VANcouver Island adventure

Diana and I drove from Chemainus up to Cape Scott, leaving Friday last, returning Monday. It was the inaugural voyage in our newly acquired Euro van, and the first holiday we’ve taken in quite a while. We had a great time!

McMono kimonos to go

Diana Durand’s McMono Show, at Duncan’s Excellent Frameworks August 2 to 31 – with the official opening Saturday, August 5 from 1 to 3 p.m. – was inspired by a discarded McDonald’s french fry box, which she found one evening, while walking her dog.

Inhumanity at its worst

Image from the Gallus Domestics show by Diana Durrand

There are no words to adequately describe the inhumane behaviour of a group of men whose job it was to round up for slaughter a flock of ‘free run’ chickens in a Fraser Valley barn this week. Heartless, cruel and stupid will have to do.

But after we’ve tried to make ourselves feel a little better about being homo sapiens by expressing our outrage, we have to ask the same question SPCA animal welfare specialist Geoff Urton posed: “Why are these people abusing these animals in the first place? … There’s a fundamental disrespect for animals,” he said. “These workers need to see that these are living things that are capable of suffering.”

Continue reading “Inhumanity at its worst”

Does secular humanism have anything positive to say?

I joined a secular humanist society here in B.C. hoping to find some kindred spirits; got tired of all the ranting and railing against Christianity and let the connection lapse.

But the experience reminded me of a couple of things. First, praying still has its place in our world. I pray all the time… to my fellow humans, hoping they will embrace more humane ways and learn to enjoy the beauty of this planet we share; to flowers for growing, and bees for pollinating, and seeds for germinating; to dogs for being dogs; to those closest to me and all around me to fulfill themselves in loving, meaningful ways.

Second, humanity has gone through many stages as consciousness unfolding in this universe, belief in gods of one form or another among them. Without those previous stages – including Christianity, paganism, Islam, the fabulous cave art of Altamira – our current belief in science would never have manifested. We’d still be sleeping in trees at night praying not to become the prey of the magnificent saber toothed tigers lurking down there on the forest floor.

Continue reading “Does secular humanism have anything positive to say?”

Existential flittings

Not a black capped chickadee on a branch, but a bird of sorts, willing to have its image captured…

I have been searching for an existentialist rationale, and all I can come up with are intersecting rubrics:

  • Imagine me a square circle, and I will say you have attained freedom of a sort.
  • Imagine me a point beyond infinity and I will say you have fully expanded the possibilities of consciousness.
  • Imagine me the end of time, and show me its position on the rim of a clock, and you will have put a full-stop to the question of eternity.
  • Tell me what kind of universe can exist without a mind to think it, and I believe we will understand our reason for being.

There! Now I can watch the black capped chickadee in the branch of the naked tree outside my window and marvel at its version of freedom.



Made a mistake? Learn from it!

Failure isn’t an end; it’s an experience

I’m one of those people who beats himself up when he makes a mistake. Natural perhaps, but self-flagellation as a learning experience is only effective if it’s followed up with self-improvement, and that process of growing through our anguished moments only begins when we stop writhing, forgive ourselves, and get on with the job of repairing the damage while figuring out ways to avoid making the same mistake again.

Forgiving, of course, isn’t the same as forgetting. Rather, it’s the deliberate act of putting our errors into context. I’m human; I make mistakes. That’s the basic equation. To beat myself up for more than a couple of seconds over a typical faux pas becomes counter productive – I’m so busy grinding myself into dust, so concerned about making another mistake, that I’m afraid to do anything. It’s when we are able to step back, analyze a mistake the way a sympathetic coach would, then consider how to slingshot out of it, that we are able to grow.

Growing – as in the phrase ‘growing up’ – is not a process that ends with puberty. In fact, the most enriching phases of growth and self-improvement can come late in life, when we have learned how to grow. We’re not plants, or insects, or mammals bound by instinct. We’re never completely adult, in that sense. Humanity’s niche in the spectrum of life is as thinking, adaptable spirit. We are the species best able to figure out ways of succeeding in almost any environment, and discovering new possibilities. Making mistakes is an unavoidable part of the human condition.

Scaling that statement down to the personal, I have to ask myself what types of learning outcomes I can possibly derive from a misstep? It’s important to understand what kind of signals I’m receiving via the ouch-loop, or in the ‘Gawd no!’ reflex that smacks me on the forehead when I’ve made a more serious blunder. I can think of two obvious decisions to be made based on the cumulative evidence of my errors: I can decide I have to learn to do something I want to do better; or I can learn I’m not meant to be doing something I thought I wanted to.

Of course there’s a million shades between, but those two considerations lay at the root of my decision-making process moving forward – whether the process is triggered by the pain of error, or the blaze of a wahoo! inspirational moment.

To scale things back up again, those are the trial and error questions we as a species need to ask continuously, if we want to survive and achieve a sustainable, equitable and expanding future. For me as an individual, embarrassment and social castigation are the most likely outcomes of any slip-ups I might make; for us as a species, the stakes are much higher, and our ability to overcome collective pride and anguish so that we make good decisions requires Herculean exertions of leadership.


Nanaimo-North Cowichan Candidates square off

Alana DeLong (Liberal), Anna Paddon (Independent), Doug Routley (New Democrat) and Lia Versaevel (Green) aired their positions on the issues, as identified by citizens in the Chemainus, Cowichan Valley area Monday, April 3.

Organized by the Chemainus Residents Association and the Chemainus-Crofton Chamber of Commerce, the showdown wasn’t so much a shootout at the OK Corral as an orderly trap shoot where the pigeons (none of them made of clay) were sent into their sights by area voters.

The candidates talked about homelessness, assisted living, climate change, forestry, health care (with an emphasis on the Duncan Regional Hospital), the economy in a broad ranging conversation with voters.

Those who enjoy B.C. politics as a blood sport would likely want to head out for a raw steak to satisfy their craving after this event. The format gets the candidates sticking very close to the issues and avoids the sparring and rancour that make for reality TV.

Election Day is May 9. For voters in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding the April 3 discussion is a good introduction to the candidates and their positions on issues of interest to citizens.



Expanding the creative cycle

I still have a long way to go learning to produce online clips that are a cut above amateur, but some of the techniques used in this video can be effective elements of a book ‘trailer’ – just one of the avenues to explore when it comes to promoting books in the digital era.

If you’re like me, you’ve separated the act of writing from the promotion of your work: the one is art and inspiration, the other a necessary ordeal. This aversion to the nitty-gritty of getting out there and selling leads to a sort of ethereal approach to publicizing the material you’ve laboured over, sometimes for years – an if you write it they will come attitude, buttressed by the notion the there’s value in the act of writing even if it isn’t brought to life in the mind of readers… self knowledge and improvement and all that, a better understanding of my corner of the universe.

This aversion to getting out and pitching goes so far as to deride those exuberant souls that do. They’re seen as brash, self-serving, too commercial, name your poison.

Well, it’s time for me to look in the mirror and fess up. There’s nothing wrong with being enthusiastic when it comes to promoting books; and all the explanations I’ve used to devalue it as a legitimate aspect of the writer’s life – and it is a life we lead, a vocation – are nothing more than insidious versions of cowardice. Worse than that, my fear and loathing when it comes to promotion is an implicit admission that I don’t have enough confidence in my own work to stand on a podium and present it to the world.

There! I’ve beat myself up sufficiently over 40-plus years in the closet; now it’s time to act on my literary epiphany and build promotion into my creative cycle.

To start with, I have to gain a more fulsome understanding of why it’s important to ‘sell’ my stuff – and here I will hazard a few points of distinction between the goals of an artist and those of an ardent capitalist or insurance salesman. Yes, I need to make money to sustain myself in my chosen vocation – or rather, the vocation that has chosen me! The equation is quite simple: the more money I make writing, the more of my life’s energy I can devote to creating stories. When readers buy my books they enable me to give more of myself to writing.

But that’s not the main motivation for a bit of Barnum & Bailey in the soul. The heart of the matter is much more exciting. Truth is, my stories only live in the minds of readers. A book on the shelf is nothing more than a slab of pulped wood with a title on its spine; or in this digital age, a sequence of binary on some server or hard drive. Only when a reader opens the cover and begins imagining the events and scenes encoded on its pages do my stories live… and the story is everything! That involvement of audience as creative participant is one of the central strengths of writing, it’s why literature will always have its devotees even in this booming, gaudy SFX world.

So, if the story is everything, is it not incumbent upon me to do everything I can to make the story live? And isn’t the best way to expand the scope and diversity of the story to encourage people to read it? And if I claim to be a writer, isn’t it my job to expand the creative cycle to include promotion and sales of my work?

First Nations’ reverence for nature

I have been researching the culture of Coast Salish people’s for the writing a short story called The Cape, which will be part of my work-in-progress, The Mural Gazer. Central to this story-within-a-story will be an account of the art of weaving a cedar robe, as described by a boy of European ancestry.

In Northwest Coastal culture the cedar was called the ‘tree of life’ because it was used for so many things, from long-houses, to canoes, to bentwood boxes, to clothing.

What strikes me, though, is the reverence of First Nations peoples not only for the cedar, but for all of nature, and the interconnectedness of their world-view in both the physical and spiritual planes. I have included the video above – The Story of Cedar: Cedar hat weaving & Bark Pulling – because it describes so well this holistic mind-set of Coast Salish peoples.

It’s an enlightening half-hour, which many of my non-aboriginal friends and colleagues will not have the patience to watch from beginning to end.

As I was still thinking about its significance, I suddenly found myself confronted by the disturbing and utterly contrasting idea of trophy-hunting. In the one case, nature is thanked for the sustenance it provides, and every care is taken to ensure the tree is not destroyed in the harvesting of its bark; in the other, men intrude upon nature and kill magnificent creatures, only to take their heads to mount on their walls as ‘trophies.’

The First Nation hunter-gatherer thanks ‘Mother Nature’ for sharing some of her bounty, and celebrates the spirit of the forest; the trophy hunter from the so-called developed world kills for sport in a wasteful, bloody display of hubris.