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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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

August 1 is the holy month of Ramadan (here) celebrated in the Muslim Community. Once again this year two young Muslim, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, are going on the road to visit
30 mosques in thirty days in 30 states.. This is the third year they have done this. I have enjoyed following them each year. The first year they visited 30 mosques in 30 days in the New York City area. The next year they went on their road trip across the continental US to visit 30 mosques in 30 states. This year they are even more ambitious. They are including the states of Alaska and Hawaii. Not only will they be meeting with members of the wide variety of mosques and sharing the evening breaking of the fast , they will be speaking at venues in the cities. I look foreword to following along and learning more about the diversity of Islam in America.

I invite readers to follow along by visiting their blog. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Muslims and Islam. I assure you it will be a lot different that the jaundice hostile views we read about in the news media.

In the left hand margin of the blog you can link to some interesting entries in the previous year's web log. This will give you a taste of what this year's offering will be. I particularly enjoyed the visit to the oldest exiting mosque in the US in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the site of the first mosque in the US, in rural North Dakota. The styles and locations of mosques is often a surprise.

Here you will find a map of the cities to be visited this year.

Ramadan Mubarak

"May the spirit of Ramadan

illuminate the world and show us

the way to peace and harmony."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oops! An Obama Error

This may be old news to some but it is new to me. President Obama redecorated the Oval Office in the Whitehouse, as is the right of all incoming presidents. As part of his redecoration he had a new rug created which has on it five quotations he admired. He credited five great Americans as the originators of these quotations. As it turned out two of the quotations were wrongly credited.

You would think a person who went to school and Boston would have known the origins of these quotations.

The Oval Office View beyond the President Desk

The quotations credited to Martin Luther King, Jr ("The Arc of the Universe is Long, But it Bends toward Justice") and Abraham Lincoln ("Government of the People, By the People, For the People.") where wrongly credited. They should have been credited to The Reverend Theodore Parker, a leading cleric and outspoken social reformer in the 19th Century. Parker is a product of the New England Enlightenment, Transcendentalism. He was the minister of the 28th Congregationalist Society. (When Unitarianism was know as the Boston Religion).

As a Unitarian minister I am annoyed and a little insulted as Parker is much revered within our denomination as one of the intellectual founders of our denomination in the 19th Century along with The Reverend William Ellery Channing and The Reverend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

As the minister of the 7,000 member 28th Congregational Society in Boston, Parker spoke out for all the social causes of his day. He was an active abolitionist working to help fugitive slaves avoid being captured and sent back to their slave owners as required under the Fugitive Slave Laws.

I am sure Martin Luther King, Jr. who studied for his doctorate at Boston University in Boston and Abraham Lincoln, who was a contemporary of this outstanding preacher and social activist, were well aware they were using Parker's words. Like most clerics and public speakers they no doubt failed to give credit where credit was due. As public knowledge of Theodore Parker faded, the remarks of his were miss accredited to them.

Here are the miss accredited quotations:

To Matin Luther King, Jr. "The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Toward Justice."
And, to Abraham Lincoln, "Government of the People, By the People, For the People."

Like all lecturers King and Lincoln shaped the quotation to their liking. Here are the correct quotes of Theodore Parker.
"I don't pretend to understand the moral universe, the Arc is a long one. . .But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice." 1853
"A Democracy . . .that is of the people, by the people and for the people." 1850

Note: Parker no doubt was quoting for the introduction to John Wicliff's translation of the Bible into English. "The Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People and for the People"

You would think someone would have researched these quotations which the President chose in order to have made sure there ownership was properly noted. by saying such things as a "a popular quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. who liked to repeat this phrase by Theodore Parker." and " this phrase in the Gettysburg address was spoken by Abraham Lincoln paraphrasing Theodore Parker". I hate to think those who had the rug designed would not have know the original source of these quotations. They are wonderful treasured statements in the historic literature of the United States. A little searching would have revealed the correct source reference.

Perhaps, when they publish literature for the public of the wonderfully decorated Obama Oval office they will include a footnote on these missed credited quotations.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Summer Read: To the Woods

(click on photo to enlarge)

This week I read a these books that I found enjoyable, informative and entertaining.

While in Ottawa I purchased a copy of Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods", after I was reminded of it by AC my blogger friend who I visited in Ottawa. I had been considering reading it ever since my brother and his wife hiked the Appalachian Trail's entire length last year. It is an account of the author and a friend's hiking of the Trail. If follows their planning, executing, abandoning the hike only to return to finish it and then abandon it again just before the end. For those considering hiking the Trail it is a cautionary tale. It is a very challenging hike both for it's length and the physical demands of much of it. The book is more than just an account of the trek. There are many hints on how to prepare and execute the trip interspersed and some environmental information on the health of the wilderness and the government shortfalls in protecting National Parks, particularly the Appalachian Trail. Also, there are many funny episodes in it with the interaction of the two men and their encounters with people and conditions along the way.

After following my brother's adventure, I think the book fails to mention a couple of experiences along the trail that I think are memorable long after the memory of the aches and pains of the trail have been forgotten. Certainly this was the case for my brother and his wife. These two men seem to see very few memorable animals along the way. They worry about bears but actually never see any. They also see no snakes, particularly the poisonous ones. They also make no mention of the feral ponies living in an alpine pasture, which are very friendly to hikers. Surely, the fauna along the trail would be worthy of writing about. They must have seen more than the recount.

Bryson makes no mention of the " trail angels" along the trail. These are people who live near the trail that go out of their way to be helpful to hikers. They offer shelter, transportation into town, encouragement and often food. On more than one occasion, my brother came upon a case of beer left on the trail, often a good distance from an access point. There were church groups and individuals who regularly fed hikers as they passed by. My brother and his wife found this generosity of people and genuine friendship the most memorable aspect of the trek. They felt they had found the "real America" in this time of fear, suspicion and hostility toward "others". More about these two aspects of hiking the trail, the fauna and the trail angel experience would have added a great deal to this otherwise lively account.

The second book I read this week is a young person's book. For the first time one of my grandchildren recommended a book to me. How could one not respond by reading it. My 12 year old grandson who enjoys reading handed a book to me when I stopped at his home on my way back to River Valley. I should mention he also invited me to stay for dinner, which he prepared, with a little help from his grandmother. I was a little taken aback when Travis handed me "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George, saying, "I thought you might enjoy this book." How did he know? Will this book reveal to me what he knew and thought about me. Being offered a good read for a shared experience is for me a generous and thoughtful gift so I brought his book home and read it.

This a child's book written for a thoughtful curious older child. It is the story of a boy, Sam Gribley, who runs away from home in New York City to live in the Catskill Mountains in a self sufficient "wild" fashion. (What child has not thought of running away from home.) He had been told stories about his father's more rural upbringing from whom he learned quite a lot on finding food and shelter in the woods. He also read a great deal about it. With his parents reluctant permission he set off with little more that a change of clothes, $40, a flint and steel, a pocket knife, a ball of twine and an axe. He went in a quest to go and live on the land his grandfather homesteaded which was now abandoned and at a remote area of the mountain near Derby.

The story is basically about how he solved all the problems of food, shelter and clothing. He has considerable knowledge of edible plants and animals, which he manages to find, collect, dry and store. He is a great observer of animals and befriends a few that approach his habitation, a hollowed out large and ancient hemlock tree. He captures a young falcon, raises it and teaches it to hunt for him, mainly rabbits. He fishes, snares and traps small animals and even gets deer when he see hunters shooting them and then not finding them where they fall. From the skins he makes himself clothes. The book is a source of a great deal of information on edible plants and animals. He came to the woods with this knowledge and learns more from observing the animals.
Eventually. he encounters individuals, who he befriends and shares his life with for short periods of time.: a librarian, an old woman, a teacher, a couple of young boys his age.He hides from a couple of others: a ranger and hunters. He spends a whole year living in the mountains.

Eventually, news get out about a wild boy living in the mountains. Increasingly, he seems willing to be found out. His father comes for a visit and admires what he has accomplished admitting that when he left he expected he would come home within a day, week,or month. In the end, (not a very satisfactory one) his family, including 8 brothers and sisters come to find him and decide they will join him if he will not return to the city because family ties are important. They insist they will build a house and not live in the base of a tree. It seems life requires compromises and living simple and pure in the wilds is not realistic.

I guess my grandson know me better than I thought. While I never seriously considered running away from home, I have often dreamed of living alone for a time in a remote natural setting. I have long been interested in the flora, particularly the the edible plants , and fauna of the forest. I have a small library of books, I have read and reread, on edible plants, animal and bird identification, survival skills, camping, and log cabin building. When I was 17 I tried to convince my parents to let me spend the Winter living along in a log cabin on an island in Muskoka. I had already spent six week alone with my canoe when the idea haunted me. My practical parents would not let me miss a year of school so this dream was not realized. I have since then taught myself to do simple minimalist wilderness camping. My rule of thumb was that I had to be able to portage my canoe, carrying one pack ( 45 pounds) with all that I would need for two weeks.. I did this a few times but dreamed about it a great. Even now the notion of packing up and taking off alone in a canoe into the wilderness holds a fascination for me. I have read a lot about the early adventurers in Northern Canada who travelled extensively in the Wilderness. Since I got a computer I am fascinated with remote places in the World where people live, and even some where men have lived but not longer do so. I have long wanted to visit the high arctic region of Canada. Sadly, this will remain a dream, the reality would be far to expensive.

It seems the best I could do was to find my way to River Valley and a farm property along the Temagami River, adjacent to the Temagami wilderness. Here at least I can enjoy the flora and fauna and dream my dreams.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Visiting Ottawa Canada Day

As planned ,Lynne and I headed off for Ottawa to be there for Canada Day. We had never done this ,we thought it was about time. It was to be a special Canada Celebration with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in attendance. There visit to Canada was their first as a couple and there was a great deal of anticipation of their visit to Canada wondering how they would be received and how this young couple would handle themselves.

With the excepting of a few Québecois angry types who cannot get over the fact that the French were defeated on the Plains of Abraham. and then abandoned by their cultural homeland, France , for 2 or 3 hundred years, the visit was hysterically well received, even in Québec. The couple charmed us showing poise and dignity while at the same time being very relaxed and obviously enjoyed meeting and talking to people wherever they went.

Lynne and I travelled Route 7, which is actually the Trans Canada Highway although it is not a major expressway. It was an opportunity to see some of Eastern Ontario, going through some small towns and countryside between Toronto and Ottawa.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Will and Kate)

We were not fortunate enough to even see the lovely couple let alone shake their hands. There were about 500,000 people in attendance. My sister, the Royal Stalker, was also in Ottawa and did get to see the Duchess up close. (It was my sister who went to London for the wedding to sleep in the street so she could get a good view.) A black suburban pulled up in front of her as she waited for Will and Kate to arrive at the War Museum. The door opened and Kate stepped out in from of her. She was thrilled and recounted the event while we enjoyed a meal of South Indian food (Tamil) later that evening.

Lynne and I were just enjoying the celebratory atmosphere and watching people as they appeared with bits and pieces of patriotic regalia on. It was a scene of some of the diversity of Canada young to old, families. friends and couples, decked out in ways from the sublime to the ridiculous. My favourite was a young woman in a very white hijab with a red stove piped hat on top.

John and Susan (aka bloggers AC and Cuppa)

On the way into Ottawa, Lynne and I dropped in on a fellow blogger and his wife at Carlton Place outside Ottawa. AC and I have read each others blogs for a few years now and exchanged emails when we had more to share than could be contained in a comment. I always enjoyed his blog and felt we shared some things in common. I was pleased to be able to spend some time with him and his wife to discover that they are as nice as they revealed themselves to be through their blog. I think this is probably true of most people who keep a blog. Over time, we all reveal our true selves. It would be hard to maintain a false persona. I hope we will return to Ottawa again, as there is a lot to see and do there, and have another opportunity to visit AC and Cuppa

A Couple of Canada Day Pilgrims ( Ma femme et moi)

Here we are sitting on the curb of Wellington Street, which runs in front of the Parliament Buildings. At this point we were just people watching. There was a big viewing screen in the road for the crowd on the street, unable to get on the lawn in front of the parliament building .

Our view of the festivities was obstructed by a row of "port-o-potties" We were content just to soak up atmosphere and glad not be in a big press of a crowd, above and behind us.

Statue of Oscar Peterson

One of the things I really wanted to see in Ottawa was this statue of Oscar Peterson, one of the world's greatest jazz pianists. It is outside the National Arts Centre. His music is playing when you approach and the thing to do is sit on the piano bench along side him

Me and Oscar

You can see I am a man of simple pleasures. Besides I have painful knee joints that always remind me that to sit is better than to stand, even if it is just for a moment.

Statue of Maurice (the Rocket) Richard

I could not resist taking a picture of "The Rocket". He is the hockey equivalent of Babe Ruth or Willie Mays. (if you are not a hockey fan, or very young) When I was young he was the French Canadian player to watch while Gordie Howe was the best English Canadian player.

We had a lovely time. We stayed in the ARC hotel three blocks from the Parliament Buildings.
We ate out at some interesting restaurants (always a special infrequent treat for me) We made use of the "hop on /hop off tour bus" to get around and see the location of site in the city. We got off at the Museum of Civilization and spent several hours there (not enough time), in the First Nations' people section). We went to the famous Byward Market, once to look and once to eat, (not enough time there either). We saw where the Prime Minister lived among the rich and famous and were not able to drive by the the Opposition leader's home as it was among the richer and more famous. Actual this well healed area is where a lot of ambassador residences are as are some of the more important Embassies.

The American ambassadors residence has the best view, high in a bluff overlooking the river.

The new US Embassy is closer to downtown. It is a well fortified building on the street. My reaction was that it was obvious what country is at war with the World. There were at least three levels of security barriers on the street side of the building as well as some suspicious (defensive) sculptures on either side of the door. I would have liked to visit the American Embassy but I was not sure where the entrance was. It is too bad it does not have a more inviting appearance.

I like the current American ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson. I read his blog regularly and think he is very gracious as well as knowledgeable about Canada. The previous ambassador , Wilkins, from South Carolina, I felt did not know much about Canada and the one before him Cerutti, from Massachusetts was rude and bullying toward Canada.

(He criticized Canada for not going to war with the US against Iraq. In the spirit of Bush's "You are with us or against us" view of international affairs. he accused Canada of not being a good friend to the US. I would have so liked to have replied to him, "What kind of a friend tries to drag a good friend into a illegal and immoral war?" He owed Canada more respect for taking an independent sovereign (and as it turned out a correct) decision on the war.

Sorry for the political aside.

On the Fourth of July the American Ambassador holds a barbecue for his 5,000 closest friends at his lovely residence. I would have loved an invitation. If I had know it at the time he was just in front of us while we watched the Changing of the Guard, July 3rd, (The band was marching to American tunes in honour of the Fourth of July the next day.) (If you read his blog you will see his account of this), I would have love a chance to speak to him.. . . .blogger to blogger! It is worth a try.

We went on a tour of the parliament buildings. I did this years ago and Lynne has never done it.
While most school children do this at some time , like graduation from grade eight, Lynne decided when she and I were in school the best we did was a tour of the St. Lawrence Starch Works, that always gave our home town of Port Credit a distinctive and offensive cheesy smell, and a tour of the Ford Motor Car assembly plant in nearby Oakville. This tour I wanted very much to see the parliamentary library, . . . . truly beautiful.

We had a lovely time. But I was glad to get home and gather up Heidi. My son told me on the phone that Heidi accidentally bite Dylan, my eldest grandson. My son was about to leave for Arizona (he likes the heat) while his mother was visiting from Arizona to care for the children and not necessarily for Heidi.

After less than a week away I have long grass to cut and flowers in my flower boxes to try to revive.

Oh yes one of my cat had a kitten and brought it out of its hiding place while I was away. So I now have a wild (half grown) cat that has never been handled by a human in the house. It makes life interesting.

Canada Day was a great success this year with the biggest crowd in Ottawa ever on a lovely sunny day. I trust my American friends had a wonderful Fourth of July.

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