Sunday, May 30, 2010

Water and Wilderness

I have moss between my toes. My tomatoes are drowning. The roof, sadly, still leaks, and help seems moons away: you can't replace a roof while it's raining.
I didn't need the media to tell me that this is the rainiest spring on record. That was already all too clear. Dad confirmed it for me: when someone who loves to farm is cranky about the rain, you know there is a problem.
If I wanted to live in this climate, I would long since have moved to Vancouver.
While I do have my tomatoes in, all other planting is on hiatus. How can you cast tender wee plants into the soil when you don't know whether it will frost, snow, and freeze? I'm not much of a gardener, but I'm pretty sure my seeds would be washed away.
When it began to pour buckets yesterday (as opposed to just the continuous, driving rain) I decided that was enough. Someone was to blame, and Someone had better turn off the tap before I became irate and decided to hurt Someone. Yes, the rain drove me to irrationality.
I tried to think about Quebec, where fires rage, or the Gulf coast, where five thousand barrels of oil a day are spewing into the water and washing up on the shores. It could be worse. I think.
On the slightly brighter side, there was half a day of beauty and peace on the lake last weekend. Sunday was dark and wet; Monday morning was cloudy and cool; but Monday afternoon was a panacea.
The sun actually shone, painting the trees with light and colour. The water was pristine and (relatively) calm. Even the fish were biting.
Ken caught 10 fish that day, keeping four -- three walleye, one pike. Yum. He also caught Leviathan, a massive pike that decided to chomp on his rapala. His head was so big that Ken couldn't grab him, and probably shouldn't have considering he was in a canoe. He was at least 20 pounds and nearly as long as my outstretched arms, if my hands are at right angles.
Sometimes fish are scary. I began quoting Moby Dick. Please don't call me Ishmael.
We wandered the trails and looked at the little explanatory trail signs (did you know this lake emerged from a melting glacier?) and sat on the deck and paddled around in the evening. I tried not to think; just watch and listen.
Two loons were the noisiest things on the lake, calling so loudly that their voices echoed back in a chorus from the trees. Only one other boat was out, a small fishing boat quietly plumbing the pickerel hole near the public beach.
When it's hard to find yourself, among the work and the house and the errands and the busy, Saskatchewan's north is a good place to go looking.
Two days later, juxtaposed unpleasantly against the quiet moments of the lake, I saw a kid with a knife.
I had visited Mom and Dad, and was taking the shortest route home -- straight down Third Avenue, then across the bridge and down Victoria Avenue. I stopped at the light on Third and 23rd, and watched three youths dance across the street in front of me.
One of them -- the smallest -- was flipping a knife (closed -- it was either a fold-out or a switch) around in his fingers. I couldn't miss it; he was right in front of me. Then he pulled his bright green hoodie down over it (it was somehow attached to his belt loop) and the three boys walked over to talk to three other kids waiting for a bus. Were they friends? I hope so.
I have to say, and maybe I am naive, but I was quite shocked; shocked enough to call the police, to ask them if I should have done anything. To them, I think, this is probably pretty common. To me, it was a wake-up call. That, on top of the assault of StarPhoenix reporter Bob Florence and last week's east-side shooting of a 17-year-old, is seriously disturbing. We -- as a city and a society -- have to get a wider grip on our issues before none of us feel safe.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ramp it up

Last November, I busted my foot.
It was spectacularly stupid. I fell off the bed (and got no end of suggestive comments about it.) What I was intelligently doing was standing on the bed to mess with the drapes, which did not want to close. Apparently I was too near the edge of the bed, and went down on my left foot, pronated it, stretching the tendon (and spraining my ankle while I was at it), which snapped my baby metatarsal. Note to self and reader: never do this.
Yes, it hurt. But the pain of being temporarily disabled was far greater.
What brought this back today was a report on the CBC, noting that it would take 80 years for the City of Saskatoon to install ramps on all street corners. They've made a start, but they're a long way off from getting them all sloped.
Tell me about it.
Since I could not even carry a cup of coffee to the table, I invested in the rental of a wheelchair. At least I could help cook and more or less navigate through the main part of the house, instead of lurching along on crutches. You see, when you break your foot, you can't use your hands for much either, since they are busy supporting your weight.
So, I got the wheelchair. Trying to keep up with at least a little bit of exercise, my husband and I sallied forth into the streets, with me wheeling for as long as my weak upper body could manage, and then getting pushed for a while.
It didn't take long before I realized that city sidewalks are slanted. This is in some ways a good idea, since rain will slide off them; but keeping your wheelchair from running off the curb is tricky. Once you get to the corner, you try not to fall out of the chair as you navigate down the ramp -- if there is one. But at least you can cross the street, if you remain upright.
As often as not, though, there is no ramp. Therefore, you must wheel down the street until you find a likely-looking driveway. Some of them are pretty steep; others are not too bad. But meanwhile, you're on the street, and it can be scary.
I am really lucky. I'm walking again. Others, however, don't have that luxury. They have to put up with bumpy streets, slanting sidewalks and finding ramps wherever they go. I never realized how brutal it is to get around until my fall...and in the fall, it was okay. Once it snowed, I was toast. It was slippery and absolutely terrifying. I gave up on trying to wheel anywhere, apart from out of the car and into the grocery store. (Try shopping for food on crutches.)
I have a new-found and enormous respect for the amazing and intrepid people who somehow manage getting around these streets every day. They, I'm sure, want more ramps, and after spending three months wheeling and crutching around, I'm behind them all the way.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Milliken is the man

Ever since the news emerged that the Governor General is on her way out, people and pundits have been lining up to suggest successors. Some of these ideas amaze me -- such as William Shatner. I have nothing against the man at all, but what on Earth qualifies him for GG? Is he a student of democracy, or just a former starship captain?
He wouldn't be the first actor to take on some kind of public or political role, and I like him much better than Ronald Reagan -- plus, Shatner is bilingual, by all accounts -- but still...
Some other reasonable suggestions include Wayne Gretzky, hockey hero; Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; and former General John de Chastelain. I wonder if people are actually serious when they suggest Don Cherry.
I would recommend Speaker of the House Peter Milliken, except that he is doing a remarkable, thoughtful, even brilliant job in his present role.
Last week, Milliken defended democracy by proclaiming that Parliament is supreme over any sitting government. (Might I point out that this only makes sense. All of these MPs were elected by Canadians, not just the government MPs. Ergo, share the power.)
Standing in the House of Commons, Milliken gave a short history of Canadian democracy in a well-researched and beautifully-worded 45 minute address. Essentially, he insisted that Parliament find a way to compromise on the redacted documents that have been provided to a committee struck to investigate the Afghan detainee case. He gave the government two weeks to find a way for the opposition to view the documents without hurting national security, if indeed that is an issue.
I don't know how concerned most Canadians are about the government's apparent secrecy on this file, but turning over prisoners with the knowledge that torture is possible -- if that is the case -- is horrific. The government must tell Canadians the truth on this issue. If it's happening, Canadians must tell the government the practice has to stop.
The first step is contained in Milliken's direction to Parliament. It seems that the parties are in discussions and trying to make this happen; they better. There have been too many detours from democracy in the past couple of years.
At the risk of sounding flippant (I hope not; I admire him too much) I suppose I would prefer to clone Milliken, who would be a fantastic GG; but he is also one of the best speakers Canada has ever had, by all accounts.
On second thought, perhaps I should be pressing for Milliken for prime minister. The current leadership landscape is a little thin. At least Milliken has a grip on what has made this country functionally democratic...and is standing up for it.