Category Archives: environment

Fall Update & the Environment

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

Clockwork Canada is available on Amazon and through Exile Editions. Steampunk stories about Canada’s revisioned history.

Fall is definitely falling here in Vancouver, with days on end of rain, rain and more rain. Twenty-eight out of thirty-one days, so what’s a drenched soul to do? Many things have happened, including trips and busy busyness. I’ve been lax with this blog so I’ll do an update on fiction and poetry. I’ll mention briefly that I went to the UK in Sept./Oct. and to British Fantasycon by the Sea in Scarborough. Adventures with writers and others, but that will be a post that I hope will happen soon. In the meantime…

The World Wildlife Fun just mentioned this last week that many species are in rapid decline. This is happening to birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and by 2020 they estimate we’ll have lost two-thirds of all species. This is catastrophic and heartbreaking. The only species that won’t be in decline are humans and insects. Many of these other species control the insect populations and with even  just a few being out of balance we’ll be overrun in a short time. When I wrote “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” I researched this buggy phenomenon and it was frightening in its own right. That story was reprinted last year in the Best of Horror Library Vol. 1-5. In relation to this topic is m story “Freedom’s Just Another Word” about the last elephant on Earth. It can be read for free at Agnes and True and came out earlier this year. I hope that we’ll wake up before it’s too late and realize that by saving these species we will save ourselves.

horror, dark fantasy, death, speculative fiction, Season's End.

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

“Buffalo Gals” came out in Clockwork Canada in the spring and is an alternate history steampunk tale about BC’s early history. I touch on the murdered and missing women which has been part of BC’s and really, the whole country’s news for quite a few years. I have a feeling that if other countries started looking at their stats we would see a lot of the same; more women murdered or missing, as seems to always be the case. As well, “Seasons End” came out in the massive Beauty of Death. This story too touches on the decline of the environment but from a more mythical aspect, with hope woven in. On a lighter note, there were two drabbles (100 words exactly) up at SpeckLit but they are no longer drabbling so these are in the archives.

Stories sold and yet to come out include “Love in the Vapors” in Futuristica Vol. 2, “Awaking Pandora” in the Goethe Glass anthology about climate change (yep, another environmental tale), “Shoes” to be reprinted in Polar Borealis 4, “Changes” in Deep Waters #2, and “Sins of the Father” (a fungal horror story) in OnSpec. These will probably all be out next year. There are a few others in the works but I can’t announce those yet. I should also mention that Playground of Lost Toys, edited by Ursula Pflug and I, was nominated for an Aurora Award but didn’t win. Several of the authors were nominated for various awards and Catherine MacLeod won the Sunburst Award for short fiction with her tale, “Hide and Seek.”

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

There have been many poems this year so I’ll just list these: “The Hedge Witch” in OnSpec #101 (plus and interview), “Book of Shadows” in Devolution Z #8, “Patchwork Girl” in Future Fire #37, “Pilot Flight” and “Short Sighted” in Polar Borealis #2, “Triptych (Amsterdam)” in Wax Poetry #11 (4th place), “Come and Go,” “Oh You!”, “Cuntipotent,” “Cremating Love” in Maple Tree Literary Supplement #21, and “The Persuaders” in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #29. About to be published are: “A Good Catch” in Tailfins and Sealskins (UK), “Garuda’s Gamble” in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #30, “Mermaid” in Spirits Tincture #2, “Wolf Skin” in Myths and Fables, “This Song” in Deadlights, “Spirit Bottle” and “Geomystica” in the summer solstice 2017 edition of Eternal Haunted Summer. Many of these are free to read online so Google away.

I hope to post again next week with the first part of m UK trip, which involves writers and editors, and saving someone’s life. I’m also hoping to revamp this blog in the next few months and there will be some book give-aways. So stay tuned to my sporadic posts.

 

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Urban Archeology

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I met Alex in one of the public urban gardens where I took pictures of the flora. Here some chive blossoms.

My life has become so busy that back in April (yes, April!) I decided that for my birthday I wanted to do more exploring of the urban jungle, my city’s back yard. It would be a bit of discovery, a bit of a lovely stroll with friends and a bit of unearthing what it is we leave behind.

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The first find; a glittery sequined pine cone.

Do you ever wonder what archeologists of the future will find when they dig through the layers of earth? Will it be a Pompeii, with so much intact from a sudden disaster that catches everyone unaware? Will it be like Roanoke, Virginia, where a whole town up and left suddenly (or so it looked) that dishes and food were left on the tables? These are some of the mysteries discovered when we sift through the dust and debris of yesteryear. What will those lost artifacts tell the future about how we lived?

I was inspired to try out some modern day urban archeology by friend and fellow writer Alex Renwick, who had several found objects cases in her place with an array of interesting items. There were the natural wonders she collected (shells, stones, sticks, etc.) plus pieces of glass, or dolls or other things lost and abandoned along the way.

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We did not dive into the dumpsters but chose from near them.

As it turned out, no one else thought this was a fun idea so Alex and I went on our own adventure, with Daniel and Anja joining us along the way. My goal was to pick up anything that wasn’t natural, in the alleys and streets we wandered. I soon decided that cigarette butts (the most common form of human debris that I found) and skanky rotting garbage didn’t count. I only gathered man made items, whether pretty or not.

Alex’s mandate was a bit different and she had an experienced eye for collecting. In fact, when she met me she had already found some sort of sequined bauble. She also gathered natural debris such as twigs, berries and stones, plus a plethora of flattened bottle caps. Her collection was definitely more arty than mine.

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Anja’s collection included a bright fuschia flower, nails, and a disc with an urban angel.Enter a caption

The first thing I found was that my romantic image of great old chair legs and pieces of dolls was not going to happen. All of Vancouver’s alleys are paved over and overall, Vancouver’s a very clean city. For the future there would be better areas for debris, such as along train tracks. I’ve discovered in my goal of walking more this year that there are a lot of homeless people who hang out and live under the elevated SkyTrain tracks but considering the squalor of those areas it’s probably better not to wander into that area.

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Daniel’s items centered on plastics and that silver pack is a David’s Tea bag.

We did two different areas, with a long walk through some urban gardens where there are old tracks, but not quite as destitute because people grow their plants and veggies along the way. In fact Anja found the most interesting artifact in this area, mostly buried into the ground; and angel plague.

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My objects, laid out like specimens, with the flowering begonia. fake flowers, broken glass, a toy mouse and plastics.

We had a lovely day for doing this, saw some great gardens and plants,explored various streets and spent time in companionship. Not to mention that we did a bit of recycling for the city. Once we’d gathered our various bits, we laid them out for documenting and then they were recycled. Alex and I both kept some of our pieces. I found a full flowering begonia in one alley and still have it, with a few yellow flowers, though the frost is coming so its days are numbered.

found objects, natural art, urban archeology

Alex’s treasure trove, including the sign that says Paperback Cellar. Lots of plant material and artfully arranged.

Since then I have found some of the thoroughfares have the most garbage; abandoned tags and bus tickets, plastic and Starbucks cup, numerous cigarette butts and a myriad of wires and string. In fact, none of these are in the collections shown here and was what I noticed in my walks downtown. But I’ve been inspired. I believe that next spring I’m going to start collecting some of these items, yes, even the cigarette butts. This means I’ll have to carry gloves and other containers for such disgusting castoffs. I have several ideas for making urban art, which will be both a social commentary on what we consume and what we throw away.

In the meantime, it was a fun way to explore the city and I hope we can do a few more urban archeology projects when spring returns. Below, a little slideshow of our day, with a yard that was designed on found objects.

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All photos copyright Colleen Anderson. Alex Renwick for Paperback cellar images.

 

 

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Mysterious Mushroom

puffballs, mushrooms, eating

From Tom Volk’s fungus site. This shows the scleroderma citrinum mushroom

Earlier this summer I was yakking to my neighbor when I looked down and saw a potato colored stone at my feet. It was the size of a small plum and, like the crow I am, I reached down to pick up the interesting stone and in the process recognized it as vegetable, or more accurately, fungus. I exclaimed to my neighbor, “Hey, it’s a puffball mushroom but I’ve never seen one that wasn’t wrinkly and puffing out its spores.”

mushrooms, edible fungus, puffballs

I didn’t get a picture of the full mushroom but you can see how tiny it was, and black inside.

I was intrigued. This little beast was firm and a light tan, like a new potato, with a wee tendril root at its base. I said I was going to eat it, to which my neighbor looked dubious. Oh, don’t worry, I assured him, puffballs are edible if they’re not sporing. But really, what did I know? I used to work upgrading hiking trails and got totally into trying to find edible plans. Chicken of the woods, those ripply fungi that grow on the sides of trees, were supposed to be edible and taste like, yes, chicken. But the ones I found were always woody and not the tender young things needed for chicken fungus.

calvatia cyathaformis, true puffball, cooking mushrooms

What do you do with a wee shroom? You fry it up in some garlic oil.
Hope it doesn’t kill you.

Being not a total idiot (or perhaps I was) I took the shroom inside and cut it open. I was very surprised by the black texture. Most puffballs are a solid white/cream mass, just like the outside of a button mushroom. My photos aren’t that good but it wasn’t solid black, more like what it would have looked like if you paced it tightly with black poppy seeds. Well, black guts! There was no way I was going to eat this without reading up more. Was it bad? Was it a truffle?

Neither, though truffles do have black interiors but look completely different.. It is indeed a puffball  earthball, of the variety Calvatia Cyathiformis, most likely scleroderma cepa. It’s hard to find pictures on the internet and most say that scleroderma are poisonous though I found a book on Amazon that says they’re edible.  The mushroom was very firm, and had no smell.

The puffball earthball was so small I thought I’d do a taste test and used mildly flavored garlic olive oil. I fried the slices for about then minutes and the color turned a bit more brownish. The texture remained firm, not like button mushrooms that can turn really soft. I survived with no ill effects. This was my first wild mushroom, picked by me, and it seems the internet lead me astray! Now I want to point out that I did several hours research before even contemplating cooking it. After all, I’ve seen The Forsaken and Clint Eastwood’s fungus embroilment. I didn’t want a repeat. Probably because it was so small it hadn’t developed its toxins yet, but I can tell you that after another two hours of searching on the internet that I can’t find the sites I read originally and that there aren’t a lot of great pictures. The skin was not scaly, there was no root and only a tendril. It wasn’t bitter at all but tasty.  The scleroderma cepa is used as a soil inoculant and while I don’t know what that means, it means any soil put in the yard could have carried these spores. So don’t eat these guys. Don’t try this at home kids. And just so you know, my neighbor’s gingko tree has been dropping apricot colored fruit but I will not be trying these even if you can eat up to five before you might be poisoned!

calvatia cyathiformis, frying mushrooms, cooking, wild mushrooms

My first taste of a wild mushroom. I wish I had more.
I’m glad I didn’t become one.

So maybe I am stupid after all. :-/ (Thanks to Hillary for pointing this out.)

 

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dianne Homan

surreal worlds, SF, metaphor, Tesseracts 17, anthologies

Dianne Homan’s world is regimented and plastic, in M.E.L.

Today we hit the Yukon, nearly the end of the interviews for Tesseracts 17, Dianne Homan’s dystopian world in M.E.L.

CA: M.E.L. was a very bizarre world, yet reminiscent in feel (not setting) of other dystopian futures, such as Logan’s Run, or even the morlocks of Orwell’s The Time Machine. Did you draw on any such existing tales for this setting?

I actually don’t read science fiction so I can’t say I drew on any literary worlds. I have a huge aversion to plastic—packaging, toys, utensils, etc., so I imagined a world coated in the stuff as something my protagonist would have to get past, get through, get under.

CA: In some ways your story could be taken as metaphorical. Would you say there is a metaphor you’re using in this?

Never thought of it metaphorically. One of the main points in this story is that, if we are tuned in to earth, there is knowledge that comes to us without our being able to pinpoint the source of our knowing—like M.E.L.’s knowing about dirt and W.W.B.’s knowing about bugs.

CA: This world has a regimental control of people’s lives. While it is a different world, do you think parts of our world are as regimented as this, for good or for ill?

The thing about our world that concerns me most is the control of, dare I say everything, by

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

the corporate powers. They control what the media tells us, what schools teach, what is available on the market, etc. They can’t control what we learn from the earth although they can make fun of, and try to minimize the importance of, that knowledge.

CA: Do you think we will see a future where our environments will become more artificial to survive environmental changes?

No. I, unfortunately, sense that we have passed an environmental tipping point, and that there is not much hope for survival of most life forms on the earth. That said, I think there is still so much potential for beauty and love and heroism that I feel blessed to be living on this planet.

CA: What other projects are you working on?

I am currently teaching grade 1/2/3 in a small rural school, and my work load is so intense that I have no brains left for writing when I end my work day. Writing projects are on hold, but all are fictional and all have love of the earth as their guiding principle.

Dianne Homan was born in Englewood, NJ, across the river from the bustling-est city on earth. She now lives a world, and a continent, away in a log cabin off-grid in the wilderness outside Whitehorse, Yukon. She is an arts education advocate and enjoys nothing more than incorporating art, drama, music and dance in her work as a teacher and in her imaginings as a writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and magazines, and she co-edited two volumes of Urban Coyote.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dominik Parisien

fantasy poetry, speculative fiction, myth, death

Dominik Parisien tells a tale of magic, madness and mystery.

CA: “My Child Has Winter in His Bones” has the three Ms: magic, mystery and madness. Do you think there is a fine line between true madness and magic?

For me, the poem has a great deal to do with grief, which is a powerful form of madness in many cases. That being said, in this day and age, “madness” and “magic” almost feel like two gradients on the same spectrum, in that they’re both used to qualify things we can’t properly understand, albeit one is viewed as negative and one as positive. If something feels irrational, irregular, we call it mad. If it feels joyful, overwhelmingly special, we call it magical. And what’s magical to one person can be utterly mad for another, and vice-versa.

CA: The climate has been said to play an integral part to the Canadian mindscape, though that could be said of other places as well. Here, you use a different way of personifying winter. Would you say that people often see the elements in a personal or human way?

Personalization of the elements is, of course, nothing new. The Green Man, The Winter Queen, elementals, etc. I think personifying the elements was and is an effective way to facilitate an understanding of them, to explore their significance and our relationship to/with them in various ways. The fact that such personifications occur throughout time and cultures illustrates their importance to us as human beings, both as storytelling modes and as symbolic signifiers. Applied more specifically to CanLit, I think the richness of our landscape and the radical variations in our climate do lead to effective uses of personification and pathetic fallacy, and that’s it’s more or less a natural tendency given where and how we live.

CA: While you wrote this as a poem, could the tale be told as a story or do you think you would lose the

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

feel that only poetry can give to an image?

I find there’s an immediacy to poetry, a jarring emotionality that resonates more strongly with me than with prose when I’m writing. It isn’t always the case when I’m reading someone else’s work, but when I’m writing my emotional engagement with the subject matter tends to dictate the form. So, in this case it probably couldn’t have been a story. I’d been tinkering with the idea of conveying it as a story, but I kept being drawn back to poetry.

CA: Do you use mystery and the elements in your other works? And are you surviving winter?

I think I focus more on the numinous than mystery in my work, although mystery informs that. I think it’s a mistake to believe that we can understand the world in purely empirical terms. There are things that are unexplainable. Our understanding of the world is always informed by our personal biases, our beliefs, etc., and when we’re introduced to a view that is different from ours, there’s a bit of mystery to that. A bit of magic. And there’s always mystery around us, in one form or another. I like to explore that.

And yes, the elements do play a fairly large part in my work. Another one of my poems, “Since Breaking Through the Ice.” which was reprinted in Imaginarium 2013, explored a similar subject to “My Child…” and might be called a companion piece. One of my favorite pastimes in winter is walking on frozen bodies of water. While I lived near the Ottawa River I would regularly go for walks on the frozen river. I knew the dangers–there are drownings almost every year in the area–but I was careful, and the river and the sound of the ice hold a particular sway over me. A fascination.  As for surviving winter, I’m definitely missing snowshoeing opportunities on the river now that I live in Montreal!

CA: As a poet and a fiction author, do you favor one form over the other, or do they hold equal weight for you?
I tend to favor poetry in my own writing. Recently, anyway. I do write the occasional short story, but the poetic form comes to me more naturally. I tend to think in vignettes and snippets, and I enjoy the challenge of conveying story/narrative and character in a compact way, all the while toying with language and form. I also have a background in English Literature and have a particular fondness for poetry. I value and enjoy reading fiction and poetry equally, though.
CA: What other pieces do you have in the works right now?

I’m currently working on a poetry chapbook, comprising original poems and reprints. Otherwise, I edit poetry for Postscripts to Darkness, an Ottawa-based journal of dark and uncanny fiction and poetry. I also recently edited Mike Allen’s  poetry omnibus, Hungry Constellations, which will appear in 2014 from Mythic Delirium Books.  Finally, I work on various editing projects with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, such as the recently released Time Traveller’s Almanac from Head of Zeus in the UK and Tor Books in North America.

Dominik Parisien is a Franco-Ontarian living in Montreal, Quebec. His poetry has appeared in print and online, most recently in Strange Horizons, Shock Totem, and Ideomancer, amongst others, and has been reprinted in Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing.  He is the poetry editor for Postscripts to Darkness, provides editorial support to Cheeky Frawg Books, and is a former editorial assistant for Weird Tales.

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The Luxury of Recycling

recyle, reuse, recycling, garbage, littering, environment, environmental disasters, slums

Find your own way to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle but don’t use laziness as an excuse not to. Creative Commons: timtak flickr

Long ago I took on the recycling mindset. I didn’t want to litter, and if I’m getting rid of something that’s still usable I can’t just throw it out; I have to find a place or person where it can have more purpose. Vancouver has now had curbside recycling for a number of years. Even before that I would save up items (mostly paper) and take them to the recycling depot. But then I was a book rep and would have boxes of catalogues and order forms that would get outdated.

But when I finally came to realized how much garbarge we produced, I wanted to cut down even more on what goes into the landfill so we’re not living on a giant garbage heap. In amongst all these thoughts and growing awareness, I traveled to India. India’s population wasn’t yet a billion people but it was overcrowded and impoverished. I remember coming into Calcutta and passing fields where garbage speckled the fields. The streets of Calcutta were not just filthy. They included a dead cat, feces and other items not wanted. But much was recycled. People tore up any piece of tin or cardboard or concrete sidewalk to create shanty shacks in the mediums between the roads. It was sad and startling.

The air was so thick with diesel and pollution that a handkerchief held over my nose and mouth was black in two hours. The air garbage, recycling, pollution, Asia, culture, trash, landfillremained hazy and thick. When I walked to see the Taj Mahal at dawn the sky displayed an orangey rosey glow that was mostly pollution. Not only did the Ganges have a dead cow floating along, people doing laundry, ablutions and religious observances, it also had the ashes sifting down from the burning ghats where they cremated bodies. I made sure not to touch one drop of that river water and I already had dysentery.

When I arrived in Meghalaya, one of India’s seven tribal states, and more affluent than the general Hindu culture, I found pollution that was heartbreaking. The Khasis had a sacred grove of trees outside of Shillong. One day we drove up there, and it gave a great view of the city. But everywhere I looked there were plastic bags, bottles, straws and tetra packs. Another day we went to see some sites and then sat on a hillside by a waterfall.  We ate our lunch, which was wrapped in banana leaves and then in plastic bags (there were no neat takeout containers). After we finished the other people tossed the banana leaves and then the plastic bags. I ran around gathering up the plastic and exclaiming, You can’t do that. It’s bad.

These people are educated. They go to school and university and drive jeeps but they had no idea about environmentalism. I triedto explain that not only is it visually unappealing but unlike the banana leaf, the bag will go into the ground, poison the earth, or a cow will eat it and then when you eat part of that cow (the Khasis are not Hindus, who don’t eat cows) you could get sick from the plastic. I simplified it but I tried to impress that they shouldn’t leave garbage in the natural environment. But they also had no form of recycling.

trash, garbage, pollution, India, slums, recycling, recyle, reuse, reduce, environment

In many ways India does more of the Reuse part of the three Rs than we do. But Reduce is something that all countries need to do so that there isn’t so much garbage in the beginning. From: Indianimages.com

For much of India, it would have been fairly difficult to go up to someone and say, Don’t cut down that tree or you will have no trees at all, when that tree might be the only means for them to cook food. Seeing such destitution, filth and pollution in areas made me realize that we in North America have the luxury to recycle. It’s not that easy in a third world country where survival is your first most thought. You want shelter, security and food, and little else matters after that. In fact your full day might be taken up with finding enough food for your family. Such images fill me with despair but I try to hold out hope, from my teenage years example, that things will change for the better.

This doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It can, and when the teenage Khasis boys looked at North America and coveted the standard of living and all the trappings of popular culture that we have, then it became even more of our onus to make sure people don’t repeat the mistakes. India has rampant pollution but then Canada and the US’s shores and land are not pristine. We work at it but there is always room for improvement. You cannot deprive another society or deny them to have what you have, but you can try to show them it can be done better.  Pollution and recycling isn’t just something for some people. Every person and ever nation has to do it and India’s government could at least start the ball rolling, and maybe they have. I haven’t been there in years. One thing I know is I’ll continue to try to lead by example and I have room for improvement too.

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Brushes With Poverty

Creative Commons: psd via Flickr

Because CBC recently continued its program about poverty in Canada, or those of low income, I thought I would also continue to talk about how poverty has affected me in the past. I’m also extremely busy at the time with several freelance projects so this will be in point form.

There are single parents, single people and even couples with children who struggle to survive and keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. I’ve never been dirt poor but I have often lived one paycheck away from being on the street. That’s scary enough, and with the rising costs of everything from rent to gas, the future is a place of scary possibilities of which I hope I won’t have to visit.

  • As a child I never had a bike. I’m not sure if it was for some other reason or that around the time I would have got one my parents divorced. All of my other siblings had one. So I can barely ride one to this day.
  • With the divorce, my vindictive father cut my mother off from all medical, which meant the kids as well. I should have had braces and now have a few resultant and expensive problems because of it.
  • When  there were field trips or trips for skiing in school, I and only a few others could never go nor afford to learn how to ski. It helped make us outcasts.
  • While my friends had cars (albeit used ones) that their parents had bought them, I eventually bought a very used one from my friend’s parents for art college.
  • I put myself through college as there were no savings that my single parent mom could give.
  • I paid off a rather small student loan over an exceedingly long time because I ended up on unemployment and welfare in the first recession.
  • Welfare was a demeaning situation and I only survived because I shared a house with three other people.
  • Food banks are not nutritionally balanced. You are lucky to get any vegetables, which would be limp at the best of times. At one point all of us in the house were on welfare because there were no jobs (50 applications a month).
  • The most income tax I ever paid was when I was on welfare. The second most I ever paid was when I was on unemployment, which coincidentally is taxed, as if you’re getting a huge income.
  • I stopped buying food so I could pay my income tax while on welfare.
  • I worked under the table, as a means to make enough to survive upon because welfare wanted to deduct everything from what they gave, which does not encourage people to even work a few hours or more and get established.
  • As I wrote about before, I was expected to turn in my $3,000 RRSPs before getting $300 from welfare, so that in the end I could tax the system more when I was elderly.
  • I seriously had to consider prostitution to make ends meet, which no one should have to do. Of course, stealing things could be an option as well.
  • I have lived in pain for months on end because I could not afford the extended healthcare to get the problem looked at.
  • I have lived with broken teeth and cavities because I could not afford dentistry.
  • I have watched friends go on vacations while I had a staycation.
  • I have literally, sold my secondhand goods on a street corner so that I could go to India, borrowing money from a friend for a flight and paying her back over a year. That’s ingenuity and not everyone can travel but it meant scrimping because of low wages.

I mention this last because while I have been poor I have always managed, sometimes just. I have not yet had to live on the streets, or forego eating for long, or go cold. Many people in India live in dire destitution, as do some people here. But I mention these things because I have experienced aspects of poverty and doing without. I’m doing okay now but the realities of such a future are so close it takes my breath away with fear at times. And don’t think I’m not trying to find ways to cushion the future. I work more than one job. I make my own lunch, I save frugally so I can have some nice things, and as my brother once said, I could get money from a stone. I’ve learned ways to conserve and use everything. If I cook a chicken I always make chicken stock. If I buy lipstick, I use a brush to get to the last of the tube. I don’t change my clothes with every season’s fashion picks. There are ways to survive but still, there are those who do not have those ways.

Everyone should probably experience poverty (and third world countries) so they come to appreciate and understand the freedoms they do have. But being impoverished wears the soul down and there are too many people worrying themselves into stress-related illnesses because they’re not sure how they’re going to make ends meet. Every civilization falls and if we’re not careful, ours could just be around the corner.

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What’s Good About the Dutch?

Dutch houses, canals, gables, history

The top of the house shape is called a gable and this hook is used to bring items in.

I’m on day 5-8 of my European adventure and I’ve learned far more about Dutch history than I ever knew before. Granted, there are still gaping holes, but I know a few things about art and history now.

My education started before I arrived with reading the guide books, probably written a few years before.  They were the Eyewitness guide to Amsterdam and the Lonely Planet guide to the Netherlands. I’ll review these books side by side later. However as I read through and forgot information the one thing that struck me was, “How could I have forgotten about the Dutch masters?” I didn’t really.

I mean, the local gallery had a show the year before (with more impressive silver work and glassware than I’ve seen yet in any of the galleries). Yet my front lobes seemed to backfire and I kinda forgot. So what is Holland known for historically? Surprisingly little of it is military. Let’s say that the great deeds of men killing each other do live on somewhat but it is the painter and writers, composers and jewellers and architects whose great works we go to see.

Holland was a great naval nation and that’s only natural when you battled back the sea to claim land and most of the country is below sea level. Flying over Holland the great canals and swathes of very flat land were visible. I never realized exactly how pervasive the canals are and even before I landed I knew the Dutch would be superior at dealing with anything to do with land and water. They’re perfect hydraulic engineers because they’ve been doing it for over 500 years.

This also gave rise to the tall narrow houses in various cities and especially Amsterdam. They were once taxed by the width of the house so people built up instead of out. Stairs are extremely steep and narrow, which means you can’t get furniture in through the door. All the old houses have a hook at the top of the house where a rope can be put through and then items that are too wide can be pulleyed up the floors. Which means, when you look at Amsterdam streets, that all the houses all tilt out and look crooked. They’re done this way on purpose so that heavy objects don’t bang into walls and break windows.

The Dutch were huge sea traders and had a huge part in bringing tobacco,

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Dutch canals are in every city. This is Delft.

chocolate and spices to Europe, not to mention being great silver smiths, painters and farmers. They’re a pretty helpful bunch and they really love their beer. Oh and there are those chocolate spreads and sprinkles to put on your toast in the morning.

They also love meet and I’ve never seen so many Argentinian restaurants as in Amsterdam. Meat, steak, meat. And beer. Wine is at a minimum and cider can be found but it takes hunting.

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Treasures in the Park: Geo Caches

Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver, Geocaching, parks, sun, ocean

Lighthouse Park

On Saturday I spent a great day at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver with a bunch of friends. It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, hot and perfect. We hung out near the water on the rocks, talking, playing drums and didgeridoos and wandering down a few trails.

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The Geocache

We’d been there quite a few hours, taking a breaking from the sun under a couple of trees when one of my friends said, “There’s a box here, hidden under some bark and leaves.

We looked and sure enough there was this scruffy dark green box. Speculation arose. Why would a person hide a box? And fear as to what might be in it. Being curious, I moved more of the bark and found that it said Geocache. That rang a few bells and we pulled it out.

geocaching, Lighthouse Park, treasures, hide and seekGeocaching is a game where people hid boxes of stuff in different locales all over the word and then with the help of a GPS, or GPS enabled phone one can track them down. You log your find in a log book, add something to the cache and maybe take something to deliver to another cache. Then there is the whole geocaching site where you list what you found.

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Daisy Duck looks out over the Strait of Georgia

Although we did have a couple of GPS phones, we’re not actually playing the game, nor registered. We pulled all of the trinkets out of the rather full box and looked at them all. I guess, as the game goes, we could have taken something. However, we logged our discovery, noticed that there was Daisy Duck, a special geocaching item in which you needed to log her journeys. Since she took extra responsibility we left her for those more involved in Geocaching but we did take a picture of her close to water as requested. She got to look out over the Strait of Georgia, which leads to the Pacific Ocean.

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The full cache spread out

We didn’t take anything from the geocache and did add a little purple glass bead I found in my pocket, adding to the treasures for explorers to come. One of

the interesting (read: scary) items in the cache was a trading card called “American Terrorist” with highly hyperbolic information on the infamous Charles Manson. And to think this was put out by the Piedmont Candy Co. Eat the candy,  kids, but don’t talk to murderers.

After we returned the geocache to its hiding place for other intrepid adventures, we continued our own exploration.

Lighthouse Park, parks, Strait of Georgia

The rocky shores of Lighthouse Park

Mine included taking many photos so It added a bit of unexpected adventure to the day, finding the cache and I can certainly see the fun of finding hidden treasures. I’ll end this with a few more pictures of the geocache, and the beauty of the day that we were lucky enough to have.

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Low tide at Lighthouse Park

 

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The Coddled Society

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Creative Commons: Los Angeles CB Grant

Hundreds of years ago a child was only a child for so long. When they got big enough to walk and carry, that’s what they did. When they got big enough to hold a sword, they learned how to use one. When they could ride a horse, shear a sheep, seed the ground or chop food, they did. There was no waiting until you were of driving age, drinking age, voting age. There was no waiting, sitting and playing while mom and dad prepared things for you. Childhood probably lasted until about the age of five and then you were put to work. Even if you were noble, you were learning the ways of society and ruling at an early age.

Anyone who’s lived on a farm knows this lifestyle. Farm kids don’t sit and watch TV before or after school. They feed chickens, milk cows, bale hay, muck out pens and do a myriad of chores to keep the farm running. Third world countries have higher populations and larger families because, in their poverty, the more hands that can work then the more money and food they can bring in, even if there are more mouths to feed. I don’t just say this. Studies show that populations slow and stabilize the more a country moves towards a good economy.

As a child I learned to cook and bake by the time I was eight,with my mother guiding. I helped stir bowls of batter, added eggs and made hamburger patties, basted turkeys. I was cooking on my own by the age of ten. I had to pick up after myself, vacuum, wash dishes, polish and dust. My siblings of both genders had to do the same. We walked to school, a good mile distant, from grades 1-12. We walked in sun, and in rain, in hail and in snow. I remember the big snowsuit in grade one and so much snow that I was late every day for a week. But I walked, by myself.

My mother told us to go outside and play. If we said we were bored you can bet she’d give us chores. Sure we had to check in or tell her where we were going and I remember getting in hot water because I went off and played in the alley with my sister and her friend at the age of four, and didn’t tell my mother. But I did it, without constant adult supervision.

My hand wasn’t held as I slid down the slide, I wasn’t told I was too young to bake. We learned and we grew self-sufficient. I could cook and drive when I moved out on my own and in with my boyfriend. And so could he. I’ve met men (more than women) who couldn’t cook because mommy had done everything for their sons or only children. I’ve met people who couldn’t iron and lived in pigsties because they were never taught to clean up. And I meet people who think children have to be protected 24/7.

Many threats to children haven’t increased over the years, but media coverage of kidnappings and perverts have. I drive by a school where the parents are lined up to drop off their children. I’ve read about a school that was going to raze a low hill because the children might fall down it. I’ve read and seen playground slides lowered, guards put up, safety nets added so that children can’t bump or scrape or get a few of life’s bruises.

And what do studies show, out of Norway and the US? That people who are coddled so much grow up with more anxieties, are less likely to take any risks and find all of the world a big scary place. In essence, they become victims of parenting. Never has there been an age where children were padded, wrapped, helmeted, swaddled and overly protected from the daily aspects of living. Sure, don’t leave toxic chemicals in the reach of a baby but teach your children how to be cautious yet adventuresome, and how to apply thought and learning. We never would have hit the age of exploration if all those searfaring adventurers had been raised as coddled children. Let your children live a little.

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