Apr 26, 2012

Moving, not Up

We're moving again. When it comes to homes, we're serial monogamists.

It's been 3.5 years since I posted a jubilant We're Home! posting, so I reckon we're about due. I haven't lived in the same house for more than 4 years since, um, high school. Is it a need for change, a fear of getting too settled, or a seizing of new opportunities and growth?

In this case, it's the lure of going yet simpler, yet smaller, yet more focussed. And the move aint so far - just across the basketball court. Our beloved Crystal and Tristan are leaving the cottage, and after putting so much heart and energy into creating that beautiful natural space, it's just too tempting to give it a try. Voluntarily reduce from 1200 to under 600 square feet of living space. Winnow our Stuff once again. Live in even closer proximity, interwoven, connected. Experience a truly breathtaking bedroom worthy of the term Master. And open this larger space to a family who may feel the need for a larger space.

It's not decided, and in fact we're letting the universe decide. We've posted both places for rent, and will see who and what arrangement ends up being the best fit. When I sit in the cottage I can feel a beautiful healthy life together and get excited by the Fun and beauty of it. Then when I'm in this house that we've finally put some energy into making ours - photos on the wall, shelves built where we want them and kitchen cupboards removed where we don't, enough hooks in the mud room... - I think we're crazy to leave a space that is working so beautifully for us.

So here's to being open to possibility, open to the new learning of experience of either Going Small or of Staying Put for more than 4 years. The continuous thread of our lives is this life, love, land and community - just the walls containing and nourishing it that are in question.

PS - if you know a family looking for a rural farm community living scene in the Hub of the Universe, 15 minute walk to Sunrise Waldorf, organic farm, hot tub, etc etc, tell them to contact us, and that they get to help determine our footprint for the coming years - ramble@wildsidefarm.ca

Apr 18, 2012

Suicide bomber photos - why it's OK

The world was appalled recently by American soldiers posing for pictures with body parts of an Afghan suicide bomber. My military friends on Facebook have a very different view:

FACEBOOK FRIEND: Well, it seems our soldiers have posed with dead suicide bombers....now we have done it! Gone and offended more appeasers! What were we thinking? Maybe if we promise to go into battle without weapons they will forgive us....There is one good thing about those pictures. All the folks watching reality shows will now know what dead people look like close up. I wonder if the ass clowns in the media noticed that there were Afghani police posing as well. As with the Belambai shooter, unless it's us burning the Koran, nobody cares.

The suicide bombers were less valued than a dog or a cow. LIFE HAS NO VALUE TO THESE PEOPLE. Last year, a 12 year old girl was brutally raped near my firebase. The rapists then sliced her femoral artery so she would die. We tried to save her, but she died. If she would have lived, SOMEONE in her family would have killed her anyway for being raped. This culture is sick, we are fighting savages, and for some of us, we can switch it on and off. When we happen to do something that some folks would consider savage, the whole world blows up. The media prints ANYTHING that undermines America. Posing with a leg or two is very lame compared to what they do to our dead. Even after seeing the news media shit on our country for my whole adult life, I still can't figure out why they hate us so much.

RICK: I'm sure you're right that there are abuses on the Afghani side that go unmentioned in the press. But that doesn't diminish what the pictures demonstrate. It's the dehumanization that's so shocking. Those pictures, and even some of your words, make it sound like these human beings are being treated as less than human (both by soldiers and, based on what you've written, by some of their own people). SOME of them may be acting like "savages", some of them may have been brought to the point where they feel like "life has no value", but that does not take away our moral imperative to treat all humans as people.

I'm not talking about whether it's right or wrong to punish, or defend/protect, etc. I'm not excusing the destruction that the suicide bomber caused, nor diminishing that tragedy. But that bomber was still a human, still had a mother, still loved someone sometime in his life. You can do your duty and what you feel is necessary without denying that. As a Quaker I'm committed to trying to see and reach "that of God in everyone". I believe that most religions, including Islam and Christianity, teach a similar message. And that probably most people who don't subscribe to a particular religion would probably agree too. As a civilian I can only imagine how challenging that would be when faced with a suicide bomber or some of the other people you have to deal with. I've been just robbed or threatened and had a very tough (OK, unsuccessful) time trying to still feel any compassion, and that's nothing compared to what you experience over there. So I'm not trying to be holier than thou here, just trying to explain or explore why we the public are having such a reaction to this.

ANOTHER FRIEND: Anyone that believes that there is humanity in theses people obviously has not been in a life or death position fighting against them. These people are not godly, they are savages hands down and the only thing they understand is pure violence. We need to take the fight to them in as brutal way as we have taken it to the Germans and the Japanese. Burn em to the ground and piss on their ashes.

If these men were let loose in your neighborhood, a mugging is nbothing compared to the atrocities they would unleash on you and your loved ones. You would be placed on your knees in front of a camera trying to "touch their humanity" as they used a dull machette to remove your head.

RICK: Yes, I fully agree that I have not experienced what you guys have. And in the heat of a life-and-death battle you can't afford to feel compassion like I can in the luxury of my Canadian farmhouse. But D__, if they could see your posting - "Burn em to the ground and piss on their ashes." - they would likely say that you are "are savages hands down and the only thing they understand is pure violence." And yet I know M__'s goodness and believe in yours, so why can't I equally believe in theirs? If I can hear these violent, savage words from you and yet still believe in your innate goodness, your love for your family and country, your belief that what you are fighting for is Right, then why can't I believe the same that for the people on the other side of this war?

FRIEND: I do not kill little girls or wish for the death of the innocent. I am not saying you are wrong, I am saying your faith is grossly misplaced in these people.

ANOTHER FRIEND: I pose with a deer when I kill it what is the difference?Oh yeah I feel bad for the deer.How can you respect a chain of thought that says you can kill people that don't think like you.The same way I got respect from a bully in school.I beat them into my way of thinking.It is amazing who will become your friend if you hit him hard enough.

These people are schooled from the age of 5 to be killers of infidels. That means everyone who is not musllim. Even if they had loved ones, they have surrendered any decency and humanity they have. If you have a rabid dog, you have to kill it. These folks are rabid dogs. Rick, I respect your opinion and I am thankful there are people like you. Folks who want to see good in everything and so on. I just have to deal with reality. That reality is we have a religion in the world (Islam) that has been hijacked by radicals. They want us all either to submit or die. They cannot be reasoned with. We will have trouble visited upon us from them through the years. It is a tall order to kill them all, but I will try to facilitate that. I will either be on the trigger myself, or will find them so someone else can be on the trigger. Our government is useless due to political correctness, and I'm just tired of all the apologizing to Islam. I would just say, "Yeah, the Son of a Bitch blew himself up." He looks kind of stupid. And by the way, I think we will be coming after the rest of you. We will fast rope onto your house, and put a bullet in your brain. We could care less if your woman or your goat gets scared. We don't care what border you are behind. If country X doesn't want us there, by all means, hand the SOB over, you have 6 hours. Right now, we actually knock on the door and ask to come in. Not smart. We, the military, have been castrated by politically correct politicians.

ANOTHER FRIEND: They kill themselves to fight the war of propaganda, therefore taking pictures of their pieces/parts really should not be offensive as it helps their hellish agenda's.... Tired of pandering to the people that can't stomach the truth... Kill em all and let God sort 'em out.

Apr 17, 2012

Chasing an Angel from Montgomery

Late at night, under the stars on a river dock at Casa Guatemala orphanage, a beautiful American volunteer introduced me to Angel From Montgomery. Her voice rang out across the water, over the muted night sounds of the jungle, and I fell in love with her and Bonnie Rait and that brilliant John Prine song.

Then she left, and took her tangled beauty and her lyrical Spanish and her song with her. I was left with the feel of her long hair on my fingertips, a mysterious address in Grinnell Iowa where her mail could be forwarded, and a fragment of the song with with a vague idea of how to play it.

For years I tentatively wrote letters of earnest friendship addressed "c/o Weirs", envisioning them arriving at a squat white clapboard farmhouse, stout midWest woman tucking crumpled, reused envelopes into her apron and wondering who this vagrant young man was, clucking at stamps from Africa and Canada and Ohio then Africa again. Then sending them on to her dear young vagrant friend to India and Australia and Amsterdam, wondering as much as I did at this tenuous connection.
If dreams were thunder, and lightning was desire
This old house would have burned down a long time ago

And for years I chased the song, singing that one tender verse about buzzing flies in youth hostels, Zaire river cargo ships, Rocky Mountain rest stops and Ohio grad school bars. Many said the song sounded familiar, but none could bring it home for me.
There's flies in the kitchen - I can hear them buzzing
And I aint done nothing since I woke up today
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
Come home in the evening and have nothing to say

Finally, an old woman in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas not only knew it, but knew the singer and the words. With trembling hands she wrote the lyrics by firelight and handed them to my equally trembling hands, about to realize one part of my quest. But as often happens, the morning after didn't live up to the night's magic. She herself was an old woman so I couldn't read her writing, and I still couldn't really remember the tune or chords. But I had learned that Bonnie Rait was the singer, so a few months later I found the scratchy record album at the Akron Ohio library (yes, this was before CD's and google searches) and finally learned it, and sing it to this day.

And years later - after a masters degree and 3 years in a Tanzanian fishing village and a civil war in Zaire - I closed the loop with my American Beauty. My despairing "I'm lonely" newsletter from Ghana went to Grinnell Iowa - the self-proclaimed "Jewel of the Prarie" - and on to dear Laura and her hubby and baby in Australia, where my Call of the Wild was heard loud and clear. "He's ready", she realized, and sent a simple "You two should meet" email to her old college roommate who now lived in Texas and was now also ready, and with whom I had 3 things in common - we both baked bread, had lived in Africa, and loved to sing Bonnie Rait. In fact, during those years I was searching for the song (and, unknowingly, her), she was in her Chicago basement dubbing herself singing that same song in 5-part harmony.

Less than 2 years later that beautiful friend came to Tatoosh Washington, at the foot of Mt. Ranier, to watch her Michigan college roommate and her Guatemalan lice-picking friend say their vows that continue to grow strong 13 years later. That night on a Guatemalan fishing dock led to a wife, a lifelong friendship, a new song deep in my heart, and many many things to believe in. Our 10-year-old chose this as his first song to learn on guitar, and all 5 kids on our land love to enthusiastically belt out:
Just give me one thing that I can hold onto
To believe in this living, it's just a hard way to go.

Apr 15, 2012

Arrogant Canuck Fans

Canuck fans aren't arrogant. We're just so gosh-darn thrilled that we finally have a good team, and we can't quite believe it.

Is it arrogance if we really are the best? Note: 2 President's Cups and game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals can't all be luck.

Is it boasting if we're not trying to impress anyone, just share our excitement? I share the amazing things my boys do all the time, but I'm not boasting, just sharing my life and Joys. Where's that line - when we're trying to make ourselves look bigger/better instead of just being natural and human?

I remember a soccer practice at about age 13 when I finally figured out how to kick the larger size-5 ball up high. I was so over-the-moon, every successful kick I exclaimed to my buddy Ian "Wow, did you see that kick?!" He finally said I was boasting, but I wasn't, I was just sharing a pure, real Joy and amazement.

Truth is, even with the team's recent successes, we still at the core have an inferiority complex. The minute a Jonathan Quick or Tim Thomas gets hot, we think we'll never score. When the other team rushes down on a 2-on-1, we think they'll score. We think, "Here we go again, about to go back to the old Canuck losing ways." And when it doesn't, we're back to that jaw-dropping tell-the-world-about-it amazement.

We're not arrogant, we're just trying our best to finally believe in our perennial loser/choker team. It's not quite false bravado, it's more like trying to keep our eyes shut so the dream doesn't dissipate too quickly. If we yell just loud enough and long enough, maybe it really will be true.

Apr 13, 2012

Small Stuff

I fixed the laundry pipe today. After 16 months of water leaking out of the washing machine just outside the house, it's fixed. It took 5 minutes to fix, plus 6 seconds to cross off the Things To do list. Fixed. Done.

The damage to my house's foundation was probably minimal, but imagine the amount of energy it consumed as each week it reappeared on The List, and several times each week I thought about doing it. Now it's done, off the list, and (as of publishing this post) off my mind. Clear. Free.

Inspired, I re-stacked the wood that will be Crystal's patio - 4 months on the list, 1 hour to complete. Installed a new doorstop on the basement door - 9 months on the list, a winter of cold air and rats rushing under the door, 45 minutes to fix. Patched the flat tire that Galen got in January. Then rewarded us with a beautiful sunny bike ride to buy the hose connection for the cow's water that I've been wanting to rig up since the last frost of the year.

Tomorrow - replace that window pane that grandpa broke last August (for which I bought a replacement pane in October), install the under-the-sink garbage can that Sarah bought last May, stack the firewood that was chopped in November, and...

Addendum to "Don't sweat the small stuff; It's all small stuff." - DO THE SMALL STUFF. It really does go away.

Apr 1, 2012

Poo in the Pool

Signs of aging - a big floatie in the hot tub. I'm new to this Being-45 Thing - is incontinence an unavoidable symptom of getting old? Will I have to get special Depends for swimming?

To compound matters - and to the horror of my children - I got confused and took a bite, chewed, swallowed. As bad as slowly losing control of bodily functions is, early senility is infinitely more terrifying. I spiral downward to a Gabriel Garcia future of having to put labels on everything to remind me how to use them (100 Years of Solitude), with patient grandchildren reminding me their names and what's appropriate behavior with senior home nurses.

The final straw - or perhaps the silver lining - is that it tasted good. A bit chewier than I expected, and chunky in bits, but overall made me think there's more to wilderness survival than eating bark. I've already noticed that I need more syrup and salt and flavourings as my taste buds slowly wear out - old men often accuse their wives of trying to poison them because their favourite dishes taste different than before - but I'd always assumed it was a bad thing. Maybe after 45 years of blunted taste due to a large but largely dysfunctional nose, I'll finally be able to enjoy things (other than floating feces, that is).

So, dear friends, I've never been good at hiding the dark shadows of my life and persona, so I hope you understand my drive to share to share these new mid-life crisis woes. I was marvelously loved and spoiled for my birthday by my family and an flotilla of facebook fanatics, so this significant aging marker hasn't all been bad. But incontinence, senility and changing tastes are something I just had to share. Please console me, encourage me, let me know your own experiences so I know what I'll be facing in the next 45 years, and please also have a lovely april fools day, as the boys did when i sprang this Caddyshack gag of a Baby Ruth doodie in the pool this morning.

PS - About the photo - it's the only hottub shot we have on file (from 3 winters ago, if you're wondering). Besides, at my advanced age i'm allowed to make an ass of myself. As Jimmy Buffet sings (here's a good recording of the song, or here's a great shot of the cheesy "Parrotheads" culture that go along with a good Buffet show):

Now i'm gettin' old, don't wear underwear
I don't go to church and i don't cut my hair
But i can go to movies and see it all there
Just the way that it used to be