It’s Time For Us to Wake Up

I don’t know about you, but I am getting to the point where I simply don’t want to hear the news these days. All the negativity, the bickering, hate and narrow-mindedness going on all over the world is getting me down. Many of us knowingly or unknowingly are being affected by it for such negativity can be toxic. The question is, “What can we do about it?”

For starters, I have quit listening to any news on television and seldom go onto Facebook these days. About the only thing I do now is quickly scan our daily newspaper in order to give a pass to the recent crime stories, what our political leaders are saying, or Trump’s latest tweet, in my quest to find an uplifting story. Thankfully our own Chronicle Herald…one of the few independent papers left in Canada… has some excellent writers doing a great job of providing us with a flicker of hope that we will find solutions for some of the many problems facing us, not just here in Nova Scotia,but everywhere.

Once upon a time I read and listened to just about everything the media offered. Today we no longer know if the news is real or not, and with so much falling into the realm of ‘gloom and doom’ it all becomes overwhelming. It makes me want to get to Thailand fast to escape it all. However, I have a month before I can do this so I must endure the long, dark days of November and December by finding other diversions. Thus, I find myself looking in the cupboard or fridge for a snack, watching far too many British mysteries on PBS television, reading a good book, exercising my brain by tackling a cross word puzzle, or getting together with good friends. All of this is good and necessary, but I can’t help asking,”Is it enough?” I don’t know about you, but with the sorry state of our world and the lingering knowledge that if we don’t do something quick, our world as we now know it will eventually disappear, is a fact that I can’t ignore.

We know that escaping or ignoring our problems isn’t the answer because they will always come back to haunt us. However, the bottom line is that we want to feel useful…to feel like we are contributing something which will help our world. We feel better about ourselves when we give rather than take. Yet many of us still choose to either ignore the problems or perhaps simply give up in despair because we just don’t know where to start or what we can do. What’s the use in even trying? Let our politicians and other leaders sort it out. I already have enough to do just trying to live my life. These are unfortunate assumptions to make because there always solutions to every problem. We just have to open our eyes and hearts to find the answers.

My guess is it’s part of our human nature to react in this way because we simply are not inclined or possibly not wired to change our old way of doing things. We get too used to being in the comfort zones we have created for ourselves. Changes that take us away from that are scary so are best ignored. However, our world has had enough of this kind of thinking and is calling out for our help. It’s trying to tell us to change our attitude to how we have always treated it. We can’t just keep taking from it; we have to start giving back. So how we can do this is always the all important question.

Recently I’ve been bombarded with self – help techniques for keeping healthy, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. Our modern-day sages are bringing back ideas that aren’t new and have been uttered down through the ages by other wise men and women. I find it interesting that the wisdom of old is not that different from that of today. There really is not much new under the sun. Their message is that if we truly want to save our world then we are going to have to change our thinking and, thus, our way of doing things. There are a myriad of enlightened individuals out there who are more than happy to have you sign up for their courses to teach you how. At one time we would buy their books if we wanted to change ourselves for the better. Now we can get more involved by meeting them personally on the Internet.

Just recently a familiar name whose books I read years ago appeared on a video interview announcing his upcoming course on this theme.  The man I am referring to is Neale Walsch, author of the best-selling trilogy of books entitled  Conversations with God”. His books, based on messages he claims came to him from God when he was at a low point in his life, were read by millions and became the impetus for us to consider the whole nature of who or what God is to us. Instead of something from above or external, the concept has become a personal one which we can find within us. This was the beginning of our awakening as to where we fit in to the whole scheme of things. Now he has come out with a fourth book where he says the time has come for each and every one of us to take the next step… to use our true calling in a way that will help our world. It’s now time to go beyond the looking inward and look outward. He doesn’t ask us to throw out all the good wisdom our various religions have given us, but to keep what works and discard what doesn’t. “I could be right but I could be wrong,” is his mantra. He goes on to say that we have been taking ourselves far too seriously by feeling we have to be right all the time.

Walsch’s new message really hit home for me, but instead of signing up for his expensive online course, I will look into buying his new book “Awaken the Species: A New Conversation With God”.

Returning to my realization that there are certain wise ideas that have been with us forever which come back to haunt or help us whenever they are needed, I remember one that has stuck with me throughout my life’s journey. It is something the mythical Greek hero, Ulysses, said: “I am a part of all that I have met.” This speaks volumes to me because in my travels I have learned so much about myself and this world I live in from all the different countries I have visited. I think if everyone could have the opportunity to travel, we would not be facing many of the problems we are facing today. Travel has taught me more than my family, my country or my teachers ever could have, and, yes, I should add any of the courses I’ve taken or books I’ve read. They have all been valuable but it’s the experience of travel that has been my greatest teacher. Think about it. With travel you have to use all your five senses not just your eyes to read about it. More importantly, you have to rely on that sixth sense… intuition. All the knowledge in the world won’t be of much help when faced with difficult circumstances or having to make tough decisions. This one is so important because it depends on faith and let me tell you much of what can happen when travelling depends on how strong your faith is. I would never have chosen to travel solo if I had not had the power of my 6th sense to keep me going. I just had to trust that no matter where I was or what predicament I had to work my way out of that faith in myself and my spiritual guides and God were there to help me.

Another wise saying that comes to mind and is so appropriate as we struggle to deal with the changes that are occurring in our world right now is this by Ghandi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi believed so strongly in the importance of his country to be free of British colonial rule that he sacrificed his family and all his worldly comforts to fight for this in a peaceful manner. He was admired by some but scorned by many at that time, but still he persevered. I am not suggesting that we all follow in the footsteps of Gandhi, but we can take some of his words and actions as a starting point by getting involved in what is going on in our own communities or neighbourhoods.

One final word….we can’t sit back and expect our political leaders to have all the answers to our problems. The system isn’t equipped to allow them to carry out all those wonderful promises they made to us before they were elected to office. We need to start with ourselves and begin the work of making changes within starting with our own thoughts and actions. We need to set an example to our families, friends, and neighbours. We need to banish the negative thinking….judging, blaming, hating… and operate at a higher level of accepting, sharing, and loving. If more of us can do that starting right now, then just maybe we will achieve a world with more peace and harmony.

Mui Ne: A Little Resort Town in Viet Nam

People who visit Mui Ne either love it or hate it.

Before I get into why this is so, let me give you a short description of its location and geography. It’s approximately a four-hour drive northeast of Ho Chi Minh City on the coast of the South China Sea. It’s easy accessibility to the city and its 10 km long beach make it a great seaside escape not only for HCMC residents but also tourists. Over the past 10 years it has morphed from a sleepy fishing village into an over-developed resort town.

The main and only street follows the coastline for 10 km. When approaching it coming from HCMC, you enter from the west which puts you into the actual town of Mui Ne… the main tourist strip with all the fancy resorts. This end of the street is called Nguyen Dinh Chieu which then turns into Huynh Thuc Khang somewhere in the middle. Keep travelling along and you will find yourself in the City of Phan Thiet…also the capital of the province…which is graced with a large harbour dotted with a multitude of colourful fishing boats. Here is the centre for SE Asia’s production of nuac mam or fish sauce.

Boats used to catch fish used to produce fish sauce.

Boats used to catch fish used to produce fish sauce.

Overlooking the harbour of Phan Thiet.

Overlooking the harbour of Phan Thiet.

So this is Mui Ne. It’s a one street strip of restaurants, fancy resorts, budget hotels, and restaurants lining both sides of the street and hemmed in by the ocean on one side and sand dunes on the other.

Most people who absolutely love it are the windsurfers. They come from all parts of the world to do their stuff. With more than 200 days out of the year with strong winds coming off the ocean, it’s a surfer’s paradise.

thailand-burma-viet-nam-xavier-2012-452

The red  and white sand dunes are another rave about this place. Coming very close to the strip of beach resorts along the sea, they appear to be in the backyards of many hotels. I just had to go to the end of the garden at my place to see a part of them. The better views are outside the town where you can be right in the midst of them and experience the joy of driving a dune buggy. I preferred to simply walk and observe the buggies as they got mired in the sand. I was attempting to be more ecologically responsible.

On the white dune.

On the white dune.

The Russians love Mui Ne  because they get great package deals to and from their country, and like us Canadians they are eager to escape their harsh winters for some fun in the sun. In fact, they have almost taken over the town as evidenced by the restaurants which serve Russian food. Even the menus are in Russian. Many restaurants, shops and hotels are now Russian owned by expats who have moved there.

Anyone who likes sun and a tropical climate also loves it, especially at this time of the year which is their dry season. For those staying in a four or five-star resort with their own private beach, life at the beach is good. However, for budget travellers a beach isn’t always easily available. If your hotel/hostel has wrangled a deal with one of the bigger hotels or resorts who are willing to let others use what they think is theirs, then you’re in luck. Fortunately, the place where I stayed did have access so I had the beach at my disposal. Although the beach itself is lovely, it is beginning to show some wear and tear. In some spots the sand is disappearing due to erosion. In other places, the beach is being invaded with piles of garbage and cattle who are allowed to roam at will. For me this was not inviting so I merely used the beach to capture a sunset or two. I didn’t bother to sun bathe or go swimming. I may have if I had been staying in one of those swanky resorts who lay claim to a piece of the beach or have their own outdoor pools.

Beach at a swanky resort.

Beach at a swanky resort.

Is it now evident to you what people might hate about Mui Ne? The Russian invasion, the dirty beach, the over-development, and one more thing…the bland food….are the list of complaints I have heard. I have to agree on the dirty beach and the over-development, but the Russians and the food were more than acceptable to me.

I had a young Russian couple next door to my room at Diem, Lien where I stayed. Although their English was limited, I found both Vera and Vasili easy to talk to and curious about Canada. We found we had much in common. Yes, most Russians prefer to keep to themselves, which has earned them a bad reputation, but I have found they are actually shy with other tourists because of their lack of English. I have not and did not encounter any difficult or loud Russians.

As for the food, I found a lovely little restaurant newly opened three months ago, on my first night in Mui Ne. I enjoyed the food and ambience so much that I returned every day from there on. Owned and managed by a young Viet Nam couple with a four-month old baby, who was at first fussy and probably colicky, I indulged in fresh scallops nicely prepared in a garlic sauce, stewed chicken in a clay pot, tasty grilled chicken with morning-glory greens, fresh spring rolls, and for a change, spaghetti carbonara. All the food was prepared by the husband who was a fabulous cook in my opinion. Everything was fresh, tastefully spiced, and reasonably priced. A glass of good Dalat wine was only $1.50. My dinners were consistently at about $5,00 including the wine. The name of this little gem, in amongst all the other similar restaurants along the strip on the Huynh Thuc Khang end on the dune side, was Mui Ne House. They have no website and aren’t on Face Book since they are so new, but if you are ever in Mui Ne then do try to find them. By the way, the baby settled down after that first night and slept peacefully in her hammock from there on.

One more attraction which gets mixed reviews is the Fairy Stream. I wasn’t too excited about seeing it. However, it was part of the tour package I took to see the dunes at sunset so I had no choice. It’s actually a pretty half hour walk…in bare feet…from the sea up to its source. Strange rock formations in various shades of red and white shaped by the water as it meanders through the sand dunes create an unusual and different site every day.

At the start of the Fairy Stream.

At the start of the Fairy Stream.

Strange looking sand formations.

Strange looking sand formations.

Our group.

Our group.

I read in Travelfish that they wouldn’t recommend it because of reports that it was dirty and hazardous. Other than a couple of cows we met along the way, I noticed no garbage at all. Apparently the town authorities have been working on a clean up. One thing which did take me by surprise was the demand from a sweet young woman who was showing us sites and taking our pictures along the way. Little did we know she wasn’t a part of our tour, but a self-employed ‘tout’ who demanded we each pay her 100,000 dong at the end. In Canadian dollars this would be $6,00. Being more budget conscious and perhaps a little more experienced at what was happening here, I immediately spoke up and stated this was way too much money for a half hour of her time. After some haggling, we settled on 20,000 each. To me this was worth her time and the information she was able to share with us. We could have paid her nothing since she wasn’t a part of our tour. Our jeep driver had no English and didn’t accompany us. I doubt if we could have learned anything on our own.

There was one other incident on this tour which took us by surprise. After we had toured the great white dune on our own time, we were told to meet our driver at the jeep by five o’clock so we would have time to catch the sunset at the red dune before heading back to town. After we had all finally assembled to head back, we had to wait. At first we weren’t sure why, but our driver after much discussion with the other jeep drivers informed us simply that the police were asking for money to the tune of 5 million dong or $295 Cdn. I couldn’t believe it! Here, right in front of our eyes, was the corruption you hear about in this and all SE Asian countries. Fortunately, our driver was honest and had the decency to tell us. After a 20 minute wait, we started out only to stop two if not three more times to wait out the police. There was much telephoning and further yelling from the other jeep drivers at each stop until finally our driver informed us with elaborate hand signals that we would be taking another route back to town. There went our opportunity to see the sunset which was to my mind no big deal. It wasn’t until the next day when I met up with a gal who had toured the dunes the day before with a group that actually paid a lower fine…a fine for doing nothing wrong as far as we could tell…that I realized what we had missed. The red dune at sunset is absolutely gorgeous!

I hope I haven’t painted too gloomy a picture of Mui Ne. What impression you come away with is purely a personal one. My eternal optimism sees it for what it is. It has its problems and isn’t perfect. However, I am happy with my time there even though I am not a surfer. Looking back I enjoyed my meals at the Mui Ne House Restaurant immensely, not only for their good food but for the warm greetings I received from the owners. The family who own and manage Diem Lein Hotel were also helpful and hard-working, especially the two sisters. I particularly enjoyed the garden, a little haven of flowers, trees and butterflies, which provided me with a peaceful place to have breakfast each morning. Furthermore, I was able to catch up on my sleep because the building was built like a motel and situated well away from the noisy street traffic. I doubt I’ll ever return to Mui Ne unless I were to use it as a short stopover on my way to HCMC or Dalat… or take up surfing!

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Love, Power, and Economic Justice

This is so well said and something good for all to read.

Deborah J. Brasket

Image result for images martin luther king jrCelebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King days before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the Unites States could not seem more incongruous, nor be more timely. And needed.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, he had begun to turn his attention away from the civil rights movement to what he considered to be an even more compelling problem: economic injustice.

“For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?”

He had discovered that the major divisive force in America was not color, but class. The rich and powerful, whether black or white, shared the same interest in keeping the races segregated, exploiting the poor and powerless, and maintaining the status quo.

He believed the…

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How Good Are We at Dealing With Change?

“The only people who really look forward to a change are babies.”

Change is a topic most of us even hate to talk about let alone deal with, and yet we are being bombarded with it every day in some way, shape or form. Seems like it’s occurring all around us as we are called upon to deal with it whether we want to or not. We can’t ignore it, especially those changes we have no control over. Do I need to give examples here? Okay, the one we hear most about, at least here in Canada, is climate change. Second to that one would be our aging population and what this means for all us Canadians, and the third might be the changes which are constantly occurring in the technology field. These are the big ones to my mind which then can be broken down into a myriad of smaller components such as, how our political system must change… possibly our concept of democracy… our social systems, our approach to immigration … the list can go forever. I sense that almost everything needs to be changed. We are becoming aware that we must replace all our old ways of thinking and acting for something new. The big question is how do we go about making the changes we know we must?

I should give credit for the quote about ‘babies’ to a workshop leader I met in the mid ’90’s. He got me thinking about change and how it can affect us in our lives for better or worse. At the time, I was working for a non-profit agency. Ontario’s economy had been dealt a huge blow putting them into a recession which was brought on by the change of an industrial based economy to the  ‘age of technology’ or computers. Jobs which people had worked at for years were being wiped out….never to come back. The thousands who witnessed their jobs disappearing faced the choice of either learning how to use these machines or end up serving coffee at Tim Horton’s for the rest of their work days.

At first, I was excited to be a part of Ontario’s launch to help these displaced workers to either get another job or some training for the new age besetting them. Here was an opportunity for me to help these unfortunate people with my teaching and counselling skills. This would be the perfect job for me, for hadn’t I recently been through the same ordeal after losing a lucrative position as a sales rep? Set adrift with no immediate prospects or outplacement help from my company, I happened upon Richard Boyle’s “What Colour is Your Parachute?” This book became my Bible in helping me make my career switch from sales into counselling. If I could do this on my own, then couldn’t these displaced workers do the same with a little help from me?

How naive of me to think I could save all those poor souls who were experiencing just what I had gone through. My agency was responsible for getting older, experienced workers either job ready or trained in something that could get them back into the work force…quickly! It didn’t take me long to realize that it was an impossible task to do this in just three weeks.

Upon reflection, I can honestly say my five years working with the unemployed offered me challenges I had never faced before. On the other hand, they handed me an incredible learning experience. You may think it strange that I say this, but didn’t some great sage…was it Plato or Socrates… reveal that we inevitably end up teaching what we need to learn the most? My greatest awakening was accepting that not all people will handle change in the same manner or time frame. In other words, the idea of a three week program was doomed to failure. Only a few breezed through the program with any kind of flying colours. Those who did manage to finish it either found a job or went on for some short-term training in computers. We also turned out many truck and fork lift drivers. Sadly, there were some who couldn’t overcome their job loss before their EI (employment insurance) ran out so ended up on welfare. Of those who did find employment, none got anywhere near the salary they earned at their old jobs. Most ended up working on contract or an hourly basis with little in the way of benefits or pensions. My guess is that some never worked again due to depression resulting from their loss. One of my clients even tried to take his life and ended up in the Clarke Institute, a mental hospital in Toronto.

Everyone handles change in a different way depending on their past experiences, their outlook on life’s challenges, and their emotional development. Change is mostly good as far as I am concerned, and I hope that some of my clients did get that message. Having the experience of working with them, I concluded that the more change we have in our lives, the better we get at handling it. Again I was judging from my own experience. I had to deal with many changes in my growing up years at home…moving around and living with various relatives because my parents weren’t up to the task. This could have had negative results, but instead I unknowingly developed some resilience. Although this helped me through my job loss, it took a toll on my confidence which I had to work hard at rebuilding. My work with older workers helped as did further internal work over the years.  Again, I prejudged my clients by thinking that if I could do it why couldn’t they? There was a difference. Many of them had grown up in stable homes, worked their entire work life at the same job, and were the sole bread winners. They had the toughest time dealing with their job loss for they had not only lost the only work they had ever known, they had lost their self-worth. Our programs didn’t give enough credence to their emotional states. To rebuild a man’s self-worth by probing into his past calls for an inward approach that most of these men were afraid to address. Our life skills classes only touched the surface of such a necessary journey and fell short of helping them to come back out on top to eagerly pursue new possibilities for the challenges ahead.

In the ’90’s we had the older workers who had their jobs disappear with the advent of new technology. Today we have the young workers trying to find jobs in our new economy who are discovering they are woefully lacking in the skills needed for today’s work world. Alvin Tofler, author of “Power Shift”, warned us that this would happen. Whenever, I told my clients that the future would require workers who would need more than a high school education, be willing to learn new skills all through their work life, and count on having several careers, I would be met with disbelief and laughter. They looked at me as some kind of Pollyanna who was not to be taken seriously. Thirty years have passed, and we are still figuring out how to deal with the fast pace of our technology. We haven’t planned for the future and are now scrambling to get people trained to do the jobs which are now here and will be coming. Just think about the jobs which will be required to deal with climate change!

But now back to the present. Every day the media is talking about the changes we must make in practically every facet of our life. Sometimes it seems we must change just about everything, and we must do it now.  This is frightening news for most people because it’s so overwhelming. However, there is a growing movement of young people who are products of the computer age and good parenting who will be the movers and shakers we’ll need. I meet some of them in my travels. They are the ‘digital nomads’ who don’t call any one place as home but travel this earth using their computers to conduct whatever business they are interested in. They teach English, they write, they sell, they do volunteer work, or they set up their own business. They are totally independent and know they’ll never work for some large company for any length of time. They are constantly learning, they’re creative, and they are open to helping this planet in any way they can. They are the hope for our future because they are resilient, and they aren’t afraid to take the challenge that comes with uncertainty and change. They have a totally different mind-set from our workers of the 90’s.

For those of us who are older and don’t have such an adventurous spirit as our ‘digital nomads’, what can we do to prepare ourselves for the changes which are so inevitably coming?  How do we prepare ourselves, our children, and grandchildren? How do we even get them to listen and get involved in being part of the solution for dealing with the changes we must make rather than be part of the problem? My work with the displaced workers of the ’90’s taught me that change imposed on us by outside forces can be devastating if we aren’t prepared. The best way we can prepare for external change is by changing ourselves. Then we can help others. This is the part that will take work and daring because we will be forced to take a long hard look at the truth about ourselves and the state of the world. This is the starting point. From there we can use our skills and knowledge to help our ailing world. What other choice do we have?

 

A Tribute to Leonard Cohen

My all time favourite poet, singer and song writer died last week.

Hard on the heels of  the unexpected election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States came the announcement of Leonard Cohen’s death. Two shocking bits of news all in one day! Granted Trump’s win was of more interest because of its potentially devastating impact on the world, whereas Cohen’s death will be primarily missed because he leaves behind a legacy of love and humility. Such a contrast… yet two momentous events so close together.

There may be some who would not agree that Cohen’s main legacy would be about love if they were the ones who saw only the darker side of his lyrics. Yes, dark and depressive he could be, but there was always some light lurking around the corner. Nonetheless, I was both amazed and heartened by the reaction of his fans who came from not just Canada and the US where he made his home(s) but from the Western world in general. He was a musical icon to many and Canadians should be proud of him.

I know I’m not alone in confessing that Cohen somehow captured my heart from the day I first became aware of him in the late ’60’s. For it was then he began his journey to becoming Canada’s greatest poet, song writer and singer upon the release of “So Long Marianne” and “Suzanne”. Who could ever forget the description of his love relationship with a girl named Suzanne when he says:

“Suzanne takes your hand and leads you to the water where she will feed you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.”

No other song writers at that time could come near to expressing so clearly and reverently such a personal experience as this…Bob Dylan didn’t even come close!

I adored Cohen back then and still do today.  My adoration has grown stronger because he speaks to me on all levels: spiritual, intellectual and physical. Perhaps this is one of the reasons he appealed so strongly to so many women…and men. The love he wrote and sang about was not just about sex (as many Canadians claimed when they first heard him) but very much on an intellectual and spiritual level.

I am not ashamed to confess that some of his songs, such as “Hallelujah” and “Dance Me to the End of Love” have made me weep. I know I’m not alone in this. To evoke such emotion in people was his gift to us. When I reflect on this man and his ability to speak to so many, my greatest regret was not making the effort to see him when he came to Halifax in 2009 on his final world tour at the age of 77. I have heard and seen what I missed umpteen times by witnessing his London performance on U-Tube… and every time I am deeply stirred by his passion. For a man who had such difficulty facing his fans when he was younger and actually walked off stage a few times, he certainly surprised us all on that tour. He put his whole heart and soul into this performance engraving it in our memories forever.

When I heard about his latest recording “You Want It Darker” I knew I had to buy it. I was fortunate to get it just before he died. After listening to it a few times and reading the blurb he wrote on the cover, it was obvious he was singing… or I should say speaking because his voice had gone so low that singing was out of the question…about his approaching death. After all he was 82 and had been suffering health problems while making the recording with his son, Adam. The songs throughout the recording seem to speak of his readiness to “leave the table” with no regrets and to meet ‘his’ lord. As you probably know, Cohen was born into the Jewish faith, became a Buddhist monk after ten years of intensive study, and made numerous references to the Christian religion throughout his song writing. Here is a poignant verse from “You Want It Darker”:

Magnified and sanctified

Be Thy Holy Name

Vilified and crucified

In the human frame

A million candles burning

For the help that never came

You want it darker

We kill the flame.

This is true Cohen. The words here can be interpreted on many different levels but one thing is clear: he expresses feelings that we all can relate to… a yearning for peace and love, suffering and hate, regret and approaching death. Dark and often depressing it might be but don’t ignore his references to the light:  “a million candles burning” and “We kill the flame”. Moreover, there is no mistaking his honesty, humility, and ever-present passion in this CD. Here his true personality shines forth and for this we loved him.  He truly touched our very souls and will be greatly missed.

 

Cover of "You Want It Darker" album.

The cover of his last album “You Want It Darker”.

"Popular Problems" his previous album.

“Popular Problems” his previous album.

The Best of Leonard Cohen - a collection of his early recordings.

The Best of Leonard Cohen – a collection of his early recordings.

What is your favourite Cohen song?

 

 

“The People Have Spoken” – A Canadian’s View of the American 2016 Election

“The People Have Spoken” – A Canadian’s View of the American 2016 Election

For what it’s worth, I’m attempting to put down my thoughts on what happened on November 8th in the US. For like all you Americans, we here in Canada are still reeling and trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Yes, I know some of you are probably wondering why I am writing about this because I should be writing about my travels as this is what my blog is all about. Well, truth be told, I haven’t been doing much travelling lately…that won’t begin until the latter part of December… so there hasn’t been much to write about in that department. Then you may ask, why should I be so concerned about what is happening in American politics? Firstly, like most Canadians I care about what happens to our neighbour to the south. Whatever happens there will undoubtedly affect us here. Secondly, I have American friends and blog readers from the US, and I know how disappointed and afraid they must be feeling right now.

Trump’s victory has certainly stirred me up as I expect it has for most of us up here in Canada and the rest of the world. This man may not know much about how the world of politics works… or the world for that matter…and, yes, he has shown a shocking narrow-mindedness and said some scary things, but he certainly has an uncanny genius for attracting publicity. Did he make all his nasty remarks about women and minorities and promises about cancelling the Paris Accord, re-writing NAFTA, etc. just for the publicity so he could get elected? Was he intelligent enough to think of such a ploy that he knew would grab America’s attention? Let’s hope so because this could be your only hope.

Now for a few more thoughts which have grabbed my mind regarding this historic election….

The reasons for Trump’s win and the aftermath for the for the next four years has to be looked at a strong ‘wake up call’ for all Americans…. and other countries, too. We are well aware that corporate greed, racial discrimination, selfishness, crime, climate change disasters, and lack of employment are all contributing to the feeling of helplessness that many people around the world are feeling. The gap between the rich and poor appears to be getting wider. For this reason it’s not been a huge surprise to me that he won since he seems to have struck a chord for those people who are feeling disenfranchised. They fear that what made America a great country is rapidly fading away.

I can certainly understand the sadness and despair that many Americans must be feeling, but I can’t help but think that there is a lesson to be learned here. The fact that he won is proof that the average American is not happy with the present status quo and wants change. They want to go back to the way it was, but you and I know that isn’t possible. You have to go forward, not backward. You need some real leadership to do this and it’s preposterous to think that Trump can do it. However, if he isn’t the answer, then maybe he is the catalyst to the much-needed change the people want?

This leads me  to Hillary’s brilliant concession speech. To assuage the people’s despair, she carefully crafted it to give Americans some hope. In spite of her painful defeat, she was able to graciously offer her help and promise to work with and not against Trump. Did I hear this or was I imagining it? And that was not all ….. she then made a plea for all Americans to do the same. She is such a fighter for the people as we all know, so my bet is that if anyone can have an effect on this loose cannon president, it will be Hillary’ speech.

Furthermore, I don’t think you should give up on “the Donald”… not yet anyway. He is a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality but if he wants to really help the little guy and if he wants to gain the respect of those Republicans he has to work with and the people who are counting on him, then maybe he will choose his words more carefully and change his behavior. Perhaps he will take Hillary’s parting words seriously out of the admiration he claims to have for her? You can only hope…

After listening to Hillary’s concession speech on You Tube, I quickly tuned into Trump’s and couldn’t help notice how different the two atmospheres were. Where the feeling at Hillary’s was filled with love and adoration, the one at the Donald’s was stilted and uncomfortable with little to no emotion. How peculiar! Wouldn’t you expect there to be some joy after his win? Instead, there was just fear. Perhaps he and those around him really are afraid of what he has got himself into, and if so, then could this not be a good thing? Maybe he will start to listen now that he realizes he doesn’t have the answers and will accept help from those who have more experience? You can only hope…

One thing which we probably can all agree on is that this man has a lot of growing up to do. If all those who will be working with him realize this and treat him with some respect and an “open mind” (Hillary’s words) then just maybe he could turn out to be a decent president. He loves attention so if those he works with can come together to help him instead of quarrelling amongst themselves, then they could leave him to keep on doing what he does best which seems to be connecting to the little guys and getting the media’s attention.

Such an idealistic picture, you say, and from a naive Canadian. Perhaps… but I believe you must try to see the positive by visualizing a positive rather than a negative outcome by remembering Hillary’s words to not give up the fight: “Fight for what is right” she said to all the young women of America. It is right is to honour what the majority of people voted for, get over your disappointment, pull together, and go forward bravely to show the rest of the world that all isn’t coming to an end and truth and reason will prevail. I would guess that all of this and more is said in your Declaration of Independence as drawn up by the Founders of your great country. Perhaps more attention could be paid to this by everyone who loves their country and wants it to continue as a respected world leader.

And finally, please remember that as your northern neighbour we are here to help if you want it. Our Prime Minister has already stated he will work closely with your new President. For those who won’t be able to take the heat and uncertainty that is bound to come in the next four years, you can always escape to Canada… if you have the patience to deal with the red tape of becoming a Canadian citizen. Somehow, I don’t think many will do it. Instead you will stay and tough it out because right now your country needs you more than ever.img_0412

An Afternoon Walk in Victoria Beach

An Afternoon Walk in Victoria Beach

Beneficial exercise is a common problem many of us are finding difficult to work into our daily living schedules. If this is so difficult then how about some form of meditation? I know few people in my life who are managing that one, including me. Walking is certainly more popular. By the way, did you know that walking can be a form of meditation? We seem to be aware of what we need to do for a healthy lifestyle, but actually doing it is another matter.

Walking has always been at the top of my list of pleasurable activities, with gentle yoga coming in second. However, I have not managed a passing grade on meditation.  Sadly, walking has not been high up on my ‘to do’ list this summer. Far too much of my time has been eaten up by those dratted weeds which I wrote about in my last post and, of course, the maintenance of our lawn, flower beds, and vegetable garden.

However about two weeks ago, after our lawn had just been mowed by Joe and our property was finally looking neat and tidy….my vegetables were growing leaps and bounds and the flowers were at their peak after some much-needed rain…. I suddenly developed an overwhelming urge to grab my camera and head out for a walk. I felt the water calling me so knew I had to head downhill towards our beach, known as Indian Beach.

Looking good.

Looking good, at last.

Black-eyed Susans in one of my flower beds.

Black-eyed Susans and Galardia in one of my flower beds.

Veggie garden.

Veggie garden.

Yes, we can claim we have a beach… of sorts. It’s rocky and the water is cold since it’s all part and parcel of the Bay of Fundy, but still a great place for exploring and hunting for coloured glass and driftwood. You might wonder, as I did, why our beach is so-called. Why not Victoria Beach our village name? A little delving into the history here reveals that the first inhabitants of Victoria Beach were the Mi’Kmaw so the name came from them. Then in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s immigrants from Ireland and England moved in to mainly fish for a living, so eventually the community was called Victoria Beach after Queen Victoria. I am not sure why the locals still refer to the beach as Indian Beach, whether it’s out of habit or to honour the fact the Mi’Kmaw who were here long before us.

Our Indian Beach

Our Indian Beach

Now back to my walk. The rain, which finally came the night before, had revived every living thing…especially my garden! As I started down the hill, it dawned on me that I had unfolding before me the perfect fodder for a much over-due post for my blog.

What made this walk truly memorable was to witness the battle the sun seemed to be having with the blanket of fog that hung around the surface of the water. Click, click went my camera trying to take in all that my eyes were seeing. It was magical! Not only did I have the antics of the fog and sun in their game of ‘hide and seek, to my right, but also the profusion of flowers and shrubbery to my left, vying for my attention.

Sun vs Fog

Sun vs. Fog

A profusion of flowers along the road.

A profusion of flowers along the road.

Victoria Beach is said to have a microclimate* which simply means that almost any native or non-native plant to Nova Scotia grows here. This includes wild flowers and perennials. The perennials were planted by homesteaders who once had houses here… both of them are now long gone. Isn’t it amazing that these flowers have outlived them! Of course, we also have to contend with those flowers and plants that aren’t natives and have invaded us, such as the dreaded Japanese knot weed that I wrote about in Insects a“My Battle With Weeds, and Other Garden Pests,” my last post. You can click on the title to read it.

That dreaded knotweed - again!

That dreaded knotweed – again!

On my walk, I discovered morning glories, red clover, daisies, Queen Anne’s lace, purple vetch, and wild rose representing the wild flower group. There were others which I cannot give a name to. For the perennials, pretty pink rose bushes interspersed with saucy, orange day lilies lined the banks which were abandoned by the inhabitants that planted them, who knows when? The laden down branches of the blackberry bushes I observed indicated a bountiful year for them provided that we continue to receive more rain. As I write this, there has been none for almost two weeks so everything is beginning to turn brown….again!

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

This could be phlox - a perennial?

This could be phlox – a perennial?

Red or should I say purple clover.

Red or should I say purple clover.

Could this be a Tea Rose? Definitely a perennial growing wild where once there was a house.

Could this be a Tea Rose? Definitely a perennial growing wild where once there was a house.

This is the way it’s been here this summer. June was one of our driest in 70 years. A little rain here and there but not nearly enough. We are now into August with no rain forecast for this week. Such a grim weather outlook gives me even more reason to be grateful for listening to the little voice inside me that whispered, “Go down to the water.” Nature was calling me, and I am grateful she did. It’s amazing what she can provide for our eyes to see if we just keep them open.

On a more sombre note, I can’t help but wonder how much longer we will be able to enjoy all Mother Nature has given us in the past. We are becoming (even here in Victoria Beach) more and more aware of how stressed she is right now. Is it not up to us to at least take note of this and begin to see her in a different light…to live respectfully with her rather than to conquer her? How can we do this, is the question? Something to think about….

*Microclimate – usually a small area within a larger territory exhibiting a different climate.

For example, in Victoria Beach this phenomenon is most noticeable in the autumn when we will often escape the first frost while Annapolis Royal does not. Or in summer, our temperatures on a hot day are usually 10 degrees cooler than in town. Since VB is located at the tip of a narrow peninsula jutting into the Bay of Fundy, we are more moderated by the water.

Our road going downhill to the beach.

Our road going downhill to the beach.