Friday, December 21, 2012

HOMELAND


                            


I was born in a small country bordering the waters of the North Sea.   As a young child I came with my parents to the country  I now reside in.   I can still speak my native tongue but  there are few occasions now to speak it any more.  My heritage is of a culture that assimilates easily; usually younger immigrants end up marrying a local resident, as I did.     Perhaps there are not enough of us to provide a viable pool of potential mates or perhaps it is because as a group we tend to disperse and not live in enclaves or any particular neighbourhood.  

But is is often at holiday times that heritage assumes more importance.   We remember where we came from.  Sometimes it is just in the food that is served at festive meals.   Old recipes are dug out of hiding or elder relatives consulted.   When we once again sample the favourite, almost forgotten delicacy we inevitably exclaim,  "Why don't we eat this more often?   Why do we wait for holidays to enjoy . . ." (insert your favourite dish).  In the past, out of courtesy, everyone spoke English at family gatherings to accommodate the recent addition to the extended family who could only speak only English.  Now the number of unilinguals has increased.

Assimilation, melting pot . . . those are words for the larger world.   We adopt and accept the laws of the country we come to, the public customs, the official language and  the way the larger institutions like hospitals and schools serve the citizens and residents.   But in the small matters, maybe the ones that matter the most, I think it is good to try to preserve a little of your heritage, your past, in whatever way matters the most to you.

Merry Christmas to you in whatever way you celebrate!  I will be taking a blog hiatus until the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

IT DEPENDS ON YOUR PERSPECTIVE



   
                                                        



"LIFE SHRINKS OR EXPANDS IN PROPORTION TO ONE'S COURAGE."



  - Anais Nin





      The person who wrote this, oft quoted writer though
      she may be, was never a small squirrel attempting to
      cross a traffic-filled street or a young springbok,
      trying to cross a crocodile infested river.

      Nor was he any of the multitude of small creatures
      that provide sustenance for those animals slightly
      higher in the predator/prey dichotomy.  Instead
      these animals hold to the axiom,


       DISCRETION IS THE BETTER PART OF VALOR

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Make the Most of Your Time on Earth


                                                                   


That is the title of a book I couldn't resist picking up at the library despite its considerable heft and size. I even took it a step further and charged it out.   Perhaps if I had considered more thoroughly the subtitle--a 1000 ultimate travel experiences--I would have realized that this would be an exercise in frustration.

It's a little like the time I speculated that visiting the world UNESCO heritage sites would be an interesting way to make vacation choices.   I've seen and been impressed and even enthralled by some spectacular ones:   the pyramids at Giza, Tikal, Panama Canal, Antigua, Portobello,  the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania.  But, alas, when I go to the website with the Unesco list I soon realize that there are, if not 1,000 locations, then very close to it.   I would have to travel to a destination every month for the rest of my life yet  I would not complete the task.   And it would likely become a task as world travel is strenuous and best spread out with intervals of quiet daily routine interspersed.   I know there are some round-the-world travellers who manage a lot in a year, although probably not anywhere near all 1,000 places, but they are younger and have the stamina this requires.   I also have a sneaking suspicion that like being 'castled out'-- and anyone who has seen more than five English or European castles on one vacation will know what I mean--the  thrill of these locations is enhanced by being surrounded by 'white space'.

Sometimes favourite movies, my own or a family member's, can provide the inspiration.   So, some years ago I visited the sites where Harry Potter was filmed and a few years later New Zealand's South Island and The Lord of the Rings film locations.   But one thing I discovered is that considerable computer generated imagery (CGI) takes place so that  the "If you want him, come and claim him" river is a very small stream that I can step over.  Still, it was a thrill to be there and the tour company even transported us there in jeeps with license plates that read Frodo and Bilbo!




                                                       

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

But he has an honest face . . .

                                                        
                                                                    

I visit a local Dollar Store from time to time.  Some items (like dog poop bags) don't seem to warrant a larger expenditure; no, not even for cute pink and blue ones with little paw prints festooned across the plastic.   Although all the items are $1.00 or $1.25, the residential area a short distance away is full of million dollar  homes.  It is the most expensive part of the large city I live in.   (I live with my family on the less expensive outskirts of this area).   

As I approached from the parking lot I noticed a couple of boys, maybe 16 or 17, standing outside talking.   One held a skateboard in his hand apparently prepared to wait for his friend who turned and walked into the store just ahead of me.  In a brief glance I noticed that he was a nice looking boy with dark tousled hair and an fresh, open face.  

A short time later I came across him in the aisle where craft supplies were displayed.   He was standing in front of the scrapbooking and other craft supplies looking a little agitated.   Perhaps he had been sent on an errand by his mother and couldn't find the desired item, I postulated.   But at the back of my consciousness a niggling thought was working its way forward.   He wasn't really scanning the display;  he kept sending glances my way.   I formed the distinct impression that he was waiting for me to leave.   Just body language but it spoke as clearly as any words.

He planned to take something, to steal something, and didn't want want any witnesses.  I wavered for a moment and then headed to the check-out and completed my purchase.  Should I have said anything?  What?  I ended up leaving just behind the young man and watched him pass something to his friend outside who was waiting patiently.  So smooth, so slick, that hand-off.   The friend stuffed a small item into his pocket and skateboarded away to the left while the perpetrator--no longer so charmingly innocent looking-- headed to the right.   As I drove out of the small plaza and waited for the light so I could turn right at the intersection, there stood the two of them on the sidewalk, smiling and talking, no doubt pleased with their dollar store score.   I could hardly stand to look at them but couldn't tear my gaze away and I was glad when the light changed and I drove on.   So much for sweet tousleheaded young men.  And my next thought--does your mother know what you do?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

LITTLE HOUSE FOR ADULTS





                                                                    



The Little House Books, as they are called now, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder are considered classics now.  They probably had the same status when I read them in my childhood  but at some point, as I read them with my own children,  they came to represent something more.    A link with the past or a reflection of a different era, one which had lessons to teach us;   in any event more than just a book for children.

I happened to see an advertisement in a recent issue of  The New Yorker for what I would describe as an adult edition of the books.  Perhaps recognizing that more than a few adults wanted to re-read the books which had made an impression on them in their youth but who might  feel self-conscious carrying around the books with covers that obviously denoted their juvenile market, the same books are now available in a two volume set, discreetly bound and in a case suitable for gift giving.  

Now that Laura herself is long deceased,  in a similar  fate as the Tolkien works or Anne of Green Gables , the Little House books have become a brand in  the marketplace with a niche.  I know there are picture book versions and books based on recipes or foods from the series as well as sequels that have kept the series going.

Perhaps that is the ultimate tribute to an author.   Except I once saw a book in the local library that involved Jane Austen being turned into a vampire.   I wonder if that would make the lady 'lose her countenance'?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

WINTER BLUES





                                                         
                                                                   



In one of my novels--now I'll have to stop and think to remember which--one of the characters poses the question as to which is the worst month in the calendar year.   Of course, that depends upon what location you call home.   In tropical climes, July and August can be humid to the point of steaminess and in others spots these months are the rainiest.    The southern hemisphere reverses the seasons except for Australia which must be sunny in all months--at least that was my experience a few years ago in their winter month of July when we jumped the waves at Surfers' Paradise in Queensland.


                                                       

Jaswinder--I remember now who it was--pontificated that November in the Pacific Northwest, with its incessant rains, could be considered to have the worst weather.  Dark and damp and with soggy ground underneath, we become like moles, leaving for work in the dark and returning in a similar state of moroseness.   But then Jaswinder continues (or is it her friend Manisha who disagrees?) that November is only the worst until January arrives with what is usually the coldest temperatures.   Scraping ice off the car windshield every morning, bundling up with hats, mitts and scarves still damp from the previous day and slipping and sliding on the icy roads can make one long for mere rain.


                                                                     


Now it is the beginning of December, that month which few would describe as 'the worst' even though the weather can be a hideous combination of the preceding and following month.  Somehow, in December, for most of us, considerations of the weather take a back seat to the festive season, bright lights and bustle.  There are some who find all this depressing, especially if they have recently suffered a loss or for some reason find their lives difficult, but for many the holidays provide a welcome respite from the lack of sunshine and warmth in the air.