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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.

Monday, February 27, 2012

And Yet, More Reading

Last week, I had one of those easily forgettable birthdays. (When you reach my age more and more of them are easily forgettable) There are those who still remember so I got a couple of books as gifts for the milestone. As an addition to the Christmas books I got this past years I feel a little backed up in my reading.

(click on photo to enlarge)

Here are the two new additions to my backed up reading materials. They both look very interesting and promise to be a little lighter reading than a couple of my other books from Christmas that remain unread. I find them both very tempting and I have already started to read in one of them.

The one I find myself reading is the one called Eating Dirt, by Charlotte Gill. It is about her experience as a professional tree planter for twenty years. This is perhaps one of the most physically challenging jobs anyone could work at. That anyone would do it for 20 years or more is remarkable to me. Having worked as a logger, I know some of the challenges to work in the bush planting seedlings on a piece work basis. I even considered trying it but decided at the time I was already too old. (I was over 30). Usually, students are recruited to do this work in Northern Ontario. Those who survive the physical challenges of it and master a good level of speed at at planting can make a good amount of money in a season. Not many make a profession of it.

The challenge of being a tree planter in British Columbia, which is the case in this book, is many times greater than the relative easier setting of Ontario, with the longer season on steep slopes of the mountains to work on. Besides the heat and cold, biting insects and poisonous plants, bad food and crummy housing, long hours and many days without a day off, you might also have to deal with Grizzly Bears, Cougars and other challenging wild life.

I just want to learn why and how a woman could rise to this physical challenge and what "spiritual" satisfaction there was in it for her to keep her at. This book is more than just a recollection; it is a life journey and an understanding between the relationship we have with forests.

The second book is a collection of essays by Nelson Mandela: Conversations with Myself. I look forward to learning more about this interesting saintly man. His life story is a remarkable one and the depths of his humanity which shaped modern South Africa, is awe inspiring. I just know it will be a wonderful read. I have read the forward written by President Barack Obama, who speaks of the influence Mandela has had on his life

My son, Parker, brought these two book by yesterday. He was in Toronto on my birthday so he brought these two gifts, one from my sister, and on from his family back with him.

I had planned to go to Mississauga to spend time with Lynne for my birthday. As it turned out I felt it was better to cancel this trip. Lynne's three year old granddaughter was diagnosed with cancer. I would have been a distraction when she, her daughter and two sons were focused on the baby. Last week she underwent surgery and had a kidney removed as the cancer was a tumor on one of her kidneys. She had an 8 hour operation at the Hospital of Sick Children in Toronto, a world class facility. She has been recovering nicely from the surgery but will face many months of chemotherapy. It is a form of cancer that is usually successfully treated but still a worry for those concerned. Certainly it is not what you like to think of a child having to cope with. There is good reason to be very hopeful for a positive outcome.

Leigha, Lynne's darling granddaughter. She has no idea of the weeks ahead of her undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments. God bless her!

In a month or so I may find the time to go south for a visit with Lynne and perhaps some time to spend with Leigha.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Prize Photo

The photo below has moved me very much. Ever since I first saw it about a week ago, I have been draw to revisit it

It is one of the prize winning photos of the World Press Photo Contest. It was taken by Samuel Aranda in Saana, Yemen, October 5, 2011. He was working for the New York Times.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

This photo I find both draws me to look at it and, at the same time, makes me want to look away. I feel uncomfortable for being a voyeur of such a touching human moment. Here we see a scene which has two images which each makes us uncomfortable such that we want to look away while at the same time we are drawn to stare. The first is a man, near naked, and obviously suffering ( he was a victim of the uprising in Sanaa ,Yemen.) We ought not to be intruding on another's suffering, (as if he were road kill on the highway) particularly when he is so helpless and unable to defend himself and his right to modesty. The second person, is a woman, in contrast, completely covered including a hiqab. The gloves would indicate she is a medical assistant but she is offering more that medical assistance.

She is offering succour to another human's pain and suffering. For me, a western person, unfamiliar with women presenting themselves in a Niqab, I am drawn to stare at her, wondering who she is. At the same time. I feel I should look away for she dressing in this manner to protect her modestly and doesn't deserve to have a stranger staring at her. Do I really need to see more of her to judge her humanity?

We often think woman in a Niqab as hiding her humanity, and yet, this scene is a demonstration of her showing her humanity to this man in a very tender way as it he were a child. In fact, he is as helpless as a child and in a way she has set aside her modestly and drawn him to her. We need not see more to understand the quality of her humanity.

I continue to return to this photo and look at it. The more I look; the more I think I learn. It is without a title so I like to call it "Compassion", or, The Muslim Pietà

If you want to see other prize winning photos you can find them here.

Monday, February 06, 2012

God Save the Queen

It was on this day, February 6, in 1952, that Princess Elizabeth became Queen. Her father, King George VI, died unexpectedly while she was in Kenya on her way to New Zealand. She returned to Britain as the Queen at age 26 to take up her duties which she has admirably fulfilled for 60 years. She has no plans of retiring soon. She is the 40th British Monarch since 1066. Britain has always been monarchy except for a few years when it killed its king and tried to be a Republic. She is the second longest reigning Monarch. Only Queen Victoria reigned longer. Queen Elizabeth may eventually surpass this record.

I think I remember that day so long ago. My mother was very interested in the Royal family, her parents being British. I am sure she was very attentive, listening to the reports on the radio.

I suspect the Coronation, the next year, was the inspiration for us to get a television, just as my grandfather was finally convinced to get a radio, years before, so he could listen to Amos and Andy and share in the discussions about the show with his co-workers. The Coronation was the first one broadcast on TV. The Queen has not been one to shy away from the use of new media over the years.

Here is a brief video highlighting the events of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

This year there will be many celebrations of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee across the Commonwealth. Most of the events will be held in and around London, England in June.

It would be an interesting time to visit London. Here is a newspaper account of the major activities.

For those of you who need a refresher course on the Queen and the Royal family you can find it here. Also some historic photos here

With any luck the Queen will stay in good health and reign for many more years, after all her mother the Queen Mom lived to be over 100 years old. God Save the Queen!