If you were to sit with us for dinner on any given night, you would be privy to a recurrent conversation that surfaces whenever social issues such as poverty, violation of human rights and modern-day slavery, refugee and climate change-caused disasters are brought to our attention via news, books or any other sources: why don’t wealthy people help more? And why do some choose to act in ways that take away from those who have little to begin with?
It’s disheartening to have to ask those questions.
Every now and then I play an interesting game with myself. I
deliberately avoid buying more food when we still have enough supplies in the house
to make a few more meals. The process conjures creativity but that’s what makes
it interesting. That’s where empowerment sprouts.
Seriously though, why
Why not decide on a menu and then shop for ingredients? Spoiler
alert: this is not a cooking post; as you will see below, it goes far beyond
that. Why cook with whatever available, when available? Because:
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, May 6th, 2019.
Our first spring in Kamloops, back in 2013, came with a big surprise: lilacs! Everywhere you looked and lots of them, from majestic old trees to wee starter shrubs: We had landed in Lilac City! (I grew up immersed in lilac every spring and had searched for ‘lilac places’ since.)
Our first home in Kamloops was on Nicola street,
towards the east end. Come spring I’d walk the back lanes just so I can see all
the wondrous flowers hanging heavy and fragrant. Again and again, until the
season was over.
It’s 7.02 and my alarm did not go off. How do I know this? Because of the coldish wet nose that is gently pushing down on the mattress near my own nose. Perhaps a molecule or two are exchanged in the process, that’s how fine her touch is. She knows that my weekdays start at 7am. On weekends we sleep in; she knows that too.
Make that magical feature number 1.
She seeks my gaze when I start dressing or even just reaching for a pair of socks. She looks into my soul and my soul warms up. ‘Can I come along?’ She almost always does. If the adventure is but grocery shopping, it’s togetherness she’s after. So am I. We listen to Nina Simone and Stan Rogers in the car and our eyes meet in the rear-view mirror every now and then. To never feel lonely; infinitive.
Magical feature number 2.
The other day we got ambushed by a coyote on the trails. Twice. The first time she barked her big dog bark, charged the coyote only so far, and then came to stand by me as we both scanned the hills. The second time around she chased it further but came back unharmed. She looked at me: we’re going home now. I listen every time. I learned that in the woods where it’s just the two of us (and the plethora of wild creatures stalking us!) and her nose and instincts always prevail. I am safe because of her; I never question her instinct.
That’s magical feature number 3. (Number 3 applies to people too. She sniffs out the strange ones and blocks their access to me. Go figure. I shrug and say hello but from a distance. As per my dog’s suggestion.)
She sleeps by my side of the bed and when I can’t fall asleep, I let my hand rest on her. Research says… everything calms down and I feel my thoughts tuck each other into imaginary beds… All’s peaceful again. Closeness. Gratefulness.
That’s magical feature number 4.
I signal our hiking trajectory wordlessly; I wave my hand and she gets it. I teach her the words for the things we meet on our hikes: snake, stick, cone, person, bird, puppy, plane (nope, we don’t fly but planes do and she looks up wondering what they are. Planes. So there.) I ask her if she is hungry on the way home and she licks her snout looking up at me. She knows people’s names. Her dog friends’ too. While I solemnly promise to never refer to her as ‘fur baby’, she knows me as Mama. Because the boys call me that. To be fair, we are raising each other, her and I. But yes, on paper I am the dog owner and the dog’s name is Poppy.
Today is her birthday. She turns 3! A pallid midday sun catches us playing soccer with a cone on a frozen beach. I kick the cone we found buried in sand, she runs to catch it and creates a mini sandstorm. Repeat. Repeat. Until. What? Already time to go? OK, once more.
We stop by the side of the frozen river. It’s quiet but for the hum of the city in the distance. I crouch down and she nestles into me. I kiss the side of her head and she closes her eyes gently. She sighs. I sigh. I’d change nothing; not her relentless bicycle chasing or occasional stubbornness. The car will be full of sand again. So what. Repeat. Forever.
Happy birthday, Poppy girl. May our snuggles and adventures never end.
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday December 24, 2018.
It was 2am when the dog started growling in that way that means one thing: someone is too close to the house. Shortly after the growling, light beams started flickering through the bedroom curtains. We got up to look: someone was running through our backyard with a flashlight. Admittedly, that was strange. We live in a safe neighbourhood without too much rowdiness or crime. When the back alley light shone on the man’s back we realized he was part of the police force.
Every now and then certain news makes me go silent. ‘How is that possible?’ is all I can think. Such was the case of the recent break-ins (yes plural, since it happened in two consecutive nights) at the Merritt compound of the Nicola Valley Search and Rescue. In one word: heinous. The organization, like the rest of them across B.C., is run by volunteers. An admirable group of people to say the least. You’d think even a thief (or however many) would just believe enough in bad karma and skip the ‘job’.
It is impossible to describe the deep reverence the reading of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem conferred to the sea of people gathered around the cenotaph on Remembrance Day. It is one of those situations that can be summed up by an overused but adequate phrase: ‘you had to be there.’ The words of the poem are haunting, and the images they conjure stay alive in the hearts and minds of us all. Every single time.