and energy savings from not having to constantly clean, push-back the mess, and search for things. It's the increased capacity to purchase staples in bulk, saving money and time and more easily supporting organic fair-trade producers. And it's the shared satisfaction of co-creating a vision then immediately bringing it into reality.

I suppose we could have used this week to sleep in late, enjoy chai in the garden, go to shows. But as I predicted in recent posting called Farmers Date, this Doing and Creating is truly who we are and what we share and what turns us on. Sarah officially knew she was in love with me the day we re-designed her Austin bedroom (3 days into our first in-person visit). So I'm officially coming out of the closet by saying that our idea of foreplay is cleaning the closet.

Jul 8, 2011

No Final Regrets

My dad made one last surprise visit - in my dream last night - on the day that he was about to die. I walked beside him and put my hand on his unsteady back and he looked over, only a bit surprised and a lot happy, and said in a weak but familiar voice, "Hey, kiddo."

We sat on the pier and talked about not too much. Told him that my brother and I had good jobs (on a fishing boat), pointed out a spectacular white bird with red-tipped wings. He laughed and said we could return his new piece of carry-on luggage we'd stored in the barn (guess you really can't take it with you :)

Our real-life last visit was a lot like this. Weak, grey as a ghost, gaunt, but still strong-willed enough to take 90 minutes of bus-skytrain-bus then 5-block walk to visit his grandkids. I somehow knew enough to not just leave him with the boys and go to work. We sat in the living room enjoying 3 generations of Juliusson men, talking about the Willie Nelson concert he'd watched twice the night before, making him coffee and a cheese sandwich. As he started the long walk back to the bus stop in his grey sweats and blue t-shirt, I offered him a ride and he accepted - he was that weak.

I didn't officially know it was his last visit, but wouldn't change much even if I had. We just spent time together, loved the boys together, gave each other what we needed.

As I woke up from the dream I mused on how once again I didn't say in words what was being spoken just by being present together in those last moments:
I'm carrying forward the best of what you taught and showed me, the best of who you are. I'm a good, honest, hard-working man. I chop wood and take care of my family and am last to bed after turning out all the lights. I question authority and speak Truth to power. I play guitar and write Santa Claus poems and infuse Joy into the world.

And most importantly, out of all the dads in the world, I'd choose you every time
If I play the "what if today is your last day" game, I wouldn't feel regrets about how I'm living, who I am, what I've done or haven't done. My only sadness would be not getting to see my boys grow up, see who they're going to become, and walk with them along that journey. Not growing old with my wife, smiling arm in arm as we watch our children and grandchildren blossoming into the world. And hearing in their smiles, their good lives, and maybe even in their voices that the best of me lives on through them, and that of all the dads in the world, they'd choose me every time.

Jul 6, 2011

10 Things I Learned from Being Silent

20 hours of no talking (plus 36 of no eating) can teach you alot, especially since there's lots of time to listen. I did it to participate in the Day of Global Solidarity - recognizing the billions of people who have no voice and/or who go hungry every day - and to raise money for VIDEA - Victoria International Development Education Association. But of course in the end the most powerful experience was what I learned about myself.

1. I talk alot. All interesting and brilliant and funny, of course, but alot. Sometimes a wee filter or a 2-second delay like they have on some live TV shows might be a good thing.

2. I process verbally. It's why my parents feared to go to parent-teacher interviews. It's partly why I talk alot. It's why I love teaching and facilitating. It's why I write. Taking something in, churning it around in my brain, then spitting it back out again helps me digest and integrate (hmm, spit-out to digest, not the best-formed analogy ever...)

3. I express my feelings verbally. At the end of the lovely visit/interview with my friend Elke, I wanted so much to tell her how much I enjoyed being with her, respect her, respect that she let me stay silent, appreciate all she gives to the world, etc etc, and all I could do was smile and hug and hope it all shone through my eyes. And who knows, maybe it did even more than the words would have.

4. My wife likes to hear me talk. 12 years of marriage and we still have so much talk about. Thirty minutes into the verbal fast and she moaned, "I feel abandoned." This morning I burst out in a stream of things to share with her from yesterday - sharing it makes it that much more real.

5. I don't need to say it all. Others will eventually say it for me, or something that's better or more interesting. At the end if it hasn't been said, now's my chance to speak, or maybe by then it won't feel that important anymore.

6. People talk more when I don't. During this silent day I interviewed the fantastic Elke Cole for a magazine article. Instead of the usual back-and-forth Q&A, I just sat back and let her share. After an impressively short time to get over the awkwardness, she talked. Then instead of filling the silence with another leading question, I'd just wait and she'd go deeper, or in a direction I wouldn't have guessed, and that's where the richest stuff was revealed. Near the end, she said, "It's amazing when someone's just listening, how much I want to talk."

7. Silence is a great chick magnet. OK, maybe not so deep, but it's true. Women, and i suppose men too, were fascinated and impressed by me and my little sign. Stopped to read it, commented, smiled, sometimes mouthed words back thinking they had to be silent too. I wish I'd known this trick when I was young - so much easier than a cute puppy.

8. My voice has many modalities. I cut out blog, facebook, and email as well as voice, and tried to minimize writing notes and pantomime. Even my sign was a powerful communicator, literally stopping a few cars in the street. The goal wasn't to communicate without talking, it was to experience not being heard, not being able to share my needs and feelings and ideas, not being able to be actively part of the shaping and running of the world that runs me.

9. My voice is strong. With little effort I mobilized over $500 and a lot of publicity for VIDEA. Even while silent I supported a presentation at city council opposing "smart" meters, and a seed was planted that I could become an elected council member or some office. Instead of feeling solidarity with the billions of people who feel little or no power against the government, corporations, spouses, etc controlling their lives, I instead felt the full power of my voice.

10. I want to do this again. I want to more regularly explore different ways of communicating and being with the world. I want to remain conscious of my powers and limitations, and how they relate to others around me and around the world. I want to take time for some deep listening, inside and out, and take time to respond I want to continue to support groups like VIDEA and maintain my connection to that active international development world I once immersed myself in (and hope to again, soon, but that's another blog.)

Thank you to those who supported this experience with pledges, smiles, tolerance, good humour, interest. And thank you to all of you who mostly indulge and encourage my blatant lack of silence - may your ears always be as big as my voice.

Jul 4, 2011

Smart Meters are just plain Dumb

Last year our family spent over $1000 to rid our house of all wireless signals and devices - cordless phones, wi-fi internet, cordless keyboards, etc, based mostly on a gut feeling that this vast uncontrolled experiment with massive doses of electro-magnetic radiation was somehow Wrong. I later outlined some of the research-based reasons to be wary of wireless. Now BC Hydro - the exclusive electricity distributor in BC - is forcing every house to have a "Smart Meter" that will emit 100 times the radiation level of a cell phone. Radiation through my children's growing bodies and brains, through the bees trying to pollinate my plants, through this airspace that I thought I had some control over.

If you're in the Cowichan Valley, please come to Duncan City Hall tonight (Mon, July 4) at 6:45 to support a presentation to council about this. And wherever you are, please check out the EMF Safety Network to get educated about the dangers of wireless in our world and what we can do about it.

The World Health Organization has listed wi-fi ("non-ionizing radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation") as possibly carcinogenic. That puts it right up there in their books with Chloroform.

Another article, rather big-brotherish but quite possibly true and scary, talks about the plan to have all household appliances with mandatory wireless transmitters.

Regardless of the extent of the harm, which we may not know for another generation, the fact is that electro-magnetic radiation is being imposed on us in higher and higher levels without truly knowing the health effects. And that's just wrong. It's been banned in many schools, particularly in Britain, and at the very least we should have some control over it in our own homes.

There's nothing "Smart" about a device that exposes us to something that hasn't been proven to be safe. And there's nothing Smart about a people who let this happen without speaking out. See you tonight, 6:45, at Duncan City Hall (and again tomorrow, Tuesday, at 3:00 at CVRD).

Jul 3, 2011

Mouth Wide Shut

Wanna hear me shut up? Put your money where my mouth is.

This Tuesday I'm participating in a Day of Global Solidarity. For 24 hours I'll not eat a thing, to symbolically stand beside the millions of people who go hungry each day. And also hopefully to raise money to support the great work of VIDEA, our nearby international development agency.

AND, if enough of y'all sponsor me to total $500, I'll also go silent for that full day, to symbolically stand beside the millions of women, children, people disproportionately affected by climate change, global victims of our excessive Western consumerism and predatory trade practices, etc etc - the millions of people who do not have a voice.

I said "symbolically" twice because doing something (a) voluntarily, and (b) for a limited time, is nothing like having it forced on you with no end in sight. There have been times in my travelling days where I was genuinely hungry, unable to get enough food, and that was an entirely different feeling than choosing to fast. But even then, I always knew that I had money in the bank and a Canada to return to, so even though my body felt some of the fatigue and powerlessness that a hungry child goes to school or the fields with every day, my soul still felt hope, felt alive.

The same with my voice. While I do succumb to deep despair at what I've labelled the Fascist Harper Regime, as a white middle-class educated Canadian male I have one of the most powerful, effective voices in the world. There is no way I can ever truly walk beside the 15-year-old third wife my cook in rural Tanzania, but I can take this day to at least acknowledge my voice in relation to hers, and stay silent long enough to re-think how I use that power.

Please join me on Tuesday, or any day, in this creative way of recognizing our place in and impact on the world, and this symbolic and monetary support of our global sisters and brothers. And please do take a minute to pledge your support - I can personally vouch for the good work of VIDEA, and the only thing that will keep me from shouting it from the rooftops will be enough pledges to make me shut up.

Jul 1, 2011

Cow's destiny

When I wrote the other day that our cows may derive "some inherent sahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giftisfaction of providing organic healthy nourishment for our family to fulfill their destiny," I had in mind a beautiful book called "The Faithful Gardener" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, telling the story of a fir tree so happy that he can keep the old couple warm.
"Oh, I never knew I could burn with such brightness, that I could fill a room with such warmth. I love these old ones with all my heart." The fir tree and all the knots in its wood - and in its heart - burst with joy in the flame.

Night after night, the fir tree surrendered himself to this rendering. He was so completely glad to be useful and to be alive in this way, that he burned and burned until there was no more left of him, except for the ashes that lay in the bottom of the grate.

And as he was being brushed out of the grate by the old people, he thought he had never imagined more glory than his life had been till now, and that he could never again wish for more than had been his life up to this very moment.

I am very aware that in both cases (cows and trees) that we are looking at the worth of their life from the perspective of their worth to us humans, but still, wouldn't it be such great comfort to have a clear understanding of some single purpose of our lives? My deep meaning is to raise good kids and contribute to our human and full world, but that's still pretty self-serving and/or awfully vague and general.

How about, I am flower. I am here to create beauty for a short time, to gather the sun's warmth and earth's richness to nourish bumblebees and butterflies, then to send forth my seeds for the next generation of beauty and nourishment. Then return into the soil. Hmmm, maybe we're not so different from flowers (and cows, and fir trees) after all.