DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Birthday Boy

On Saturday, July 18, we had a birthday celebration for my son, Parker, his 40th. The actual birth date will be August 8 (8/8/69) A day which looms large in my life.

Sandra, his wife ,arranged the occasion and chose the date which I guess was suitable for most of the people coming from afar. Family came from Charlotte, N. C. , my brother, his wife and one of his daughters; Toronto , my sister, her husband and two of her sons (one from Montreal) ; Bellingham, Wa, his mother and Vancouver, BC, his aunt.

After a family meal at Parker and Sandra's home there was a party at Club Calumet in Sturgeon Falls at which Parker's many local friends and colleagues could come and join the celebration.

Sandra prepared a power point slide show she projected on a sceen. It was a celebration of the highlights and occasions in Parker's life with his family and friends. I had loaned Sandra a box of

photo's I had and I was pleased she included many of them. It was all well done and obviously a loving jesture on Sandra's part, as was the whole occasion which she planned and executed. My job was to show up.

I had heard, from one of the grandchildren, that I might be asked to say something at the party.

I waited for an official request and even nudged Parker about it a couple of times but I never was asked so I assumed my participation was not part of the program.

I did spend the week thinking what I might say if I was asked. Here are some of my notes.

1. How forty years has flown by.!

2. I remember the day of his birth. It was a wonderful occasion. I was my usual cool mellow self while my friend Johnny Frazier, from Jackson, Mississippi, who lived with us, was excited enough for everyone. I played my role, learned in Lemaze classes and kept Shaun focused, encouraged and everyone aware of the contraction timings. Six hours from first contraction to birth and Parker made his entrance, all 10 pounds, 2 ounces of him. (We were to be denied having a small baby to care for.) I don't know how the mother felt but this child birth thing seemed really easy.

3. I have many regrets in my life but when circumstances saw me a single parent of a two year old, I never hesitated to take on the task and never regreted doing so. My life became devoted to raising a son, before all else. We were a family, a small family but a family just the same. I only once remember wishing his mother was present to take over. It was a Christmas party at my aunt Billie place. Parker got sick and threw up on her white furniture, not once but twice. My mother was enjoying herself and did not step up to help. I guess my many admonitions to her ,that Parker was my responsibility and she could be the grandmother but not the mother, paid off. The thought passed my mind. "Shaun, here is your child, he needs his mother." But of course, I dealt with it and got past the mess. Some things in life you just cannot hand off.

4. I had very clear ideas about how to raise a child. Like I am with all children, when they want to express themselves all else stops to focus on them. Many a time I haved asked an adult to wait while a child had something to say. My child -centered life included playing children's games a lot. It also included talking to Parker as if he were an intelligent person. I seldom had to discipline him. I remember once putting the fear of God in a young teacher who dare to discipline him, leaving me with a child suddenly not wanting to go to school. In no uncertain terms I told her I did not give her permission to discipline by child. He could be reasoned with. She was to notify me if she ever found him otherwise. She dared not do it again.

For years, when I tucked him in at night, we talked about the day; what was good, what went wrong and why. I was never afraid to admit I had been wrong and apologize. I often told him I could back down and change my mind because he was an only child and I did not have to be tought to impress other children. I was always determined to be emotionally present for Parker as my mother was with me and my father, who never told me he loved me, was incapable of being. He was frequently hugged and kiss in those early years. Even now, I might kiss him although kissing someone with a five o'clock shadow is strange. I shouldn't complain, Parker has never known me without a beard.For being emotionally close with him in those early years, I have always felt I was more mother than father to Parker.

5. Parker was always a sensitive perceptive child. He had his emotional moments after visits with and departures from his mother. The best I could do is recognize his sadness and support him. Like all children he learned to deal with such hurt. He was never shy to tell me if I said something unfair about his mother, which I did occasionally. He helped me from giving into my mean spirited self. His mother and I worked hard to always be supportive of Parker and not involve him in out struggles. I admire her for this and thank her. She could have made life very difficult for me and even early on denied me the opportunity to be a full time father. It seems our child centered up-bringing paid off. Parker turned out to be a responsible human being, friend and colleague to many. He also proved to be a good husband and an excellent father. All of this,I like to think refects well on me.

6. Frankly, I was lucky. Raising Parker was as easy as raising a child can be. He has never had any major illness. He has never gotten into any problems that so may teenagers seem to do. He has always been self-reliant. I don't remember having to ever help him or encourage him to do his school work or other chores. Perhaps, this is the result of years of me saying, "This has to be done and there are only two of us here, either you do it or I have to do it." He often stepped up and did what had to be done. Early on he learned not to let me do his laundry or tidy his room. He has always been fussy about his things and his clothes. It only took a couple of disasters in the laundry before he declared he would do his own.

7. Moving to River Valley was a dream Parker and I shared in the beginning. He was 11. I had admitted to myself that I wanted to own a farm. As a child I tried to get my father to buy a farm near the center of Mississauga. We could have had one for $50 and acre back then but his attitude was I have trouble cutting the lawn what would I do with a farm. As a single father with no one to please of work for other than myself and Parker I decided to come and look at the property in River Valley. For me it was a dream. I always wanted a farm with a river crossing it. It was also adjacent to the Temagami Wilderness area. How romantic is that. Canoeing was my passion. It was the perfect place. On our second weekend checking it out I asked Parker, "What do you think?" "Let's do it!" was his immediate response. We did it. Little did either one of us realize how difficult it would be. For a number of years, we played at and worked hard at farming. Parker came to hate the hard work but he seldom complained and did a man's job when he was still a child. It was a subsistence living at best and I worked at whatever I could to be able to do it: teaching, labouring, electrical work, logging. For a number of years, I even took in foster children, still thinking I was God's gift to child rearing. Did those troubled kids teach me where my limits were! It did help with the cash flow but I paid an emotional price for those years and learned that not all children were like Parker.

8. I could have remarried a couple of times but for one reason or another it didn't work out. For many years, Parker never seemed to really warm up to any of the women I brought home. He had a mother, with whom he had a special relationship, and he didn't need another mother. Usually his opinions he kept to himself and only in subtle ways did he make them known. There was the one time though, when he wrote on the bathroom mirror with my friend's lipstick, "Fuck Off!" And we found her clothes thrown outside the door. My polite, respectful 9 year old child showed me another side of himself. That relationship did not last much longer.

I came to like my life and was not easily persuaded to adjust it to accommadate a woman. If someone showed up, fine. If not, I was not in the hunt.

9. I could go on but I won't. A father could not be prouder on how a child had turned out and become a man with a satisifying life. I think Parker often managed this in spite of me but I like to think I did some things right and I had some positive influence. I fondly remember one proud moment for me, when Parker's Pee Wee hockey team won the brig game. Before joining his teammates in chaotic celebration he skated across the ice and shook his coaches hand. It was a thoughtful classy jesture for someone so young. You make me proud many times, Parker, very proud.

With a little polish, these ideas could have been fashioned into a speech.

I did manage to speak to Parker on the way to my car and tell him how proud I was of him, without getting all emotional. He said, he knew. That was the important thing.

From Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

The Birthday Boy last year at the family reunion

From Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

The Birthday Boy, forty years ago.

My niece Andrea and my sister Penny

Two days later the family gathered at the cabin

Parker's oldest son, Dylan sharing a moment with Heidi. Yes, she came to the party, too.

Penny, Shaun (Parker's mother), Travis, Parker's youngest son, Aunt Diane, and Olivia, (Parker's daughter

The Birthday Boy, on the Temagami.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Locating Friends from My Past

Occasionally, I stumble on information about a person I have know in my life past; sometimes , by deliberately googling their name on the Internet and at other times through a news article. Recently, I googled a seminary friend's name and found out he was no longer in the ministry and was now in Australia taking a course at the University of Queensland, where his wife got a job. He writes a blog Maybe I will drop him a line and give this Texan a "How're ya mate" greeting.

It is surpising what you can learn online. The most startling thing I learned about someone is that while he never married, he fathered a child and was currently searching for her. This fellow is my oldest friend (we met in first grade). I have yet to muster the courage to ask him about it.

Most recently it was a movie review that featured a college friend of mine. The documentary is "Prom Night" Paul Salzman, who I know at college made this film. It is about the integration of the high school prom in Charleston, Mississippi. Morgan Freeman agreed to fund this school's prom if they would hold an integrated one rather than two separate proms. After years of integration, in the South this school and town held on to this remnant of racism of the old South.

Paul like so many Canadian youth of our generation had been interested in and participated in civil rights in the US. Obviously, he has not fully left this behind when on a visit to Mississippi, where he had worked on voter registration years before he stumbled on this interesting story and renewed Morgan Freeman's interest in this school.

Paul Saltzman has lived an interesting life as a film maker. At college, I found him and his brother, Earl, interesting because of their famous father, Percy Saltzman, who was the first person to appear on Canadian Televison. He was during my growning up years the CBC weatherman, as well as an interviewer of some note. He did the weather report with chalk board and chalk drawing the weather picture of low and highs and fronts, etc. His trademark became the tossing in the air , at the end of his report, the chalk and catching it, saying "and that's the weather." On live TV he virtually never missed.

I was always surprised when I visited their home in Toronto how modestly they lived. They lived in a little story and one half cape cod house like we lived in. Either they were not interested in living "higher on the hog" or they certainly didn't pay very well at the CBC and the Dominion Weather Service.

Paul after University stumbled on an interesting story. He went to India to "find himself" and came to stay at the same Ashram as the Beatles. He has had for years a collection of candid photos of this experience of hanging out with the Beatles. Not long ago, he published them and wrote a little about this time in his life.

Paul's interest in India became very personal when he married Deepa Mehta, who has become one of Canada's most celebrated film makes. She is best known for her trilogy of films "Fire", "Earth" and "Water".

It is always interesting to learn that friends have lived productive and interesting lives.

A Few Meadow Flowers Along the Road

One of the pleasant things to do this time of year is to walk along the road and admire the many wind flowers (I prefer not to call them weeds). Below are some of the most colourful and easily identifiable. You not only can see them but you can smell them. I don't think this added sensation would be experienced in more urban areas if you did locate some along your manicured roads or pathways.

Below are just a few of my favourites. There are so many more. One of the things that surprised my friend Veronica when she visited from Florida were the great displays of meadow flowers along the road, in the pastures and hay fields. She said there were not the same variety of flowers in Florida. I have not enough experience in Florida to know if this is true or not.

Some of the legumes below are escapees from hay fields after years of hauling hay along the road.There are also truly wild legumes (A legume as a plant that has the property of fixing nitrogen in the soil. Most are members of the pea family)

I have include the French names as I think it is nice to know the names my neighbours may use to identify these plants.

Most of these plants have some medicinal or food value.

(click on photo to enlarge)

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Prickly Wild Rose/Rosier Aciculaire

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Hop-Clover/Trèfle Agraire

Red Clover/Trèfle Des Pré

Tall Buttercup/Renoncule Acre

Ox Eye Daisy/Marguerite

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Bon Voyage, Julie

It is with great anticipation that Canadians have been waiting for the space shuttle to fly again. (This Endeavour mission has been delayed four times already but just may go tonight.)
It has been even more news worthy here than in the US; in part because of Julie Payette one of Canada remarkable astronauts. On this trip to to the Space station Canada will have two astronauts together in the Space station for the first time as she joins Bob Thirsk who is already in there where he will be for a longer period of time conducting medical experiments.

Julie Payette is the Flight Engineer on this mission. Her role is crucial to the success of this construction mission for she will largely be in charge of the construction. She will operate the Canadarm robotic cranes (Canada's greatest contribution to the space station, without which it could not be built). She also will operate another one supplied by Japan, which I assume is to be used to install the outside platform for experiments Japan has created. She will manage the astronauts that will be outside the Space Station doing the construction work. The last time she was at the Space Station, (she was on the Discovery, the first crew to visit the station) she had a similar role which she describes in the video below.

You can read her daily journal entries here,

Julie Payette is a remarkable Renaissance woman. Her accomplishments are numerable. She is not only an engineer but a pilot, athlete, singer, musician, linguist, mother as well as an astronaut for many years. Read her NASA Biography and marvel at her accomplishments.

View this video and hear her speak in her own words of some of the things of the Space Program she finds interesting. I particularly like her saying what she found most surprising on her first mission.

In this video, I find Julie Payette's observations of the Earth from space. Not only is it spectacular to see as a unity but she marvels at how fragile it is, protected with a thin layer of atmosphere.

Besides her many accomplishments, Julie Payette is also charming and attractive and soft spoken with a French Canadian lilt in her voice. When she speaks she is reflective and the delight she feels for her career as an astronaut is evident. What a wonderful role model she is for young women who harbour dreams of accomplishments in life. If you have the time, it is well worth while to take the time, to watch the video of her address to the students at Simon Fraser University.

Even beautiful women with big hair can be intellectually brilliant, accomplished and focused in there lives. (I just couldn't resist this sexist comment. It is hard to overcome your upbringing)

Continued success, Madame Julie Payette, you make all Canadians proud.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Down by the Riverside

A place to sit and let the stream of life move on down the river.

"Come on ! Big fella, sit down and rest a while."

The Temagami River as it moves on downstream

View from the porch swing

The cabin in a shady riverside glade among some elm trees. South facing, it get the morning sun.

While the cabin is only about 1/4 of a mile, from the house, across my property, it is largely out of sight, being located on the slope of the river cut. It seems so secluded here. It is a good place to sit and contemplate.

I have been spending a little time here with Heidi working on some interior work on the cabin which never seems to get done. It is nice to go for a swim a couple of times a day whenever I work up a sweat.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I Can't Help Myself

I promised myself I would leave the MJ story alone after my brief previous comments but I just could not help myself when I saw the following cartoons by Ygreck.

Ygreck is a French Canadian political cartoonist. His work is not often presented for English speaking audiences. Some cartoons require some facility in French. I think he is very funny and skilled. Most often he does cartoon with Canada and the French Canadian community in mind. Occasionally he cannot resist commenting about a wider world when it is of interest to his audience. If you want to see some more of his work visit his web site I love his caricatures of Canadian politicians.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

All The Best on The Fourth of July

This being the Fourth of July, Independence Day, I am flying Old Glory on my porch to salute my American friends and family. I hope you have a lovely day with family and friends around the barbecue.
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Friday, July 03, 2009


Am I the only person who is tired of all the obsessive news about Michael Jackson? His death is a family tragedy and would be better left to the family. His contribution to popular music warrants being admired by his fans ( among whom I am not included). All the other public praise he is getting is way over the top. He is being praised as a great talent, human being, humanitarian, businessman etc. Really. . . .! CNN seems to have given over all its program schedule to him. FOX is almost as bad but they cannot seem to let go of their need to criticize Obama, for very long. Embarassingly, even the CBC and CTV and even the BBC seem to dwell too long on this faux news.

I am afraid I only think of him as a sad human being, worthy of our pity, who had a difficult childhood and became an adult who was uncomfortable in his own skin. He was a pathetic injured soul. He was certainly no humanitarian. He was self indulgent often creating a World only he seemed to inhabit. I doubt if he had any real friends among the hangers-on and "yes" men who surrounded him. As for being a businessman, it seems dying owing nearly 1/2 a billion dollars qualifies him as such?

The truth is that Michael Jackson was a drug addict and a pedophile. Twenty years from now maybe one of his children will write a tell all book as to what kind of a parent he was.

As a person he deserves to be forgotten.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On the other hand, today in Canada, there is a state funeral for a remarkable Canadian. Roméo LeBlanc (1927-2009). He was a public servant who entered politics for all the right reasons and made a significant contribution. He became a politician and served as a cabinet minister for years. Eventually, he became our first Governor General (Queen's representative) of Acadian heritage. He is a French Canadian from the Acadian community in New Brunswick. (Not all French Canadians are Québécois. The Acadian French spoken there is "Chiac".

He was raised in the very rural subsitance farm life of that community. In L'Acadie, of his youth his community lived close to the land, fishing, farming and forestry.
He was one of the few of his generation who got a higher education to become a teacher, journalist, and politician.

He remained a humble man rooted in his community all his life. He served his family, community and Nation with distinction. Not only was he successful in his profession, he was a successful as a human being.

I heard a friend of his relate a story about him. One of his brother's died years ago. He gave his sister-in-law half of his modest salary so she could pay the medical bills. I wonder who we know now who would do such a thing.

I invite you to read a little about the remarkable life of Roméo LeBlanc, a much respected and cherished Canadian and Acadian.

Today, the powerful of the country and humble admirers of his community have gathered for a state funeral at Saint Thomas Church in his town on Memramcook, New Brunswick. He will long be remembers as a remarkable Canadian man and public servant.