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Reflections on Narsicim, er… Narciscim, arrgh… Narcissism

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One of the best, the worst, or the most beautiful (genetic) gifts you can be given is the “N” word… no, not that one… another “N” word…

Narcissus(ism).

Alas, one word, Narcissus, but here I’ll show you three different outcomes, saving the best for last.

Two Beauty’s and a Beast... or is it The Good, The Bad and the Non-Ugly *why do you make these stretches Larry?*

THE BEST (A Beauty): I want, and generally possess, the gift of spelling acumen that allows me to spell most of the hardest words commonly used in English.

Thank you Mom and Dad for this hereditary spelling endowment…. with little effort, I can spell almost anything… EXCEPT…

NARCISSISM (you know I used spell-check to get this, right?).

Where the heck do I place the “C”s and “S”s and how many in which spot. I get tied up in knots.

And truthfully, I couldn’t hold a smoking candle to those sharp-as-Japanese-Miyaba-knives 10-15 year-olds in the Scripps Spelling Bee that I watch with nerdish fascination as they conduct full autopsies on words I’ve never heard and never used in conversation.

Wunderkinder aside, belief and admiration of this trait, this ability in myself, likely qualifies me for the Narcissist’s Hall of Fame; it’s akin to grinning at my reflection in the Oxford Dictionary.

THE WORST (The Beast): What I don’t want but have already acknowledged I am a possessor of… is the trait of narcissism. Doesn’t writing a blog alone automatically qualify one for nomination in the Best Narcissist category at the Oscars? Slap me now Will (What? too soon?!)

The best and the worst forms of narcissism are truly 1st world issues… nobody huddled in Syria, Ukraine, or Sudan gives a flying sh*t about whether they can spell certain words, or if they hold an excessive interest in themselves.

You can’t really struggle for your daily existence and simultaneously admire your visage in the river.

Given the great difficult patch we’re in on this planet – aren’t Global warming, MAGA, and COVID enough trauma for one decade, do we need an unnecessary war? – isn’t something beautiful a soothing salve no matter where or when you live?

Summerland’s first 2022 Narcissi …….. Photo: Maureen Green

MOST BEAUTIFUL (A 2nd Beauty): yes, the national flower of Wales… I say Daffodil, you say Narcissus. Whichever word you use, they are some of the most lovely, regal flowers that symbolize spring for me more than a chirpy robin or even a flamboyant tulip.

Each year, the first daffodil blooms usher in my eldest daughter’s birthday, portend of longer and longer daylight days, and herald the shedding of winter parkas and mitts as they open their amiable faces with an array of delicate petals and mixture of colours.

Contrary to Meg Ryan’s assertion in You’ve Got Mail about daisies: “They’re so friendly. Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flower?”- NO Meg, as much as I love you, Narcissi (OMG, another spelling when pluralized) are truly the friendliest flower.

But back to the kids… in 2019, 8 kids, for the first time in 92 years, co-shared the Scripps Spelling Bee trophy (and $50,000 each), after exhausting all the words given in 20 rounds without error.

It’s really enough to knock the stuffing out of any aspiring Narcisist, Narsicisst, oh bloody hell… Daffodil!

Out of The Frying Pan…

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Over my years I’ve scuba-dived and sky-dived.

I’ve ziplined and schussed, tobogganed down a volcano and parasailed. I’ve munched on guinea pig and bull’s testicles, and sipped snake wine.

But… now? Who needs bungee jumping, speed-skiing, or parachuting for that adrenaline shot?

Not me… anymore… because…

I live in British Columbia.

Living on Canada’s west coast in British Columbia today is living life on the edge.

Over the decades I’ve not-so-humbly gloated over the incredible natural wonders of this place I’ve chosen to spend almost all of my adult life.

Clean air and water are mere add-ons to the glories of spectacular mountains, pristine lakes and forests, and the fruit-laden valley that I wake up to each day. Yes, I live in an earthly Garden of Eden.

Magnifying this wonder I’ve seen and experienced, has been the abundant peacefulness of this province’s climate and geology.

Hot, non-humid summers, and mild’ish low-snow winters (in the valleys) make my home a bona fide Jewel in the Crown.

Now comes the BUT…

Today, while I love this place with fervour, I recognize the jewel is becoming badly scratched and the crown’s gold adornments tarnished.

A one-off, freak occurrence I brush off like early November snowflakes on my nose.

Two times and I get suspicious…

News reports that hold the power to fill us with impending doom… well, used to be, I’d lazily gloss over, utter a tsk tsk, and have another sip of my sweet-scented Gewurtztraminer (what does this say about my empathy gene?).

We’re all cracked, damaged, dinged yet simultaneously comforted because “it” hasn’t happened to us. We happily read books filled with sordid stories that provide us a safe place to “feel and heal”. 

Earthquakes and floods, tornados, hurricanes and fires are things that usually happen to someone else, the same kind of stuff that we think about when fatal motor vehicle crashes and home invasions happen… until… they happen to us.

Danger and tragedy are far more meaningful when they are in our own world space.

We all expect the very occasional “once-in-a-hundred-years” event to drop down on us. But once-in-a-hundred loses all meaning when it comes around yearly or every couple of years.

The freak climactic occurrences of BC are now the new normal.

Summer forest fires threaten huge tracts of land and thousands of homes, not to mention the innocent wildlife that succumbs to the infernos.

The odd year where summer fire doesn’t cause evacuations of thousands of homes is the “freak” year.

Huge atmospheric rain storms have just unleashed massive flooding, extensive highway and rail damage, caused the deaths of tens of thousands of livestock, and dislodged thousands of people from their homes due to this water torrent.

(https://globalnews.ca/video/8381738/b-c-floods-heroic-horse-rescue-amid-heavy-flooding-in-merritt)

Me and my family here in the Okanagan Valley have been hugely lucky to have barely felt a scratch due to this latest weather phenomenon. My biggest concern? Stores have no milk or yogourt. Kale is missing on the shelves. Big deal.

I’d love to once again gloss over with my wine glass and see this as one more oddity, that once-in-a-lifetime thing that we still talk about 50 years later (like the big flood of 1948 in BC that my in-laws often spoke of) because it was so unusual… but… I know it’s not.

This water deluge, like the perennial summer fires, is now part of the new everyday.

You may have a new normal in your part of the world too… in fact, I suspect you do. Get used to it.

This all makes me sad because it’s been largely preventable, and even now, when we see the writing on the wall, we continue to say the right things but live our lives in contradiction to what we see and know to be true.

I’m as guilty as anyone out there. I’m complicit.

I can point out areas where I may be more “saintly” than others, but my halo is still tattered and I know it.

Our lifestyle choices… the world’s lifestyle choices… is akin to drinking demons from a fire hose.

My home is in a place I call a Garden of Eden, but the reality says my backyard has been sown with the seeds of a Garden from Hell.

Once Upon A Bromance

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Like Butch and Sundance, I’m in a Bromance.

My man and I have an especially unusual bromantic connection that spans international borders…

… by language, religion, ethnicity, age, cultural traditions… just about everything about us is, or was, different.

Although we’ve “been together” now for almost 4 years – getting together a couple of times a week – over the past year and a half we’ve spent even more time together than previously.

Depending on the rules of the COVID day, we’ve shared cups of steaming coffee or tea via ZOOM or at the local college or at 6 a.m. in a Tim Hortons’ coffeeshop, me and my Syrian bro (student/friend)…

… to study with intent for the Canadian Citizenship test.

We read and discuss, laugh and tease, he’ll go off topic like he did yesterday with an excited story about his daughter winning a new bicycle in a school contest, or even sometimes grousing over our problems.

This gentle man and his wife (and 5 beautiful, enthusiastic young kids) are exiled refugees that have been living in Canada for close to 6 years.

Each day they become just a tiny bit more “Canadian”… no, not yet by law or official decree, but for sure by custom and language.

I can perceive this change intently when he speaks in idioms to me: “Oh Larry, you’re Over The Hill!”, or, “Are you pulling my leg?“, or, when he casually orders a “double-double” now at Tim Hortons.

He’s not the only one who’s changed… yup, he’s changed me too.

I greet him each time we meet, As-salamu alaykum… (Peace be upon you)… my understanding and knowledge of Syria, the Middle East, Arabic language, and the Muslim faith have all bloomed too.

In much the same way that I learn about myself by writing these blog posts, I find that I learn about myself by working and chatting with a man who has been tossed across the globe to live in my country, my culture, so that his family can be safe from bombs and bullets and torture.

Never in his wildest dreams did he see a life in largely white-skinned, Christian-dominated, English-speaking North America as part of his future.

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision spending hundreds of hours explaining what it means to be Canadian to a young, Arabic-speaking, brown-skinned Muslim man.

He looks to me for learning, cultural understanding, and even basic knowledge that eluded him in his homeland. I shook my head in disbelief when I realized he had no idea there was an ocean (what’s an ocean?) separating Syria from Canada.

It’s clear that he’s had an awakening… BIG TIME!

I can tell because… long ago… I had one too.

My awakening came over 40 years ago when I left my hometown of Hamilton.

My eyes were opened by seeing different geographies and histories, architectures, ideologies and politics, and and and… I was wearing translucent blinders (and still am no doubt) because I had never had the opportunity to see and experience what was behind other doors.

If you spend your whole life only seeing the colour green, red has no meaning.

These new experiences were a little like a hallucinogenic LSD trip. Colours and textures were changing, my understanding rose bit by bit. The light rainbow had changed and would never go back to where it was… ever.

Today I know to actively look for other “colours” in the world.

I see this same vision of new light and colours in my Syrian friend. It’s scary and exciting for him. I get it.

OK, back to where we began this post.

What is it to be Canadian?

For those who’ve not studied or seen a citizenship test (Canadian or otherwise)… it ain’t a walk in the park for a native-born Canadian, a university graduate from another country… and certainly not an elementary-schooled Syrian.

Citizenship isn’t handed out like pre-wrapped candies at the door on Halloween.

One “earns” citizenship by working hard to understand the history and culture of this young country, this Canuck land painted one stroke at a time with thousands of years of indigenous history and millions of immigrant stories.

I have my fingers crossed that my young “bromantic” partner and his family will soon wave the Maple Leaf as new Canadians and become sewn into this quilt of many colours.

My Life As A Bigoted, Elitist, Racist, Misogynist, Atheist

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Y

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ou could hate me. Maybe you should hate me.

.

.

There is no doubt in my mind that I’ve done or said something in my lifetime that should enrage you… it’s inevitable that I’ve uttered undiplomatic comments about your gender, or sexuality, or ancestry, or intelligence, or religion.

I haven’t always been sensitive or “woke”. I can understand that you might hate me. I’ve had to erase many many words from my vocabulary that are laced with hidden, and often unintended, hatred.

I’ve lived the most privileged of privileged lives ever in history. I don’t have to buy a lottery ticket, because I won the biggest prize by merely being born a white-skinned male in North America in the 20th century. BINGO!

I’m a billionaire by universal standards of fortune. It’s both wonderful and challenging at the same time.

I’m living in a different world today than the one I was born into… and I’m adjusting and learning and trying… but I also know I’m living my days reading a road-map (without my reading glasses on) that doesn’t have clear cut directions.

In my early years, I said and did things that were hurtful and hateful and just plain stupid when I look back. Many people my age and in my circumstances did the same.

We echoed stuff our parents and grandparents said without understanding who we were mocking and knocking. I won’t give examples, but you probably know the kinds of things to which I’m referring.

It seems pretty clear to me now that making jokes about someone’s gender or sexuality or skin colour or religious beliefs – even hair colour – is crazy dumb and not helpful in any way.

Fortunately, my awareness factor has risen thanks to the resistance movements of Women’s Liberation, LGBTQ+, #MeToo, BLM, and a host of other trod-upon groups.

And yet… today I still get confused and make unintentional gaffes.

I know that no matter how much I try, I still stumble and hurt or offend. I take this for granted and carry the awareness or non-awareness around my neck like a scarf… one that tightens and restricts my breathing when I stray, and warms me when I’m on the right track.

The planet is growing smaller and smaller (metaphorically) and the privilege I was given as a birthright is one that everyone deserves no matter where they are born, no matter their skin colour or language, no matter their gender identification, no matter their choice of partner, no matter their belief or non-belief in a god.

I can’t change what I was or believed in my younger years, but today, we all can make a choice to accept and rejoice in the variety of humanity in much the same way I rejoice in eating delicious foods from India or China or Peru or France or even McDonald’s.

We ALL deserve a rightful and generous place in the world. At the very least, it’s a right we deserve to start out with and maintain if we live in a way that continues to earn this right. Does that make sense?

So, you can choose to hate me and I’ll get it.

But I’ll be a lot happier (and so will you I think) if you try… just try… to understand that I’m crawling, grasping my way out of this cocoon of ignorance, and will make slips and blunders as we wander this complex, cosmic road together.

I’m trying to leave my life as a bigoted, elitist, racist, misogynist, atheist behind… OK, perhaps not the atheist part!…

…and I will always wish for you and everyone the “billionaire” status I was given with my first crying breath, as a part of our birthright.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Winter…

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I loved winter as a kid.

As long as my scuffed hand-me-down skates and hockey stick were sitting by the back door, and a frozen rink – made through frigid late nights by my Mom – waited in the backyard or in the park across the street by Glen Echo School, I was one happy pint-sized Canuck.

Getting my Mom to drive me and my friends to Chedoke Ski Hill for some night schussing under the lights was also a perfect way to finish up a winter’s day… accompanied by a comfortably singeing hot chocolate reward at the end.

Winter was:

• Scotch Pine Christmas tree scent and Santa Claus

• Apple crumbles and Mom’s sweet Christmas sticky pudding

• Pine logs crackling in the fireplace

• Watching snowflakes drift lazily past streetlights at night

• Licking long icicles that we broke away from house roofs

• Kids with snow-caked mittens hanging by wool threads from coat sleeves

• Jack Frost lacy patterns on windows in the morning

• Nutcracker and Johnny Mathis music (but NO Boney M!)

• Snow Angel making and tobogganing

• Snow drifts that necessitated “Snow Days”… NO school days

• Christmas lights on houses and trees… LOTS of lights!

My sister Betty finds her inner “angel” child in this winter’s Ontario snow…(I hope she’s OK, I haven’t heard from her in weeks!)

And I love winter now… if… and especially if… it lasts only about 1, maybe 2 months, tops.

Nope it’s not cold weather that creates problem status here.

OK, sure, it is cold weather a bit but it’s much much more than that. (Honestly, by Canadian standards, we don’t even have cold weather here in Summerland)

And yes, it is a pain to have to put clothing on, layer over layer, latex over lycra, wool over fleece, only to find that yes, like Robert Munsch’s children’s book (I HAVE TO GO) you really do need to pee.

And the problem isn’t jogging on sloppy, slippery roads, feeling your finger and toe tips growing more numb by the frosty minute.

Nope, the real problem with winter is DARKNESS.

In my first professional lab job in my early 20’s, I lived in Yellowknife, NWT (above the Arctic Circle) for a couple of years. It was a fabulous place to live for awhile… but…

… in the winter:

Did you know that DARKNESS is the only thing you see when you go to work in the morning? … when you slip down for a coffee break mid-morning?… SEMI-DARKNESS… and when you’d head home later in the day? … Yup, DARKNESS! Bloody Hell…

I don’t think human eyes are genetically built for darkness the way cats’ eyes are. We humans are meant to live our days in… well… daylight. Lots of it.

Did I hear you say you want proof?

• We cry for our Mommy’s when we’re little because we know that monsters live, thrive, and eat children in the dark. (Also, we know that spiders crawl in our mouths while we sleep in the dark)

• We get frightened when we wander streets and alleys in the dark of night, despite the glow of red lights (wrong streets do you think?)

• We put windows in our houses to let light spill over us, and so our neighbours can spy on us walking around naked (you’re making people nauseous Larry)

The solution is and should be simple: TECHNOLOGY!

We can outsmart Mother Nature and the Laws of the Universe with technology.

Light is simple for us ever since we discovered fire and our ability to harness water power…. we brighten our homes and buildings continuously.

We should be lighting our outdoor world year-round – north and south hemispheres – using a human-made “fix” when needed in the winter months.

We have in the neighbourhood of 6,000 satellites orbiting our globe currently… 6,000!

I believe that Elon Musk and Richard Branson and Bill Gates could set aside their Mars habitation plans for a wee bit, and put their science genius hacks to work today at reflecting sunlight, or creating powerful solar lights that illuminate us to daytime brightness during the dark days of winter. Spotlight please.

It’s a small request. All I ask is that you give me 16 hours of outdoor brightness every day and I’ll take the ravages of winter storms with a lunatic Joker grin on my face.

Finally and totally unrelated to winter darkness… I’m popping in a song I recorded this week here in my songwriter’s lair.

Six or seven years back, I wrote this song about unfulfilled longing and desire between a waitress and a travelling salesman.

It’s simply titled THE WAITRESS. I hope you enjoy it…

On The Road To Becoming a Dinosaur…

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I’m not fully there yet … but, for God’s sake, just send in the meteor now to decimate me totally like the real dinosaurs.

Actually, I’d suggest shoving me off on some northern ice floe but those are mostly melted away now, replaced by Arctic yachts, Inuit bikinis and palm trees, yes?

WHAT? That sounds a bit desperate Larry.

So, am I correct in thinking that I’m losing my power, cracking open the door to irrelevance… to dinosaur’dom?

First, the glaringly obvious – yes, my arms are growing shorter (actually, it might be my spine *measure myself against the wall* … yes, it definitely IS my spine that is shorter)… my skin is getting scaly and rough… and when I get up to pee in the night (dinosaurs always got up to pee in the night, yes?), I sort of wobble back and forth on my legs like a T-Rex or a human toddler, until I feel my balance sensors kick in.

But not all the signs of dinosaur’osity are so undisguised.

It’s taken a few years for me to realize and understand this transfer of “power”, but it’s growing clearer to me that a transformation is underway and will likely develop more completely in years to come.

Sometimes, it takes a while to understand that small changes add up to a larger shift. Only when we look back afterwards, is it blindingly obvious.

OK, I sense your confusion. It might not be clear what I’m getting at, so let me go into more detail. I’ll give you 3 examples in today’s TedTalk… er.. LarryTalk!

1. PROFESSIONAL Work. I was a medical lab technologist for 37 years, most spent in the Microbiology trenches, hunched over agar plates, identifying bacteria, parasites, and fungi that cause infection and then informing doctors which antibiotics or other therapeutics would most likely be successful in eradicating the little microscopic buggers.

It was only in the last 5 years or so of my career that I became truly cognizant of the rapidity of change in knowledge and best-in-class treatment options. The pace was scary. I began worrying about my ability (and honestly, desire) to keep current.

When the fateful day came that I stayed awake at night worrying if I had provided the “best” treatment advice available, I knew that I had to make a MAJOR effort to regain/retain currency, or get the hell out of the way for those with the drive and energy to take it on. I was shape-shifting into a dinosaur.

Instead, I morphed into a happy computer database geek for the last few years of my working career and left the agonizing worry behind. I probably saved a few lives in making this change which kind of makes me a SuperHero, right? (No Attaboy‘s needed here!)

 

2. YOUNG folks begin to talk “around” me. My road to invisibility is slowly being built as kids in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s no longer view me as a source of infinite wisdom, knowledge and authority. Omnipotence Lost.

I can see it coming at me in my world because I know a few decades back, I began looking at my elders in a similar way. I found myself viewing them as pseudo-dinosaurs who deserved respect, but bit-by-bit I realized that I wasn’t putting as much weight or blind belief in their words. The new world was passing them by.

Akin to my first point above, the younger generation(s) can see that older people are struggling to keep up with the humongous social and technological changes that are overtaking us. I’m pretty sure the earthquake – the massive turning point – was when we found seniors’ living rooms filled with VCR’s that flashed 12:00 incessantly.

 

3. INVESTMENT tenets. I’ve been an amateur “investment analyst” for decades, developing a toolbox of skills that have helped provide me and my family a reasonable standard-of-living despite a relatively small income.

It has been a stimulating hobby that just happened to have a financial payday attached. But… big but (not BUTT, not yet at least!)… these investing tools I relied on for decades are slipping because of rapid technology change.

For sure, the principles and tenets of analysis are still valid, but they reflect a world of much slower change. As I’ve told my own kids, ten years ago I could, for example, count on big banks and large industries that were well-managed to produce good returns to me as a shareholder for many many years to come.

Now, because of disruptive technology and logarithmically fast research efforts, the strongest of the strong can be knocked off their pedestal overnight. We are making buggy-whip makers of almost every “old” company in weeks and months instead of years and decades. We can only guess who the winners and losers might be.

The only solution I can come up with at this moment is to hold a large, diversified bag of well-run “new age” companies, knowing that it will only require a couple of winners to make a successful portfolio. 

……………..

So my friends… I’ve got my eyes wide open, bobbing like a prize boxer, as I (Yoda) try to dodge the meteor that threatens my relevant existence.

We’re all in the same ring, floating like butterflies, doing the magic dance of keeping up.

It’s fascinating and dizzying, exciting and scary.

Do you think the real dinosaurs saw the meteor before it finally hit?

Advice Column… Be The GOAT …

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Mommy! Mommy!!

Watch me Mommy… WATCH ME!!!

goose watch

I’m locked in and feel the need to give a lecture… maybe it’s because my adult kids roll their eyes when I launch into my spiel… or maybe it’s a viral side effect…

… will you be my soundboard for a couple of minutes?

I’ve opined and pondered about the magic of 10,000 hours and/or 1,000 hours as keys to prowess in whatever area(s) your greatness lies…. the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT).

It’s not my original idea, but it is magic. Hard work magic. Stinky, sweaty magic.

YOU have greatness of a kind that is unique to you. Your mother knows… FaceTime or Zoom with her and ask her… send flowers too, after all it is Mother’s Day.

Now is the time to strike. Be the GOAT.

One thousand hours is somewhere in the orbit of 42 days…

… which sounds almost biblical in terms of Noah and arks and making sure we keep at least 2 Unicorns and 2 Ogopogos and 2 “Murder Hornets” alive during the big rain (saying this feels eerily dramatic to me as I look out my window and see a water curtain, the first big rain occurring in Summerland in far more than 42 days).

1,000 hours. 42 days. Passion.

1000 hours free

OK, I’ll give you sleep and meal time… let’s be generous and say 84 days.

Over many decades, I’ve squandered my 1,000 hours a 1,000 times, so do as I say and not as I do. But I honestly Yoda try, now more than ever.

So… If you’re on an employment recess, a vacation from your vocation… thank your lucky stars (as long as you have food, shelter, and good health).

This is your chance… your once-in-a-lifetime – once-in-a-hundred years – opportunity.

And especially, if you’re on the south side of mid-life, say, under 40 or so, listen up because the coming years will slip past like a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

COVID-19 has passed a beautifully wrapped gift into your capable hands and is daring you to open it.

Just Do It. Open it…

Capture the glorious “infection” of energy and motivation… the call to action.

Don’t: squander the gift.

Don’t: delve further into the cavernous recesses of Netflix or AmazonHuluHbo-world.

Don’t: rollover in bed… burp, fart… then eat one last potato chip.

DO: Wake up every day and set aside at least 2 hours to work into the passion that you feel. You need time (it doesn’t have to be all in one session, split it up into 2 segments if you wish) to let the muses and folkloric and genetic powers rise to the surface.

DO: Get a little obsessed. Focus. Drill in. But don’t become a stalker, OK?… channel your obsession positively. I am not your accomplice in court!

IMG_1866

I’ve already served MY time in my younger days! That moustache is a crime!

Let’s sum up today’s mini-lecture, shall we?

You need patience and persistence.
You need confidence in yourself.
You need inspiration and cheerleading from any source you can find.

We all want to hear our Moms calling out to us telling us how wonderful we are… and if by chance you don’t have a Mom to tell you this… I’ll tell you… YOU are wonderful!

A year or two or three from now… I want you to look back and say to yourself… “as bad as the virus was, as worrisome as the time was, it gave me the gift to do important things that allowed me to explore my real self and find a fabulous path going forward.”

Make the 1,000 hours, these mere 42/84 days, your personal “ark building” moment and discover the GOAT gold at the end of the rainbow after the contagious rains let up.

Tomorrow, you might learn how to paint nudes, and NOT at PornHub!:

https://coursehorse.com/san-diego/classes/art/drawing/drawing-and-painting/live-model-

… and then …

…. move on to some group singing (Fleetwood Mac tonight!):  Choir!Choir!Choir! – check their FB page for details: https://www.facebook.com/choirx3/

OK…  now get out there (by which I mean stay in) and give your Mommy a big hug (by which I mean, from 2m away!)

moms day card 2020

What If You Landed On A Strange Planet?

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UFO

Freefallin’…..

UFO’s have been in the news quite a bit lately.

I’m intrigued by the notion of UFO’s and how we humans visualize what an alien landing on our “shores” might look like or act.

Rarely do we see an imagined extraterrestrial closely resembling an earth human… more often we see greenish-toned creatures with scales and large ferocious teeth.

UFO’s are scary and threatening to us in most cases.

Yet, if we were to travel to another planet that had living beings, would we really enter their air space with murder and mayhem in our hearts? Wouldn’t peace and harmony be our message?

And so we come to this week’s blog… this week’s song.

To make this more real and “down-to-earth”, I’m posting this set of song lyrics about “aliens” in my own world, equating their arrival in Canada to the scenario of a UFO arriving on the surface of our earth.

In previous posts I’ve talked about how I work and play with a Syrian refugee family in my area who have lived in this foreign land of Canada for almost 4 years.

The old world they left behind, and the new one they entered when they disembarked from a jet onto the tarmac at Pearson Airport in Toronto are light-years apart for these lovely people.

The young parents’ lives have been flipped and shaken as if they were rag dolls.

Syrian family

Musically, I hear a quiet bass droning in the background as the melody of guitar and recorder plays out a march, like a ticking clock moving forward in time.

This song could be sub-titled:

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for a Syrian.

YOU ARE A UFO

The schoolyard dust a daily friend
farm that held no borders
The air was calm and warm
your brothers’ calls familiar
then a new day broke hell
with clouds that lit a storm

You packed a bag and wandered far
along quiet lines with many others
left your home where soldiers warred
where bombs and bullets threatened
bully tyrant who ripped your life
your tears he never cared for

….

CHORUS

You are a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned across a border
and a home that’s just a house

….

Years slid by in sun-baked camp
Your eyes so shy, smile drained and dry
yet morning breaks another day awoke
phone call beckoned with a chance
one week later you climbed the steps
to a westward craft of hope

The others greeted you with smiles and promise
strange words that made no sense
trembling smiles over months and years
dreamy memories crushed under winter’s ice
through long night’s darkness cloak
your kids never saw your tears

You feel the stares the daily threat
the stories from the news
when you wander streets with kids in tow
lunch-bags and schoolbooks under arms
others spy your covered head and shake
about dangers that somehow you impose

BRIDGE:

How long will this prison hold you?
when will the air smell sweet again?
and carefree gossip with your neighbour
turns your hair to grey

The pace is slow the march relentless
new words bloom up like flowers
low prayers take hold in clash of courage
coiled spring relinquish power
now worries that afflict the native ones
are the stakes that frame this brand new cage

….

CHORUS

You are a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned across a border
and a house that looks like… home

happy syrian family

BIG or SMALL, Some Have It All…

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Johnny CAsh

Dammit… Where are my pants?… no, not the beat-up, torn garden jeans. Although the rips would make me look like a fashion icon in today’s style.

I want the black ones that I wear with my black button-up shirt that make me feel like Johnny Cash… real bad ass… I Walk The Line…

Depending on the time of year, the pants will fit me either too big or too small. Winter small, summer big… spring and fall are the goldilocks just-right periods.

I know it’s all relative but I’m feeling BIG and small simultaneously.

I feel BIG because my world can be anything.

I can pretend I’m Tom Hanks in the movie BIG and do all sorts of adult stuff that makes me look grown up.

BIG.jpg

I can write a blog post each week that any person on earth with a modicum of technology can access and read. I’ve been to remote villages in godawful poor countries where there’s no safe water supply but they have cellphones and internet. BIG.

I can write songs, play guitar and sing on different stages all around my region. It’s like being a rock star on a tiny stage. BIG.

I can buy and sell stocks on any North American stock market just like a big shot Wall Street trader or even the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. BIG.

I sometimes help others who, by no choice, were given a lower placing on the lottery list of life. I was, again by no choice, put pretty darn close to the top of the humanity heap for access to education and financial wealth. BIG.

BIG is good.

BIG is good

Is SMALL good too?

I feel small.

My impatience and my “seed growth are incompatible forces that thwart my dreams and goals.

My seeds grow way too slow for my taste. There are parts of ourselves – dreams, hopes, beliefs – that are the seeds waiting to germinate.

There are stories galore of small peeps like me who made a huge splash with their creativity and energy.

J.K. Rowling was small once. So was E.L. James. KD Lang. Samuel L. Jackson. So was Louis CK (maybe not such a great example)… hmmm… maybe if I go by my initials? LW Green? Nope, don’t feel the creative energy swelling…

Those folks have seeds that keep sprouting and growing in a seemingly endless flow.

Fortunately, I learned in my previous Microbiology lab-life that seeds (spores) can lie dormant for months, years, centuries.

They’re not dead.

But…

They’ll only spring to life if one day they perceive the conditions are right for them to survive. Then they split themselves open and take a make-it-or-break-it-risk.

It’s more than a sprint to be the winner of the Kentucky Derby… the risk is either success (LIFE) or failure (DEATH).

I think we all have seeds inside ourselves that can be germinated and grown.

seed germination

 

A whole lot of writers and musicians have had moderate popular success with appreciative audiences that adore their work and output.

Not every song needs to be played for 25,000 people in an arena to make it worthwhile and special. A hall of 200 admirers can be a lifetime achievement.

Not every book written need sell a million copies to make a complex, wonderful story.

Small movie? We sat through the quiet flick Maudie last year. Oscar-worthy, it was seen by a relatively small number of folks and yet had beautiful, heart-tingling imagery and a soulful message.

Germinated seeds.

In most cases, germination doesn’t really mean life or death… success or failure.

Merely making the effort to succeed is enough. There are layers to seed growth. Not every plant has to be a huge monolith, like Jack’s beanstalk.

But I still feel small.

I’m spending a good deal of time these days working with a Syrian refugee who is struggling mightily to make the unexpected, tumultuous transition to Canadian life.

His seeds of potential are buried deep inside the earth under layers of war and deprivation, and I fear it may take years to surface and germinate.

The relatively palatial lifestyle of native-born Canadians and other Syrians who came before him with higher levels of education are irksome and heavy on his soul.

He’s helplessly hoping impatient because he can’t turn off the images that bombard him in his new country.

He wants it all for his family, a wife and four young children. I want it for him too and wrestle with the discomfort and ache of watching his contest.

His desire to be BIG in a new land seems to barely match my small goals.

Here I am dealing with my 1st-world desire to channel my inner Man-in-Black Cash. On the other side of the fence, is my Syrian friend who merely wants enough language, education, employment and green cash to raise his kids to be good Canadians and become part of the dream he floats alongside of but isn’t part of, at least not yet.

I feel BIG, yes, but really I feel small.

Canada's PM Trudeau shakes hands with a Syrian refugee during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Are You Winning The Wind Game?

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March Wind

March wind is a jolly fellow;
He likes to joke and play.
He turns umbrellas inside out
And blows men’s hats away.

He calls the pussy willows
And whispers in each ear,
“Wake up you lazy little seeds;
Don’t you know that spring is here?”

kites.jpg

March is the month of wind.

As a kid I awoke in the morning reminded of the sky-high possibilities of kite flying in the raging breath of March breezes.

It was time for me and my buddies to put down our beat-up hockey sticks and bring out fresh diamond kites as well as those weird contraptions called box kites that I could never figure how to fly.

Lion winds. Hobo winds.

Cold winds, warm winds.

No winds, sunny winds.

I’m a big boy now and March in the Okanagan Valley this year has been full of rain and largely free of gales, but the metaphorical winds remain steadfast and perennial.

Wind – like a lot of things in life – is how we come to see and feel it rather than how it comes to us… how we perceive the breezes and gusts.

Every day can feel like an eternity of wind, which can be a bastard… or a sweetheart.

So, what’s your score? how did the wind blow in your world this week?

scoreboard

Here’s how I perceived and scored my game winds this week…

  • Run Training: In early morning semi-darkness I shouldered into a stiff south wind on the backside of the running track. It slapped and cursed me in the face and chest each time around the track… I cursed back. And in the end, I ran harder and still zipped around the course at the pace I had assigned myself, gasping for air as I reached the finish stripe on the track.

I overcame and still won.

Two days later I finished an indoor (no wind!) 8 k tempo training run (in preparation for May’s Vancouver Half Marathon) a minute faster than my goal time. Another small victory.

SCORE: Me 1, Wind 0.

  • Tutoring: I sat next to my Syrian friend, struggling with the trials of teaching him English. We have heaps of fun together but the winds were so strong this week that we seemed to take one step forward, then 2 steps back. I searched for calm eddies and ideas where I could pass the message into his head so that he may one day soon find quality work and support his young family in this new and foreign country. He wants it badly and I want it for him… but…

I concede that the wind won the struggle this week as my student could barely remember how to spell his own name in English. Vowels be accursed.

Score: Me 1, Wind 1.

  • Cooking: There was a cantankerous wind in the soup kitchen line this week when one of the patrons pulled out a needle and prepared to shoot up his fix just 3 spots from the serving window.

The other patrons in line let out yelps of panic and angry disgust. Who could blame them?

Score a point for each side here as we gently ushered him outdoors to finish his “work”… he scored a hit in a private, safe place… we even delivered him a sandwich and dessert outside… and the other guests in line remained safe and well fed.

Sad story and a sad Tie.

Score: Me 2, Wind 2.

  • Performing: I played my guitar at a new place in town on Tuesday night. A restaurant/pub-by kind of place.

There were lots of stiff noise winds… the sounds of loud drinking voices and general restaurant hubbub. The sound system was sub-par which made performing and drawing in the audience a wee bit o’ a bitch.

On the plus side, those who were listening to us sing were loudly enthusiastic and positive. Also, the trial of noise and poorer sound quality were good tests of our ability to concentrate and focus on the music despite the obstacles.

The song lived on and that fugly wind storm lost this battle.

Score: Me 3, Wind 2.

strong wind

Wind can be exhausting or exhilarating, yes? Sometimes both at the same moment.

OK, I narrowly escaped with a win this past week as the last winds of March faded away. My lion ate the lamb which makes me a terrible vegan.

Winter winds are shrivelling quickly and we can feel the revving of the summer T-bird, a wind with its own personality and presence.

Inner success is feeling those winds blow, knowing that they’ve come to test you, then turning up your powers and buckling down to overcome and turn tears into smiles.

The wind is a friend that can dress like an enemy… a sweetheart that looks like a bastard…

The score in the game of wind is all in our perception.

Perception

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