But What If You Live?


 

baby-boomer-stats-chart-jpgFor boomers, aging is a bit like puberty; we don’t know what’s next, and we’re both eagerly anticipative and terrified of what’s to come. Often simultaneously.

Thing is … part of us always knew we were gonna age, if we were lucky. But that old ‘hope I die before I get old ‘kicks in every time we try to picture what ‘old’ looks like.

If we’ve failed to plan – financially, emotionally, spiritually – for how we’ll live out our Golden Years, we’ve done ourselves an enormous disservice. But hang on … if we got the lucky genetic ticket, we may have decades to live those years!

happy retirement book.jpgSo when the idea of retiring comes along, whether because we’re closing in on 60 or because other factors, like failing health, or a kick out the door from long time employment, play a part, it can be a bit of a shock. It doesn’t matter whether your retirement is because you want to, or have to .. it’s gonna be a ride.

What does 65 look like? What about retirement?  How do these new facets of life feel? Do I have one foot on a banana peel and the other on a bar of soap?

20-retirement-decisionsWill I be happy and relaxed, comfortable, with plenty of time to pursue my hobbies, living the good life, traveling for pleasure, or to visit family and friends? Or will I be scrambling to make ends meet, worried I’ll outlive my money? Some will never feel secure, no matter how much money they have, while others struggle with very little in their pocketbooks, but are rich in friendship and emotional support.

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to cultivate friendships with a diverse group of like-minded people. No matter how many friends you had at the age of 50, I can guarantee that number will have dropped considerably by the time you’re 70. But it’s not the quantity of friends you’ve got, it’s the quality. We always have to keep in mind that the excellence of our own lives is improved or damaged by the people we are surrounded by . Toxic people will suck your energy dry, and leave you unsettled and defeated. People who see possibilities, and have hopes and dreams of their own, carry you along on their energy.

older-friendshipsAs my friend Barbette Kensington says, “Aging is about how bright your light glows…. keep up the energy level; the more you do the more you can do. Watch your friends and environment; don’t let anybody or anything break your stride…“

But how do you fill the hours that used to be spent, not only at work, but getting ready for work, and winding down from work? Although we spend the majority of our working lives believing that we’re an important cog in the machine, the truth is, the hole we leave behind is quickly filled.  When you step off the moving sidewalk of life, even for a few moments, it’s still moving on, just without you. And it can be mystifying to try and get back on, and scary when you don’t know what you missed while you were off the treadmill.

When I popped my head out of the gopher hole of several years of clinical depression, I was stunned at how subtly but irrevocably the world had changed while I was oblivious.  It was frightening, and all I wanted to do was to crawl back into that black hole.  Expect to feel that way at times. it’s a fast paced world we live in, and some days are harder to cope with than others.

insults of aging. jpg.jpgPlanning for a decent retirement from full time work goes way beyond financial, by the way. Even those retirees I know, that have salted away a good nest egg, have much more to deal with than just money. There may be downsizing involved, which in itself is horrifically conscious altering. There may be health issues, relationship issues, or, just to complicate matters, the health issues of those you’re in a relationship with.

Whether it’s your own physical problems, or those of a loved one, our ability to enjoy life may be hampered, and make even the most mundane things difficult.

For many, having a secondary income  may be necessary to supplement pensions. The base income of most Canadians without a company pension is around $1400.00 a month. If you live in a big city, that’s just not gonna cover much more than your rent. Finding paid consulting work in your field, with the accompanying benefit of staying on top of what’s new in that playing field, may be just the ticket. But even if that’s off the table, finding a part time job of any kind, and no matter how humble, can help bridge the gap. Just having a schedule … somewhere you have to be, and where people rely on your being there, can help maintain mental and emotional health.

babyboomerVolunteering may never have been something you’d thought of as ‘work,’ but it is, and it can be a lot of fun, as well as a benefit to your community. Sharing your knowledge of what you’ve learned in your field can be another way to not only keep your mind ticking over, but of giving those just starting in your turf a leg up.

My desire to be an ‘eternal student’ may be in my future, thanks to special grants and waivers given to seniors, and Ontario’s recent change to the Ontario Student Grant, which will provide free tuition for Ontario students with a family income of less than $50K a year, and increase access to interest-free and low-cost loans   (read all about it at https://www.ontario.ca/page/new-ontario-student-grant)

The bottom line is – so many of us worry about getting old – but so few of us think about what we’ll do if we live. Our choice then becomes the quality of that life.

I’ve seen some who have weathered much in their lives, and are stronger for having fought and won their battles. Those are the live wires that may flirt with retiring, but somehow can’t get the hang of it. Those are the people wringing out every bit of life for as long as they can. They are the people you see on the street, and want to know, because they glow with purpose. If they are forced into retiring, it’s not long before they’ll announce that they are ‘unretiring.’  Running out the clock just doesn’t work for them .. they’re not leaving this good earth and all it has to give until they’re damn well ready to do so.

flirting-with-deathWhile I see others, who have ‘retired’  by retreating from life, and  waiting for death, sinking deeper and deeper into the anaesthesia of pills and booze, ‘self-medicating’ the pain of their losses, kept housebound, fearful of their surroundings, and interested only in their own aches and pains, and needs and emotions. Addicted to quasi-medical shows that sensationalize the dangers of everyday life, and media that fattens its ratings by appealing to their fears of a world that feels increasingly more dangerous, they wrap themselves in cotton wool, unable to trust anyone, spiralling down into a paralyzing world hell bent on picking their corpses clean before they’ve even been buried.

It’s a lifestyle choice.

There’s always more to learn, and you owe it to yourself to do so. Dr. Christiane Northrup is spreading the message that as you get older, you do not have to conform to the cultural baggage of what that means.

“Age is just a number, and agelessness means not buying into the idea that a number determines everything from your state of health to your attractiveness to your value,” she writes in the introduction to her new book, “Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being.”

Dr. Mario Martinez, a neuropsychologist, wrote in his book “The Mind Body Code” that getting older is inevitable. It just means moving through space. Aging, on the other hand, is optional. What we’ve come to associate with the word “aging” in our culture is an inevitable decline and deterioration. time travel trams.jpgWhat I’m talking about is reframing the experience of moving through time, so that as we do grow older we can step out of these age-based associations that can keep us in a cage. “

Me and Doctor Who, moving through time … I like that …     

When we fear the future, we are running FROM life – when we anticipate what might be, we are running TOWARDS it, with our eyes and minds and hearts and arms wide open, ready to accept all that a lifetime has to offer.

open_arms_wide

There is a Time and a Space to be Happy .. and Unhappy …


rox lolas July 21 2016 smiling small picSome people think of me as a happy person, who laughs long and hard, and knows how to have a good time. And that’s a large part of who I am.

But I get really, really angry at injustice .. to anyone. Especially injustice to the vulnerable, those who suffer, but are expected to keep a stiff upper lip and their mouths shut before their ‘betters.’ And that includes not only racial minorities, it includes ALL injustice .. to anyone …

I get really, really angry … and I’m allowed to express that anger. Oh sure, I’ll get a few people who tell me to lighten up, or who’ll ignore me, or who’ll snicker about my ‘rants’ … but I’m ALLOWED to get angry. I’m allowed to yell and stamp my feet, and some will agree and some will not .. but I’m allowed to show my anger.

And it doesn’t get me beaten. Or killed. Or arrested for ‘typing while black/native/female/old/young/handicapped/imprisoned/Lefty Liberal.’

My heart breaks every time I see injustice. But I feel the most pain when I see those to whom injustice is a daily reality and a life sentence, being told and shown that they not only have to take it, they have to take it with a smile.

justice will not be served ben franklin

That’s the kind of unthinking injustice that our world tolerates. And I’ll keep getting angry and ranting about it as long as I have breath in my body.

A quote from the article below: “There is a time and a space in which to be angry. There is a time and a space to be happy and joyful. Black people are fully human and we deserve the opportunity to exist in all of our emotions and feelings all the time. NO ONE gets to regulate our humanity —— not even “childhood friends.””

White Policing of Black Emotions

Can’t Touch This!


adam and eve.jpgOne of mankind’s greatest truths is one of the first things we’re told about ourselves in all of our Holy Books … if you tell us we can’t have something … we want it. We want it so badly that we’ll tear our whole world apart to get it.

We might not want it once we have it, but we want to have it anyway. Sex, riches, information  ..  gimme gimme!

And even with that truth and knowledge, we still love to tell people what they’re not allowed to do. Can’t do this, can’t do that .. and you most assuredly cannot touch THIS!

The whole concept of morality, prohibition, censorship and public censure is a movable feast. What is considered perverse in one time phase is the norm in another. History is littered with examples of faulty logic and twisted ideas held by the powerful or influential that managed to mould societies into ways of living that made sense only to them. They had the power, through brute strength, religious fervour, or political might, to force others to think and behave as they dictated.

table skirtPuritan men found table legs so damned sexy – getting a woody over wood, if you will – that they invented table skirts to hide those naughty legs from view. And yet – sixty percent of Puritan women were pregnant when they got married. So the skirts didn’t stop anyone from getting frisky, any more than hijabs or burkas do. No one seems to have asked just how or why the men of Victorian times found table legs to be too sexually arousing for public sight. Maybe I’m just missing something here. Or maybe my own turn-ons would be considered just as outré.

In 2001, a suicide bomber tried to blow up a plane with a bomb hidden in his shoe. He failed. But now hundreds of millions of us have had to take off our shoes before boarding a plane. The rules of aviation changed forever. Flying used to be fun and exciting. Now it’s all about terror and strip searches.

He FAILED. But we still have to take off our shoes, because …

monkeys might fly out of my butt.jpgThat’s it. I’m cancelling my policy with Acme’s Monkeys Might Fly Out Of My Butt Insurance Company.  It’s not as though any amount of payout would make my butt hurt less. And I have it on the best of authority .. i.e. Wayne’s World … that it’s not likely to happen. And the premiums cost far too much … I’m not prepared to trade an illusion of safety for my faith in humanity.

The rest of you can keep buying into the ‘one and done’ theory if you like, that the one crazy or pervert or fanatic is just waiting for you to slip up so that he can rob/molest/maim you, regardless of the fact that that is one possible weirdo in literally millions of perfectly sane humans.

But if it gives you comfort to believe the world is so dangerous and immoral that we must all be wrapped in cotton wool and kept away from even the whiff of danger, I’ve got to be a differ begger.

born in the 50s.jpgWe’ve all watched as modern societal norms have squeezed the joy out of childhood, making kids exterior lives so safe that they’ve given up on being kids, and prefer to sit in darkened rooms with their parentally controlled televisions and computer games. Has that generation grown up unscathed? Why no! In fact, they are likely to be oversleeping rather than facing problems, or entering their college years so dependent on feeling safe as houses that they need trigger warnings before attempting to read a Shakespearean play. And when they graduate, they want mum to accompany them on their job interviews.

Ok, not all of them .. but in that exaggeration lies some truth; children have to experience life to survive adulthood. Constantly being sheltered from potential danger only results in a child incapable of recognizing danger when it’s actually encountered.

Take sex education, for instance. The parents screaming the loudest about not wanting their children to know the reality of modern dating are dragging their own past insecurities and fears behind them. They are living in a world where tiny baby girls wear onesies that say , in girly pink lettering, “Sorry boys. Dad says I’m not allowed to date EVER!” while little baby boys of the same age are parading around in macho t-shirts that proclaim they are ‘studs’ and ‘cougar bait.’

baby t wife checkingme outWhat part of institutionalized sexual hypocrisy do these parents not get? Explain to me why it’s cute to pretend that your little darling is too precious to be touched .. EVER … while your robust 10 month old baby boy should be perceived as too sexy for his diapers? As an adult, you think you get the joke, and it’s all good and cute. But all you’re doing is continuing to encourage a time-worn sexual fantasy no longer applicable. Sex WILL happen. It’s why you’re taking up space on this planet right now.

These parents don’t want their kids to even have a hint of what they’ll be encountering, personally and up close, as early as the fourth or fifth grade, whether the parents know or approve or don’t. They think they’re protecting their offspring; instead, they’re sending lambs in to the slaughter.

Our need to protect our children and ourselves is evolutionary. It’s how we dragged ourselves out of the sea and onto the ground, and from there, into the monkey business that eventually evolved into modern man.  Now, here we are, upright, civilized for the most part, and still trying to protect our human bits from danger.  We’ve just so overloaded from all the hysterical information the media broadcasts that we can no longer think through how to react to the over-reaction that seems to be expected of us.

kids google sexBut avoiding reality, not allowing kids to hear sanitized, but at least truthful, facts on sex from actual instructors, can lead to many worse problems, not the least of which is a fear and mistrust of their own maturing bodies. And they’ll still find out everything they did or did not want to know about sex. They’ll just google it, watch porn on the ‘net, or hear about it from some misinformed classmate.

Fear, fear, fear!!!  .. of what might happen. A child might accidentally see a naughty picture .. burn all the books! There are terrorists out there and they want to get us! Quickly, take off your shoes and throw away your shampoo!

obey.jpgNext thing you know, we’re twisting ourselves into spirals, attempting to protect ourselves and our children from things we can neither anticipate nor prevent. And we justify blind obedience to stupid rules and present day morality because we can’t argue for why not following those rules makes more sense. Because .. what if there’s another guy with a shoe bomb? Hasn’t happened in 15 years, but then again, who expected those flying monkeys?

It’s a recipe for disaster. It didn’t work in the past, and it doesn’t work now.

But it does leave us all ripe for manipulation by those who are the real bad guys, those who capitalize on our fear for their own gain. Whether they are selling you insurance policies against flying monkeys (some conditions may apply,) selling you provisions for your bug out bag or bomb shelter, or subverting your civil rights and liberties while claiming they and they alone have the solution to your fears if you’ll just give them more power, these nasty people don’t really care about your fear as much as they do about their own profit off that fear.

They’re just as scared as you. But it’s of you realizing that what you’ve been buying hasn’t fixed anything. It’s only made it worse.

 

Privilege …. is Such a Lonely Word


I already had a column drafted and ready for editing this morning, but my muse took a hard left turn and demanded a re-write.

I wanted to talk about how important it is to be true to yourself; in your own life, in the way you present to your loved ones, and the realities of pursuing the path by which you pay your bills. But all of that sounds rather pretentious, in the face of current events.

What I came to realize is that the only reason that old, white women like me can spend any time at all dreaming of improving themselves and their surroundings – never mind assuming that anyone else would be interested in reading those thoughts –  is that we have ‘privilege.

privilegeI know that’s a dirty word to many. “If I’m so privileged, why can’t I get a decent job? Why do I struggle just to make ends meet? Tell ME about privilege, when I grew up poor, with an abusive family, and no chance at a decent education!?”

And all of that is valid. You probably DID and ARE getting a raw deal on some aspects of your life. We live in troubled times of massive fiscal inequality. That you were able to fight your way through the obstacles, and are currently reading this on your cellphone/laptop/desktop/magic mirror, shows that you drew on all of your resources, and triumphed.

But what you didn’t do, if you were born white, was wake up every day, look into the mirror, and see visible proof that you were a minority, with all of the attendant prejudices that an accident of birth conferred upon you.

privilege types.pngJust by being born white, in Canada or the U.S., you won a lottery you never knew you’d entered. If you were also born male, able-bodied, straight, and into a family that was financially stable, you lucked into a super bonus.  Something you had no say in, no choice, granted certain privileges on you from the day you entered this world.

Not all privilege is exactly the same. Where we are in terms of ‘class,’ as an economic indicator, also affects what we can expect to access in higher education, and with whom we can expect to interact. justice fishcartoon.jpgOne kind of privilege doesn’t add or subtract from another – being discriminated against for having non-white skin doesn’t negate being discriminated against for being female, or non-straight, old, or disabled … all of these factors have bearing, and cannot be minimalized.

But if you woke up this morning, and a white face looked back at you from the mirror, you faced one less challenge than those who saw a face of another colour in their reflection. As rich and famous as Oprah Winfrey is, she still encounters those who think her unworthy of holding corporate power, and is not immune from discrimination in a luxury Zurich handbag store.

And you can just get off your high horse of pretending that systemic racism is only a problem in the U.S. Yes, their problem is more visible, and more violent, and yes, the spectacle of an openly racist presidential candidate whipping up the basest of armed citizens, potentially leading to Civil War II, is horrific.

But Canada’s treatment of First Nations people is despicable. Denying that it isn’t our own flavour of racism doesn’t address the very real injustices perpetrated against the people who were here before us.

Consider this commonplace incident that occurred yesterday, in Calgary. RCMP, making an arrest, entered a home on the Siksika First Nation around 6 a.m. The RCMP are alleged to have battered an Alberta First Nation man, hauling him naked from his home and bringing him to a detachment before realizing he needed an ambulance.

christian-duck-chief.jpg“Christian Duck Chief, 23, is recovering from a broken eye socket, fractured cheek bone, fracture to the back of his head and a broken nose.

Duck Chief and his wife say they were sleeping in their home on the Siksika First Nation southeast of Calgary Friday when RCMP from the Gleichen detachment entered their home around 6 a.m. to arrest him.

They acknowledge Duck Chief struggled at first, saying he was on his stomach when woken and didn’t know it was police. But they allege an RCMP officer hit him at least 20 times after he stopped struggling and shouted that he wasn’t resisting, even as he lay handcuffed on the floor.

Duck Chief — who has been charged in connection with the incident — and his lawyer said the force used by the officer was excessive.
….
(The couple) suspect the arrest occurred either because a friend had visited them the night before in a stolen vehicle or that RCMP wrongly believed Duck Chief was still under a bail condition that he not be in the home with his wife.

Duck Chief said he struggled at first because he thought someone had broken into their home and was attacking them, and initially bit the officer’s finger. He has been charged in connection to the incident.” (cbc.ca)

That scenario is almost as Kafkaesque as the spectacle of Philando Castile’s girlfriend talking calmly and calling the officer ‘Sir’, as he forced her out of the car and onto her knees after he shot her boyfriend dead in front of her and her four-year-old daughter during a routine traffic stop.

who police killed in 2015Do either of those scenarios, of the First Nations man in Alberta, or the man in Minnesota who died from a broken taillight, strike you as something that would happen to a white citizen? That this would be the subject of a discussion heavily loaded with justifications to decide if the victims deserved what happened to them? No. Privilege.

The people of colour in the U.S., and the First Nations people in Canada, are both being told that their very real fear of the police and authorities must be addressed in calm, respectful, and reverent tones.  While those who beat and kill them are not held to anywhere near the same standards.

blm-torontoThe us-against-them-against-who now?  arguments that broke out last week over the actions of BLM-TO (Black Lives Matter – Toronto) at the Pride parade exemplifies how divided even minorities have become, and how quick we are to pick a side. As emotions subside, speakers from both the BLM community and the LGBTQ community have moved to a middle ground of understanding. There have been talks, apologies, and re-commitments to values.

Except for white people. White people are still using real and imagined information about the actions of two beleaguered minorities, adding in the public attitudes on policing, finally declaring one side or the other a villain. It’s not even their battle! But that’s how privilege works … you still expect to not only have a right to an opinion on something you have not personally experienced, you believe your opinion should be heard and agreed upon.

Privilege.

Earlier this week, the executives in charge of Toronto’s CNE events made a disastrous faux pas, and announced that disabled patrons would no longer receive complimentary entry, citing a need for ‘equality.’

CNE.jpgThe CNE has posted the policy change on its website, saying it strives to respect “the dignity and independence of all of our guests, including those with disabilities.” Caregivers can still get in free.

Am I reading that right? The disabled will pay, but their (presumably non-disabled) caretakers will get in free? What an odd definition of equality!

Their publicity department insisted, self-righteously, that their decision was solely based on allowing all fair-goers equal entry, despite the reality of the thousands of free passes that are given to city councillors, employees of other attractions, anyone famous enough to be recognized at the Gates, and, ultimately, their own friends.

While the City weaseled out of the fight by fobbing off critique while they ‘discussed’ the situation, it fell to disability advocate and former Lieutenant Governor David Onley to lead a charge of harsh criticism, which forced the CNE to reverse their decision. They caved, as bullies will, when their petty actions are shown to be discriminatory, and potentially illegal. Public opinion, bolstered by social media, brought too much negative attention to the parsimony.

“The CNE had argued it simply wanted to treat people with disabilities the same as everyone else. But Onley said the decision was purely economic and if the CNE was truly concerned with equality, it should look at the number of people with disabilities it employs — a figure general manager Virginia Ludy didn’t know when asked on Wednesday.

Onley also said some 1.8 million Ontarians have some kind of disability and, of those, more than 400,000 live on Ontario Disability Support Program payments. That amounts to about $14,000 a year plus medical benefits, “meaning that you live in a state of virtual poverty … it’s not a good state,” Onley said.“

Privilege puts money above compassion and empathy. It bandies the word ‘equality’  about, while ignoring the reality of those who are physically or economically challenged.

Canada Post.pngNothing is too low for those who use blunt force to achieve their ends. Look to the actions of Canada Post CEO, Deepak Chopra, who has forced his will upon postal workers by refusing to continue talks. He’ll lock out the workers, and impose a stoppage of mail, eventually forcing the workers to take whatever he’ll decide to give them.

Some of the issues? Equal pay. In 2016, the same 2016 that Trudeau used as a banner and a reason to have a gender-even counsel, we’re dithering on whether men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. But for Canada Post, apparently equal pay is just not ‘this year’ enough.

“”Our rural and suburban mail carrier unit, which is predominately made up of women, get paid 28 per cent less than their predominantly male counterparts in the urban operations unit for doing the exact same work.””

Pensions are also on the table. “a two-tier pension system might become the reality for postal workers. Canada Post wants the union to accept a defined contribution plan for new employees. “The proposed change would alter the plan such that the contributions made by each worker would be set, but there would be no guarantee of the benefits they would receive in retirement,” wrote rabble labour reporter Teuila Fautai”

No guarantees in retirement. Well …  isn’t that comforting. Tell me how this can be justified by CEOs and government officials whose handsome pensions are locked down and guaranteed, ensuring they’ll live out their golden years in comfort.

Privilege.

Check-Your-PrivilegeIt’s all around you, and tied up in bows that dissolve in your hands, leaving those of visible and invisible minorities with nothing but slime to show for the strident claims of equality and justice for all.  Those with privilege point to laws and regulations designed to create a level playing field, and dismiss the cries of those who note that those fields are often studded with landmines, and protected from access by the high cost of pursuing justice in the courts.

No one is saying that it’s a crime to be straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied or male. There’s no need to don hair shirts or self-flagellate for the circumstances of your birth, no need to feel guilty for enjoying those privileges. In fact … please DO enjoy them! They are your birthright!

What those who have been denied access to the same privileges simply ask for is an acknowledgment of those differences. They ask that we be aware of how much more difficult it can be to compete in a world where others will never comprehend what it’s like to have to work twice as hard, just to be considered almost equal to a peer who has never known the same adversities or discriminations.

tolerating-intoleranceb.jpgUntil then, it seems we’ll live in a world where ‘tolerance’ is defined as not immediately killing those who don’t look like you.

 

(first published July 10/16 … bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/roxanne-tellier-privilege-is-such-a-lonely-word/)

 

Time Loves a Hero


Every now and then, we have to lift our eyes from the path we’ve trod, and reassess. You can’t have perspective on where you’re going if you never looked at where you’ve been.  Taking a good, long, eyes-wide-open look at not just what you’ve done, but why,   can be terrifically painful, but so is living an unexamined and millennial-tkounfulfilled life.

It’s a truism that life seems to speed up as we age. It does, but my grandson will tell you that he feels like his life has been flashing before his eyes since he started high school. Yep, even the millennials are feeling the time crunch. And that ain’t good.

It has a lot to do with the constant bombardment of information we receive – even when we leave our homes, we’re still shackled to our cell phones. We are always accessible, always as ‘on call’ as a brain surgeon, even if we’re just fast food wranglers at the local MickeyD’s. We can only squeeze a little solitude out of the tube by becoming signal free, literally out of range.

We feel under ‘time pressure’ when there’s too much to do or be done, and not enough time or ability to juggle it all. That’s consistent right across the civilized world, and in all age groups, but I suspect a little less wearying to those with the financial ability to spread some of the stress around.

There’s always a price to be paid for deferring – on purpose or with genuine remorse – the things we want to do, and the people we want to see, because time gets away from us. When you are young, missing a party or failing to meet up with a visiting friend has little impact. As you age, the special moments missed can quickly become sources of deep regret.

(There’s a reason why this song has more than 16 million hits, 43 years after its debut.)

This constant ‘running to keep in place’ can also conceal something far more sinister … all that ‘busyness’ often conceals truths we can’t bear to face. That job you hate, but keep reporting to every miserable day,  dreaming of, but never getting more education or training that might free you, until one day you wake up and realize it’s time to retire. That face you make as you try on clothes and vow once again to exercise regularly and rein in the calories; the disgust you feel as you light up another ciggy and watch your money and health smoulder into ashes; those brilliant ideas, that plan to try a different lifestyle, or to revive or leave a stale relationship  … all back-burnered with what seems to be logical reasons on the surface, but are really a mental resistance to facing what our minds know is the reality of our lives, and changing those circumstances.

alarm clock_.GIFThe snooze button on your alarm clock is a perfect metaphor for the putting off of what we desire. With all good intentions, you set the alarm for half an hour earlier; today you’ll start that exercise program/clean your room/start that novel you’ve been mentally outlining.

The next morning, you hear the bzz bzz bzz, but reach out a sleepy arm and hit ‘pause’ on what you’d planned to do.  Just a few minutes more, you mumble, and then, when the alarm goes off again, you grumble a bit as you stop the annoying sound that’s harshing the mellow of your dreams. By the third sound of the alarm, you’re angry and resentful, and you SLAM that snooze button down; how dare this world demand so much of me? Can’t I get just a little bit of peace, a few moments more of this hypnotic dreamland in which I’ve already conquered all my demons and can just live happily ever after?

And that’s how your day starts. Rather than being filled with determination, energy and positivity, you now have a culprit on which to blame your cranky mood, and inability to actually begin to change what you dislike about your situation. Your bedhead, all the wrongs of the world, all the things left undone … all the fault of that bloody alarm clock!

And in a sense, that’s true. Because in smacking down the snooze button, you’ve surrendered your power to an inanimate object, your every bright hope defeated by an innocuous plastic square.

When we’re unsure if we have it in us to do something new or different, no matter how humble the goal, we surrender to the fear of being rejected, or mocked or humiliated. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” turns to “better safe than sorry.”

We’ll defend our paralysis to the death, citing a myriad of reasons why we can’t possibly be expected to break out of our self-imposed prisons. Being clever is no hindrance; the smarter we are, the more convoluted and seemingly reasonable our exFrustrationcuses will be. The mere thought of change is so frightening that we freeze in place, scrambling to justify our stasis to ourselves and others.  It’s a trap we set and spring, usually off our own bat, but sometimes with the collusion of others who might be affected by change – our families, our bosses, and our friends can not only impede change, but bolster our own insecurities by adding their own needs and fears to the mix.

Why is that a problem, you ask? If we’re doing it to ourselves, who’s the victim? Well, society for one. Each of us impacts many others in our lifetime. The frustration and inner rage felt by those who can’t achieve their goals touches us all in both violent and non-violent ways.

Eventually our inertia leads to learned helplessness …. “in psychology, a mental state in which an organism forced to bear aversive stimuli, or stimuli that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are “escapable,” presumably because it has learned that it cannot control the situation….

learned-helplessnessThis may explain why individuals may accept and remain passive in negative situations despite their clear ability to change them. In his book Helplessness (1975), Martin E.P. Seligman argued that, as a result of these negative expectations, other consequences may accompany the inability or unwillingness to act, including low self-esteem, chronic failure, sadness, and physical illness. The theory of learned helplessness also has been applied to many conditions and behaviours, including clinical depression, aging, domestic violence, poverty, discrimination, parenting, academic achievement, drug abuse, and alcoholism.” (Wikipedia)

rat raceBut in the end, the true enemy is time. There’s only so much of it, and none of us know when our clock will run out, or even when the gears will wear so badly that physical limitations will make decisions for us. We’re fragile creatures, we humans, both physically and mentally. We spend our time searching for happiness and fulfillment, believing it is our right, believing that life is fair, and that our own good intentions are a moral authority that will make us winners – or at least, respectable ‘also-rans.’

In reality – life isn’t fair, and spending all of our short time on the planet hitting the snooze button, and indulging in wishful thinking without actually working towards our betterment is a terrible waste. Better to have tried and failed, scraped knees and bruised feelings be damned, than to get to the end of our brief  lives unscathed, unchallenged, and unchanged from the raw material we were handed at birth.

 

DBAWIS – Fly Me High, Ken Tobias


Ken Tobias 2016 pic.jpg“I remember being asked when I was very young what did I want to be when I grow up. I remember saying ” I want to be an artist, a singer, and a scientist.” ….well it turned out that I am a professional singer, an avid science fan, and yes an artist…painting in acrylics for 30 years.”   Ken Tobias.

 

Many years ago I was in a roots rock/new country quintet called Delta Tango.  A bunch of us, music lifers, recorded, tinkered with sounds, and recorded some more. When we had something that we thought might be marketable, we debuted and toured the CD around Ontario.

I can’t remember exactly when we met Tony Tobias – it may have been at a CMW gig, or perhaps at a showcase , but he was a lovely man, and, as we (the band) and he (Tony) showed each other our credentials, he revealed that he was the President/Executive Producer at Pangaea Media & Music Inc. – and manager and brother of the venerable Ken Tobias.

I make no attempt to conceal my folkie roots. Ken Tobias was an icon for me in the 70s. You may remember the song he wrote that put him .. and The Bells .. on the map … “Stay Awhile.”

Born and raised in New Brunswick seventy-one years ago this July 25th , Ken showed early promise as a draftsman AND a musician. In 1965, he left NB for  Halifax, Nova Scotia,  was part of CBC’s local Music Hop,Frank’s Bandstand,’ and then went on to become a regular on  Singalong Jubilee, often dueting with Anne Murray, and playing alongside of  Gene MacLellan and John Allan Cameron.

In 1968 Tobias met Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers who invited him to Los Angeles to record and write as a salaried songwriter. Under the management of Medley’s company, Tobias recorded his first single “You’re Not Even Going to the Fair” on Bell Records; like many of his early releases it was credited just to “Tobias”. The song won him his first Canadian BMI award for airplay. This was the first of many BMI, Procan and SOCAN awards.” (Wikipedia)

Ken was just getting started. In 1972 he established Glooscap Music with his brother, Tony, settling in Toronto for the next few decades, and releasing a string of hits including “Fly Me High“, and “Lady Luck“, and eventually receiving FIVE Socan Classics Awards for 100,000 airplays of the songs,  “Stay Awhile”, “I Just Want To Make Music,” “Every Bit Of Love”, “Give A Little Love” and “Dreamken tobias beauty fly #2”.

His beautifully written songs speak of love, and the joy of making and listening to music. They dare  the listener to believe in what might be. They also draw upon his artistic background, painting a mental picture that the listener can translate to their own imaginings. “I drew a picture of a pair of wings .. because I want to fly.“

 

Looking back at all that Ken Tobias has accomplished is like peering through a kaleidoscope … so many wonders to be seen! So many aspects to a lengthy and accomplished life!

His writing and producing credits are impressive, and include forays into television and film. From having his song “Good To Be Alive in the Country” in the hit TV series The Bionic Woman, to collaborating in the writing of the soundtrack for the Italian movie A Silver Saddle; writing, “Here You Are Today“, for Saint John, New Brunswick’s bicentennial as well as nabbing a CLIO Award for his Tourism New Brunswick commercial; to having his song “Friends” featured in the 2004 feature movie Chicks with Sticks; to being commissioned by Ballet Jorgen to create “Dreams of A Subtle World” for a feature segment in their ballet…

… to having several pages in Dave Bidini’s 1998 book, On A Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock  dedicated to his music … and  then add to that his self-taught creative artistry that has seen over two hundred of his paintings sold throughout North America…

I don’t know how he’s done it. I’m exhausted just researching and writing about all of his accomplishments!

Casino Nova Scotia Music Hall of FameBut there’s one more honour on its way, and a very worthy one indeed. Ken Tobias is about to be inducted into the 2016 Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame, representing the province of New Brunswick.

From Tony’s recent press release:  “KEN TOBIAS joins three other celebrated Atlantic Canadian music artists being inducted: Natalie MacMaster (Nova Scotia); Harry Hibbs (Newfoundland); Gene MacLellan (Prince Edward Island). Last year’s inaugural music inductees were: Rita MacNeil, John Allen Cameron, Portia White and Anne Murray. Ken comments about the news of his induction: “I am honoured and humbled to be inducted into the Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame and representing my province of New Brunswick. I am especially moved to be in the company of my old friend Gene MacLellan. Gene and I were fellow cast members on the CBC show Singalong Jubilee and we both wrote songs for Anne Murray. And it is a great honour to be sharing the spotlight with the wonderful Natalie MacMaster and Harry Hibbs. Many thanks to Casino Nova Scotia, Music Nova Scotia, Music New Brunswick and all those who cKen Tobias painting far off worlds.jpgontinue to support my music and art.””

Ken Tobias’ story continues to unfold in front of us, as unending as the galaxies he captures in his paintings.

Cheers, Ken Tobias! And thanks for inspiring so many Canadian writers, players, and artists to pursue their dreams.

Here’s a catchy summer tune from his latest CD, “From a Distance.”

 

 

 

Think of the Children!


I ‘get away’ so rarely that I hadn’t realized how proscribed most lives have become –  when you only leave your house for short jaunts into civilization,  interact with a select few, and then hurry back home on the last bus, people-watching changes from being a relaxing pastime to a zoological behavioral study.

Musselman-Lake.jpgIt was fun to leave our stuffy bungalow for a jaunt up to Musselman’s Lake, in the Stouffville area.  Our daughter recently bought a trailer, which is parked in the Cedar Beach resort.

The resort has been run by the same family since 1929, and generations of holidaying campers have enjoyed the lake and beach, along with other amenities. It’s a great place to bring a precocious 7 year old like my granddaughter, as the resort is like a small village, with 520 long-term trailer sites, most of which are as cared for as primary residences.

little-girl-with-stroller.jpgThe casual atmosphere, highly regulated, and self-policed by the families themselves, allows kids to run freely, to play in the many playgrounds, and simply behave like kids did before the last twenty or thirty years of increasing parental paranoia.

You don’t realize just how controlled kids’ lives have become until you find yourself, as my husband did, panicking over the sight of a pair of 4 and 5 year old girls calmly walking a doll stroller on a one-way lane. “Anyone could snatch up those two, throw them in the back of a van, and speed away!” he said.

Good lord – is that what we’ve come to? That, even in a small space where entry is carefully controlled, where the speed limit is 10 kph, and most of those present are long-standing renters, in a space that is rife with parents, aunts, siblings and grandparents …   even in a space this sheltered, we have to live in constant fear that our most vulnerable and precious could be snatched away at any time?

How has life become so seemingly perilous, even to we who have never known armed combat on our land? Are we now to live under constant fear, and the feeling that we could be attacked at any moment –  by our neighbours, by a stranger, by a predator, always potentially lurking in the shadows? Are we now to live in constant dread of ‘what could happen?’ No wonder people in America are so protective of their right to own guns.

illegal in U.S.jpgBut the bigger question is – when did we develop this persistent fear, and why? In a civilization where anything can be deemed too harmful to be legal, (fireworks, lawn darts, unpasteurized cheese … even KinderEggs!) how have we gone from subconsciously knowing the possibility of a rare instance of unforeseen harm into a state of constant vigilance against possible marauders?

Certainly, there are now more people living on the planet than at any other time in history, and we feel that claustrophobia even in our suburbs and towns. But proportionately, rates of kidnaps, rapes and murders haven’t really risen. In fact, the instances of kidnapping of children in the U.S. by non-parental or family members intent on harming the child is about 115 per year … out of 340 million inhabitants.

To put that figure into perspective – during the Vietnam War, every American personally knew at least one of the 10,000 soldiers per year who had died in the conflict. But almost no one personally knows a child that was taken with criminal intent.

Jon Benet Ramsay People magSo who’s ramping up this fear? Well … it’s astounding how much of U.S. law enforcement is influenced not just by mass media coverage, but by the hysterics of tabloid media, who thrive on rehashing grisly incidents for as long as they can drag out the gory details. Police and politicians have their feet held to the fire to account for the panic brought on by those who profit from tragedy.

Statistics can be, and often are, manipulated by private interests and organizations, in an attempt to boost profits, be they donations to causes meant to comfort sufferers, or by the marketing of items meant to increase private citizens’ feeling of being protected.

A fearful society tends to prefer the status quo, allowing governments to stay in power for perhaps longer than they should be. They will look to the loud and the bombastic, because the posturings of the aggressive allow the frightened to shelter in place.

homeland security.jpgAnd it’s certainly no stretch of the imagination to realize that a country in a state of fear and panic is easily manipulated by governments with agendas that might have seemed too radical in times of peace.  Look to America’s overly militarized Homeland Security, or Canada’s Bill C-51, an over-reaching bill designed to capitalize on the fear instilled in us, that trumps our free speech with a plan to capture – and indefinitely retain – all of our private phone calls and internet data.

The ripple of fear that circled the globe after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers has never really subsided. Horrifying acts, including brutal torture and murders, were committed on suspects, whether innocent or guilty of crimes, and the attack on Iraq, which had long been a possibility for unrelated reasons, was used as an excuse to punish the masterminds wrongly believed to be behind the tragedy.

There must be a villain, there must be a reason, and so the net is cast further and further, vilifying those who are not exactly like us, the ‘others’ that we scapegoat to try and calm our jangled nerves.   Something must be done! we cry … and done now! Save us from the unknown, no matter if it is ultimately we that are harmed in the process.

A fearful society will often turn to religion, and a reliance on a supernatural power to ensure that, even should they themselves be injured or killed, there will be a reward, post-mortem, from the deity of their choice. They will blame and reject progressive ideas and ideology, preferring to trust the writings of the ancients over the possibility that a science they can’t quite understand could hold a solution to their terrors.

A fearful society wraps it’s most vulnerable in emotional cotton batting and bubble wrap, too frightened to allow children to explore their world and learn both the good and bad of their environment, and to experience the emotions and understandings inherent in living in their social order. A fearful society looks with suspicion on anyone who’s not in their personal tribe, and passes that crippling fear on to their children.

think-of-the-childrenWhenever changes meant to move our culture forward progressively are proposed, the rallying cry from those who are afraid of alterations to their reality is “Think of the children!  That plea, originally referring to children’s rights, and real dangers, such as child labour, has now become a plea for pity, and an appeal to emotion. It is a logical fallacy that substitutes emotion for reason, and indicates a culture in moral panic and relentless distress. It is, in fact, the antithesis of what children need – a feeling of security and of being protected.

And in believing that it is only by insulating children from all contact with ‘others’ and other ideas, it is a pious attempt to stop progress by effectively robbing children of their right to childhood. It seems a very high price to pay.

Our terror of the unknown, and our concern for the well-being of our children, must not be the justification of our need to inflict upon them a very real ‘nanny state’ created by our own neurotic anxiety.

 

Hackers, Bobby Curtola, and The Monkees


(first published on Bob Segarini’s  “Don’t Believe A Word I Say” blog. “)

Got an urgent email this morning, informing me that 427 million MySpace passwords had been stolen, and were being offered for sale on an online hacker forum by Russian CyberHackmyspace and TomerPeace.’ I was shocked. People still use MySpace?

At any rate, it seems this hacker also got into LinkedIn and Tumblr and word has it that InstaGram is next on their list of targets.

If you’ve got accounts on any of those sites, you’re asked to log on and change your password tout suite. Even if your account is old, and you believe what you’ve left there to be obsolete, you could still land in trouble if someone uses your account to do something illegal. Kind of like when you don’t report your wallet stolen, and the thief uses your ID after being busted for trying to rob a bank – always wise to let the authorities know ahead of time.

*****

From everything I’ve read this week since the passing of Bobby Curtola, one thing is abundantly clear –  – this was a man who loved life, music, and his fans.

Hearing of his death last week came as a real shock. I was just a kid the first time I heard his early recordings, but in the last few years, I came to know him as a lovely, funny and flirtatious man. French women always find kindred bobby curtola 60ssouls in flirtatious Italian men.

But I suspect he was born the sort of fellow that loves women. He may not have written his early hits, but the songs always presented Bobby as a hopeless romantic, who yearned for the girl “three rows over,” or begged a fortune teller to tell him where and when he’d meet his special love. “Will we meet on a busy corner? Will she know that I’m the one?

Bobby Curtola touches heartOr maybe he was just a guy that fell in love with music early,  as a kid in Thunder Bay (formerly  Port Arthur, ON) through his  successes in the Canadian west, and his conquering of Las Vegas, and never stopped feeling that joy.

Susan Jacks (The Poppy Family) remembers, “When I was in high school, just before becoming a regular on the national Canadian teen TV show, Music Hop/Let’s Go, I was totally in teenage love with Bobby Curtola. He was a pioneer in the Canadian music industry. Years later I would meet him and learn what a good person he was…we’ve been friends here on Facebook for quite a while as well. Sadly, this wonderful man passed away today at the age of 73. This is a tough one for me… We’ll miss you, Bobby.“

Although he was showered with awards throughout his career, beginning with winning the Best Male Singer award from RPM Magazine in 1965, through becoming a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997, and his induction to CHIN Radio’s Italian Walk of Fame in 2011, he remained a man of the people. Our first Canadian teen idol, the Bieber of his day, had no truck with tattoos and silly stunts, but rather preferred to work with dignity, establishing the first coast-to-coast touring circuit in Canada, lobbying for Canadian content rules for radio and TV, hosting telethons in Canada and the U.S., and raising money for charities and organizations around the world,

Bobby Curtola forever.pngHad he moved to the States, like Ottawa’s Paul Anka, he might have made an even bigger splash, maybe even been recognized by the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, which has yet to do so. But I don’t think any amount of fame would have spoiled Bobby Curtola. He was a good man, sometimes naïve, sometimes following his heart rather than the money, but always giving it his all.

He could never resist jumping on stage and sharing his love of music with friends. In one of his last performances, he hijacks Sam Taylor and the East End Love at the Peppery Cat, May 7, 2016.

I’m gonna miss him. My last memory will be of laughing (and flirting) with him this past May, when we connected at Canadian Music Week, where he was hanging out with friends at the Cashbox Canada booth. When he was dragged away by his chums – off to shake a few more hands, to have yet more fun wherever he found himself –  he kept blowing me kisses as he left …  I can’t think of a lovelier way to remember Bobby Curtola than to think of him exuberantly blowing kisses  to those lucky enough to have crossed his path.

*****

monkees 50th anniversary tourI fully intend to continue my lifelong obsession with The Monkees by writing about their new, 50th anniversary release, Good Times!  and upcoming tour. However I’ll need an entire column to talk about this record breaking album that’s burning up the charts, chock filled with songs written by the likes of Rivers Cuomo, Ben Gibbard, Noel Gallagher , Paul Weller, Andy Partridge and more …  for now … feast your ears on this tune …

And here’s a nifty little song that’s become an earworm for me …  “Davy Gets The Girl.” The Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey has been a fan of The Monkees since the age of 11. A few years ago, Scott gathered his like-minded Minus 5 cohorts for their latest album, Of Monkees And Men, crafting a song for each member as well as one for Boyce & Hart, the duo that wrote and produced many classic Monkees tracks.

Oh yes … there will be more Monkee repartee to come … but for now, get outside and grab yourself some of that good summer weather Toronto’s been enjoying, and make your own Good Times!

 

 

Dollar Store-y Of My Life


Cleaning the kitchen is always more of an archaeological study than a Lysol scented soap bubble fest in my house.  I’m no Suzy Homemaker – haven’t been in years. Once you’ve absentmindedly burned the dinner for the hundredth time, you learn to get in there, do what you gotta do, and get out again quick.

But if I ever want to get this house on the market, rooms must be cleaned. Cupboards long unopened must be, however gingerly, encouraged to display their contents. The purging must begin.

The pairing of like with like is an eye opener. Who knew I had purchased so many necessary and unnecessary items – sometimes two or three times?  I blame the dollar store.

dollar store kitchen 2Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the dollar stores keep our homes chugging along smoothly. I have dollar store items in the pantry, the cupboards, under the sink, and under my feet, in the form of floor tiles. As I sort and purge, I begin to realize that I have somehow amassed thousands of dollars, in  kitchen ‘stuff’  alone, from the dollar store. These are the things you don’t think about, just pick up as you go; the serving spoons, tongs, measuring spoons and cups;  the knock-off cleansers and scouring pads;  the novelty drinking glasses and salt and pepper shakers; the plastic bags, containers and baggies that hold those leftovers you can’t remember enjoying the first time around.   There are odd food items in my fridge and pantry that I picked up on a whim, just because the manufacturer changed the packaging and decided to purge stock by dumping it for ten cents on the dollar. Teas, coffees, spices, mustards … the list goes on and on.

It’s not just the kitchen either – every room in my house has dollar store items, picked up almost as an afterthought. The bathroom, the bedrooms, the laundry room –  and then there’s the office … oh my! The office is a temple of dollar delights!

Who could celebrate an occasion without the help of dollar store cards, gift wrap, bags, streamers, glitter or helium balloons?  And outside, the backyard and garden teem with necessities bought for just a dollar or two – everything from tools to paper plates and napkins, candles and pool toys and pots for plants.

dollar store lineupWe just don’t notice how completely the dollar store items have crept into our lives. If, heaven forbid, my house burned down tomorrow, I couldn’t even begin to guesstimate how many items I’d not even think to claim on the insurance as property- they’re just too ubiquitous. These junky bits and pieces are the grease that we never notice is keeping our homes running smoothly.

The dollar stores have slipped into that place that the long gone Five and Dime stores used to fill. As our first world fortunes rose, and the K-Marts and WalMarts and all the other schlocky marts, consolidated, these humble essentials fell off the corporate radar, for the most part, or were replaced with ‘better’ (more expensive) alternates.

Meanwhile, those in the know have been driving up the price of dollar store stocks, while bigger named and supposedly safer stock options keep dribbling downward.

dollar store kitchenSo I blame the dollar stores for my excesses, but I also bless them. There will always be a need for stores where thrifty people can stretch their dollars and meet their budgets. Today’s economics demand that we show dollar stores a little respect.

I do believe it’s time for a dollar store run … need some burner bibs. Care to join me?

Back To The Garden


My gardens have been calling me lately. For years I gave up on them – the hostas, the shrubs, the berry bushes and the salsa garden – allowing frustration and depression to stomp all over my joy in the feel of good earth under my nails, and the delights of helping things grow. Plants ask very little of their tenders – some water when it’s hot and dry, a little pruning away of dead growth so that new, young sprouts have room – but even that was too much to ask of me for almost a decade. I withdrew from the earth, and from most people.

While the plants may not hold a grudge, some did give in to the neglect. The rhubarb that flourished in spring simply gave up a few years ago, even as the cuttings I had given to friends continued to thrive. The strawberries were buried under creeping groundcover, although I’ll occasionally still find the odd outcrop where it’s least expected, and sadly, quite likely to be accidentally mowed. The century rose, a beauty that now only exists as a cultivar, simply stopped making an effort, and quietly perished.

But most of the shrubs and bushes, bless ‘em, made it through, albeit begrudgingly, and muddled on, doing their survival thing. It’s been a long week of snipping and hard pruning, and will take at least another week to complete, but little by little, the gardens are returning to their natural beauty. I, however, am currently covered in ugly scratches and welts, nursing a few bug bites, and not much liking the discomfort of taking a poke in the eye from an ungrateful stem trimming.

cdn farmerGardening is not for everyone. We may have once been a nation of “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” but nowadays, many people consider physical and menial labour demeaning, something to pawn off on the unskilled and unambitious, or to contract out to uniformed and franchised professionals.  Actual farmers in Canada rely a great deal on machinery to keep their acres going.

Of course, every job requires some sort of skill, and good gardeners command a hefty price for their services. For a short while, many years ago, I worked as a professional ‘Plant Doctor,’ charged with tending to those forests of greenery downtown office buildings put in to seem eco-friendly. It was a good job, and I should have appreciated the opportunity, rather than thinking it just a way to make a few bucks until something better came along. After all, my father’s family were farmers in Alberta, so I suppose I’m genetically predisposed to understanding why and how to do gardeny things.

tree pruningGardening requires focus. I have always found a kind of primal joy in concentrating completely on one stalk, one stem, one leaf, studying the foliage for signs of disease, rejoicing in new buds, snipping carefully in the direction of the node to encourage growth. There’s also dismay in discovering that, despite appearances, there’s no trace of green left in a branch, no matter how far down you snip.

Some plants are vicious, armed with spurs and thorns that rip the skin, while others defend themselves with noxious scents. Many more are gentle, seeming to exist only to protect their future progeny. Some may surprise you; while trimming a rather ordinary looking gangly  shrub, I was nearly overcome with an aroma so intoxicating I could only describe it as what I imagine the poppy field in the Wizard of Oz must have smelled  like … dreamy, languorous, and utterly seductive.

There’s even joy in the inevitable aches and pains that hard work brings. Oh, you think, when did I stop using that particular muscle? Good to know it’s still there, even if cranky from being woken up! Bones and joints, lulled by the comforts of a winter indoors, creak a little, and sun-starved skin blushes if left uncovered too long.

dv885008And does anything taste more perfectly right than an ice cold drink at the end of an exhaustingly physical day? For me, it would preferably be a beer, guzzled straight from the can or bottle, holding the sweating tin or glass against your forehead between sips … that’s a little bit of heaven right there.

There’s so much righteousness in rinsing off the sweat of hard work done well in a cool shower on a hot day. Or of indulging in a lengthy soak in an Epsom salted bath that leeches the tired right out of your marrow; these are simple pleasures, gifts we give ourselves, payment for a job well done.

Gardening also takes you away from the banalities of social media, the bleating of commercial television, the door rapping of salesmen, religious proselytizers and those who want into your basement to read meters. I’ll only rarely even bring a radio out while I commune with nature, preferring to concentrate on the task at hand, while bits of summer songs play in my head. No people allowed, no spectators, no one to disturb a free flowing train of thought …

Even the drudgery of lawn mowing can be relieved – I used to drive my landscaping neighbour crazy with my erratic mower movements – though I called it ‘dancing.’   “NO, Roxanne,” he’d say, “THIS is the proper  way to mow a lawn!”  And then he’d demonstrate how to mow lovely straight lines on his impeccable, professionally grown lawn, completely unaware of his own little hip flips at the end of each track.  It cannot be denied – the aroma of freshly mown grass lifts the spirits and frees even the most tightly wound.

Philosophically, good horticulture practice is less about mucking around in the mud, and more about re-establishing our connection with the planet, its bounties and its boundaries. We’re reminded forcibly that there is only so much of anything to go around, be it space, food, or water, and that sometimes a ruthless triage must be carried out, sacrificing a few to ensure survival of the many. Neglect may seem harmless for a time, but eventually, lack of care will take its toll, harming even the strongest, and slaying the weakest.

In nature, variation in colour is a cause for wonder – there’s a whole segment of the agricultural community that does nothing but dream up, crossbreed, and name new variants. Crossbreeding, whether done through serendipity or intentionally, most often creates a new hardiness in the plant, or fulfills a need we hadn’t yet known we’d had.

tomatoesSome have a practical take on maintaining a garden, be they the stalwarts who continue to coax vines and stalks into existence as their parents did before them, or the grocery store gardener who just wants to get a break on the cost of tomatoes and herbs. For the price of a few seeds or a seedling, we become like minor gods, with the power of life and death over these potential lives.  As pragmatic as patio or backyard farming may seem, we should never underestimate the simple joy of biting into a fat, ripe, sun heated, home grown tomato, or the satisfaction and pride of a successful fall harvest.

For you, for me, for plants, and for the planet – time always moves forward. There’s no going back and undoing what wasn’t done, no way to undo harm done by neglect or accident. Gardens remind us that, for everything, there is a season. And the season is always ‘now.’

 

(first published May 2016: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/roxanne-tellier-back-to-the-garden/)