Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Some Days, I Can

Some days, I just can’t.

I sit stunned while women I counted on to say “no” say “okay” to destructive people--even to someone who himself acknowledges he is not qualified--although all adults know that saying “no” early prevents all those uncomfortable contortions to justify your bad decision.

I am less stunned when people pass legislation to prevent women everywhere from having information to make the best decisions for themselves, never mind ensuring that they have adequate medical care, never mind ensuring support and encouragement so they can contribute their gifts to this planet, which so desperately needs all gifts.

I am even less stunned when women shout “jobs” while enabling antiquated visions of exploitation and pollution, instead of adhering to their best vision and principles to support innovation and conservation.

Some days, I can foresee disappointments.

Some days, I just can’t.

Fortunately, I also can’t predict acts of courage.

Yesterday, a lone woman (or possibly a man) sat forward in her office, defying a gag order to broadcast facts about how our reckless behaviour is killing our planet.

Yesterday, that woman (or possibly a man) reminded me that on some days, I can.

Some days, I can show up: to the page, for my clients, for writer-friends at meetings where we acknowledge that what we do won’t by itself ensure reproductive or voting rights, where our words alone won’t protect our planet from destruction, but what we do is still our work to do, it is still what is in front of us to be done, and we need to do it.

Some days, I can listen: to the women who spoke up last Saturday, to the women whose voices weren’t welcomed or heard last Saturday, to women whose wives and sisters and mothers and daughters are missing, threatened, incarcerated, entombed, to women who fight to contribute their ideas and skills in rooms where they are still surrounded by men.

Some days, I can applaud women who say “no.” 
Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Sometimes, I need to turn away--turn my back on destructive people and events, in spite of the sick fascination they can offer. I think that fascination is what lures people into things like "hate-watching" something. You don't want to but you somehow can't stop? Yeah, that. But that feels horrible. It separates me from my work. It prevents me from doing what I can, however small my work and my efforts feel at times.

So instead of turning away, I'm thinking about turning toward--looking for experiences and people that operate from respect. I'm focusing on people who can help me tinker and reconstruct, laugh and play, with respectful honesty. I welcome interaction with people who are curious enough to read and research. To listen (yes, I'm a broken record about that). To learn.

That's where I'm putting my energy this week. Because I must.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Word For...

My mother ran a household and raised five children, besides managing her career as a university teacher and researcher. She relied on rules, even or perhaps especially about the holidays.

Christmas decorations and music could begin appearing on American Thanksgiving (aka Thanksgiving), but no earlier.

The Christmas tree went up on December 21 (my father's birthday), probably because her classes were over and she'd turned in her grades.

The Christmas tree came down on January 1, not only because it had likely dropped needles and we were all exhausted by the holidays, but also so that she could get the house back to normal and go back to focusing on her real love: teaching.

As an adult, my life is less strict (and successful, by her standards). I recognize the value and meaning of her rules, but I also question how they apply to my life these days.

So lately I've been searching for the word for "that feeling of knowing a special time is over but not wanting it to be so." Also "finding ways to stretch out a pleasurable experience as long as possible to help soothe the grief of letting go."

(And no, neither of these have to do with the impending changes in political leadership south of the border. Or you know what, maybe they do.)

Mostly, I'm thinking of Christmas. And I'm interested in these words for emotions that we all might recognize but don't have a word for in English.

Yes: showing a person experiencing the emotion is usually more effective than naming it. So, I don't have scenes, but here are the events that prompted the search for emotion words.

I waited until January 8 to open the Christmas stocking and gifts my sister and I still exchange. The impetus wasn't especially about Christmas in particular--it was more to savor that feeling of "found time" when everyone else is on holiday and I can hunker down to finish special projects. I thoroughly enjoyed that time this year and found it difficult to release.

I kept drinking from holiday mugs (which I forgot about starting, since I don't celebrate American Thanksgiving, until December 1) through the 9th, but I recognized that the holidays weren't OFFICIALLY-officially done until I'd unloaded the dishwasher and put them away. Which was yesterday.

However you look at it, the holidays are now over, and the work continues. My mother was always pleased to start a new semester, conceive of a new proposal, start a new line of research. And although my projects aren't as well-defined as hers sometimes were, I too enjoy my life and my work.

Here are some important words around that: determined, committed, grateful.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Listen" Suggestions

It's a new year, and the recent US election seems like old news, except that it isn't--the ramifications grow bigger every day. 

One recent "end of the year" highlight for Canada's news outlets was that the night of the election, searches in the US for "how to move to Canada" apparently spiked. (Note that the site linked isn't the official Government of Canada site, which has updated instructions and laws.) 

So, Americans, here's something to know: Canadians love being the place where Americans move. Sorta. One thing don't love is that Americans assume it'll be easy.  

I heard it expressed best this past summer by Jeff McArthur, a host on one of the morning news shows. I can't find the exact quote, but this is close: "Canada isn't like Disneyland. You can't just show up and pay an admission fee and expect to get in."

Yeah. Maybe think a moment--what is it you have to offer Canada? Canadians are fluent in American culture. What do you know about Canada. Really KNOW? 

Beyond that, many of your neighbors and friends in the US have pointed out that "moving to Canada" is an expression of your privilege. How many of them could use allies? Are you really going to desert them? Maybe think about that, too.

And Canadians, here's food for your listening (reading) pleasure, because what I've noticed up here (sorry) is a bit of your tendency to smugness. (Again, sorry to offend, but you know it's true.)

Don't think it's only American culture that can regress overnight. Here's Sarah Boon, who expounds on that point (and others relating to science, women, mental health, nature) extremely well in this post. I keep trying to excerpt something but it's all so good, and she includes many links with further food for thought.

Basically, she says this: Don't think Canada has--or ever had--progressive society "all figured out." Regression to an even more exclusionary, discriminatory, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-science world can happen in Canada, too--and in some areas, more easily than in the US. 

While I'm at it, I recommend her blog, Watershed Moments: Thoughts from the Hydrosphere. She's a scientist (snow and ice hydrology), and a thoughtful one. And a good, interesting writer. 

Happy 2017. We have our work cut out for us, on both sides of the border.