Sunrise, Sunset….Swiftly go the Years

1012262_10153741588640015_1124730333_nThe power of a sunrise can be life changing. It can set the tone for my whole day.

I live in an area where we only get sunrises and sunsets part of the year…the Land of the Midnight Sun, and I try each day to make sure I watch one or the other and give thanks…just to be alive, but also for the beauty of each one.

My husband laughs and says,”… oh look…just like yesterday’s!”  He doesn’t see the subtle differences each dawn or dusk brings. It doesn’t mean to him what it means to me.

I think the only person that has ever truly related to what I see…and feel… with the power of a sunrise is my eldest grandson Daniel.

When my son and his family lived in Melbourne (AU), my husband and I were visiting and had met our then year old granddaughter Claire for the very first time.

In the morning,  Daniel, then three, would wake up each morning and lie in bed and sing. It was a wonderful way to wake up as our bedroom was next to his. Then, each morning I’d hear his little voice saying “Excuse me Gramma”….it would start in a whisper, and get progressive louder in a pleasant sing song way, never a yell. It made me smile because that was our bonding time. Daniel was a morning person like me.

One morning, the “Excuse me Gramma” call began earlier than usual…and in earnest. I sat up immediately, looked at the clock and jumped out of bed. It was just after 5:15am….Yikes! I didn’t want him to wake anyone else…and something might be wrong…the tone of his small voice told me this was urgent.

Quickly I opened the adjoining door and slipped quietly into his room.

There he was, kneeling on the bed, his little head hidden under the black out blind on the window. I knelt beside him and said “Daniel it’s very early…what’s wrong?”

“Gramma, quick look!” he said pointing to the far corner of the house that was just barely within sight.

“What sweetheart? I don’t see anything.” I said.

“There Gramma, in the sky….it’s almost gone. Can you see it?” “It was beautiful. There was purple and pink and blue. See? There. Where that yellow bit is.” he said, amazement and disappointment both coming through in his voice. “It’s gone” he said softly and turned to look at me.

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I will never, ever forget the look on that child’s face. It was filled with wonder and awe, as though he had seen something truly magnificent…something so wonderful as to defy description.

I hugged him tight. “You missed it Gramma.” He said in a small sad voice. “It was beautiful” he whispered. “I don’t know what it was.”

Oh my heart! I thought it would burst at that very moment! “I didn’t see it Daniel but I think I know what it was” I said. “It was a sunrise.”

” What’s a sunrise?”, he asked.

“It’s a promise Daniel” I said, looking into the face of this wonderful, curious, brilliant child.

“The same as you go to bed when it gets dark, so does the sun, and in the morning, the same as you wake up, so does the sun. Just like when you rise from your bed, the sun rises too. Those colours that you saw in the sky is the sun stretching it’s arms and smiling at the world after a good night’s sleep”.

“Does everyone get to see the sunrise?” he asked.

“No Daniel, not everyone is as lucky as you. Some people go their whole lives and never see a sunrise. You are a very fortunate little boy.”

That day, I told his parents and his grandfather what had happened….everyone thought it cute, but to me it was more than that. I asked his parents for permission to keep him up an hour or so past his bedtime that night. There was something I wanted to share with him.

Just when he was about to get ready for bed that evening, I told him to wait. He and I were going for a walk. He was excited and asked why, but I just told him I wanted to show him something special. About 20 minutes after his normal bedtime, I took his hand and we started walking away from his house toward the west. After about four blocks, I stopped at a bench and hoisted him onto my back.

Look at that Daniel I said a few minutes later as we cleared the cluttered skyline filled with houses …it was dusk. The sun was beginning it’s descent and didn’t disappoint.

“Daniel,” I said….”this is a sunset. This is what I wanted you to see”. We weren’t disappointed. The colours were spectacular.

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As we walked home, hand in hand, in the early darkness of the evening, I thought to myself…I hope you remember this day Daniel, for I shall never forget it.

 

Who cares?

There is something fundamentally wrong in this country. We used to be, not that long ago, a nation that believed in ourselves, in our future, in the promise of the next generation. What we are becoming…or some would argue, have become,  frightens me, angers me, and saddens me greatly. This Canada has degenerated into a country of indifference and to my ears the silence is deafening.

What began slowly as a gentle wave lapping on the shore of our consciousness, has become a tsunami of apathy.

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Government sticking it to the same people that put them there; our food less and less like food, and more and more like something a compound chemist might concoct.

Paying half of what you make to taxes, then seeing programs, services and infrastructure fall away, apart or removed, and wondering what the hell your hard earned money is being spent on?

Questioning if we really get anything for our property tax dollars?

Asking why our health care is falling apart when it used to be the envy of the world. Pills for everything you have, think you have, or may get one day, pushed on you because the doctors are so overworked, that a fifteen minute appointment can’t begin to provide any information and follow-up that might actually benefit you, or the overburdened system by prevention.

Shaking our heads at the price of an education, whether a plumber, a doctor or an engineer.

Sticker shock at the cost of things, including feeding our families and keeping a roof over our heads.

Embarrassment because our children won’t be able to play minor hockey this year because it has become a sport only the affluent can afford.

Our national parks, once treasured, are now being opened up to mining developments.

Our waterways, environmentally and navigationally protected by legislation since John A MacDonald, and enhanced under Brian Mulroney, have now been opened up for development, unless named in Schedule 2 of Bill C-45, recently brought into effect by the Harper government.

There are only 62 rivers and 92 lakes in the whole country on that schedule that are deemed exempt. This means more than 99.9% of all rivers and 99.7% of all of Canada’s lakes will be unprotected.Where I live, in the Northwest Territories, only three bodies of water are mentioned: The Great Slave Lake, Great Bear Lake, and the MacKenzie River. Even heritage rivers such as the Margaree in Nova Scotia, the Thelon in Nunavut, and the South Nahanni here in the Northwest Territories are now open season for developers.

THIS is Canada? It sure as hell doesn’t look like it from where I sit.

Who do I blame for the destruction, bit by bit, of all I hold dear about my country? Stephen Harper? Certainly! Jean Chretien? Absolutely! And the list goes on, and on. But more than the politicians, I hold responsible the people of Canada.

In the last federal election, voter turnout was just over 61%. Pathetic. In fact, since the decade between 1958 and 1968, when voter turnout was at nearly 80%, each year, with the single exception of a small increase in 2010 of 2-3%,  there has seen a steady decline in voter participation in federal elections.

There is a disease in this country called APATHY.  It is the biggest destroyer of dreams, ambition, empathy and fairness.

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Men and women DIED for us to have the right to a democratic society where we are able to vote without fear of retribution, intimidation, and yes, even death. Would that the rest of the world be so fortunate to have that luxury!

I get so pissed off with young people who can’t be bothered to get off of their asses to vote. They have never known what sacrifices were made on their behalf so that they could vote.

I get angrier still at people of my own generation, the baby boomers who know what it took to keep this country free, and yet still can’t be bothered to vote. They come up with every damned excuse in the book. “No one worth voting for”. “They’re all the same” “My vote won’t make a difference”. God damn it! That sorry ass attitude is destroying this country. Not only is it your right to cast your ballot, it is your damn duty for the price paid!

Have we forgotten that women in this country have only held the right to vote since 1918? And what of women in Quebec who didn’t receive full suffrage until 1940? And Aboriginal women in 1960? We cannot afford to have such short memories.

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Many countries have mandatory, or compulsory voting. It’s not necessarily a bad thing and as many proponents will argue, democracy is too important for voting to be optional. The case against apathy.

Dissenters will argue that compulsory voting is  a contradiction in terms. There are economic arguments on both sides: compulsory voting saves money in campaigns, because parties otherwise splurge vast amounts on “getting out the vote”. On the other hand, enforcing the law clogs up courts and keeps bureaucrats busy, at substantial cost. They will also argue that mandatory self determination can result in favouritism or support of more left leaning parties. History has shown this not to be necessary true.

Proponents will tell you that compulsory voting is the guarantee of democracy…not it’s opposite.

There are certainly ways we can make casting your ballot easier in Canada. Do elections really need to be held on weekdays? Why aren’t we doing more to work toward secure online and telephone voting? Mail in ballots?  Could it be that the party in power senses that making voting more accessible may be detrimental to their success?

Whatever side you take on this issue, we all have to play a roll in ensuring that democracy in Canada is not replaced by apathy…or worse. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for our neighbour to change things.

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We will only change things by engaging. It is not politicians that will destroy this country. It is the apathy of our citizens. And while I may not agree with who you cast your ballot for, I will forever defend your right to choose. It is that very right that apathy may one day take away, for an X not cast, is indeed an X for the party you least want in power.

The Reverend Mr Black Came Calling…and Brought a Guest

father-dad-quotes-sayings-life-quote-pictures-picsAs some of you know, I choose a single word to help guide me this year. That word is LISTEN. For me that means being present, listening to the unspoken, paying attention to signs, opening my heart, as well as my mind to receiving messages that I may have missed before.

Around 6pm last evening, just as my sweetheart got home from work, I was in the kitchen starting dinner and listening to Jukebox Oldies on Galaxy…something I often do during the day.

The song that came on was “Honeycomb” by Jimmie Rodgers. “Anytime I hear that song, I think of Dad” I said to Ron. He said “I know, you tell me that every time you hear it!” We laughed and started singing along as I made the salad.

Immediately after the song finished, another began to play.  “The Reverend Mr Black” by the Kingston Trio.  I sat down the spices I’d been sprinkling on the fish.

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I turned to look at Ron, now sitting comfortably in his chair, and he was looking at me. I started smiling like a Cheshire cat…”Hello Daddy” I said. Ron smiled, and said, “I wondered if you were listening”. Oh yes! I was listening. Ron has heard me sing along to that song since we met…one of Dad’s favourite country gospel tunes.

I want to say I couldn’t believe it…but I could. I did.

All evening I smiled, singing the two songs over and over in my mind looking for the message….searching, straining to understand. What was I supposed to hear?

It could be that Honeycomb was to get my attention…to see if I really was listening.

It could be that the words from the Reverend Mr Black, You got to walk that lonesome valley. You got to walk it by yourself. Oh nobody else can walk it for you. You got to walk it by yourself.” were the message.

Or it could be that he just wanted me to know he was around, watching over me as I struggle to make sense of certain things.

After my husband went to bed, I sat up for awhile reading with the TV on, but not really watching or listening to what was on. Background noise.

Suddenly my head snapped up from my book. WHAT? I had been listening, I just didn’t realize it. Some woman had just given birth and the date of the blessed arrival? June 2nd…my Dad’s birthday. 

Okay, NOW he had my attention. I glanced at the clock 11:52pm. “Dad, what are you trying to tell me?” I asked aloud. No answer. Of course not. The man had been dead 38 years.

Soon after,  I went to bed…still smiling, but quizzical. I immediately fell sound asleep and woke at 8:22am today, late for me…but I awoke full of clarity and feeling happy and validated.

I didn’t dream…that I recall, but I am certain I know the reason for my Dad’s visit.

I have been feeling a little alone lately. As I write some of my blog posts, I struggle with how much to write about certain things. It needs to be enough to help me heal, but not so much as to do others harm. I need to be honest about certain things that have happened in my life and I often write from a place of deep pain, but working through it is, I know, the only way I can let it go and move on. I am slowly finding joy again and feeling cleansed….a sort of rebirth.

And so, I think that was the reason that my Dad had me listen….the three signs were to show me he understands, that he is okay with what I’m doing. He knows that as I write I struggle with balance.

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He’s telling me it’s my journey, it doesn’t belong to others. He’s assuring me I am not  being mean spirited or selfish in my pursuit to rid myself of the demons I carry. He’s letting me know that he ‘has my back’.

Thanks for the visit Dad. I’m listening.