Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Betrayed

In the annals of popular literature of the spy genre there are none quite so popular as the James Bond series. A type of popular thriller that has spawned countless films that people flock to view for entertainment. Surfeit with clever electronic gadgetry, casual heroism, unflappable reaction, and plenty of steamy sex, along with comedic patter, the James Bond films are beloved of many.

There have been a long series of actors portraying the main character. And an accompanying series of luscious, clever and shapely, talented women who portray the inevitable love interest. Scratch that; nothing is truly taken seriously in these portrayals of the underworld of spies and spy-catchers, their hangers-on and their handlers. It is 'sex' interest, nothing tenderly emotional here, merely animal instinct.

Quite in keeping with the insidious threats countered by the unstoppable hero. Threats come from many sources - the de jour 'enemies' of the free world - and the female leads merely represent another; one handily faced off with and then, through mutual agreement, defanged. The latest female co-star for the latest issue of a James Bond adventure is a beautiful woman from the Ukraine.

And, guess what? The Communist Party of St.Petersburg is appalled that she would betray her culture, her history, her background, by aiding and abetting the enemy. Yes, the enemy, a vile person indeed, "a man who worked for decades under the orders of Thatcher and Reagan to destroy the U.S.S.R."

You read that right. And here we always assumed that James Bond, whether portrayed by Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, was a fictional character, born of some hysterically demented imagination given to delicious irony morphing into comedy, violence and humanly-impossible physical feats of action.

"The Soviet Union educated you, cared for you and brought you up for free but no one suspected that you would commit this act of intellectual and moral betrayal", the Communist party moaned, entreating Olga Kurylenko to forswear her wayward trajectory and once more embrace her past, rejecting her part in that unspeakable film.

They're ready to aid and assist in her rehabilitation. Toward which she must persuade her co-star in Quantum of Solace, Daniel Craig, to reveal all: "Let him tell what other plans are being written in the Pentagon and Hollywood to discredit Russia and drive a wedge between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples."

There they go again, creating fiction from fact.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dying To Live It Up

What exactly is it about young people who seem to be able to find nothing better to do with themselves than search for purported glamour and fun in places that promise the suspense of whether they'll come out of an evening of drink and 'entertainment' and good fellowship with their skins intact.

Increasingly, large gatherings of young people, from sports events to mass popular entertainment, to the local bar scene and the nightclubs and dance clubs with the reputations of being the in-place to be and be seen - having fun - are proving to be inimical to the health of the attendees.

The crimes associated with illegal drugs - claimed for recreation use, in a truly misunderstood and twisted version of recreation and chemicals - brings little street hoodlums out to events, and more advanced criminals, to swagger into the field of entertainment, throwing their weight around, demonstrating in no uncertain manner that they feel entitled to settle scores, large and small, anywhere they wish.

As evidenced in latter years, in the downtown streets of Toronto, in broad daylight, people simply going about their business in the vicinity of bars and lounges can take their lives in their hands by inattention to what's happening around them. Some people are beginning to think twice now, before heading out to a favourite venue if it means passing by hang-outs known to spell trouble.

But yet, in places of adult entertainment, dance lounges, nightclubs, bars in Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto, young people will go out for an evening of fun and companionship with their friends. Owners of these establishments have had to impose certain levels of security because of past and ongoing incidents of violence.

Innocent bystanders get killed and others wounded when firearms are discharged, for whatever reason; cross-fire or deliberate terror-inducing attacks.

There was a time when young people fuelled on alcohol and masculine bravado would face off and tussle physically with one another. That's no longer enough to prove how macho some men are. Their street gang credo demands that they pack along hand guns to prove just how up to the times they are. And having fun on a night out is inclusive of selling drugs.

Nightclubs and bars are earning labels of notoreity, in some instances sufficient to ensure that more prudent young people stay away, and acting as a draw to those young people who need the flirtation with danger to make them feel as though they're not missing anything important. Little misunderstandings flare up and people become so incensed under the influence of alcohol that they react violently and often mortally.

It's not just guns, but knives come in handy too, to demonstrate aptly the deadly mix of hormones excited by alcohol consumption and a public arena where one party is surrounded by friends as is another, with each side in a dispute being encouraged to bring the argument to a head. Snuffing out a life isn't something that can be put right by post-event, sober regret.

Question is, why aren't young people in society actively looking for satisfaction in other, meaningful ways, other than to meet and greet and challenge one another to disputes and aggravated assaults? It isn't just the uneducated among the young, but those young people who are able to avail themselves of higher education who succumb to the allure of these assemblies.

Because we have so much at our disposal in a wealthy society are we breeding young people simply bored with it all, with insufficient intellectual and social challenges to lead them to value life?


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Health Professionalism

It's no little bit disappointing, and a whole great bit of alarming that health professionals remain so carelessly ignorant of basic hygiene. In a profession where hygiene is the most elemental and critical weapon in the fight against disease and infection, it is no less than amazing to read, time and again, of the ignorance in good-practise techniques of doctors and nurses.

Both professions resulting in individuals engaged in one of society's most important tasks, to give healing attention to the ill, failing step one. Above all, in their care of the ill, to recognize the imperative to do no harm.

Medicine is, after all, the healing profession. Or so it is recognized to be, and then it hides itself occasionally under the mantle of sheer stupidity.

As, for example, the known proclivity of medical practitioners to ignore the first step of patient care; washing hands before approaching a new patient, after having left the bed of the previous patient.

And now, in Alberta, it has been revealed that at least one hospital has commonly engaged in a routine lack of hygiene care.

Re-using syringes in their application of administering medication through patients' intravenous lines. Syringes being used and re-used within the intravenous lines on bags of medication used to sedate during surgical procedures. Risking backflow into the IV bag.

And, through the practise of this sloppy kind of mechanical technique, doing potential harm to the patients who trust that the health professionals looking after them in a hospital setting know what they're doing, and are efficient, precise and trustworthy in their methodology.

Now the province's health services must contact those patients whose medical records in hospital indicate that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and C infection. Hauling them back into the hospital for tests to determine their state of health due to exposure.

Little wonder there's a growing apprehension of hospital admission, and the allied worry of exposure to hospital-borne viruses and contracting diseases in the process.

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Winter, Too Early

Days of heavy rain preceding last night's snow storm ensured that the sodden, not-yet frozen landscape would melt the snow. The hills, however, still held fast their early burden of snow. As did the trees, enclosing the ravine trails. Every limb, branch and twig heavily accented with snow limning and lowering them under the heavily overcast sky.

The wind, chugging through the trees, frees small icy clumps of snow, and they fall heavily to the ground. Some fall closely about us as we tread downward into the ravine, and they ping musically as they hit our hooded heads. Ping painfully, those few that hit our gloved hands.

It's far too early for a snow storm, even here in the Ottawa Valley. We're not yet free of October, haven't ventured into November. We're accustomed to having light snowfalls around mid-November, but at this time of year we should still be enjoying daytime highs of 14 degrees Celsius, not the minus-2 we've got this day.

This storm brewed off the U.S. Eastern Seaboard with a full day's worth of high winds rattling the city before the rain that has lashed us intermittently for the past week turned to wet snow overnight as the temperature steadily dipped below freezing.

All night long we heard the roaring wind, furiously driving the snow before it. We could cock a sleepy eye toward the bedroom windows, and see them brightly lit by falling snow, that apricot brightness in the atmosphere associated with night-time snowfalls.

When we ventured out for our walk suitably garbed against the wind that whipped against our faces with fierce iciness, we found relief once in the ravine. There, the wind wreaked its frantic lashing on tree tops. Our little dogs re-acquainted themselves with the new odours accompanying the almost-forgotten snow of other years.

Quite a sight; left and right of the trail, a criss-crossing of deciduous branches, limbs, twigs, laden with fresh snow. The conifers looking regal and icily beautiful. The landscape transformed utterly, to a glistening, magical wonderland.

The trails and the forest floor generously littered with broken boughs, long dead or lively but broken evergreen branches. Detritus captured the scene below, white glory the scene above. The wild wind taking credit for the ethereal transformation.

A knee-high Maple sapling, still proudly holding fast to its crimson leaves offers a flamboyant blast of colour. The bright orange berries of American bittersweet, twined about bushes, another.

Deeper in the forest interior some trees have snapped, fallen. On the trail we crouch to slip under a fallen tree trunk. The wind is hoarse with the fury of its passage through docile trees willingly tossing themselves to the rhythm of the insistent goad.

The creek runs full-thrust, bloated from the days of steady rain, the melting snow. A temporary dam of downstream-hurtling logs has been breached, the water rushing impetuously onward, carrying bits of canopy-loosed detritus.

And just incidentally, power out in 40,000 homes in Eastern Ontario; another 30,000 homes in Western Quebec.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Do We Do That?

It was almost as though the day conspired to bring to us unease and discomfort.

Poor little Button woke us just after seven, barking desperately to be let out at the back door. Her stomach was upset, and she discharged her meal of the night before. And then, later, she was disinterested in her breakfast. That's upsetting to us because she's elderly and she's become a rack of bones, belying her good health and ample energy.

And then, removing the band aid I'd had over that still-healing sebaceous cyst, I discovered there was still pus discharging from it, amply explaining my physical discomfort overnight. Perhaps too, the reason why I'd slept so badly that night, felt so fatigued that morning. That was yesterday.

We had a late breakfast, as a result. And it was late in the morning, when my husband began the chore of de-installing our washer and dryer. He wanted to do it on Sunday, but I had insisted I still needed it. A load of towels, and following that, post-bath for Button and Riley, to wash their towels and bed linens.

In any event, we felt fairly secure in the knowledge that we had been told we'd be given a three-hour advance notification of the new appliance delivery. A mislaid comfort, obviously, as the delivery truck arrived before he even began the process of dismantling the old appliances.

They should have telephoned in advance, had not. We pointed this out, but they showed us their manifest which gave delivery time between eight and eleven, and that was that. Besides, it's a difficult, miserable job, and who wants to argue with two irritable men, wanting to get on with it? They were a burly pair of men, one much younger than the one in charge.

We ended up apologizing for not yet having de-installed the two old, malfunctioning appliances, meaning they'd have to wait in the driveway until that was done, before they could remove the old ones, install the new, energy-saving purchases. Don't worry about it, they said, we'll wait. And as soon as the machines were moved, I set about cleaning up the accumulated dust.

Dust! I guess as often as I try to vacuum under them, or send exploratory wands of dusters under there, I could reach so far and no further. And little bits of detritus as well, acquired through years of machine use and ordinary mud-room, laundry room usage. Finally the ceramic tiles were gleaming clean, wiped dry, and in came the dynamic duo to remove them.

Heavy work, a careful balancing act aided by a series of straps and bulky musculature. When we bought the appliances we were informed the delivery people were trained and skilled in installation, and they would do the installing. They said nothing of this when they brought in the new machines, and my husband too said nothing because he wanted to do the installation himself.

Despite which, we thanked them profusely, apologized again for having them wait, and gave them handsome tips for their efforts. Then signed the release form indicating that all was in order. And it was only in the installation process that we discovered a dent and a very long scratch in the porcelain side of the dryer. This is a high-tech, new-generation pair of appliances.

Priced appropriately. So, reluctantly, we telephoned the furniture shop, and relieved ourselves of our irritation. We've a new dryer on tap, to be delivered on Thursday. Then it was on to other matters to be discharged throughout the course of the day. A ravine walk being foremost; the morning rain that had fallen so plentifully had let up, so off we went.

After which I set about my weekly chore of house-cleaning, top to bottom. Three floors, inclusive of the finished basement. It's the dusting, of furniture and items sitting on furniture that takes up most of my cleaning time. A clock collection, wall-stacked paintings, sculptures, all of that needs to be dusted. And then dry-mopping the hardwood floors. Following which the rugs get vacuumed.

And finally, the ceramic and marble floors get washed. Not those downstairs in the basement; they get washed on a very irregular basis. While I was busy doing all of that, my husband was off doing other things. Visiting a local pharmacy to pick up non-hypo-allergenic band aids, because those I'm using have caused an irritating skin reaction. Also to pick up a high-energy detergent used in front-loading washers.

And finally, to the local garage that specializes in oil treatment for vehicles, applied on an annual basis to ensure winter road salting doesn't corrode the metal on our car. It's almost nine years old and there's no metal deterioration thus far, thanks to that yearly application. It was almost five o'clock by the time we were both finished and able to relax.

And it's at five that Button and Riley get their evening meal. After which it was time for our own to be prepared.

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Early Winter Warning

We've been plunged, suddenly, into early winter. Too suddenly, given that we were enjoying a mid-Fall intercessionary Indian Summer, so benevolent we hardly needed more than a sweater to head outdoors. Quite wonderful it was, too, with the late autumn flowers still in faded evidence, trees growing more colourful by the day, and squirrels whipping about, not yet as frantic as they would become in several weeks' time.

That was then. The now that we're experiencing is as though from another time, another place.

It has become inordinately cold, far colder than should be experienced at this time of year. And although fall is never complete without rain, we've had copious amounts of it. And the leaves have now, for the most part, given up their contest with life. The wind moans through the trees, swaying them this way and that, tearing any remaining leaves into the atmosphere.

We can cope with the cold, with the wind, but when added to that combination there is heavy rain, common sense dictates that we stay indoors. No ravine walk, a disaster. Button was slightly confused, but she readily adjusted to the reality of an indoor day, and Riley was more than content over that state of affairs. Not we so much, knowing that the forecast is for 15 centimeters of snow to fall overnight.

And another four to six to come down tomorrow. What'll that mean for our prospects for ravine hiking tomorrow? So when a lull arrived in the afternoon rain, we decided we'd take full advantage of the opportunity; hurriedly filled the porcelain sink in the laundry room, dressed Button and Riley in little warm sweaters and ourselves in hooded rain jackets, and set off.

The wind hounded us throughout the ravine, at times sounding like a moaning giant, at other times, picking up speed and intensity, sounding exactly like a plane close overhead and threatening to land right on us. Oddly, it seems that when it's so dark out of an afternoon, colours become enhanced, and the flatter areas of the ravine look brightly ravishing in their verdance.

The tree tops, spiny-topped spruce and fir, and leaf-bereft maples and ashes alike, rocked back and forth. There were no birds to be seen or heard on this exceptional day. Those parts of the trail where the poplars had loosed their leaves were packed with a wet mash; the overnight rain and cold had turned them that ugly, brittle steel-grey we so dislike.

Here and there, through the woods, immature ironwood and beech still hold on to their leaves, and they likely will, throughout the winter, their leaves growing ever more papery and copper-like as the months progress. On those areas of the trails where maple and ash and birch predominate, the bright crimsons, oranges, yellows still gaily decorate the paths.

Further along, on a side trail that makes up a part of our daily circuit, where there are copses of mature beech, their bright copper leaves freshly unhinged litter the trail, throwing up brilliant orange light against the dark ambiance of a freshly-brewing storm.

We are now able to see quite far through the forest, with the trunks of deciduous trees appearing as dark, moist monoliths.

It's cold, and even though we're wearing gloves, the cold and the wind conspire to freeze the tips of our fingers. Our little dogs seem happy enough to be out, just as we are, glad we took advantage of the break in the weather.

Knowing quite well we'll be getting no weather break in the hours to come, with that winter warning in effect throughout the area.


How Odd Is That?

I really love wearing jewellery. I always have, from the time I was a child, and began to notice such things. I'd be entranced, seeing a woman wearing jewellery, captivated not only by the jewellery itself, but by the manner in which, I felt, wearing that jewellery enhanced the woman's features, her femininity.

I grew up appreciative of baubles, although it took quite a long time, before I ever acquired any of my own. And when I did, it was after I met the young boy who would, not all that much later in time, become my husband.

Both fourteen years old when we met, we had much in common. The most significant commonality being our attraction to one another. My first meaningful piece of jewellery was a silver chain appended to which was a flat silver square onto which was inset a small marquisette-encrusted Star of David, over mother-of-pearl.

I can still recall our having gone swimming of a hot summer day with friends, in a still, blue lake, when the suspended treasure around my neck was still a new experience, and I was loathe to immerse myself. He laughed, when I said I feared losing the chain and pendant, said not to worry, he would replace it. After that came a small gold ring set with an amethyst, a ring later worn by our daughter.

He gifted me with many small pieces of jewellery, all of which were immensely appreciated and enjoyed by me. About twenty years ago he bought a gold pinky ring that I'd admired. It had an unusual design; three swirls inset into which were six small diamonds. I've worn it non-stop for those two decades. Suddenly, two weeks ago, I noticed that one of the diamonds was missing.

Well, it's a mere possession after all, nothing that cannot be replaced, if need be.

I took it off, after so many years of wear, and set it aside, telling myself I'd think about what to do with it. Yesterday, I happened to be in our bathroom, wearing glasses, (which I don't ordinarily wear other than for reading) when I glanced down at a small area between the toilet and the bathtub, and saw something glinting there.

It's a grey-pink marble tile floor that he had laid down years ago, and between a low wall separating the bathtub and the toilet, sitting neatly in a slight dip of pale grey grout, there was the lost diamond. It could have fallen out anywhere; while I was gardening, while we were out hiking in the ravine, while we were out shopping, while I was seated in the car, while I was drawing woolly gloves off my hands.

To disappear, as a minuscule object, into the greater environment. But no, somehow, it had dislodged itself from the ring and fallen precisely there, where I now saw it. How it was possible that I might have washed the floor, vacuumed the small wool rug sitting beside the toilet pedestal, and not somehow scooped it up unknowingly, is beyond me. But there it sat, waiting for me to discover it.

Reminding me of the time that I suddenly became aware, last winter, looking in the mirror, that one of a pair of delicate gold earrings was missing. That was upsetting; they represented another gift from my husband, for one of my long-ago birthdays. Sadly, I removed the remaining earring, and substituted it for another, less valued pair that were intact.

And then, a month later, when I was letting one of our little dogs out to the backyard, I discovered it. Looking down on the threshold between the sliding glass doors, there was the earring. Sitting distinctly where any one of us, in our winter boots, might have trod on it, crushing it.

Or one of the little dogs might have had it impressed momentarily into their tender footpads, and taken it out to the deck, where it might have fallen between the deck boards, to be forever lost.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Backing Away - From A Loser

What a leg-up in public opinion Senator McCain garnered in early September with his grand introduction of Governor Sarah Palin to the Republican world; up went his ratings, sparking interest all over the place at this expansion of his modest itinerary into territory hitherto denied him. Suddenly John McCain's prospects soared, and Senator Obama's inner circle faced the consternation of the unanticipated.

Until, unfortunately, Sarah Palin fully revealed herself and expectations plummeted among the hopeful. Not that she hasn't got her exuberant following, hanging on her every world, roaring with delight over her plainspoken down-to-earthiness, shrugging off the absurdity of a legal action for political misdemeanors brought against her. Nothing could diminish the brightness of her rising star among God's faithful.

Just think about it, Senator McCain taking not only a gamble with the introduction of an American Wonder Woman, also incidentally able to court the 'right' vote he could not, in the process forsaking his conscience and his moderate Republican credentials but doing it with such liberated gusto, hugging himself in self-congratulation at his cleverness. (It wouldn't have been his way to hesitate to condemn the murder of abortion-providing medics with terrorism.)

Well, you can take a beauty queen, sport star, hunting-camp devotee, hockey mom enthusiast just so far in introducing her to the international and Washington sophisticates, but when push comes to shove - inflicting upon a woman of modest tastes lavishly sumptuous apparel, insisting that she spree herself at the costliest costume salons in the land - shove has pushed too far.

Not her fault designer labels hung so well as to compel attention to the Republican National Committee bottom line. That 'gotcha' moment got her mighty mad, "I'm not taking them with me. I'm back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska". Who might imagine that this talented beauty was anchored to second-hand purchases, her glamour and presence independent of gloss?

She has spurned Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, and expensive coiffures and make-up; it just isn't the real Sarah Palin, the lovely woman seated in the pew next to you. Those unneeded and undelighted-in "campaign accessories" were not her idea. And now that they're destined to go to charity post-election, she may happen to come across them at her favourite consignment shop, dirt-cheap.

Charity might have preferred the $190,000 forwarded directly rather than the resulting cut-rate donation, but that's the problem with charitable giving, those who need it are loathe to complain when it's disappointingly less than anticipated. Little did Senator McCain and his inside boys quite understand that she was, unalloyed, the only "campaign accessory" they really needed.

Now she's frothing over the caricature of herself as artificial and grand, good and annoyed, and she just won't take any more of those dead-end critiques from campaign headquarters. It's her way or no way. And, come to think of it, she isn't all that enthralled by her leader's agenda, their values just don't seem to mesh, a revelation hitherto hidden from her. And obviously responsible for his lagging in the polls.

But the adulation and the media spotlights and the public acclaim was awfully nice, far more heady on a national scale than what percolates through in a mere northern state where one can see Russia through the mists of a xenophobic haze. He and she began with an approximation of the same agenda, but it's gone sour, and their polarized values have crept through the fog of partnership.

She's the darling of the hard right-wing, anti-abortion, Christ for America evangelical underbelly of the nation, not he. So a hearty hail to the would-be chief, and farewell for the nonce. Although the leading newspaper in her own state has pointed out the riskiness of their state Governor in a position "one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world" as a heart-stopper, she's set to do it on her own ticket.

There'll be another leadership race after this one, and yet another federal election in four years' time, after her country has come to its senses, under the leadership of Barack Obama - my, that sounds so like Osama bin Laden - and she'll be out there, campaigning to beat the band.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Grooming Button

She's getting old, not merely older, and we worry about her, simply cannot imagine life without her. After all, she has shared our lives for the past fifteen years. A furry, skinny black button of a neglected puppy when we rescued her from a nearby pet shop, she became our charge, and we took that post seriously. We had the leisure to do so, after all, since our children had long since become adults and taken on their own independence.

She has been our treasured companion, a small animal who shares our home, and who takes our love for her for granted, and returns it through her dependence on us, and her pleasure in our company. We're all she's really ever known. Yet she's an independent little animal, and we'd have it no other way. She has a calm temperament and is quite capable of communicating with us. It's the way she uses her body, and the sounds she makes.

Although it's not human-speak, she voices well enough her insistent needs, and we respond. She's inordinately more clever than little Riley, half her age. He was supposed to be a companion for her, but we waited too long, and brought him home when she was already seven years of age, and accustomed to ruling the roost. She had no curiosity about him, and in fact viewed his bumptious young presence with overt suspicion, and no little distaste.

Still, they're our companions, although not together companionable. We did think it would be otherwise. They manage somehow to accommodate themselves to each others' presence, without impinging upon one another's consciousness. Riley would have had it otherwise, but Button delineated the relationship; remote, disinterested, and so it has remained. Unlike Button, Riley is emotionally needy and needs cuddling.

She's deaf, unable to hear anything we say any longer, but alert to whatever we're doing and familiar enough with routine to interpret correctly what she sees. And what she smells; that remains intact, her sense of smell, and her eyesight is still very good, so no complaints there. She's losing her teeth, though, despite that they've been assiduously brushed as part of her daily hygiene and grooming routine.

It hasn't stopped her from eating normally, for which we're grateful. But we have noted that she isn't very well padded, has lost weight, and she's become quite lean. Not obvious to the onlooker because of her haircoat, but when we handle her we know all those sharp angles. We've chosen to ourselves groom them rather than take them to dog grooming salons, and do quite well with an assortment of scissors.

Button, however, detests the process, and protests by struggling at the most awkward times. Still we persist; me with my determination to mow her unruly mop, and she with her detestation of the assaultive process. She heartily dislikes anyone touching her front paws, and they, like the hind ones, require grooming, as does her hairy little face. When I'm finally finished trimming her hair she looks neat and trim.

And she scampers away, relieved that the ordeal has been completed. Whereupon Riley creeps reluctantly forward, well aware that it's his turn. Trimming Button's hair can take upwards of three-quarters of an hour; Riley's considerably less. He's smaller, although she is small enough, and he hasn't quite the amount of hair she has, nor does it grow as speedily as does hers. He's unhappily compliant and that helps.

And then comes bath time. Poodles, bred as water dogs, enjoy the water. Button always has, loving a leap into a lake on a hot summer day, and she will dive and fetch stones or sticks that she has scented and which we will toss one time after another for her excited retrieval. Stolid, solid little Riley will evade, however he can, being immersed in water. It's a miserable experience he heartily dislikes.

Two and a half hours will do the entire process, and then they look absolutely splendid for another week. That's how long, it seems to me, it takes before they begin once again taking on an unkempt aspect, despite that - or perhaps because of - my brushing their hair every night.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Antique Hunting

Forewarned of 40 millimetres of rain for the day, we anticipated the morning would be dark, and it was. The comfort of the house was quite the contrast of the aquarium look of the outdoors. Neither of our two little dogs went willingly outside to do their business, and came back indoors utterly drenched. Scrub the very notion of a ravine walk, other than with a lull in the rain, which simply did not develop.

We had indoor plans, however. A trip across town to the Carleton University indoor sport arena where this day that huge indoor space was taken up with various booths selling antiques and supposed-antiques. The rain pelted down unrelentingly as we drove there, the streets aswamp with rainwater, slapping back at us from vehicular spray. This was not a pretty day, with the dark ambiance, and wind whipping the remainder of the fall leaves from dark branches.

Everyone, it seemed, had anticipated some indoor activities, driven there by the sheer volume of rainfall, and the parking lot was full. We had worn rain jackets and shielded Button and Riley, seated in their little carrying bags slung over our shoulders, with our arms, as they hunkered down to ride out the afternoon while we made our way along aisles of furniture, porcelains, sculptures, paintings, icons, jewellery, glassware and crystal.

Something for everyone, particularly for women on the prowl for different types of "estate" jewellery and money to spare. We recognized many of the dealers, having seen them countless times over the years. Our attention driven for the most part to paintings, porcelains, along with sculptures and clocks, we were still drawn to other, unusual and beautiful objects bearing no resemblance whatever to modern bric-a-brac.

From long familiarity we know those dealers who value their objects higher than their intrinsic, aesthetic and historic worth. And look with appreciation at what they offer, but pass them by in favour of others who price their wares realistically, more in line with what we can afford, while still procuring quality objects that we value for their design, workmanship and beauty.

We greet some of the vendors as one would old friends rarely seen. And are stopped often by both men and women who cannot help noticing our little dogs riding along under our shoulders, seemingly oblivious to the crush of people, content in their perches, and from time to time nestling into their conveyances to snooze. Most people love small animals, and enjoy seeing them anywhere.

We truly do enjoy ourselves strolling the aisles, discussing what takes our attention. It's interesting how often we each independently, and occasionally simultaneously, will espie an object that fascinates us sufficiently that we bring it to the other's attention, for we don't always walk together, as one of us will invariably straggle behind the other for closer looks at what enthralls us.

The offerings outdid our expectations. There were simply so many excellent paintings, pieces of sculpture, porcelains, and other objects that we find so compellingly interesting. We speculate as to origin, date of execution, and, sometimes, price. While most dealers do tag their offerings with prices, some do not. And, for the most part, those who don't price their pieces tend, when asked, to respond with outrageous, spontaneously-high prices. But not always.

In the end, conferring between ourselves - but not very strenuously, because he's the final arbiter of quality and originality and the acknowledged expert between us - we decide, what, if anything, we're interested in acquiring to add to our considerable collection. We're rarely in disagreement, however mild, but he always looks to my agreement before considering making an offer. And he will defer to me to make offers when we decide to offer less than the stated price.

This time, we acquired more than we'd anticipated. We'd be more than satisfied if we came away from one of these exhibitions with a single notable object. On this occasion, we acquired three; two paintings and a sculpture. Only two of which can be classified as genuine antiques; the third a present-day copy. We selected a 19th Century French oil, a small but beautifully painted still-life. It depicts a collection of objects that we can relate to.

On that painting - on a table, beside it draperies - a small statuette stands, a Cervantes-like figure, armoured, holding beside him a staff, his bearded face narrow and Spanish. A colourful Oriental porcelain covered jar, and a collection of books, one halfway opened, the writing on it almost legible in its grace, the plate on its face painstakingly painted, the numerous pages finely edged to represent a true rendition of the original.

The second painting, much larger, with a lavishly carved ormolu gold frame, is a 19th Century Canadian landscape, a watercolour. It is quintessentially Canadian, the foreground trees well leafed, standing beside a wilderness lake, the background a carefully etched forest of deciduous trees. The vendor, a man we've known for years, informed us he'd had both the painting and its frame cleaned and restored, and it looked pristine.

The third acquisition was an alabaster, two-thirds-life-sized bust of a 2nd Century B.C. Roman, a man of noble bearing, with finely carved, tumbling curls resting on neck, a toga on his broad shoulders. This was a contemporary sculpture, done in Spain and shipped to Canada by its vendor, along with many other marble and alabaster pieces, mostly pedestals. It's the work of an accomplished sculptor, and although an obvious copy, beautifully realized.

Our antiques-acquisitory cup truly runneth over.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Caring Society

When there are cracks in the system, sometimes they become chasms. So deep that whoever falls into those deadly crevasses is on their own; no one will dare to venture into that dark deep unknown to attempt rescue.

It's the vulnerable, those who have no one to agitate on their behalf, society's outcasts, people with mental deficiencies, physical disabilities, the drug addicted, those who will not or can not conform to societal norms. Their very presence disturbs our comfortable lives.

We don't quite know what to do with them, how to handle their needs. And in the case of a young woman, Ashley Smith, who was abandoned to a system geared to accommodate criminals, not mentally-disturbed young women, that abandonment was complete and in the end, fatal.

She committed suicide, strangling herself, after many unsuccessful attempts. Those attempts to kill herself were unsuccessful because prison guards time and again intervened, and forcibly removed from around her neck the materials she had placed there in her attempts to end her life.

And when she was ultimately successful in killing herself at the age of 19, three prison guards and a supervisor were charged with criminal negligence. They were charged with causing her death. Unspeakable, that people employed in jails to look after the interests of society and just incidentally society's malefactors, failed to do their job.

Ashley Smith had been charged, at age 16, with tossing crabapples at a postal worker, and for that crime she was institutionalized in prison in New Brunswick for three years. During that period she continued to behave erratically and in the process acquired additional charges.

At the age of 18 she was transferred to a federal prison. While there she was in solitary confinement. No one, it would appear, had any inkling of what to do with her. She received no counselling, no treatment, no care or support. Abandoned to her personal psychological demons.

Those demons convinced her that her life was worthless and she was determined to end it. Trouble was, each time a guard attempted to help her by removing the materials she tried to use to strangulate herself, it was interpreted by prison rules as "use-of-force" and therefore forbidden.

Prison management insisted that corrections officers must handle this hopeless case in a manner that would reduce reported incidents. They were not to physically intervene, "even when her face turned purple officers were still not to enter the cell", according to the Ontario regional president for the Union of Canadian Corrections Officers.

"They held a training session to teach officers to hold back from entering Ashley Smith's cell." How is it even remotely possible that an obvious instance of a young person needing medical help is construed in a manner that demands she be incarcerated, left to her own devices, able to communicate with no one.

Anyone, under those circumstances, would be desperate, would commit to doing anything to remove themselves from this inhumane treatment. Her rights as a human being - as a Canadian citizen - to compassion and assistance were completely abrogated in a society known for its care for prison inmates.

When heartless murderers complain of inferior treatment and lodge official complaints for the most flimsy matters, and succeed in having their complaints heard and respected, how could responsible authorities conceivably flout the legal entitlements of a young woman imprisoned for a preposterously negligible incident?

Clearly, we've skewed our moral compass in the manner in which we treat vulnerable people, while acceding to the demands of society's psychopaths. What will it take to make Canadians insist on justice for those who deserve it?

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall Day

It was windy, the sky a pewter shield, leaves still tumbling from the red leafed mature maple at the head of the street, just before the trailhead leading to the ravine. Cold enough that we need gloves for comfort in this outing, not merely jackets. Cold enough that even our two little dogs wear their sweaters.

Even from the street approaching the ravine we were aware of the raucous celebration of crows. Barely into the ravine proper there was a Pileated woodpecker, its brilliant red tuft following its headstrong assault on an old poplar trunk. The sheer size of the bird never fails to amaze us, along with its disinterest in our proximity.

Descending the first long hill, the trail is laden with leaves and pine needles, scattered there a week earlier, leaving the trees all about dark and stark, unclothed and ready for winter. It's such a sere time of year, with little to soften the rude unclothing of the trees.

We're able to see far into the woods now, bereft of their green screen. And looking up, we see the crows mobbing, circling about, a group of jubilant juveniles.

These leaves we tread through are dry and crisp and scatter as our little dogs patter through them. They've lost their brilliant colouration, and present in shades of browns and greys, crumbling already into their destined forest compost.

The trail undulates, lurching unexpectedly uphill, bypassing that section of the old trail that had steadily eroded, though there's still a sheered, narrow path serving as a short-cut. We don't trust that it will remain there long. We've watched, over the years as the hillside has succumbed to erosion, hastened by its clay composition.

The wind roars, rustling those leaves still left on tree tops, scant though they are now. That delightfully lengthy Indian Summer now departed, we're into fall renascent, with its inevitable freezing nights and frosty mornings.

Throughout those areas of the trail where bicycles have dispersed the leaves, one sees the unmistakable signs of late fall on the exposed earth; frozen at a shallow depth at night, thawing by mid-day. The result a wet and slippery mess.

A nuthatch makes its circuitous route around the trunk of an old pine, offering its rubber-ducky language to us, in company of chickadees hopping from tree branch to trunk, then lifting off for a short excursion further along the trail.

We approach that portion of the trail system where an extended vale of maples have more recently dropped their bright yellow leaves. There, and along the trail to the right, those leaves in yellow and faint pink blush, thickly carpet the area, a treat for our eyes, a reminder of the season we've lost, as we shuffle through their brightness, their textured layer.

This is a yearly treat, one we forget until the time returns when we're again confronted by its transitory beauty. And there, where the presence of pines outnumber those of spruce, oak and maple, the trail is heavily littered with pine needles, a soft rusty-coloured mat where our apricot poodle is lost to the eye, blending so perfectly, but for the little red sweater that holds him apart.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gossip? Not At All...

Whenever my husband wanders across the street to speak with one of our neighbours I know I'm going to be entertained later. Advised, in any event, of occurrences on our street that neither of us had any idea of. Why we aren't ourselves aware of these things is quite beyond me. Other than, truly, we aren't all that concerned, or interested, or invested in knowing things about our good neighbours that would tend to make us think less of them.

But there it is, somehow there's always the opportunity to catch up. Mostly because one of our neighbours, sharper and more obviously intelligent than most, is also given to unburdening herself of information she has obtained, to us via her conversations with my husband. She's younger far than I am, and very attractive, an industrious, hard-working woman, with two children herself, one adult, the other approaching his teens.

I like it when my husband speaks with her, and when he does, it's always at length. It's good for him to have friendly and in-depth conversations with other people and I've never begrudged him the opportunity to do that. With any of our neighbours with whom we're more than passing friendly, and this one is no exception. It's an antidote to our closeness. And it's thanks to her we're made aware of various types of familial dramas that have us catching our breath with disbelief.

Better not to think too deeply about these things; it's human nature at work again. I wonder sometimes why it is that such a well-spoken and clever woman imparts these things, but some, I imagine, despite their level of intelligence are given to gossip. The funny thing is, she holds herself apart from our other neighbours; it is only toward us that she is friendly, finding things in common to speak of, one imagines.

We're never able to respond in kind, but we do discuss many other items of mutual interest from politics to situations unfolding in various parts of the world. She's knowledgeable and adept at holding her own through stimulating conversation. The latest news we've been treated to, shouldn't surprise, but it does, anyway. This neighbour lives at the very corner of our halfway-turned street, directly across from us. From her upstairs windows she has an eye on the world of our street's happenings.

She it was who informed us that a neighbour living directly across from her as the street turns, was making out with a friend of his wife, in their garage, into which she had a bird's eye view. And it was shortly thereafter that the break-up occurred. It was she who informed us that the older man married to the young Cuban 'dancer' with whom he shared two very young children, threw his wife out of the house for her unabashed dalliances in his frequent absences from home.

The latest concerns two other families; one the woman of which operates her own "lifestyles" course for people who don't know how to make the most of their lives. The other works for a charitable organization, an NGO, working out of South America, where she often visits as duty calls. The first family has an adopted boy of impaired intelligence, now 20. The second has three little girls and a 15-year-old boy born of a Guatemalan father, no longer with them. They're beautiful children, well-behaved and with a demonstrated and lively interest in everything.

The lifestyles guru is grossly overweight, leaves her son to wander in the neighbourhood where he will, to look for comfort and support where he can find it. He has limited intelligence but has learned how he may successfully manipulate people through their sense of conscience in dealing with such a one as he, who will never leave childhood and plays with youngsters half his age when they're not scorning and taunting him.

The neighbourhood children have been cautioned to be friendly with him, but not too friendly. A schoolchum of our gossipy neighbour is a particular friend of her younger boy. Making her aware, through her conversations with his parents that the 20-year-old has inveigled himself into the inner sanctum of that home, inviting himself to dinners and late nights, much to the distress of the parents and their child who actually detests him.

They find themselves, shy and retiring as they are, incapable of sending him home, so accept his unwanted presence in silent misery. His parents seem to find nothing amiss in the situation. Never seemed concerned at his absence, never go looking for him to call him home for dinner. Stress built to a level that the young boy finally blurted out his immense dislike for the 20-year-old, who, in response, became violent, as he has been known to do.

After striking the younger child, in a fit of ill temper he strode home in high dudgeon, informing his parents that he had been ill done by. His father stormed down the street to the home of the child, where the adults were out, the child at home alone. The frightened boy refused to answer the door, but hadn't taken the precaution of locking it.

In strode the angry father, all the while calling the boy, insisting that he must speak with him, and he hunted the little boy upstairs to his bedroom where he cowered. The angry father put a lock on the boy's neck and threatened to wring it if he ever repeated his obnoxious behaviour to his poor backward son again.

As relates to the second family, the fifteen-year-old boy has also had kindly relations with the 20-year-old. He is reputed to have given the older boy with the limited intelligence money so he could buy a case of beer for them to take into our nearby ravine. Where both boys were discovered, in a state of inebriation, having imbibed to their hearts' content, and becoming bilious as a result.

In this neighbourhood, middle-class, well-adjusted, brimming with lively children, never a dull moment.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Inconstant Heart

Imagine a comic strip capturing the hearts of millions of people with its portrayal of an ordinary family living in ordinary times, exhibiting traits of character and little quirks of personality endearing them to their ever-widening audience, over years of installments. The charm of Lynn Johnston's daily cartoon caught the interest of countless people throughout the world.

Her comic strip was widely syndicated, and her imagination became a hot spot for people to settle momentarily during the course of the day to refresh themselves about the state of the North American family. She became her own little industry, revelling in the details of a young and growing family, throwing their parents for a loop on occasion, but always there was a constancy, a certainty that all would be well.

There was a big goofy family dog to share in the backyard fun, a set of grandparents to share in the children's upbringing and memories. There were deaths in the family and a birth - of a baby sister - and countless events that conspired to steal the hearts of fascinated readers. It was widely held that Lynn Johnston's regaling of the public with the antics of children and the steady-state of their parents' marriage was closely patterned on reality.

Her fresh outlook on familial life, reminding us how integral close attention to growing children's needs is to their reaching their full potential as human beings, kept us abreast of how a well balanced and socially conscious couple could ideally deal with difficult situations. Including accepting a a friend of their older child, marginalized by his secret, and welcomed by the family regardless.

A crotchety and beloved elder, a forgetful father, a mother suddenly concerned at the fleetness of time creeping up on them, expressing concerns brought to all of us as we merge with destiny. The heartbreak of losing a family pet, and then replacing it with a clone, the freeing up of one's children to take their place in the world, all of it meant others were closely paralleling our own experiences.

And, best of all, the yardstick of an exemplary family life, which we could secretly use to measure our own ventures through the highway of life's experiences. On paper, casually sketched, with deep meaning behind and beyond the obvious, they presented as dependable, loving, emotionally stable, a credit to the society they represented. But as so often occurs, reality intrudes and what appears as a given is not.

The ideal family struggling to cope with everything that life exposes them to through their formative years was well portrayed and lovingly presented to the world. Much of this was Lynn Johnston living out her own fantasies and offering them to her loyal readership. Her devastation and emotional withdrawal when her husband of 30 years informed her suddenly that he was withdrawing from their marriage was not part of our shared experience.

Her misery and loneliness and resentment and despair were her own, not ours. The strip continued to amuse and entertain and inform us, but we were living her dream of perfection, not her reality of distraction and misery. Surely she deserved better? Don't we all, when we strive to be one with another? Can love be so transitory, there for three decades, suddenly absent, gone elsewhere.

Gone, in Lynn Johnston's case, to another woman, a woman well known to her, whom her husband had been intimate with for quite a while. Although Lynn Johnston had picked up emotional clues of her husband's withdrawal from her, she still did not understand, much less suspect him of infidelity of the heart. Women who love and whose lives are full and emotionally charged, can be very complacent.

We human beings are given to sundering our most intimate relationships, for reasons great and minuscule The banality of the accustomed, the allure of the new. Irresistible longing for something other than what has become too familiar, too cloying, too predictable. Was selfless love there to begin with? Who can ever tell?

For better or for worse.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Society's Unspoken Dysfunction

What does a modern society do about its unfortunate component of human failures? That group of people that has somehow succumbed to a tragic, hopeless rejection of life. People who find solace in the world that has somehow rejected them, through the use of drugs and alcohol. Whose sober moments are an affliction of pain and remorse over a life unlived. Sunk in the abyss of meaningless existence, bleak beyond endurance and the imagination of most other, normal-living people.

Every city seems to be plagued with them, and hasn't been able to formulate a protocol to deal with them. From runaway teens to mind-addled drug addicts, alcohol-addicted wanderers to people afflicted with mental disorders and left to drift about on their own. There is scant societal support for this flotsam of society. People are so busy, so engaged in living their complex and often frustrating lives they give scant regard to the presence of the homeless.

They exist, and nothing more. An unfortunate by-product of an imperfect world. They've somehow dropped through the familial and social and community net of caring for one another. For reasons of their own, and reasons not their own, they have opted to drop out, become social outcasts, live hard and miserable lives on the streets of our cities and towns. Society's values no longer reflected in their lifestyles.

The street is their home, other street people their extended family. How to cope with the hours that follow sleep is their major preoccupation. They beg for hand-outs on downtown streets, and set up their sleeping arrangements in places wherever they can; under bridges, over heating vents, wherever they can manage, once the streets settle down to night, absent the public.

There are churches whose basements have been outfitted with temporary sleeping arrangements, brought into use throughout the long hard wintry months. Soup kitchens that offer hot meals for the homeless. Panhandlers will stand close by their temporary harbours, always located in the downtown areas, cadging for donations to their drug or liquor-sopped existence.

There are storefront operations for young people where volunteers attempt to re-connect them with their families, encourage them to go back home, return to school. There are other helping centres for abused women, and yet others to promise slight hope for long-time street residents who recall no other life, and would trade theirs for no others - so they claim.

How to help these people? Re institute the use of long-term institutional care for the mentally deranged, where they can live safely and relatively healthily, rather than turning them back to the streets. Society can't legislate responsible and loving family relationships, but we can offer housing and assisted social re-adjustment.

We can set up medical clinics staffed by health professionals and concerned volunteers to ensure that people addicted to drugs and alcohol can find help in overcoming their mind- and body-destroying habits. Yes, it will be costly. But think of the public funding wasted in so many other areas. It would mean a redistribution of wealth, a re-structuring and expansion of civic concerns.

Federally, provincially, municipally, there must be an integrated approach to handling this intractable problem that should fundamentally concern all of us. What is taking us so long to come around to the need for action?

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Easy Start, Surprising Result

It's so simple to effect a meaningful change in the use of energy, that it's hard to understand why it could present as a difficulty to encourage people to take the step to do just that. As simple as changing a light-bulb. Mind, there are more than enough jokes going the rounds about the difficulty of changing light bulbs, for those for whom the bulb just doesn't light.

In any event, it's little surprise that there are so many in the developed world who have assuaged their consciences by doing that; changing lightbulbs. From traditional incandescent to compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Which are so astoundingly more efficient that it makes the difference between night and day. Which lightbulbs are wont to do.

The Worldwatch Institute, located in Washington, D.C., estimates a worldwide carbon dioxide saving of 16.6 billion tonnes in two decades with the use of fluorescent lamps. Which represents double the amount of dioxides released in the United States alone, in 2006. Far less pollution entering the atmosphere and in the process, saving energy.

Hard to believe, but according to Worldwatch, lighting generates over 1,500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, using in total about 19% of energy usage from the power grid. No one would willingly return to the days of candlelight, but reducing usage to that extent through the simple medium of replacing a light bulb does turn back the clock on energy wastage.

There are those who bemoan the passing of incandescent lightbulbs, claiming that the cold light of CFLs is a poor replacement, hard on the eyes and unbeautiful to behold. But then that too is in the eyes of the beholder; I've never found them to be anything less than useful and practical; the light they throw is great, in fact.

There's the little drawback of their containing a minuscule amount of mercury, so they have to be disposed accordingly, as toxic waste. But they last infinitely longer than the traditional incandescent bulb. Mind, in northern climes, some complain that the old incandescents, in their wasteful energy use, also offered warmth, which the compact fluorescents don't, but that's a quibble.

CFLs utilize roughly 75% less energy, and still produce the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs. They're more expensive initially, but since they last incredibly long, and they save money/energy, they more than make up for the differential, and quickly.

Canada is the second country - Australia the first - to outright ban the sale of most incandescent bulbs, although the ban won't begin until the year 2012, giving everyone the opportunity to catch up to practicality and reality. The European Union too now plans to phase out incandescents.

And now worldwide, about forty countries have joined the measure to save energy. We're getting there.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Distinctly Mad

For want of a better descriptive. We are, as a society, so utterly concerned for the well-being of individuals whom we incarcerate in penal institutions as punishment for the universal societal unwillingness to harbour in our midst and permit to roam the civil landscape, those who take the lives of others that we enact legislation to ensure that their human rights are never abrogated, though they've taken human lives.

Justice done is one thing, bending over backwards to prove how sensitive we are to the tender needs of murderers is quite another. The latest bit of utter, contemptible nonsense comes out of a prison in Ontario where a killer was awarded six thousand dollars in damages from Correctional Services of Canada.

This man, during the course of a six-day rampage, managed to kill a police officer in Minnesota, and three other people in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. The man managed to get around. He's been in prison for the past thirty years, having served a life sentence in the United States, then being extradited to Canada to pay for his crimes here.

He's an American citizen, now 50, serving life sentences after pleading guilt to one count of second-degree murder and two of manslaughter in Canada. He's been incarcerated in several different Canadian prisons, the latest being medium-security Fenbrook Institution near Gravenhurst, Ontario.

He's a hefty brute at 260 pounds and likes to take care of himself, working out at least an hour a day, with a physical fitness protocol. He has very large feet, wearing size 13EEEE, and insists on Corrections Canada providing New Balance shoes for him, annually, which was done routinely while he was held at Collins Bay Institution.

At Fenbrook he was informed b a senior procurement official that "My budget does not allow me to purchase New Balance, and if you want New Balance you can purchase [them] yourself", offering instead Brooks shoes, which appeared to be inadequate for the width of his feet, so he refused to accept them.

In his claim against Corrections Canada he insisted that the worn New Balance shoes caused him to suffer a knee injury while working out. An injury from which he continues to suffer pain. How's that for perspective; he murdered four people, they can no longer feel anything. Their families feel the pain of loss. He sought $50,000 in damages, but was granted instead $6,000, along with legal costs.

"The evidence shows that the Defendant [Corrections Canada] dragged its feet in ordering the correct shoes for [Gregory] McMaster and improperly tried to convince him to accept the ill-fitting shoes. The Directive requires that the Plaintiff be issued new shoes on an annual basis", ordered the Prothonotary of the Federal Court.

It's utterly asinine that society is invested in holding such unrepentant malefactors in places of criminal asylum to ensure that they pay their just due to society for having so unforgivably taken the lives of other human beings. And then adding insult to injury by being forced to take the criminal's health and comfort into account.

Nineteenth-century penal colonies such as Australia no longer exist in our shrinking world, and more's the pity. Should we ever colonize the moon, it mightn't be a bad idea to send pathological destroyers of other humans there to fend for themselves.

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Author, Author!

Please stand to applause. Who, me? Well, in a sense. A really dotty sense. In that I'm the author of my own misfortunes. Misfortunes in a very small sense. Anyone who doesn't know me might assume I'm in an unfortunate relationship. A battered woman. A victim of spousal abuse. It can be embarrassing. In the summer, seldom winter.

On the other hand, sometimes even in winter. It wasn't all that long ago that, through sheer carelessness (what else?) I closed the car door impulsively, far too soon. In fact even before I was prepared to get my head out of the way. Result? One banged-up eye. Just above the eye.

You bet it hurt, and continued to, for a while. I did not, in fact, get a total black eye out of the incident. But enough of a bruise around the eye area to encourage people of a suspicious mind to look askance when they saw me, although no one ever approached to commiserate and point me to the nearest shelter for battered women.

My body is an ongoing battle zone, with bruises appearing regularly here and there. Every time my husband views another bruise, he's full of admiration for the colour scheme. It's the artist in him. Purples, noxious yellows, shades of grey with a little bit of dark red thrown in for extra appeal.

Invariably, although he should know better, he asked how I've acquired the latest. And for the most part I simply cannot recall. I'm so accustomed to bumping into things that I just shrug off the events and view the damage a day or so later. Just amazing. Our granddaughter recommends that her grandfather smother me in pillows.

I'd bounce about from protrusion to protrusion without harming myself, and look so utterly appealing to young children who love to burst out laughing at the merest comedic provocation. The very thought of it brings peals of laughter from her. Me too, actually.

She hasn't seen the latest damage, though I mentioned it to her, in passing. Two days ago, in a rush to finish feeding the dogs, brush their haircoats, set the table and get our own dinner finished, I bent down unheedingly to pick their little porcelain salad bowls off the floor and hit my right temple directly on a corner of the kitchen bookshelf.

Which wouldn't be all that bad, if I hadn't stooped in such haste, if the top of the bookshelf hadn't been covered in porcelain tiles, and if the corner weren't so square. The pain was instant, and I was really put out of a commission for a whole five minutes.

My husband sprang into action, ran cold water over a washcloth, wrapped it around a small freezer bag and slapped it onto my forehead. Slapped, no gently placed it there. I was I who slapped my forehead, in frustration over my debilitating haste. I'm a multi-tasker, always have been, and that's accomplished speedily.

Some people will go to any lengths for attention. Good thing he loves me anyway.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How Green?

Green was a word that used to denote someone who hadn't any experience. It's undergone quite a transformation in nomenclature in the last several decades.

Green now indicates environment, and as such places a halo over the head of anyone professing to be green in their orientation. Green thinking relates to concern over the environment. It's abundantly clear we haven't been thinking enough about our environment and the damage we do to it, incessantly.

Climate change has changed all that. We now think of climatic disasters barrelling in on vulnerable landscapes, leaving death and destruction in their wake.

And that's merely one symptom of climate change. There are so many, coming at us in so many hitherto unsuspected ways that we hardly know where to turn for comfort. So we're ripe and ready to be lectured and shown ways in which we can be more environmentally sensitive in our everyday lives.

All governments, throughout the world, are now thoroughly convinced that the environment is in the process of being altered in ways that will most certainly prove to be inimical to humankind, let alone the other creatures of this Globe. Scientists in great numbers have told us so, even if we don't quite believe our own senses, and the news stories that report constantly on the effects of climate change.

Canada's politicians are of various minds about how this country should proceed in doing its part in attempting to rescue the environment from further degradation. Remediation efforts will require a gigantic effort with everyone committed to doing their part, from the individual up to giant corporations whose manufacturing or primary commodities-extraction methods further exacerbate an already deteriorating environment.

Canadians are rightly concerned. We have adapted our routines to acknowledging the small changes we can make to our own lives. There are certain alterations to our routines that can be useful, with no great effort on our part, and other, more intrusive changes that threaten to delimit our pleasure in doing as we will, when we will, damn the consequences.

The Green Party of Canada has presented itself as the premier political party capable of bringing Canada on line in recognizing the best possible political-social scenario that will transform this country from a wastrel-energy nation to a modest-use population.

There will be pain, we're assured, but the gain is that we will have done the right thing, in helping to avert an even worse disaster than if we hadn't made the effort.
The argument of the Green Party is unassailable in that regard, and they're determined to bring us around to the reality of the need to do more, far more, than we're really prepared to commit to.

They've a large selling job. But then they're dedicated to achieving success. And in the relatively few years they've been on the political scene in Canada as a party in opposition to the same staid old parties, demonstrating lacklustre impetus in enacting useful green legislation, they've made some notable inroads in the public consciousness.

Trouble is, unfortunately, they haven't yet met with any success in electing one single Member of Parliament.

They're credible in their longer outreach, presenting a platform that is more than respectable, embracing all of the social and political pressures any country must recognize. They were able to advance candidates in all of the ridings across the country, and many did reasonably well. Not, however, well enough to win one single riding.

As a percentage of the popular vote, they come in at roughly 8%. Reason would have it that they should rate at least a handful of Members of Parliament, elected in ridings whose voters found their message compelling enough to back them. On the other hand, how much credibility can the voting public invest in a leader who exercises such abysmal judgement as to run in a riding where she is certain to be defeated?

For a responsible leader to display such an absurd attitude, claiming that she feels comfortable there, feels she belongs there, and has faith that she will be successful, despite the odds against success, speaks to a personality unwilling to face reality, although her green platform is geared to bringing Canadians around to facing reality of a different kind.

Elizabeth May can proclaim her satisfaction in her campaign, claim she wouldn't have conducted it any other way, is proud of her decision to run in Peter MacKay's riding, but her absurd stubbornness, her lack of awareness, her inability to see that she manufactured her own defeat, speaks ill of her capabilities, her ability to act as a leader of a responsible political party.

Pity. Ms. May, leader of the Green Party in Canada, has amply demonstrated herself as green as they come, in the original sense.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It Just Figures

Knew it, I just knew there was a damn good reason why I was personally never attracted to imbibing alcohol of any kind. Aside from the miserable taste of it, the prospect of not being in a position to fully comprehend what's happening around you, or with you, simply doesn't appeal. I've always felt it to be distasteful that people would need the assistance of mind-numbing drink to find a comfort level for interaction with others. Let alone the possibility that people would drink to excess.

With the inevitable outcome; lack of self-control, and presentation of behaviour not quite palatable. Call me a party-pooper, a social prude or whatever seems appropriate, I simply have no personal interest in drinking alcohol, no matter how it presents itself. I harbour no ill will to those who wish to drink. And experience no problems being in the company of those who drink moderately, enjoying a goblet of wine with their meals; it's civilized and more than acceptable.

From the time I was a child and my uncle by marriage offered to let me have a drink of his beer although I recoiled at the offensive odour of it and he was aware of my distaste even then, I've found that drinking as a social relaxant is particularly disgusting. Wine far less so. And hard liquor of any kind simply not to my liking. I'm not the kind of person who makes others comfortable at a cocktail party, but I have, on occasion, held a wine glass at such occasions to give comfort to others.

It's been my studied observation that people who drink to excess likely possess a half-brain to begin with. Now new studies in alcohol consumption and how it affects people seems to come to the same conclusion, somewhat. Except their controlled study led them to the conclusion that drinking is responsible for shrinking the brain. In reverse, as it happens, to my theory. Oh yes, previous study has revealed that moderate alcohol consumption may be good for heart health.

But what good is a healthy heart when you've reduced your brain to partial competence and eventually mush? Right, the dedicated drinkers might contend that who cares, happiness is gained by mushing the brain and light-heartedly facing life through a haze of alcoholic stupor. Go to it, friend, if that's how valuable the experience of living a life fully cognizant of all its complex interactions seems to you.

But the study published in the journal 'Archives of Neurology', pointing out that the more alcohol one consumes, the smaller the total brain volume is destined to result in, is compelling evidence, as far as I'm concerned, that anyone who imbibes to excess, can't be too bright to begin with. Obviously, less so for the modest drinkers. Oh, the study also points out that women in particular are more impacted by deleterious alcohol effects than men.

Lower brain volume not only means you've got far less to work with, but evidently it also speaks of a deranged brain, increasing the risk of dementia, along with full utilization of the brain, in thinking, learning and memory retention. Isn't it something like playing Russian roulette with life on a fairly robust scale?

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Fall Beauty - Full Duty

On this, the very day of our federal vote which will result in either a re-installation of the current government, or the triumphant entry of another, signs proliferate everywhere one looks. As though, one muses, they've suddenly taken it upon themselves in an ecstasy of hysteria to duplicate themselves inexplicably. Isn't everyone tired of looking at that signage? In the best of all possible worlds they'd be speedily yanked away, post-election.

We take turns going into the voting station, located within one of our area schools. Where usually we take an ambling walk over, sometimes through the ravine, we've driven this time, because we intend to go on afterward and drive into Ottawa proper. We take turns, because we're reluctant to leave our little dogs in the car unattended. But it's swift work to enter, relinquish our notification, render two pieces of identification, take the proffered ballot, mark it and return it to the ballot box.

Cannot tell by the sparse attendance we see at the station whether there will be a better-than-average turn-out; likely not. The urge to vote doesn't appear to motivate as many voters into exercising their franchise as it should. But we're done, and we leave the area to others. Glad it's over, wondering what the evening news will bring. It will be late in coming, since the polls are set to close a full hour and a half later than last election.

We turn onto the Eastern Parkway, and it's breathtaking, the sumptuous colours of trees, shrubs and fields. Although the oaks and the willows haven't yet begun to turn colour, maples, sumacs, beeches, birches and poplars have burst into crimsons, reds, blush pinks, yellows, orange, copper and pale greens. One arras after another ostentatiously greets us as we drive along the Parkway, taking in breath with each new revelation.

The great Ottawa River roils in the wind, coloured itself for the occasion, in steel gray, mirroring the dark clouds above, shifting through the sky, uncertain whether to rain again or break up to allow us the promised sunny intervals. Gulls ride proprietorially on the white-capped river currents. Then singly they rise into the air, shrieking their satisfaction with the day's presentation.

On their seasonal flight to more moderate-winter-welcomed climes, hosts of geese and ducks float complacently along the river, rise in flapping groups into the fields adjacent the river, to settle and contentedly look for seeds, grubs or perhaps also to take full advantage of this most generous of nature's weather days, pleasant for all her residents of this Mother Earth.

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Sic Transit Gloria

We had heavy rain this morning, after breakfast, just as we would ordinarily be preparing to go out on our daily ravine walk. Our routine for the day had been considered; our walk first, then drop by the voting station to do our civic duty, after which we'd take a drive downtown to go by the stained glass store so Irving could get the thin lead he needs for these new window sets and a better green for the leaves he'll be cutting.

The rain, we thought, would spoil all that. I looked at our email to see if there'd been a response from our insurance; an automatic response was what we had, reminding that the telephone was the first order in placing a claim. And as it happened, while he was on the telephone, doing all that explaining, that the rain, heavy enough to convince us this would go on all day, just suddenly stopped. And there, above, were spaces of blue between the dark clouds.

So it was on with the dogs' harnesses and collars, and off we went. It had turned very windy. Obvious that the unseasonably warm weather we've been basking in was about to converge with another system that would bring us the inevitable return of fall. In the meanwhile, the air smelled wonderful, no longer redolent of the heavy odour of freshly manured farm fields that had greeted us yesterday, for which we still gave thanks since it translates to preparation for next year's crops.

The tall screen of trees heralding the entrance to the ravine gave ample promise of what we'd find within. Even in the space of one day so much changes within the perimeters of the ravine, with all of its deciduous trees and shrubs, alongside those winter-favoured evergreens. And what a sight it was, to see the wind lifting leaves from their high perches, denuding tree branches and in the process rattling and rustling the canopy above.

It resembled a snowy day, in the copious amounts of leaves detaching from branches above, drifting down in such great numbers, in colours of gold, red, green and orange. Underfoot we rustled through a rainbow of high-drifted leaves, droplets glistening back at us from the morning's rain. We felt such incredible exhilaration at the fury of the wind's rushing through the tree tops, the release of the leaves, the kaleidoscope of dazzling colours.

I had brought with us our digital camera on yesterday's ravine walk. Taken more than enough photographs. But the landscape today was infinitely more glorious, heady, inspiring us to wonder whether this was a unique experience; surely this has never happened before in quite the same way? The colour-surround, the whipping wind, the freshness of the atmosphere, the feeling of utter release.

Are our memories so poorly equipped that we cannot thrust back through the years' exposure to these very same landscapes, year after year as nature prepares her seasonal introductions? I muse that this is precisely why we take pictures, so we can recall when memory fails. And all those photographs of years past, that we've posted to our computer's memory. What happens when we're no longer here, who will value those assists to our memory?

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Isn't That Typical?

Sometimes clarity of vision simply evades us as we pursue convoluted and difficult avenues to pursue a search for answers to vexing problems.

Medical researchers are working overtime in attempts to grow cells, the better to understand the complex process that nature has endowed them with. And with hoped-for results in edging science ever closer to understanding our evolution, making us better able to cope with break-downs in the wonderful mechanism involved in human bodies.

A medium whereby cells could be encouraged to grow, so they can be encouraged to mature and then be carefully examined by experts to determine their characteristics and how best they can be harnessed to repair broken body parts, the ravages of disease, an extension of human life-potential, is ongoing.

It was thought that in the weightlessness of space, experiments in growing human cells would result in far more immediate success, reflecting the process far more closely as it occurs in the human body.

We're informed that the International Space Station was built partially for the purpose of permitting scientists to grow cells in three dimensions; a process difficult to attain in a laboratory using conventional growth techniques.

Cells maturing on a slide don't come close to resembling those grown internally; gravity impairs their 'normal' maturation. Cells grown in a three-dimensional shape more closely mimic those grown naturally.

The cost for the ongoing development of the international space station has been thus far, $100-billion, and growing. And even though that much money has been dedicated to the design and completion of the station, no scientific experimentation of that nature has yet been undertaken, with scientists on board.

In cancer research, for example, tumours grown from those experimental cells bear little resemblance in shape to the real thing; they don't represent a reliable working model of human disease. There is currently available a gelatinous material processed from rodent cancer cells, but it's immensely expensive, taking it out of possibility for many research studies.

Suddenly, one day, a junior scientist gave some thought to the structure of an egg, and thought of using egg white with laboratory cells, to suspend them in that gooey, transparent liquid that so carefully nurtures the life-attaining yolk. And it worked, amazingly well, at an incredibly modest cost.

Revealing yet again that so many of the discoveries made by keen-minded scientists have come about by serendipity, not design.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Things Happen....

I'm the one who does the weekly shopping. At a cut-rate supermarket. Where I do my own packing, into the black plastic bins I'd bought there when they originally opened, about ten years earlier. Their prices really are more competitive than the name-brand supermarkets, although it's caveat emptor with regard to the fruits and vegetables; everything must be carefully scrutinized for freshness, sometimes lacking.

It's not a very large store, but it sells the basic food commodities I look for. We don't use very much in the way of processed foods. There's a large ethnic and immigrant contingent shopping there as well, gravitating to where their necessities of life can be had at a more affordable price. Which is also why the store has an interesting array of products, including vegetables, I'm not too familiar with.

I've bought halal chicken there from time to time, with the understanding that it's not all that different from kosher. The store tries to serve its customers well, since they're in business for the primary purpose of pleasing customers and making a profit thereby. But it doesn't resemble the sleek and shiny and well organized large supermarkets, and many people wouldn't appreciate the environment.

Including my husband. So occasionally he goes off on his own for a shopping expedition of his own, to look about for items I'm not able to get at the store I shop at alone. Like speciality cheeses, certain cuts of meat - although we don't eat much red meat - and other items that appeal to him. That's what he did today, while I was busy in the house. Off he went to pick up a few things.

An hour later he called to let me know he'd been broadsided while he was driving in the parking lot of one of the large supermarkets he often goes to. He called not from his cell phone but from a nearby garage. We seldom use the cell phone and keep forgetting to power up its batteries.

He was headed to the nearest police station, he said, to file a report. The police won't send anyone out when an accident occurs on private property - in this instance a parking lot - if the cars are still operable; they encourage the drivers to come to them. So, after another hour he finally returned, in anything but a foul temper, to explain to me what had occurred.

It's a huge parking lot, in an area that houses many large box stores. The parking lot nearest the store was packed with cars, but the furthest quadrant was empty of cars. He drove toward an area closest to the store he frequents, intending to park there. From the corner of his eye he saw another car, moving as slowly as he, but toward him.

The driver appeared not to be looking straight ahead, but rather off to one side. And she continued to look off to the side, never looking in front of her, where she was heading. My husband kept thinking she'd look ahead and see him, but she never did and he didn't take evasive action, utterly certain she would turn to look before her, swerve into her proper space, but that didn't happen.

She plowed into the door of his back passenger seat, and his wheel well. He was shocked, and obviously so was the other driver. She emerged from her small Toyota, dreadfully upset, weeping, repeating how sorry she was, she'd never had an accident previously. She was, he said, about in her mid-thirties and distraught. He comforted her, said they were fortunate they were both driving slowly.

And not to worry, that's what insurance is for, after all. He refrained from saying anything like 'why weren't you looking where you were driving?'. When she calmed down somewhat he told her his cell phone was dead and he was going to go over to the service station just opposite to make a call to the police from there.

While he did that, she pulled out her own cell phone and made a call to a friend. She had told my husband she was there to meet a friend. When my husband returned from his telephone call with the police, there was the friend, having arrived for their assignation, and the young woman who had driven into him was now cool and distant.

It was obvious to him that her friend had cautioned her not to admit to fault, despite she had done just that, repeatedly. The friend kept eyeing him with an obviously hostile attitude. They each got into their vehicles, drove the short distance to the police station, where they made their depositions to the officer in charge.

Who filled out the official accident report form, after speaking with them. At no time was it evident from anything anyone said that there had been no witnesses; both the young woman and my husband were alone in their cars; the accompanying friend left the impression that she had been a witness.

When the two young women left the station my husband informed the police officer that the second woman had come along after the accident had occurred. When the police officer went outside the station to view the cars involved in the accident, it was clear the little Toyota had not suffered any damage, just a dent in the bumper.

My husband's car, a Honda Civic, had borne the brunt of the side-swipe, so it was evident what had occurred. Both were advised by the police officer that on the evidence she was reporting that the young woman was the striker, placing the insurance onus on her.

During the brief interview in the police station, the young woman, at the insistence of her friend, had attempted to explain that the accident was not entirely her fault. And that may also be the conclusion of the insurance adjusters. Her former warmth toward my husband in response to his obvious concern for her distress had dissipated with her friend's presence.

But when their business at the police station had been concluded and each prepared to go their way, the young woman made an effort and approached my husband. Again, she apologized for her lack of attention and having causing the accident. She said she hoped that the incident hadn't entirely spoiled his holiday week-end.

He responded by telling her once again that it was an accident, accidents happen, and she should feel less distressed over it. He wished her well, and they parted.

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Thanksgiving Dinner

We have much to be thankful for. A yearly reminder isn't a bad thing. I'm thankful that we both have very good health, and we're energetic and forward looking and appreciate life. I'm thankful that nature is so glorious and gives us so many opportunities to revel in her mystery. That, at this time of year, we're enjoying Indian Summer, confusing so many of the flowering plants in our garden. Even the magnolia in our back garden has thrust out another magnificent vermilion bloom.

It's the first year that little tree has flowered, after we planted it about six years earlier, and this is the third time it has flowered this year, where normally they flower in early spring, and that's it. The gigantic, incredibly robust morning glory on the brick wall in one of our front borders is ablaze with bright blue. I've had to cut back so much, yet there's still colour in the gardens, roses that insist this is still their season to shine.

Yesterday I spent a few hours in the back gardens, preparing them for winter. Cutting down everything, even the ligularia and the ladies' mantle, and the peonies and the Stella do'Oro lilies and the hydrangeas, among so many others. I lifted the dahlia bulbs and the sweet potatoes, and the begonias, to put them away for safekeeping overwinter until spring, when they'll be re-planted.

And somehow, in the process, hurt my back. That's not quite it; I had been feeling under the weather for a week, with a hint of a sore back; yesterday's garden stint exacerbated the problem, quite noticeably. I thought I'd be hampered badly, not be able to do what I had scheduled for today.

But though I woke with that same miserable back pain, I set myself about doing what I had planned to, and found the back pain ameliorated through sheer physical work, nicely energizing me, the pain much diminished..

Starting, after breakfast, with baking a pumpkin pie, sprinkling it over with half pecans before putting it into the oven. Preparing that half turkey. We'd bought it fresh, cut it in half, froze the other half. We'll still have plenty left over, so I'm planning to bake a few turkey pies with the left-overs.

I was able to clean up the kitchen, deep-clean the bathrooms, and do all the other additional house chores I reserve for Sunday morning.

Finished a letter to our two boys, prepared them to pop into the mailbox on our way for our ravine walk. Spoke with our granddaughter who, left alone at home for a few hours because she wasn't interested in accompanying her mother on a shopping trip, described to me the really large chocolate chip cookies she had baked and was in the process of taking out of the oven.

She likes to over-task, like her mother.

We were late getting out today. My husband was busy installing the four sets of shutters he had made to go over our dining room windows, after having painted them. They're not complete, since he will now begin fashioning the stained glass windows to be inserted in each of the eight door-shutters.

There was a photograph of some of the windows in the Parliament Buildings and they resemble the floral pattern he has designed.

Our ravine walk was a delight, beautiful and warm, quite amazing for this time of year. Even insects were out in their newfound freedom, flitting about, the bugs and the beetles, convinced it's spring.

We stopped to talk with neighbours on our way down the street, discussing many things, including the potential outcome of the federal election. We'll know, one way or another, in the late evening on Tuesday, after the polls have closed.

Into the oven on our return went the turkey, and after an hour tiny new white potatoes nestled in beside the half-bird, keeping it company in the oven, along with thick slices of sweet potato. I had made the cranberry sauce earlier in the week, and now also prepared tiny carrots, to cook and serve them candied, along with everything else.

Nothing green today. Good thing we ate rather lightly at breakfast time, as well as having had a relatively light dinner last night; corn on the cob and tuna-salad sandwiches with raspberries for dessert.

There can be nothing more rewarding than hearing my life-long companion and love of my life praise everything placed before him. Would be wonderful if our children could be here with us to enjoy this family meal, but this too is life.

They're not sufficiently geographically close to make it practical. We have much to be thankful for - that little fact is not one of them.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Indian Summer

We long for it to arrive every fall and generally, it does. Relieving us temporarily of cooler weather, bringing back the sun, and intriguing us with its mysterious ways, allowing vestiges of summer to return all too briefly before nature plunges us back into fall and, inevitably winter.

At some time during the month of October, nature pulls back the inevitable cooling and dimming of our atmosphere. Teasing us with summer day-time temperatures, while still plunging us back into night-time frosts.

The interregnum between the seasonal demarcations is all too brief, but so dearly held we mourn for a second time when it lapses once again into autumn, with its winds, rains, shorter daylight hours, less sun.

And then comes November, the darkest month of all when one can just imagine Demeter frantically searching for her abducted daughter, copious tears of despair falling from her eyes. Finally, falling into mourning with Persephone's absence, fading the flowers on their stalks, the fruit from their vines.

Indian Summer couldn't have arrived at a more auspicious time than Canadian Thanksgiving. We aren't there yet, but the days leading up to it are as fully promising as the few days now behind us, with ample sun, temperatures so mild we can go about sleeveless, and feel completely blessed by nature's capricious little tricks, tempting us to think summer when we know colder weather, shorter days turn the corner.

The air is crisp and redolent of tanic acid, from the fallen leaves. There's the soft rustling of the dessicated leaves when the wind picks them up along the trail. We walk the the ravine trails now through deep drifts of fallen leaves. As we make our way along under the now-shrinking umbrella of foliage, we're anointed by falling leaves and pine needles.

Little Riley is carefree, no longer needing a sweater to shield him from last week's icy winds, and Button plods along, stopping now and again to satisfy the invitation of new smells. We're feeling content and lazy and inordinately comforted by the return of mild weather. There are doves in pairs, their wings whistle-whooshing as they rise from the trail to the trees.

We haven't seen woodpeckers in months, and now they're back, the hairy and the Pileated woodpeckers, neither shy of our presence. We're once again amazed at the size and primitive appearance of the Pileated, clacking its head against the trunk of an old spruce, large splinters scattering. High overhead, the haunting sound of Canada geese on their southward seasonal journey.

It's beautiful beyond imagination to look above and see the deciduous trees turning shades of crimson, orange, copper and mellow yellow, their leaves drifting lazily down around us, colouring the trail like confetti underfoot. A small orange butterfly flits by and soon another butterfly, this time a black Admiral. The change in temperature has been too tempting for them also.

Bees are once again busy in their endless search for pollen, not quite yet prepared to hive up for the coming season. There's scant few flowers for them to settle on, but they find them and land, their dancing feet soon coated yellow. Some trees, like the Hawthornes, the wild apple trees and some of the birch are already bare of leaves; the former two dangling haws and tiny sour apples; the latter their catkins.

We're convinced we'll recall these days during the long winter season, but we don't. Each season surprises us anew as it introduces us to the quick succession leading to another year.

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