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Can you believe it? Almost the end of July 2010! Whether time is passing quickly or trudging slowly for each of us, we still arrive at the same place together – ten years into the not-so-new millennium, two years short of the perhaps fatal 2012, and just one month away from Wolf Guindon’s 80th birthday when I’ll be returning to Costa Rica.

Provocative work by Kreso Cavlovic - visit his gallery in Elora Ontario

Just north of that Tico-paradise, oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for three months now, poisoning the waters and smothering local life. The responsible say that they’ve perhaps capped the leak, but so much damage has been done there is little to rejoice about. With tropical storms brewing, the future remains an industrial nightmare. A few days ago, when a pipeline burst and oil poured into the waters off of China, it barely made the news. The bar for oil disasters has now been raised so high that the media – as it does with so many other issues – doesn’t linger long in the small stuff.

Toronto in a more innocent moment

Here in Canada, there are still more questions than answers about what happened during the G8/20 fiasco in Toronto a few weeks ago. Somehow the government and police seem to be avoiding an inquiry into their own very questionable and abusive actions but are now daily releasing pictures of young activists assumed to be responsible for the destructive violence during those couple days of social unrest. There are many stories of police misconduct that will never be investigated without an inquiry as well as the much bigger question of our government which put this billion dollar show on in a vulnerable downtown Toronto against expert advice. Like the oil-coated fish in the gulf, the criminal records of those caught in the police nets may be the only reminder of a very troubling and twisted event.  

In the past couple of months, the Canadian government tried to pull another fast one by mixing some very important legislation into a seemingly benign budget bill – in short, they tried to have the requirement for environmental assessments on new projects taken away and the ability to sell nukes broadened. I heard nothing about this, as I’m sure many didn’t, until I went and saw Elizabeth May, the brilliant leader of the Green Party of Canada, who was here in Hamilton at a fundraiser. She left early to return to Ottawa and address the committee looking at the passage of this bill but first informed us of what was going on. I believe the bill didn’t pass until they changed these outlandish aspects, thanks to the diligence of politicians such as her. I remember Elizabeth from the 1980s when she was a young environmental lawyer working with others to have the requirement for environmental assessments, along with public participation in the process, entrenched in government policy.

Meanwhile, in Costa Rica the government has recently granted permission to the United States to send 7000 marines along with numerous planes and dozens of warships to Ticolandia for an accelerated campaign on the war-against-drugs. There are very few good examples of countries allowing other country’s armies to carry out their business on their sovereign soils. Costa Ricans are in the streets protesting, being citizens of a country that doesn’t support the international drug trade but certainly doesn’t support a military presence either, having abolished their own army back in 1948. I can envision being visited by camouflage-coated creatures rising out of the swampy jungle near Cahuita, (scene from Apo-calypso Now?) with the right to question, search and detain anyone who appears suspicious to them. I’m suspicious that this is another military move being made in response to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s oil supplies, and their less than sympathetic nature toward the Americans. It feels a lot like a military maneuver being put in a strategic place for a more serious conflict – that war-on-drugs has been a farce going on for decades, supplying the American military machine with money and an excuse for a continuing strong presence south of their own border while the drug trade continues to keep everyone high.

The world, both large and small, seems increasingly insane.

seeking relief in Elora Quarry

 

Here in the Hammer, as throughout eastern Canada and the northeastern US, the weather has been hot, record-breaking hot, frying brain cells and raising tempers. They say it is the hottest, driest July on record and is going to stay this way for a while yet. They say that the temperature of the Great Lakes’ waters is up between one and five degrees, depending on the lake, something that can cause a serious effect on lake health – increasing vegetative growth and toxic pollutants as well as affecting fish populations.

Down in Monteverde, our good friend Wolf is dealing with a variety of health issues. I will be writing about this again soon, once I’ve had a more recent update from the family. In short, he can’t have his knee operation he so desired, but needs to have cataracts remove and some other issues taken care of. And he has been taken off the insulin they started him injecting last July for his diabetes, as either the insulin is the wrong kind or the amount has been out of whack. This explains the dizziness, confusion and dangerously low sugar counts he’s been having. I am anxious to get back to Monteverde in time for his 80th birthday and hope that his new doctors and treatment changes are going to help him enjoy life again.

Roberto and stairway to heaven

In the meantime, I’m packing up my house so that when I leave, renters can move in. I have been purging the past, tossing the trivial, and surrendering the superfluous. I plan on being in Costa Rica for a longer period this time, to be closer to Wolf, to oversee the renewed effort on the translation of Walking with Wolf, and to close the deal on the land next door to Roberto’s. If all goes as planned, I’ll be constructing a little casita and settling down to write. After going through what is basically a smallish house here in Canada and still being overwhelmed by the stuff I’ve tried so hard not to collect, I will build the simplest structure possible – no walls, no storage – just efficient living space and one secure area for locking things up. Only hammocks and love will make my home.

Thank goodness for music, friends and sunshine. That is what restores me after a day of filling cardboard boxes and listening to the nightly news. Amongst other sweet musical moments, I went and saw local talented wild woman, Carolyna Lovelace, rock the house here in the Hammer, during her brief stay in between international gigs. She has also been packing up a lifetime and is moving on. Good luck to you Carolyna, see you in the south.

I indulged myself with the world cup. My original prediction was only half right – Holland was in, but not Argentina as I thought. I was happy that Spain took it – especially when Holland lost its cool and went aggressive – and especially happy that little Iniesto scored the goal. I got to watch some of the games with my great friends, the Bairs, along with some beautiful Tico friends, the Solanos, who were visiting. I thoroughly enjoyed the maleness and international flare of it all. I then spent the final game with a bunch of great women in a very mixed fan crowd in Toronto and paella pandemonium reigned. Now the world can relax once again – at least as far as futbol. Oh, to be in Brazil in four years.

On the set of History channel's The Kennedys circa 1940s

 

We each swirl in our own little orbits, each given day shining gloriously for some, while for others, they can barely see through the darkness. Re-reading this post, I find myself sounding quite melancholy. It is the heat, it is the transitional moment of my life, it is the global condition. I am much more affected here in Canada by the whacky world. Although I will miss my great friends, the groovy scene of the Hammer, and the autumn artistry in the forest, I’m glad that I’m returning to Costa Rica. Maybe things will look brighter through the green filter of the jungle and love will soothe my skittish soul.

I can’t believe it has been two weeks since I wrote last…what was I doing?  I have been on my computer quite a bit, took a couple trips to Toronto and Guelph, but really, there is no excuse.

I am sorry to announce the death of my camera – I have dropped it one time too many and the battery compartment has been taped for awhile but now the batteries aren’t lasting as long and, well, it’s time.  I’m on my way the the U.S. of eh? tomorrow, the land of the free and the golly gee these days – and will have to buy a camera while I’m there.  I feel very bland on my blog without photos – it took me awhile to learn how to post them, but once I did, well, I was having fun.  Now I’m just about the words, and that’s great and all, but the pics are half of what inspires me to write.  As my friends have found out, if the camera takes a good pic, then you’ll probably make the blog.  And I now try and remember to ask people if they don’t want their full name on the blog, those who want to keep living in relative obscurity, and keep it first names only with little bits of tape across their distinguishing features in the pics.  HA! As if we can really hide.

A week ago I wrote some articles – one for the Tropical Forests UK website, which was chopped down significantly since I hadn’t asked how many words they wanted and, well, I’m wordy. The other went to Quaker Monthly and I haven’t heard anything from the editor to know what she is going to do with it.  I spend a lot of my time on the internet, sending press releases, contacting media folk, and seeking out places to get reviews done.  I’m most disappointed with the local media specifically the Hamilton Spectator and CH Television.  I mean, I just don’t think there are that many authors in Hamilton that they couldn’t do a little piece about Walking with Wolf.  But I keep trying and maybe I’ll find the right hook to get their attention.

Tomorrow I start a roadtrip with my friend Shirley.  The purpose of the trip is to go to Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio for their Homecoming weekend.  Wolf and I are presenting the book next Saturday night – he and Lucky are coming up from Costa Rica.  I’m so excited to be doing this, but extremely happy to spend some time with them.  I know there will be many Guindons there as well as the families of the students who are presently enrolled. Wolf and Lucky are pretty well-known alumni and so this weekend, bringing Wolf’s book back to his alma mater, is bound to be quite emotional. That is what has kept me busy this last week, reworking the power point slides and choosing what to read.  A small problem is that I’ve had a seriously big frog croaking in my throat for a few days.  I’ve been trying not to talk too much but, well, that’s a hard one for me.  And even sitting here at home alone working on the presentation, I’m talking as I read aloud, timing the images with the talk.  I’ll have to try harder and keep quiet and let Shirley do the talking in the car.  I’m not sure if it is bad air quality here in Hamilton or some kinda weird bug, but there it is. Hopefully I’ll be fine by Saturday, but if not, that’s what they make microphones and amplifiers for.

We are driving down to Virginia first to go visit some of Shirley’s family.  Shirley wouldn’t do the drive herself and so I offered to take her there, kind of on our way to Ohio.  The thing we’ll be looking for the most is the deer on the highways.  I’ve driven at this time of the year to Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas – well, anywhere going through Ohio and Pennsylvania and West Virginia it is shocking with the amount of dead deer carcasses and blood puddles on the highways.  It’s a slaughterhouse out there.  It makes it unwise to drive at night which I generally don’t mind doing. It isn’t worth the risk, when those poor crazed deer come leaping across the fences out of the dark shadows. I think it’s happening at this time of the year because of hunting driving the deer out of the woods – they just run onto roads as they try to escape. I guess the other possibility is that it is mating season and they are all love-crazed but I tend to think it is the first thing that is causing the vehicular slaughter. 

A few days ago I went up to the Guelph Arboretum to the launch of a new book called Growing Trees from Seed (Firefly Books).  It was a project started a few years ago by a wonderful man by the name of Henry Kock.  I knew Henry when I went to the University of Guelph in the early 80s and we were both on the board of the OPIRG (one of Ralph Nader’s Public Interest Research Groups).  I also knew his sister, Irene.  Well, these two people were some of the most dynamic, hardworking, committed individuals in Ontario.  Irene was an anti-nuke activist throughout her adult life.  She died tragically in a car accident on New Years Eve about six years ago.  Then Henry, this outstanding human being, larger than life, developed brain cancer and he died a couple of years ago on Christmas Day.  I’m sure the Kock family doesn’t look forward to that week at all anymore.

Henry was known for his love of trees. He started the Elm Recovery Project, to aid in the renaissance of the elms that were wiped out years ago by disease in southern Ontario.  He had a thumb so green it was emerald and a passion for nature that energized all those who knew him.  He started this book before the cancer was diagnosed but at some point couldn’t continue with it, so three of his friends and co-workers at the Arboretum, Paul Aird, John Ambrose and Gerald Waldron, continued with the book. It is a coffee-table-book-sized practical guide to growing native trees, vines and shrubs and is a must have for anyone who is interested in growing themselves an arboreal garden. Or even one really beautiful tree from scratch.

Also related to Henry, I went with my friend Lynda Lehman, to see the breathtaking textile art of Lorraine Roy.  Well, as a person who has worked with fabric all my life, sewing my own clothes when I was younger and then working as a furniture re-upholsterer for years, I have a natural interest in anything made of fabric.  Lorraine Roy makes these textile canvases that are compositions of tiny pieces of materials laid out and sewn, quilted in a way, into intricate designs – some abstract but many of them inspired by the lifecycle of trees.  She met Henry when she went to the University of Guelph and was moved by his passion which blended with her own love of nature.  She has done several series of these masterpieces that feature seeds, trees, ovulation, and much more. Go to her website, (Lroytextileart.com) and take a look. The delicate power of her work is awe-inspiring.  There is an incredible amount of detail that results in muted landscapes and still lifes which are not still, but living, organic creations. Her colour sense is musical. I wish I could afford to own one of her pieces, which I don’t even find that expensive, but that won’t be happening for awhile. But…wow.

The last little item that lingers in my head is watching the debates last Thursday night.  Here in Canada, we have a federal election next week and the candidates for prime minister sat around a table with a moderator and had a very lively discussion. I quite liked the style of the round table which allowed for lots of real interaction. Proudly, the person who seemed to be announced the “winner” by much of the media was Elizabeth May, the head of the Green Party.  I’ve known her from afar for many years and always known that she was a very intelligent spitfire.  She had to fight her way into the debate, as there was disagreement about the Greens being there at all.  There was a public outcry and so the other parties relented and she was allowed at the table.  As it turned out, she was the hottest on many of the issues, especially hot on Steven Harper’s case. Good on you, Elizabeth, this Canadian woman was all substance, style, spit, and smarts.

The other debate that night was the infamous vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Tina Fey’s less intelligent double, Sarah Palin. I know this woman must be intelligent to have got to the post of governor of Alaska, but her hokey manner, frequent winking and subterfuge of her very right wing values made me crazy. She kept trying to sound like a mild conservative and either stayed away from answering the questions or contradicted herself.  I spent the whole time with my remote, flipping between debates whenever one made me squirm or scream. My take on the Republicans is that I find them wholly irresponsible and arrogant to have put a person of so little experience and sophistication into the (hopefully not so) possible position of being the president. IF McCain were to be elected and IF something bad were to happen to him, she could be the leader of the so-called free world!  It seems to me that they were more interested in choosing someone for the ticket who would appeal to the lowest common denominator of the electorate, to the religious right and perhaps (though I’m not sure how) who would appeal to the women who wanted Hillary. I am appalled that they would have put this woman in this position.  What I do see is that Palin would appeal to the same folks who voted for that other hokey guy, George W.  I can remember seeing an older woman from Kansas in an interview during the last election who I suspect spoke for a certain part of the population when she said that she was voting for Bush because she thought she’d like to sit and drink a pot of tea with him and couldn’t imagine doing that with John Kerry.  Well, that’s all very nice and fine, but do you really want this guy as your president? I mean, is feeling comfortable in the tearoom really a prerequisite for being presidential? I mean, is anyone really surprised at what is going on in the US and the world today because of Bush’s presidency.  I mean, really???

If you want to invite the woman to go moose hunting, well, go for it, but please don’t put the rest of the world at the risk of being run by Palin and her muddy morally-maverick mind (and the Republican powers-behind-the-Palin). Now that is truly scary.

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