Mini-Mums

IMG_0161.JPG

Permit me to introduce you to my two Mexican mini-mums, in the market square in Oaxaca, with their mini-mums. They sell them at minimum price, a giveaway for tourists who arrive with the all-powerful dollar and yell and holler about how this year’s prices are so much higher than last year’s prices. The flower girls giggle and smile. They have heard it all before. They know where each of the prospective purchasers comes from. They now how they walk, talk, slur their words, cajole, bully, and offer absurd amounts of money, either much too much or much too little. Those tourists: they seem to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Meanwhile, in spit of appearances to the contrary, the cakes are on sale and the flowers are on sale, but the flower girls, Mano y Petate, and no, those are not their names, those things are definitely not for sale.  “Everything,” the tourists say, “has its price.” True, perhaps, in some circumstances. But people are not things and it’s brutally cruel to put a price on people. Occasionally, a tourist will recognize these girls. They are the ones who decorate the altar in the main cathedral in the square. They have also been known to sing, in Spanish, Latin, and Mixtec, along with their mother, before the high altar in Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo, the church with more than six tons of gold and gold leaf layered throughout its magnificence, a true treasure of humanity and an internationally protected building. Once, though, a long time ago, God’s Dogs, as the Dominicans were then called, ran baying through the Valley of Oaxaca, gathering workers with promises of heaven and visions of paradise. The work, they said, was the Lord’s and the Lord wanted them, the people of the Valley of Oaxaca, to build this temple in his name. And here they would stay, under lock and key, until the Lord’s work was done. El Cristo de la Columna: Christ tied to the pillar, stripped to the waist, and flogged. This symbol stands in every church in Oaxaca, and all the People of the Valley of Oaxaca knows exactly what it means, fr it is the punishment meted out to those very people if they do not work hard enough, long enough, fast enough, at their vision of heaven, their taste of paradise, this building of the Church of a Lord who is not even theirs. The tourists marvel at the church, the gold, the paintings, the statues. They praise the mother and her children singing at the high altar: “what beautiful children, what beautiful voices.” But they know nothing about the blood, and the sweat, and the tears that went into the temple’s building.

IMG_0160.JPG

Chairman Tigger

IMG_0122.JPG

Chairman Tigger and the Cult of Personality

My 110 lb dog, Tigger, decided he wished to become a cult figure. So he placed this photo of himself in a prominent position by the Nativity this year and was happy to see a gathering of puppies and other dogs coming to welcome him and admire his good looks.

I’m not yet sure if Tigger has determined to run in the 2020 elections. With 20/20 foresight, I would be able to predict the results if he did and with 20/20 hind(leg) sight, I’ll be able, in 2021, to analyse whatever has happened by that stage. Was it Caligula who turned his horse into a god to be worshiped? Tigger was reading about him the other day in Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars. He told me “Surely if a horse can be a god, albeit a Roman god, I, who am as big as a small pony, can be a member of something, an MLA, perhaps, or an MP, maybe even a Representative, or even a Senator.”

“Tigger,” I replied. “You are certainly big enough to be a Senator. If only you could skate, and shoot the puck, and find a uniform to fit, I am sure the Ottawa Senators would be proud to have you as a mascot.” “If I am to be a hockey dog, I want to be a Maple Leaf, lik eddy the Entertainer,” he growled. That should tell you something about his state of mind.

Anyway, he is determined to get out there and run, which he does most days anyway. But he doesn’t have enough money for a deposit, let alone a genuine campaign, and he wants to stand as an independent. He doesn’t want to be tied down with a party line, if you see what I mean. He wants to be off the leash, so to speak. So, I suggested Crowd Funding and he quite liked the idea of that. So, backde by plastic Lego worshipers and followers, Crowd Funded with Monopoly Money, and a determination to create a first of some kind or another, Tigger the Democratic Dog, will soon be heading for either the Senate Kennels or the Parliamentary Kennels. He just hasn’t decided which as yet. I guess with 2020 foresight, I should be able to tell.

By the way, if he actually makes it to the Doggy Dreamland of Representative Status, he’s going to sponsor a bill for a Two-Way Rainbow Bridge. Apparently, he wants to come back again. And we want him back too.

Twits, Tweets, and Twitter

img_0281

 

 

Twits, Tweets, and Twitter
aka
Bits and Bytes

After a very cold and snowy December, with low temperatures, way below average and dropping at times to -24C, with snow on the ground almost all month, and all this in the fall, aka autumn, since winter didn’t officially begin until 6 pm yesterday, December 21, it was a real shock and surprise to listen to the rain fall and high winds batter the windows all night as the overnight temperature rose to +14C and we received 40 mms of rain. As a result, we awoke to warnings of flash floods from melting snow and an influx of rain as winter has begun with a more of a whimper and a watery splash rather than with a flash freeze and a bang as your bottom hits the ice. I wonder what the deer think as they paddle through the puddles on their way to and fro from the water-logged feeders. I know what I’m thinking: ‘thank heavens we don’t have to shovel it’, but it will be a totally different story when it all freezes over, the road are like bottles, and we descend the hill in first gear with an ever-present fear of a much too welcoming ditch.

I have just read an interesting article on how, accustomed as we are to Twits and Tweets, many of us are no longer capable of unravelling a long interesting sentence that rambles on and on and refuses to make an immediate Twitter Point, usually underlined by the use of CAPITAL letters for KEY WORDS and all of this for a sound byte audience that is becoming less and less literate as social media proliferates and news is telescoped into tiny jam jars of meaning that are spread around with an illiterate spoon and many exclamation marks. There: you have just read a 96 word sentence. I wonder how you did with it? Did you persevere? Did you give up half way through?

In my former life, when I encouraged young people to read Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote from cover to cover (and they did), I was surprised to discover the difficulties they had with his long sentences, some so long that they continued for a whole paragraph or a full page. I was also surprised to discover that many Spanish speaking people are now incapable of reading Don Quixote in the original Spanish as it is too complicated for them and too difficult in meaning and structure. I have cartoon versions of Cervantes’s master-piece, but have always found them to be simplistic and undignified. I have read the original, in Spanish, twenty-seven times, usually in the Martin de Riquer edition, and have never found the language to be a problem. Indeed, it is refreshing to enter the labyrinth of a long sentence and to struggle for a little while with the exact meaning of a complicated structure that offers so many multiple readings that no single meaning can easily be extricated, if at all, and so the mind wanders on and on in the Cervantine maze spun by a spider-web pen and a brilliant mind, now no longer accessible to the multitudes: a paradise now closed to so many, a garden open to a only a select few / Paraíso cerrado para muchos, jardines abiertos para pocos.

The spirit of Cervantes, the creator, appeared to me last night in a dream. ‘Rogelio,’ the master said. ‘Spare me and spare my creation.’ ‘Don Miguel,’ I mumbled sleepily, ‘here sit beside me on my bed. Welcome to my humble home.’ ‘I am not don Miguel,’ Cervantes replied. ‘I never was a don and I never will be one. I am humble Miguel, writer, poet, and son of a vagabond surgeon who, like father, like son, often entered the debtor’s prison’. ‘That same debtor’s prison where the history of your hero was engendered,’ I replied. ‘So they say, but I am not here for that. I have come for you to save me.’ ‘How, my Lord, how can I save you?’ ‘Rogelio, I am not a Lord, but a rumor has reached me in my after-life, that they have modernized my knight, given him a car, not a horse, set the Civil Guard against him, ridiculed him with condoms that he blows up like balloons, sent him to Salamanca, and Galicia, where he never went, continued his adventures, reborn, in a foreign language that I loathed …’ ‘That is bad, my Lord, I mean don Miguel, I mean Miguel …’ ‘Worse is to come.’ ‘Worse? How can it get worse?’ ‘Indeed, it arrived at my ears, you might say a little bird told me, that they are releasing my book in a series of 240 word tweets on a thing called Twitter that speaks like a Jesuit with false flickering words.’ ‘But you were brought up by the Jesuits …’ ‘That’s how I know of what I speak. This cannot be, the history of my knight reduced to episodes of 240 words, the whole 124 chapters, 1000 pus pages of finely scrawled ink, reduced to tweets on twitter by some poor twit … you must stop this nonsense. I and my knight depend upon you.’ ‘How can I stop it, don Miguel?’ ‘Charge the windmills of Twitter. Attack the falsehoods of Tweets. Stand up for the long, soulful sentence that will withstand the winds of time …’ ‘As your book has withstood, until now, the literary storm that is about to engulf it in an Alfred Hitchcock swarm of wild birds that is poised to twitter and tweet you to your doom?’

The ghost of Miguel de Cervantes vanished with a howl, only to be replaced by that of Pierre Menard, Borgian author of the renewed Quixotic page. ‘To tweet,” the ghost whispered in a thin, shrill voice, ‘or not to tweet, that is the question, and therein lies the Cervantine rub.’

An old song …

img_0448

 

An old song … 

            … words wrapping themselves around your neck, the tune a loose scarf, brilliant in the sunshine, and so warm, flapping as you walk the street … people see frayed ends … wave back at you … the sun picking out gold spots in your hair … all’s well with the world … a marching song … the world walks over the hills … and far away … you march to work or play … every day is a new day … blood stirring with this call to arms … to alarms … everything up for grabs … tunes in your head … words wrapped around you  … warming you …

            … a sad song … rain drops falling … mist or mizzle … you walk through damp, low clouds … you are sad … but comforted … wrapped warm in a verbal comforter … the sun breaks through … throws its arms around you … hugs you …. until raindrops radiate … gathering on eye-lash … at leaf’s end … twinkling on an abundance of radiant flowers …

            … a Nor’easter … snow in the air … on the trees … on the ground … a steady accumulation … you know how it is, East Coast Canada … down by the Fundy …  a fire in the fireplace … warm heart … warm hearth … no travel today … books and computer beckon … a time to read … to write … to remember the old ways … the old days … those memories … a warm scarf wrapped around the neck … and the comforter … so comforting … so much to wrap around you … so much to wrap your head around …

Death’s Angel

039

Death’s Angel, also known as the Angel of Death, or the Black Angel, is probably the most important figure that we will meet, face to face, here, in the evening of our lives. He appeared at my bedside the other night, and spoke to me. Bright moon. The Angel stood there, haloed, blazing in a spotlight of glory.

“Everything you have, I own,” he announced, taking my hand. “Your house, your wife, your children, your cat, your dog, your car, your books, your flowers, your garden, they are all mine. And one day I will return and take you  from them.”

Cold, the moonlight. Frigid, that waking from my dreams. My hand burned with his fire, yet I shivered.

“When will you call for me?” I asked?

“Soon,” he said. “Very soon. And remember: it will always be much sooner than you think.”

“What can I do?”

“Nothing. I will lend you all these things that you think you own, for a  little while longer, but you must never forget that I am lending them to you. You do not possess them. They are only borrowed.”

“And then?”

“And then they will be mine As you will be mine.”

“There must be something I can do to …”

“There is always something. Embrace me now. Hold me. Breathe in my breath. Know me for who and what I am.”

I did as he asked and his warmth filled me. I looked into his eyes and no longer knew fear.

“There is no past,” he said. “No future. All that you own is this precious moment, the magic of the now, this breath you inhale, this air you release. That is what you own. Understand that, and let everything else go. Live in the moment, for the joy of the day. Seize each second, as you live it. Enjoy it, for that alone is yours. Knowledge, foreknowledge, and understanding: these are my greatest gift to you.”

Then, for a moment, I knew and  came to terms with the gifts he gave me.

“Sleep now,” he said. “But remember, I will be back.”

I fell asleep and dreamed of the man who met Death in Cairo. Death looked surprised to see him. “What are you doing here?” he asked. Fear filled the man. He ran, packed his bags, left Cairo with its vision of Death, and traveled as swiftly as he could to Baghdad. where he met again there with Death, who welcomed him.

“Why were you so surprised to see me in Cairo?” the man asked.

“Because we had a meeting here in Baghdad, tonight,” Death replied. “And I didn’t know if you’d show up.”

When I awoke, a joyous sun illuminated the world. What I had heard and seen rang out with splendor of church bells calling across green fields and leafy woods on a summer morning. I also knew that what the Angel told me, was not for me alone. It was for everyone I knew. A message, not of sorrow, but of joy, not of despair, but of hope.

This wine I sip, this bread I break, this ray of sunshine, this raindrop glistening, that nervous deer peering shyly from the woods, that chickadee feeding, those crows that bring the world back to life with their daily chorus, each is instant of life held, for the briefest of moments, and then released.

My greatest joy, gained from reading Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements,  is to pass his wisdom on to you who read my words, for this message will change your life, as Don Miguel Ruiz’s message has changed mine.

Carpe diem: seize the moment. Deus est in nobis: it is the world soul alive and living within us, unique to each of us. While it is with us, our joy will live forever, and, even though we perish, that joy once shared will never die.

img_0122

 

 

 

Safety Blankets

IMG_5811_2

 

Serendipity, really, that the links below should appear so close together. First, Meg Sorick’s post on drawing toys  and childhood memories. Some of us can draw (well done, Meg, congratulations). Others can’t, and must take a line for a walk, or must color or crayon or live with their black and white memories. Yet we never forget these early comforters, these early friends.

Traumatic, sometimes, the separation of us from our childhood beloveds and then the substitution of wool and cotton, of Teddy and struggle from the flesh and blood that never quite fulfilled the hollowness within us.

“Grow up,” the grown ups said. And offered us a world of cynicism and misery.

I remember when I asked the priest (I was about 4 years old at the time) if I would see my dead dog when I got to heaven.  He told me that dogs didn’t have souls and I’d never see him him again. Tough luck. I was lucky. The dog wasn’t. Apparently that particular priest had never heard of the Rainbow Bridge.

‘You must grow up,’ he said.

“If that’s your reality,’ I said, echoing the words of Atahualpa, ruler of the Incas,  “I don’t want to go to your heaven, and I don’t want to grow up. Ever.”

“So what will you do, who will you be?”

“I’ll be Peter Pan,” I said. I think I was four, but I might have been five.

At an international conference, a few years ago, while I was still recognized, before the age of 65, as a real, productive human being, a young lady, hearing my strange, outlandish accent, asked me “Where did you grow up?” “I don’t think I have,” I replied.

Why do we have to grow up? Picasso said that he had spent most of his adult life learning to see the world once more through the eyes of a child. And why ever not? Metaphors, beliefs, myths, acceptance, understanding, friendship, openness, willingness to learn  … things that are gradually worn away as hierarchy, authority, obedience, socialization are taught to us by those who think know best.

Are these the ones who also brought us so many things that are wrong with our world? The inability to think for ourselves, fear of authority, the need to fit in and be accepted, fear of the mob, the crowd, of those who believe in what they are told to believe. The fear of the other. The need to destroy that which we don’t understand.

Advertisements? I love them and sing them all day long. Tee-shirts with slogans? Wonderful. I wear them and show them proudly to my friends. Sound bytes? I never question them and I circulate them to my friends. For ‘whether I think for myself or no, I’m sure is only touch and go’. You may or may not recognize the poet, but I do. I was born less than a mile down the road  from him. You’ve probably never heard of him, but I have.

Accept my poet-neighbor and reject what modern society throws at me? It’s a difficult choice, isn’t it? How do we choose and why? What do we think and why do we think it? Or do we just follow the mob, the herd instinct, the sheep?

“If there were five sheep in the field, and one got out, how many would be left? Mary.”

“None, miss.”

“What do you mean, none? What’s one from five, Mary.”

Mary was the local farmer’s daughter. She didn’t think like that.

“No, miss,” said Mary. ” Sheep don’t think like that. If one got out the field, the rest would follow. There’d be none left.”

Terrible mathematics. Wonderful sheep psychology. A young creative mind thrown on the rubbish heap of ‘true’ knowledge at five years of age. Dismissed as an ignorant fool. What a pity.

And what’s wrong with Teddy Bears and childhood toys? I love them. I still have my daughter’s Paddington Bear beside my bed. Yellow Sou’wester, yellow welligogs, for those who know what they are. Here’s Meg Sorick’s take on my folly:

https://megsorick.com/2018/12/09/the-year-of-drawing-adventurously-week-49-toys/

Who is Meg Sorick? In my own mind, she is a bright, intelligent human being, who looks upon our ageing and cynical world with childhood in her mind, and intelligence in her paint-brush and her pen.

As for the real world? What’s it all about, Alfie, Bertie, Cecily, Dewi?

Living in my own world, with a creative Joey in my Kangaroo pouch, not really Roger the Ripper Roo, I honestly don’t know. A Marsupalian view of the universe? Why ever not? If you can believe in the koala, and the marsupials, and the kookaburra, and the platypus duck, you can believe in anything. Read the linked article below about childhood teddies … if you dare … I did … many won’t.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/12/still-have-childhood-teddy-psychological-power-toys-we-keep

 

 

Coat of Arms

coatofarms.png

 

I’ve never yearned for a coat of arms. All those advertisements for this and that, DNA tests to prove your ancestry, where your family name comes from, how many famous people were in your past, how many convicts … and the convicts were often poorer family members, wallowing in poverty and forced into theft, money, a loaf of bread,  a chicken, a lamb, some eggs, something to feed the children, to pay the bills … the possibility of blue bloods and royalty outweighed by the probability of some dark skeletons swinging on gallows somewhere in the distant past.

Yet when I got my online advent calendar this year, there was the coat of arms game … make your own coat of arms. So I did. The choices were very limited, not too original, and came with a ‘clan history’ that has absolutely nothing to do with me. A bear and a dog … I can live with those, especially as the bear is apparently my Canadian spirit animal. A Welsh dragon draped round the top of the frame … wrong color and definitely not Y Ddraig Coch, the blood Red Dragon of Wales, but still a symbol I can happily live with. Down below, we have Sun and Moon, the symbol of Oaxaca and title of the first book in the Oaxacan Trilogy (first published in 2000). Unfortunately, I have reversed the symbols to give us Moon and Sun. Oh dear. Such things happen.

Then we have a snowman and a beer tankard. Sounds good to me. I have now lived in Canada for more than fifty years in Canada and I know all about snowmen, and the taste of beer, sometimes mulled, to take away the cold. I am not so sure about ‘my clan’ as I don’t really think that I have one. I feel it is a very foreign term  like Hi there, gang. I can take Robin Hood and his Merry Men, but Roger and his Merry Gang, no thank you, that’s not for me. Sorry. As for ‘throughout the land’, I wonder which land they are referring to: Wales, England, France, Spain, Mexico, Canada … I don’t really feel that any of these stand up as my ‘land’ … except possibly for Canada, and as for Canada, well, this land is enormous. I have certainly visited some of it, but by no means all, and there is so much more to see and hear.

‘In Battle’, well, I have never been in a battle. I dislike violence and fighting, and I cannot imagine how a phrase like that got in there. ‘Fierceness’ same thing, I am as mild as milk and very easy-going. ‘Loyalty’, yes: that’s what the bear and the dog are famed for. ‘Us bears never forget’, or words like it, from the Chronicles of Narnia. Oh dear, there I go … I can hear mother bear now … ‘Stop sucking your paw’.

Seize the day is goodCarpe Diem … but never in battle … in poetry, maybe, or else in gathering old age where every moment of every day seems more and more precious. I wold have preferred Horas non numero nisi serenas, but they didn’t have that one, even though, nowadays particularly, it is the happy hours that I count, and not all of them spent in a local bar, or home alone, with my own beer mug.