Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PPCLI Centennial -- World War I

This month is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. I'm marking the PPCLI centennial on my blog over the next four days because my father was a Princess Pat when he served in World War II. His military service profoundly affected him for his entire life and therefore also shaped my family in indelible ways.

World War I

[William Barnes Wollen, Second Battle of Ypres (Frezenberg)]

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was privately raised and equipped in August, 1914, the same month that World War I began. Canadians were very enthusiastic about the Great War at the start and the new regiment quickly attracted financing and recruits.

The PPCLI's first honorary Colonel-in-Chief was Princess Patricia of Connaught, the daughter of Queen Victoria's son Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, who was Governor-General of Canada at the time. That explains the regiment's feminine name. I'm sure having a female patron was meant to evoke the far-off days of chivalry when a royal damsel would send her knight into battle wearing a token of her love attached to his armour. That's the kind of romanticized nonsense about war that prevailed before the killing fields of France woke people up to modern realities.

The Patricias were the first Canadian infantry unit to arrive in France during the First World War. In May 1915, the PPCLI had its first battlefield victory at Frezenberg (Ypres) although it cost them 500 men in 3 days. The highest ranking officer still alive at its conclusion was a lieutenant. The Princess Pats also fought at the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens and Mons -- all the major battles in which Canada served.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Huzzah, It's Here!

Yes, August 18th, National Bad Poetry Day, is upon us once more! "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" And to celebrate, I've collected a few choice gems for your perusal and consideration . . . .

Bad Poets, like all poets, yearn to write the Great Eternal Truths of Love.

But Bad Poets also write movingly and eloquently about Life's Many Trials and Tribulations.

Nor are Bad Poets limited to our own human species. All kindred beings can pour out their innermost hearts using the Sweet Language of The Divine Emollient.

Thank you for celebrating National Bad Poetry Day with She Who Seeks blog!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hymns Old and New -- Southland of the Heart

I've been a huge fan of Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn since the mid-1970s (yikes, that's 40 years now!) Many of his songs concern the spiritual journey and our relationship with the Divine. Although he is a devout Christian, the imagery he uses is not explicitly Christian nor even explicitly spiritual. "Those who have ears to hear, hear, and eyes to see, see."

To me, one of his most profoundly spiritual songs is Southland of the Heart. Actually, I've always regarded it as a modern, updated equivalent of Abide With Me. Cockburn's imagery for the abyss is the arid, shadeless, remorseless desert -- the southland -- to which we are driven by our own experiences and our own demons. There the only sanctuary and peace is to be found in the Divine, the "help of the helpless," who gently invites us:

In the southland of the heart . . .
Lie down,
Take your rest with me.

And yet, the genius of Cockburn's songwriting skill is that it's entirely possible to interpret this song in a purely human, non-spiritual way as well. It can easily be seen simply as a dialogue between two people, one of whom is comforting the other and offering them a shoulder to lean on during difficult times. That's why Cockburn's music is so universally appealing -- no one's experience is alienated or excluded.

Southland of the Heart is found on Cockburn's 1994 album Dart to the Heart. The whole album is fabulous. Hard to believe it's been 20 years since it came out. (Man, I really have to stop feeling so old about every little thing, LOL!)

P.S. -- Watch for the photo at the end of the video of Bruce Cockburn's own Canada Post stamp which was issued a couple of years ago!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hymns Old and New -- Abide With Me

In the spiritual journey, the "dark night of the soul" is often fraught with mortal peril. Moses may have met the Divine up on the mountaintop, but all too often the Divine is actually encountered deep in the abyss when death is near. Which is exactly when and where the encounter must occur if you hope to emerge safely from the depths again. If you do not meet the Divine in the abyss (and not everyone does), all will be lost and you will not return to life's surface. The difficult thing about an encounter with the Divine is that it cannot be willed, forced or fabricated. Those who return from the abyss know that the meeting occurs only by divine grace beyond our control.

Abide With Me has always been a favourite hymn of mine because it expresses so compellingly the comfort and strength which the Divine may grant in such an encounter. The words were written in 1847 by Henry Francis Lyte, a Scottish Anglican dying of tuberculosis. It was set to music in 1861 by William H. Monk, whose young daughter had just passed away. These men knew the abyss and what it is to look death in the face.

"Help of the helpless, oh abide with me."

Although the words of this hymn utilize the Christian idiom, it goes without saying that the abyss and divine grace are equally well known in paganism and every other form of spirituality. Many gods and goddesses embody the ancient myth of descent, death and rebirth which expresses the same truths about this spiritual experience. It was the Great Goddess Inanna and her Dark Sister Ereshkigal who called my own name so many years ago now.

Thanks to dbs of think.stew blog who suggested posting this recent rendition of Abide With Me by the fabulous Scottish singer Emeli Sandé -- I agree with you, dbs: whoa.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Big Bunny Blowout! One Day Only!

I have been terribly remiss by not posting anything under my "Rabbit Week" label for awhile. So I hope you find these amusing!

Isn't this the one that all rabbits can do?

That's right! Earn your keep, you big freeloading rodent!

Bursting with talent! "I just want to . . . to . . . sing!"

I see The Classics have been updated again . . . .

Did you know that rabbits are notorious boozers?

And of course all that drinking just leads to one thing, right?

Have a bunny hoppin' good weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

oh k.d., my k.d.

Over the past few years, Canada Post has been periodically issuing stamps to honour various Canadian singer/songwriters, musicians and bands. Last week they issued one for k.d. lang! The great photo featured on the stamp was taken a few years ago when she was at her sexiest butch best. Mm, mm, mm! And before anyone asks, Canadian stamps are now self-adhesive, alas. Whaaaat? Closest I was ever gonna get.

I've seen k.d. lang in concert several times over the years but my favourite memory is of her solo outdoor Winnipeg Folk Festival concert about 22 years ago or so. She was still a country singer then and for that concert, she wore dark jeans and a fab silver rhinestone jacket, very retro and campy. I went to the concert with Big Bad Butch (my girlfriend at the time) and let me tell you, every lesbian in Winnipeg and surrounding area was there. We all sat together in our own huge cheering section on the grass centre-left and carried on something fierce as only wild wimmin can do!

Good times.

Monday, August 4, 2014

"A Reckless Dance into the Abyss"

One hundred years ago today on August 4, 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany, after Germany declared war on France and Belgium. Canada also was automatically at war with Germany, since we were part of the seamless British Empire. With scarcely any diplomatic negotiations, public consultation or apparent thought, the great imperial powers of Europe plunged the world into the as-yet-unknown and unimagined horrors of mechanized warfare and death.

Our modern era began with that "reckless dance into the abyss" as the Great War was called in a recent article by Brian Stewart, former CBC foreign correspondent and current Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.* He wrote that World War I --

has been called the "seminal catastrophe" of modern times and the calamity from which all other calamities sprang. . . .

The conflict itself saw 16 million killed, including 10 million soldiers, half of whom, it has been estimated, were never found or identified in the sea of mud and craters that the battlefields became.

No one will ever be able to calculate the lifetimes of grief left for those millions of relatives of the fallen, and for those survivors with broken bodies and spirits.

For years after the war, people talked of "the great silence" as the pain lay too deep to be spoken aloud. . . . 

In just four years [the war] collapsed four entire empires — the German, the Austro-Hungarian, the Russian, and the Ottoman (Turkish).

It bankrupted Europe both literally and emotionally, shattered faith in governments everywhere and left people desperate for extreme new ideologies that promised to make life livable again.

By giving birth to communism, fascism and the Nazis, the First World War was the essential precondition for the Second World War just 21 years later, and for the nuclear age and Cold War that followed.

"It is hard to imagine a worse initial condition for the modern era of which we are the inheritors," the Australian historian Christopher Clark wrote.


* Brian Stewart, "The 100-year conflict that is the First World War" (July 30, 2014) found here.

[All photos are from the internet. The first two are of Canada's National War Memorial in Ottawa. The third shows one of the seven Books of Remembrance housed in the Peace Tower, Parliament Hill, Ottawa which list all the names of Canada's war dead.]