Let’s make 2022 a thinking-outside-the-box year

A new year, but same old pandemic. We get our booster shot and continue to make the best of things, because that’s how we weather tough times.

This past Christmas, we actually got to have family over in small bundles — which meant days of cleaning up so many dust bunnies in surprising corners, multiple trips to the grocery store, and laying out a timetable for the entire final two weeks of December. It was all worth it, though, to be able to share some holiday time with the special people in our life.

The theme around our house was warmth and relaxation. Menus were unfussy, curling up on our living room furniture under lap blankets was completely allowed, an eclectic mix of holiday music played softly in the background.

Our nieces and nephews wanted to turn last year’s Christmas picnic into an annual tradition, so once again we took our hot air fryer to a nice spot in the vicinity to heat up a pot of Honey Mustard Sausages. We lit a fire in one of the barbecue stands that stay there all year (photo above), laid out all the food on a picnic table, and went back and forth between the food and the toasty warmth of the blazing wood. Apart from the sheer fun of doing something outdoors, one of the things that makes this occasion really special is the opportunity to just shoot the breeze among the six of us — something that doesn’t happen at big family gatherings. The picnic only lasts a couple of hours; once the sun starts to set the temperature drops dramatically. But it’s quality time that can’t be replicated in any other setting.

So, as we soldier on through more months of pandemic drama, find ways to create that kind of atmosphere — the kind that gives you a warm glow inside. Be mindful when you go out and about. Pay attention to other people around you; we’re all in the same boat and making life more pleasant all around will go a long way to helping each other get through these times. Turn grumpiness into kindness; it’s the best cure I know.

If you’re having trouble finding your inner kind person, I’d like to share with you two offerings by the organization Action for Happiness:

  1. Their Happier January calendar, with daily suggestions for small ways to feel better
  2. A special webinar, Wellbeing Skills – with Prof. Richard Davidson, on January 12th. It’s free and may give you some good ideas on how to manage your emotions these days.

And don’t forget to be kind to yourself while you’re at it. Nobody loves what’s going on, but we will get through it, just as generations before us have done.

Fascinating factoids

Apologies for the late post. I’m laid up with a nasty migraine from something I bought at a new bakery yesterday — what the triggering ingredient was is yet to be determined. So in lieu of my regular post, I’m offering a link to some information recently released by “Visual Capitalist, a data-driven media site focused on making the world’s information more accessible“.

If you’ve ever wondered about our place on Earth among the staggering 8.7 million species that make up our planet, or even if you haven’t, the graphic in the article by Nautilus magazine, All the Biomass on Earth, will blow your mind. Humans comprise only a tiny portion, which will be an eye-opener to anyone who thinks we own the planet 😉 Hope you enjoy the quick read, and see you next week, hopefully in better shape.

Carrying the torch

Maple leaves in autumn, by E. Jurus, all rights reserved

Today was Remembrance Day in Canada. Officially it commemorates the ending of hostilities in World War One, also called the Great War. Very few people from that time period are still alive today, and the impact of that event on the world is fading. We have to read a history of it to comprehend how terrible it was — over 8 million soldier deaths, and up to 100 million associated deaths, including the infamous ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic in 1918 that originated in an American military facility. It spread around the world quickly through troop movements and public events like the Liberty Loans Parade held in Philadelphia to promote war bonds (an outbreak from that event killed 12,000 people alone). As bad as our current pandemic is today, I don’t think we can in any way understand what the world went through during that time.

For a lot of Baby Boomers, World War Two has more presence in our consciousness. My mom was a nurse in Europe during the war, and some of her stories of holding her post in a surgical theatre while bombs were falling are hair-raising. Even though both my parents survived the war, it’s impact never left them, whether via deep emotional scars or medical fallout from food rationing and years of stress. My dad never talked about the war much; his outlet was to write novels about it, which I suspect weren’t entirely fictional, but I imagine it was easier to write as if it all happened to someone else.

And of course there have been veterans of many more conflicts, localized but just as terrible to go through. I have a friend who served as a Peacekeeper for a time; what little he’s told me about it sounds traumatic in a way that those of us back home will hopefully never experience.

The poem written by Dr. John McCrae after a friend of his was killed in the trenches in Belgium during the spring of 1915, less than a year into WWI, has become an icon of that first global battle. In Flanders Fields is deeply moving, as the dead who sacrificed everything to preserve freedom ask us to carry the torch they’ve passed through generation after generation.

Today we’re engaged in our own global battle, even if it hasn’t been given a name. We live in a world of amazing technological and medical advancements, but we’re still fighting greed, selfishness and prejudice — governments and corporations that are destroying the environment for profit, people who put their own desires over the greater need to prevent COVID from causing many more deaths, and people who treat badly anyone different from themselves.

So we carry the torch, continuing the fight against fear, ignorance and oppression a century later. We can’t let our lives be defined by fear, whether it’s of a viewpoint or way of life that’s different from ours, or of an incredible medical advancement that’s allowed hundreds of thousands of people to get vaccinated against the most devastating disease of the 21st century to date, or of doing the right thing, even when it’s challenging. Take up the torch, each of you, and let’s continue the fight to make the world a better place. Together, we can do it.

Lest we forget!

The rich heritage of our Indigenous citizens

In Indigenous culture, staghorn sumac has been used for a number of medicinal remedies, dyes and tobacco blends

In Canada today, September 30th, is now officially the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It was chosen to coincide with an earlier commemorative day begun in 2013, Orange Shirt Day. It’s a step towards our country’s acknowledgement and reparation for of the awful legacy of our Residential Schools.

I began learning about the Residential School system through presentations by the Indigenous counselor at the college I was working at. As time has passed, more and more information has come out, including the grim discovery of the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children who disappeared through those schools, after the kind of suffering that makes its way into horror movies.

It saddens me that so many lives were damaged by that reprehensible period in our history, but also that the rich culture of our Indigenous people has been rejected, a way of life that is close to nature and could teach us a lot about respect for the world around us. I was introduced to a little of it at the seminars.

One thing I particularly remember is a lovely daily ritual of gratitude to the Earth and its creatures. I found this document online which sounds like what I experienced, if you’re interested in finding out more (Source: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian).

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) has released a Indigenous Culinary Directory of places in Canada offering Indigenous culinary experiences. As the directory states, “We want to make it easy for the world to find and fall in love with our Indigenous culinary community.” Scrolling through the PDF, I can say that the food looks amazing, and I’m only sorry that the seven locations in Ontario aren’t anywhere close to us, but hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to try one out some time.

You can learn much more about Indigenous history and culture on the Government of Canada’s website dedicated to today’s event.

I wore an orange top on my hike today in honour of the event, and I saw a smattering of others doing the same; in future years I hope the practice will have much wider support.

What do rising global temperatures mean for all of us?

When I was growing up, fathers made skating rinks for their kids every winter. Once the snow began falling my dad would make the wall for the rink, and then I tried to be patient while he decided when it was cold enough to flood the space and let it freeze. New ice skates were common gifts under family Christmas trees.

There was always enough snow to make snowmen and snow forts, and ‘snow days’ were regular occurrences. By the time I was married just ten to fifteen years later, my hubby and I bought cross-country skis to enjoy winter more instead of grumbling about it, but we rarely got enough snow to use them.

Within the past thirty years, according to the World Wildlife Fund, “the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by a stunning 95%.” Within less than one lifetime, my hubby and I have noticed a significant change in our local weather, and we live in a very temperate zone. Changes in other parts of the world have been much more dramatic.

WWF predicts that by 2040 there might be no ice in the Arctic. That’s a horrifying thought – our majestic polar bears would then literally have no place to survive. Here in Canada we’ve already been experiencing dramatic shifts in temperature, from frigid polar vortices in winter to heat waves in the summer, which this year have led to catastrophic fires in parts of the country.

I’ve been extremely worried ever since the Greenland Ice Sheet began seriously melting several years ago. According to WWF, “if it melts entirely, global sea levels could rise 20 feet.”

Read more at “Six ways loss of Arctic ice impacts everyone”.

August’s stunning report by the IPCC told us that over the next 20 years the temperature of our globe is expected to increase by at least 1.5°C. That may not sound like a lot, and like you I wondered why that amount is so significant, so I did some research.

That increase in global temperature would result in extreme hot days “in the mid-latitudes” (which includes most of North America and Europe above the equator, and below it most of Australia and about the bottom third of South America), becoming 3°C hotter (5.4°F) than pre-industrial levels.

There will be more droughts and heatwaves; hurricanes will become stronger; there will be more wildfires, more insect invasions, more disease, less food. If you want to watch a truly frightening film about what our future could be like if we don’t start making changes, watch Interstellar (2014).

So what can be done? Following the KAIROS climate action calendar, I looked at Day 10, which says to “learn to laser talk”? I had no idea what that meant, so more research was required. The LASER acronym appears to mean “Leonardo Art & Science Evening Rendezvous”, and represents an international program of gatherings with artists, scientists, and scholars presentations and conversations. Apparently there have been quite a few regarding our global environment and climate change, which you can read and watch to start your own conversation.

I found examples on the website of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), as well as a great overview resource about Climate Change and how to solve the growing problems, CCL Canada LASER Talks Booklet updated November 2020. I encourage you to download the PDF – it’s 38 pages long but so well organized that it will be easy for you to sift through the information. You’ll have a much better understanding of the economic issues and viable solutions.

Sections I found especially useful were:

  • “Carbon Pricing 101”, which explains the heavy costs associated with carbon pollution and how they tend to land on we individual taxpayers instead of on the corporations that generate the most greenhouse gases.
  • Six ways of pricing carbon pollution, how that could be done more appropriately and how that would take the burden off middle- and lower-income citizens.
  • There’s an interesting section on Canadian Family Wealth Distribution. The document tells us that “the top 1.0 % quintile of Canadian families possess more than a quarter of all wealth in Canada” and pay the least taxes toward the federal budget. The same applies to Canadian corporations. The income from more equitable taxation could be used to invest in better sources of fuel.
  • Data about where Canada’s damaging emissions come from.
  • Why Canada’s relatively small percent (<2%) of global greenhouse gas emissions still really matters: global responsibility and cumulative impact, the leverage we could gain from being leaders in environmental recovery, the increase in jobs, lower costs from dealing with climate disasters, and what should be foremost on the minds of all Canadians: improved health.

We still live on a beautiful planet. Let’s ensure that future generations do too.

Celebrating bees

We tend to take these busy little workers for granted, and many people are afraid of them (with good reason, for anyone who has an allergy), but in their tiny unassuming way they’re one of the most important creatures we have on our planet. Without their pollination of plants, we’d have a lot less to eat. Today’s post is in honour of World Bee Day.

It’s challenging to get a good photo of a bee. You need a lot of patience to try and catch them hanging around in one spot long enough; they do live up to the saying ‘busy as a bee’. I’ve tried many times; the photo above is one of my best, but I have plenty of photos that are as fuzzy as their little bodies.

I’m lucky enough to not be allergic, so I really enjoy watching bees zip around from flower to flower. I was stung many times as a child — we lived on a farm in northern Ontario that had an extensive patch of wild blueberries across the road and up a hill, and my mom and I would go picking as soon as the berries ripened. Sometimes we emerged unscathed, but I remember quite a few times when we fled back to the farmhouse sporting a few welts. My mom was a nurse, so she kept a ready supply of vinegar around to make compresses for the stings. The berries, and the adventure, were worth it 🙂

At my home now we have several plants that the bees love to visit: a pink spirea in the front, a pea bush in the back that fills with yellow flowers in the spring and is a favourite of area bees, and a big linden tree also in our back yard which, in years when it blooms, spreads its wonderful fragrance through the air. The huge bumblebees really love the linden, and there’s something about their drowsy buzzing that makes the world feel perfect for a while. We are proud bee supporters!

There are many plants available for home gardeners that invite bees; if you’re worried about having them around, as far as I’ve observed every summer, they’re really not interested in us at all and we’ve never had an issue — except when our late dogs each caught one in their mouth and learned that wasn’t such a good idea :/

You can learn much more about bees and World Bee Day at the Food and Agricultural site of the United Nations, and you too can “Bee Engaged”.

Photo by me and all rights reserved.