Sunday, May 26, 2013


Would you rather live here . . .

. . . or here

Many of you will remember Y2K, where Y stood for year, 2 for two and K for 1,000, which it always does, as in kilometre, kilogram, etc. Where were you on January 1, 2000, and did your computer die or the electric grid collapse as conjectured? We sang Auld Lang Syne with friends and the lights didn't falter, technology didn't crash. 
            Forgetting Y2K began at 12:01 am, January 1, 2001.

            And then there's 911, a short-hand symbol whose significance we won't easily forget.

            So have you embraced H2M as a significant, cryptic-but-clear symbol? I hadn't heard of it until I read a description yesterday of a conference of space scientists held at George Washington University in the USA on May 3 - 6. It discussed the implications of establishing a human colony on Mars, a kind of bet-hedging option in case the planet we now live on is rendered uninhabitable at some future time. The sentiment expressed there by one of the participants was that a one-planet humanity is at great risk, hence multiple-planet options are urgently needed.

            H2M is a trade name for a number of business enterprises, but in some sciences, it means Humans to Mars.

            We know considerably more about Mars than we did a year ago, what with the Rover Curiosity bustling around on its surface, sampling atmosphere and land, taking pictures to send back home. By all accounts, living on Mars would require building a completely enclosed, environmentally controlled environment, a daunting possibility given the mechanical and human failure rate of biosphere experiments here on earth.

            But here's an idea: let's seriously take a look at earth as a viable planet on which humanity can thrive for the foreseeable future. It's a planet that already possesses all the requirements for human life including fresh water, soil that sustains plant growth, amenable temperatures, a breathable atmosphere and as a bonus, a beauty that can't be found elsewhere in our solar system. Let's stop exploiting this gift as ruthlessly as we are, and let's not buy into the rider that when we've exhausted its life-giving resources, we can just buy another one.

            Via two Rovers, I've been to Mars.

            I'd rather live in a badger hole with only the badger's in-laws for company.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Something in the air . . .

First daffodil

Look who's back in town!
There's something in the air. Probably euphoria. Maybe bliss. It's hard to find the right word.


We've been visiting plant nurseries, potting flowers, marveling at the lilies popping up in the flowerbed.  We ate our lunch on the deck yesterday and the birds—robins, house sparrows, grackles, red-winged blackbirds—are squabbling over nesting sites in the back yard. The mourning doves intone their haunting calls in the morning and evening and every once in a while, a flock of sandhill cranes flies by high overhead, their crrrrrrr call to the tiny people far below a greeting as they pass on their long journey from wintering grounds in Texas and Mexico to the Canadian Arctic. This flock is late; must have stopped over in North Dakota.


The world has spring fever and doesn't know which delight to pursue first . . . everything seems possible.


Life is not only everything; it's the only thing.


It astounds me that so much of the world is toying with the abysmal when the sublime is so near, so inviting, so enticing. But I'm determined not to go there this morning when the leaves and blossoms are bursting out all over and the sky is such a deep azure that every man-made blue looks like grey.


If I were the devil out to do mischief, I'd blind people to the glory of spring and watch them sink into the doldrums of longing and discontent.       

We started our “garden” today. Sheltered by an enormous spruce tree and facing the southern sun, we placed six large pots on tiles; here we'll put out the seedling tomatoes next week. We hung a huge begonia basket up near the front door and the succulents are potted and hardening-off outside after a winter on the kitchen window sill. Our herb children have graduated from their basement grow-light to the deck; the big, bad wolf from which they’ll need protection is late frost, of course. They still lack the sense to come in for night, even when called.


Our house is full this weekend. People from Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg passing through for weddings, mostly, or to visit Grandpa and Grandma. There's something rewarding in living in an inn; people are inordinately grateful to have a “home” and a clean, comfortable bed after a day of travel or celebrating; they chat with other guests as if they were old friends. How remarkable. We give them a key, tell them to make themselves at home . . . and they do. A young couple in Rosthern for a wedding intimated solemnly that they'd never been to a bed and breakfast before. B&B virgins. I'm betting they'll never look for a motel again.

There's definitely something new in the air.

            It could be elation.

            Or something else. Hmmm.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Crossing the Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs
Everything about the friends who have left us was miraculous; we salute the way they lived the gift they were given and the grace with which they walked boldly across their own Bridge of Sighs.
Recently, two friends were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and in a very few months were gone from us. In both cases, the medical profession was able to do what is possible to relieve suffering, but no more. 

               I thought about that this week when I photo-shopped, enlarged and printed a view of the Bridge of Sighs for framing. That bridge spans the canal between the ancient courthouse and the prison in Venice and has small windows through which the condemned get their last glimpse of the world before being thrown into the dungeon’s darkness . . . sometimes for forever.

               A few weeks ago, a Canadian woman ended her struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease voluntarily . . . in Switzerland, choosing to cross her Bridge of Sighs on her own terms.

               In Jonas Jonason’s novel, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared, a character muses at the stupidity of fighting wars when with a little patience, the combatants could all die naturally and without all that expense, fuss and discomfort. Only half true.

               All my friends know that I suffer emotionally and psychologically whenever it becomes necessary to board an airplane. I’ve been smiled at a lot over this, and reminded that flying is probably the safest way to travel . . . statistically. Statistics be damned, I say. It’s not about statistical safety or danger. It’s about the queasiness brought about by knowing that when airliners fall from the sky, there must be anywhere from a few seconds to minutes of knowing that the bridge you’re crossing is a Bridge of Sighs, your last glimpse through the window very definitely your last. (Please note that I still board airplanes when necessary; some would call that courage.)

               An Easter Reflection by Jack Dueck in the Canadian Mennonite, April 29, 2013 quotes Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. I have chosen to live my life as though everything is a miracle.” (If you can find it, read Jack’s essay; it’s amazing.) It’s not surprising that Einstein’s exploration of the vastness of the universe against the minuteness of a quantum would lead him to say this; there are those for whom incidents of recovery, a reprieve at the gates of the Bridge of Sighs constitutes a miracle. The very fact that in this cold and vast universe, life and human consciousness exist on one of billions and billions of stars and planets, is miracle enough for me.

         Everything about the friends who have left us was miraculous; we salute the way they lived the gift they were given and the grace with which they walked boldly across their own Bridge of Sighs.  

A bridge we will all cross, hopefully with the courage they showed us is possible.

Dueck also quotes Gerard Manly Hopkins: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God./ It will flame out like shining from shook foil;/ It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil/Crushed.” And the Psalmist wrote long, long ago: “the heavens are telling the glory of God . . . Day to day pours forth speech.”

Meanwhile, there are Dylan Thomas’ words written at the death bed of his father: “Do not go gentle into that good night; old age should burn and rave at close of day./Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Not to “burn and rave at close of day” would, after all, be selling the miracle of our existence cheap. 

Not to fear the Bridge of Sighs, however, is a blessing devoutly to be wished.