Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Crosswords, not cross words.

The other day I wrote about the L'Arche community and their commitment to mentally disabled adults. I wrote about my experiences with Cameron and friends and neighbours who are involved with the Vanier institute. However, I had forgotten to mention something that happened a few days ago on the subway.

I was coming home from a meeting downtown early enough to have avoided the crowds on the Yonge line. I had a seat to myself in an almost empty car, when a young man in his early twenties came and sat beside me. He had a crossword puzzle from the newspaper and a pencil in his hand. He pointed to the crossword puzzle.

At first I was a little confused, as he was sitting very close and reaching out even closer with the puzzle. Then I made the connection. He wanted someone to help him find the answer. How did he know that I do at least two crosswords a day. Maybe he didn't, but someone out there did. I spent the next twenty minutes with him working on the puzzle. I would suggest the answers and he would write them down. It was actually fun.

When I had to leave at my stop, he wandered over to another passenger, who wasn't as accommodating. The young man then moved onto another car. I wondered if he did this everyday, all day and I wondered where he lived. Was there someone making sure that he got home safely? I now understand the concept of the emotional connection. I finished a crossword puzzle that night, the same one we had worked on earlier. I thought often of that young man.

Have a great day.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Great Vowel Movement.......

In a puerile way, I have always been interested in the term "vowel movement" - not just because it rhymes with bowel movement - but that's part of it. Yes, a lot of s**t comes out of people's mouths, mine included, and people seem to use grunts, groans and "duhs" more than they do words to "enunciate" their feelings or views of the world, these days, sigh!

As a person more interested in words, than, let's say, punctuation, (the Oxford comma be damned) I was "gob-smacked" at dinner the other night, when our guest exclaimed in the delight of a Eureka moment, "Of course, didn't you know, we are in the middle of the great vowel movement."

Apparently, the movement started in the 11th century, but really picked up speed with Chaucer and literally "took off" with the arrival of the printing press - machines do make most things go a little faster :) I can't remember the original comment that triggered the digression, but it must have been related to a New Zealand friend of ours, who had just visited us in Toronto. Maggie was worried that she might go home with a Canadian accent - there are worse things. Diptheria comes to mind :)

Anyway, the door opened to a discussion of vowels, always better than bowels at the dinner table. It wasn't so much the topic, as the odd looks on the faces of the next generation, that provided the entertainment. If this is something that has been going on for over a thousand years, do we really have to worry about it in our/their lifetime. In a world dictated by Kardashians and other puerile (there's that word again) examples of what makes life important, our 20 somethings simply could not relate to the excitement of a change in the pronunciation of a few vowels.

The eye rolling was priceless. Brenda's elevated and animated description of the subtle change from "i" to "e" in some words was classic. And I could reaffirmed my belief, that the microcosm, rather than the macrocosm, is what enriches lives.

The pictures? Not really related, but then when would I ever have had the opportunity to use them in a post. They were the stamps from my sister's Christmas card to me this year and both musicians are/were bards in their time and yes, would that we could all just freeze the moment, as their pictures have done, and never change. Then again a few paltry years measured against the evolution of a thousand or more is rarely enough to change anything.....or is it?

Have a great day!!

Sunday, December 20, 2015


I read an article yesterday in the Globe and Mail about a person I have known for a long time, but have never met. The article, written by Ian Brown, was about Jean Vanier who started L'Arche.  I had first heard of L'Arche from my neighbour, who often spends Christmas in France, at one of Vanier's homes for mentally disabled adults.

Although L'Arche has many houses around the world, that care for people who cannot care for themselves, Brown went specifically to France to look for a place for his severely disabled son. It's Vanier's unique approach that makes these places so special. Everyone is considered equal and valued for the particular emotional connection they bring to the group. Everyone, including visitors and attendants, sit together at a common table for meals and stay in the same simple accommodations.

The article was both humbling and elevating at the same time. The ultimate message was that whoever you are and whatever you do, you have value in this life. You must respect both yourself and others for the uniqueness everyone brings to any situation.

I have another connection to L'Arche, through a very good friend. Her son is the director of the L'Arche houses in Ontario. I have known Leslie since elementary school and remember when she adopted her son and when her husband died leaving her with a two-year-old child. It's a sad story with a happy ending. As L'Arche is a happy ending for people who have had a difficult beginning.

I haven't spent much time with people who are valued more for their emotional connection with people, than their intellectual ability, but I do remember Cameron. Here is an except from a manuscript I wrote a few years ago.

 ".....it’s a reminder that a lot of people out there have had difficult lives, one of the most difficult may have been Cameron's. Cameron lived in my grandmother’s house.  He was born with cerebral palsy at a time before Bliss Boards and places to take people with this condition, that would give them an education and some degree of dignity. Cameron, at the time, was fourteen years old and he lived in a crib in my grandmother’s kitchen.  I also remember that he sometimes lived in the middle bedroom upstairs, but it was difficult to watch him there and as he got older, he got testier and my grandmother was afraid that he might choke or struggle so much that he would break the bed, so she moved him to the kitchen.

My grandmother was paid to look after Cameron. She fed, washed and changed him.  She never, however, entertained him. There was never time. Sometimes, out of boredom, I would talk to Cameron.  I knew he liked this.  He would smile and try to talk back. It was so sad. He was skin and bone; but I knew that he could understand. His body didn’t work; but his mind did. Unfortunately, he couldn’t tell anyone, what he really thought.

One day Cameron’s father came to visit.  He was an older man. Older than my father, so he must have been in his fifties.  He never took his coat off.  He stayed for a few minutes by the crib and I think he was crying. Shortly after, someone came to take Cameron away.  My grandmother said that he was going to a place where there were stronger people to look after him. I often think of Cameron and what it would have been like to be locked in a dysfunctional body that trapped your mind.  No one gave you a second thought because they presumed that your brain was as disabled as your body, but you were, in fact, brilliant."

The pictures? A garden in France.

Have a wonderful day!!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

It's all about the words.....

It's all about the words. This is the inspiration I read in the Globe the other day. It was Russell Smith's column on art, poetry and blogging. It begins by saying:
A blog is a hobby; a blog is a notebook; a blog is a forum; a blog is a piece of art. A blog is unpaid, and so can rewrite our idea of what a journal is, what publication is. It reminds us that, in the age of culturecrat jargon such as “viability” and “private-public partnerships,” we can give away art entirely for free and that art can infiltrate a larger culture and therefore be worth something all on its own.
...... in a sense, all art is about other art, if only in that it cannot help but refer to art that has preceded it. If it is a poem, it echoes all other poems that use the same language; if it is a painting, it exists in a continuum of paintings with the same colours or themes. 
(Art/blogging is) "an exercise …” The words that follow could be anything – line, colour, silence, changing scales, transgression – but the idea of the exercise is constant. (Evelyn Waugh, for example: “I regard writing not as investigation of character, but as an exercise in the use of language, and with this I am obsessed.”)
This is all the rationale I needed to restart my regular blog again.

For me, writing is about this precision in the use of language. It's about bon mots, succinct phrases and the many nuances of words in carefully arranged sentences.

Writing 365 blogs in 365 days, a few years ago, was a challenge. However, I loved it. In fact, I wrote on topics I would never have considered had I not had my back against the proverbial wall.

I think that I have to try that again. Although my blog is called "Life is what happens," life is more exciting, if you make things happen.

The picture? For all those times when I can say that I have seen the light.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

An Über ride!!

OK, we didn't use an Uber taxi for our ride from Arles to the airport in Marseilles. Our quote for the 50 mile trip was €150.00. We decided on a taxi, though, because train schedules can change and we needed to catch that plane!!

As it turned out our driver was quite amazing. He had lived all over Europe, but decided to settle in Arles to raise a family in a quiet town with roots. We picked his brain about places in the south of France, Andorra and elsewhere. He was very knowledgeable - we were getting our money's worth!!

In fact the ride cost about €125.00 euros and he refused a tip!! I compared this with the taxi we took last year to get to the same airport from Aix en Provence, about 20 minutes away. We were quoted €40.00 and it turned out costing us €96.00.  Sigh!!

I can't believe that it has taken me almost six months to write up one of my summer holidays this year. Sometimes it's just difficult to write, even with amazing subject matter. However, I've come across several articles, lately, on blogging and I think that I will be more dedicated moving forward.

Self-doubt, a sense of purposelessness, FB changes that limited or inhibit sharing of posts, ennui - bundle them altogether and you have a roadblock of biblical proportions.


There it's gone! Now I can get on with recording my life - for what it's worth!!

Have an awesome day!!