Tuesday 25 November 2008

Toodle-oo, kangaroo!

I won't be blogging again until the beginning of December, so see you then!

Sunday 23 November 2008

Graffiti Haiku

There are many creative graffiti artists (or vandals, depending on your perspective) working in the neighbourhood near our university. They inscribe their offerings in spray paint, stencils or magic marker on any number of handy surfaces belonging to others. One spring day as I walked in the area, I passed three separate graffiti statements painted by different people on a sidewalk, utility pole and green dumpster, respectively. Each statement stayed with me until later, when it occurred to me that I had inadvertently found, in the most unlikeliest of spots, a charming haiku of great wisdom. Thank you, unknown graffiti poets!

listen . . . don't wait
until tomorrow . . . grow

Saturday 22 November 2008

45 years ago today

I'm a total politics junkie, although not so rabid as I used to be. My very first political memory is from 1963, when I was six. My memory isn't so much a direct memory of JFK's assassination, but of the reaction of the adults around me -- such shock and horror and disbelief. But I do remember, a few days later, coming home from school for lunch and watching JFK's funeral on our black-and-white TV. There was a very real sense that the world had just gone completely mad. The only event since then which has matched that reaction is 9/11.

Friday 21 November 2008

bad poet's dilemma

can i use this word
without irony


hmm, no

(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2008

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Guiding Principle # 2

"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."

This murderous little sentiment is actually an ancient Zen Buddhist saying. While it sounds paradoxical (shouldn't a Buddhist be happy to meet the Buddha?), it is actually darn good advice. If we meet a spiritual authority on our journey who says that they have all the answers and all we have to do for salvation or spiritual fulfilment is just follow what they say, it's a pretty safe bet that they will lead us astray and cause us great damage. We must retain our individual thought, control and judgment at all times during the spiritual journey. Anyone who doesn't want us to question or think for ourselves is dangerous. Spiritual authority is found within ourselves, not externally.

Thus endeth the sermon.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Guiding Principle # 1

"Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out."

This saying is attributed to various authors so it's unclear who actually came up with it, but what a brilliant bit of advice! It's so important to apply some basic critical thought to what we read and hear during our spiritual journey. There are many con artists, hucksters and charlatans out there and they are evenly distributed among every spiritual tradition. Common sense and a healthy scepticism are our best defences against being played for a gullible sucker! Be open to new ideas, but always reserve judgment until the claims have been tested in practice. Unfortunately, all the cliches are true -- there really is no such thing as a free lunch and if something sounds too good to be true, it is!

Tomorrow -- Guiding Principle # 2!

Monday 17 November 2008

Free Advice

There's a saying that free advice is usually worth what you pay for it. But that's not always accurate. When I was young, older people used to give me free advice all the time about how life works. I would pretend to listen, while secretly rolling my eyes and thinking, "oh, what the hell do you know, you middle-aged old fart?" But now that I've reached middle-aged old fartdom myself, I have discovered that much of their disregarded advice was, unfortunately, true.

Giving free advice must be a characteristic of middle age, because lately I've had this undeniable compulsion to do so. I feel another wave of it coming over me right now. Or is that a hot flash? Anyway, I've got some unsolicited free advice about the spiritual journey which I offer to anyone who might be interested. It consists of the two most valuable guiding principles that I have learned during my many, many years of wandering around the highways and byways of mainstream and alternative spirituality (I'm not called "Debra She Who Seeks" for nothing, you know).

Tomorrow -- Guiding Principle # 1!

Saturday 15 November 2008

My Vancouver Ritual

I don't get to Vancouver very often -- maybe once a year, if I'm lucky. But no matter how quick my visit to the city, I always make time for two things. First, I take a taxi to Banyen Books, the spiritual bookstore on West 4th Avenue. It soothes my soul to spend a couple of hours there, just browsing through all the books, CDs and assorted spiritual items. Then I go next door and have dinner at Aphrodite's Cafe.
Aphrodite's Cafe is Capital F Funky, especially at night. The restaurant consists of three old, narrow storefront spaces that have been joined together via interior archways to make a single cafe. It is largely unmodernized, with uneven floors, the original lathe wainscotting and somewhat bizarre washrooms. In the harsh light of day, it would be a shabby, perhaps even grimy, place. But at night, lit by strings of tiny lights, full of the kitchen's warmth and crowded with laughing people while wonderful food is being served -- it's magic! The organic food is always fresh and just simply delicious. Tonight I had Thai red pepper soup and a wonderful vegetarian omelette with salad. Then I topped it off with their specialty -- fresh berry pie (raspberry and rhubarb, mmmm).
If you're ever in Vancouver, go eat there! The website for Aphrodite's Cafe is located here, which is where I got the picture at the top of this post. Tomorrow I'll be back home with my Rare One in Edmonton. Tonight I'm digesting in Vancouver.

Thursday 13 November 2008

CCL Wardrobe Update

I have previously posted about my overweening ambition to possess a Crazy Cat Lady wardrobe. Well, I simply MUST have these pants!!

Wednesday 12 November 2008

First Snow

Yesterday, we had our first snowfall of the winter here in Outpost Edmonton of the Great White North. The snow was beautifully white on the ground and hoar frost sparkled on all the trees. Today we have a bit of freezing rain in our area, causing a few multi-vehicle accidents as a result. If winter only lasted a month or so, what a wonderful season it would be! However, it lasts six months in Canada and becomes a grinding endurance test after a while. But no complaints! This is still the best country in the whole world in which to live!

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

--from "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon

Monday 10 November 2008

Charlie Walker's Ring and Namesake

My grandparents gave Charlie Walker a ring when he went off to war, a gold band with a red stone. He wore it throughout his time in Europe. In the hospital after being wounded at Vimy Ridge and knowing the end was near, he arranged to have the ring sent home again to my grandparents. Now that ring is in my possession.

My grandparents had seven daughters. When their first and only son (my father) was born a few years after the First World War, they named him Charles Walker in memory of the fallen soldier who they honoured.

Saturday 8 November 2008

Charles Hengham Walker

Charlie Walker was born in Scotland in 1891 and emigrated to Canada as a child. He may have come to our country as a Barnardo's Boy or as one of the Home Children who were shipped overseas from Britain to be domestic help and farm labourers. As an adult, he ended up in southwestern Manitoba and worked as a farm labourer for my grandfather. He was very close with my grandparents and I believe he worked for them for several years. In the winter of 1916, Charlie Walker volunteered for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. After training, he was sent to France with the 44th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment). He was mortally wounded at Vimy Ridge in April, 1917 and died about a month later on May 8, 1917. He was 26 years old, unmarried, with no children. Charlie Walker is buried at Vimy Ridge in France.

Friday 7 November 2008

Vigil 1914-1918

My Rare One and I got up in the middle of the night and drove to the Alberta Legislature. We stood in the cold night air and the dark by ourselves and then we went home again. Here's why.

There's a special transatlantic Vigil of Remembrance being held this year for the 68,000 Canadian soldiers killed in World War I. At some point during a night from sunset November 4th to sunrise November 11th, the name of a fallen soldier will be projected in light for a couple of minutes against various public buildings and monuments in Britain and Canada. The illuminated names start in London, England (projected onto Canada House in Trafalgar Square), then cross the Atlantic and are sequentially illuminated in Halifax, Fredericton, Ottawa (projected onto the National War Memorial), Toronto, Regina and finally Edmonton (projected onto a large screen in front of the Alberta Legislature). The westward progression of the names is meant to be a symbolic repatriation to Canada of those who died and were buried in Europe as a sacrifice to the British Empire.

There is only one soldier from the First World War to whom I have a personal connection. His name was Charles Hengham Walker and his name was illuminated this morning at the Alberta Legislature at 2:33 a.m. We were there to witness his symbolic homecoming. To greet his return, I wore the ring he wore throughout the war, including at Vimy Ridge where he was mortally wounded and subsequently died on May 8, 1917.

More about Charlie Walker and his ring in the next couple of posts.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Yes, He Can!

What an incredible, historic day for the United States! What a privilege to have seen it arrive! Celebrate, American neighbours! And then roll up your sleeves and, with Obama's leadership, get the USA out of the ditch and back on track again!

I watched the election coverage last night on the CBC, which broadcast the following quotation about the whole situation: "Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Barack Obama could run. Barack Obama ran so America could fly!" Very cool!

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Lake Louise conference notes

Lawren Harris mountain
tax consequences of share rollout

brilliant white snow in stylized furrows
discretionary beneficial interest in a trust

mountain peak bisects central cloud
Canadian withholding tax

the grandeur of solitude
tax deferral on passive income


(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2007

Monday 3 November 2008

office life

tell-tale stench of wet dog
the carpets were
steam-cleaned again
last night

(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2007