Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

Ten years ago today I had just started my work day at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, where if I remember correctly, my job consisted mainly of eight hours a day of data entry for a graduate program audit (my, how some things have changed). 

At around 8:50, when my friend Steve walked over to tell me "Two planes have just hit the World Trade Center and half of the States are under attack," I thought he was kidding - it just sounded so implausible, but he assured me it was true. I remember the tingle of fear and anxiety that washed over me. In the minutes immediately after the planes hit, so much of what we were going on was speculation, because most news sites had been shut down due to the overwhelming volume of traffic of folks trying to get information.

Not long after, someone  wheeled a TV into the lounge, and staff and faculty sat watching the screen, many of us with tears in our eyes, not believing what we were seeing. It felt like our whole world was under attack and beyond the sadness of the day, there was just so much fear and anxiety about the situation. 

In that faculty where so many of us were there because we wanted to help change the world, we were of course deeply saddened by the needless and tragic losses of lives. However, we hoped this event would be a catalyst for change on a global level, and allow us to examine the root causes of what had possessed the attackers to launch this assault on our continent. 

Ten years later, so much of the stories we are hearing is about remembering those who were lost and celebrating the heroes who came to the rescue at Ground Zero. But I haven't seen anything in the coverage discussing the root causes of why these events happened. The individuals who were responsible for this tragedy wished to cause a sensation to shake us up and send us a message.

But I'm not sure if we're any farther ahead today than where we were 10 years ago in addressing what happened on that tragic day and in understanding their message...

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sunday Scribblings: Hitched (Or, Tilting at blue skies)

Dear Mom,

Do you remember the flowers you bought me for $1.99, that time you came 
to keep me company after my operation? 
They were so anemic-looking then.
Dried up and weedy, and not a bud in sight.

It was difficult to imagine they'd one day turn beautiful,
but you told me they'd come back, so I believed you.

We planted them in rows, watered them, then had tea on the balcony,
listening to wind in the leaves.

Now, they've hitched themselves to the sun.
Delicate petals of yellow and purple,
tilting at blue skies and fluffy clouds.

I see them and think of you,
even though we are provinces apart.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Scribblings: The gift

The morning had passed in a blur of bright lights on the TV screen: talk shows, reality shows and canned laughter tracks. Pleasant, numbness distraction, only inches away from the comfort of her bed. All she needed to do was reach out her fingers and change the channel if the numbness got too - mind-numbing.

It was all so effortless.

Until the young girl with the frizzy blond hair interrupted.

"Do you think you might want to try sitting up?" the girl asked innocently.

It seemed like an easy enough task.

Slowly, the athlete rolled onto her side. With every muscle straining, she pushed herself onto her elbow. Then, using every ounce of strength, she pulled herself to sitting.

Focused on breathing deeply and slowly, then placed one foot, then the other into the waiting pink slippers.

"Maybe you want to try walking over to the chair?"

Once again, it seemed like an easy enough task.

Inhaling, she drew together every last ounce of strength, then pushed herself to standing. Shuffled one foot, then the other forward. Her slippers making shushing sounds on the floor; whispered secrets on cracked white linoleum.

Just a few more steps, and she was at the chair -- utilitarian, grey pleather, with hard wooden armrests worn with the palms of others who had rested there before her.

The young woman watched her silently.

Reaching back, she placed her hands on the armrails and winced, lowering into the chair.

It was at that point that the room began to spin. Sparkling lights flashed behind her eyes, and she broke into a cold sweat.

The young woman brought a cold towel from the bathroom, as she closed her eyes and willed the world to stop on its axis.

Five steps from the bed to the chair -- only moments ago, it had seemed so easy. Only weeks ago, she'd run a marathon.

Now, here she sat, having barely been able to walk from bed to chair without passing out.

Suddenly, the new weakness in her body scared her so much, she started to panic.

Placed the cold towel around the back of her neck.

Inhaled, exhaled.

Until the world stopped spinning.

She opened her eyes, and looked at the nurse.

"I'm feeling better now," she reassured.

It would take a few more hours before she'd be able to walk from chair to bed, then bathroom, without feeling like passing out.

Two days after her myomectomy, she is released.

Now, the athlete can't wait until she can run again. With each day,  she looks forward to the moment she can run around the block without pain. Step by step, she feels herself getting stronger.

And she cherishes the gift that good health is; looking forward to the day that she can move from walking to running again.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

My balcony garden project

While our backyard is under construction (an ambitious five-year plan that we as new homeowners attacked enthusiastically and now realize is much more complicated than we'd anticipated), I've decided to spend some time prettying up the balcony ajdoining our kitchen this year. It's extended our outdoor usable space, and become a place for us to observe birds up close - juncos, goldfinches, a curious chickadee and greedy doves now visit our balcony on a daily basis.

With a few easy steps, a barren balcony becomes a pleasing outdoor space.

Here's how I did it (bear in mind, it's a work in progress):

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday Scribblings: The next step

When the gun explodes, her heart flutters in nervous anticipation.

This is the day she has been looking forward to for months. She's trained for this moment and she feels ready. She is proud of herself. As she crosses the line with just over 100 other men and women of all ages, tears of happiness and nervousness forming in the corner of her eyes. She lets out a cheer with others around her, then focuses on the task at hand.

Lady Gaga is singing on her iPod, and she has stored a few hours' worth of songs to accompany her on this journey.

As they file down Main Street, the sun poking between highrises, she wills herself to relax and not start out too strong. Glancing down at her watch, she sees she has started out too fast, so she backs off. The leader she had hoped to follow isn't around, so she simply settles into a comfortable rhythm and tries to be in the moment, not thinking about the next few hours or when she will finish.

They head off the roads and onto the trails, eventually turning into the gravel paths through the marshes. The ground crunches under her shoes as they hit it in a steady rhythm.

Within a few kilometres, she begins to worry that something is not quite right.

Her left achille's tendon has starten to tighten up. Now, her left foot has started to fall asleep. It feels like pins and needles poking through her foot. As though she's running on a stump. Although her foot is asleep, it's strangely painful.

Worry and anxiety begin to gnaw at her mind. She begins to slow down, and more and more of the group begins to pass her by. The confidence and strength she felt only half an hour ago begin to fade away.

Something is wrong.

Should she stop?

Just keep going to the next station. If it's still bad, she can stop there.

Meanwhile, although the sun is rising, she worries that she may not have dressed warmly enough. Her hands are chilled, and her arms. But she tells herself to trust in her preparations. It will get warmer, soon. She hopes.

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. 

Despite the crowds who have gathered on the boardwalk to cheer them on, she feels trapped inside her own mental struggle.

She wants to quit.

The wind rustles through dry cattails beside the path.

Why is she doing this?  

As she passes the halfway mark, suddenly she remembers a Chinese proverb one of her friends had sent her before she set out:

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a  time, but we must keep on stepping.”

It's then, at the moment where she could have given up and walked back to the start line, that she looks down at the gravel path, takes a deep breath, and takes the next step.

Two and a half hours later, she finishes her first marathon, exhausted and drained. Her husband holds her in his arms, telling her how proud he is.

It will take months for her to come to terms with the fact that she did not meet her initial goals, and to realize that the biggest achievement was in putting her head down and putting one foot in front of the other, when all she wanted to do was quit.

Eventually, she feels pride again for the perseverance that made her take that next step.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Perfect peach pie & sunshine on a balcony

I'll never forget that afternoon
road trip with mom and dad through Niagara on the Lake

sudden discovery of a café
tucked into the front room of quaint clapboard house

I normally choose cake
but that day a slice of peach pie
a pot of tea
sounds lovely

on the wraparound porch, wrought iron tables & chairs
breeze flutters gently
sun warm on arms
bumble bees buzz from flower to flower
legs heavy with pollen
dozy kind of afternoon

fork slicing through pastry
crumbling just right
sweet Ontario peaches
mouthful of golden sunshine
syrupy ooze on porcelain plates

I'll never forget that afternoon

now, ever questing
for the perfect peach pie

~ Ceebie