Have courage, speak up, do not succumb

 

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I look out my second-floor office window here at Cathedral Drive Farm in Hope Ness and all is calm: the morning sun is shining on the second-growth of tender, young buckwheat still managing to survive the cooling nights. There is little wind, though 100 km/hr winds are forecast for this weekend. And I wonder if I will get a chance today to start putting plastic on the windows to help keep out the winter cold.

But, I confess, the state of the world has got me down: the increasingly destabilized, insecure, dangerous world and the threat that poses for ordinary people like me who just want to get on with their lives, do right by their children – and the human family – yes, that too, because we are all in this together, whether you live down the road and around the corner, or on the other side of the planet. Continue reading

No way to treat a friend

There’s nothing like a wall, real or virtual, to make a point about the promise to “Make America Great Again” even if it means offending an entire nation on its southern border, or hitting your best friend and ally to the north with a sucker punch.

Even the giant U.S. aircraft maker, Boeing, was surprised by the 220 percent “anti-dumping” tariff the U.S. Commerce department recently inflicted on the prospective sale of Bombardier’s new C-Series passenger jets to Delta Airlines.

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Two, beautiful, Canadian-made Bombardier C-Series passenger jets

Bombardier is a Canadian company that has signed a deal with Delta Airlines in the U.S. for the sale of 75 of Bombardier’s new C-series, 100-passenger jets. Delivery was supposed to begin in 2018. But Boeing said the jets were being sold below cost with the help of Canadian and Quebec government subsidies, and asked the U.S. Commerce department to investigate. The protectionist administration of President Donald Trump was only too happy to oblige, and then some. Continue reading

Nature will find a way. Will we?

First, allow me to take a few moments to look on the bright, hopeful side.

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This row of squash got through an unusually cool, wet summer in southern Ontario, Canada to produce an abundant crop. Nature found a way.

It is now officially fall in the Northern Hemisphere. That makes sense, after all, we’ve just had a long stretch of mostly sunny, warm, summer weather. Things in nature, and in human life hopefully, do have a way of balancing out. At least that’s what I told myself and certain of my garden plants throughout this now-recent, unusually-cool, wet summer.

Hang in there, be patient, I told my corn, squash, and beans especially in so many words: the sun also rises, and will soon shine for more than a day or two in warm succession.

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Keep your hand on that plow, hold on

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Those dark clouds just keep coming, don’t they, figuratively and actually, in the skies above.

Not to sound too pessimistic – I keep telling myself to look on the bright side, of course, and try to be a beacon of hope here in Hope Ness, beside the Hope Bay Forest, just north of Hope Bay. But the reality can’t be denied. Indeed, if hope is at all possible, and I believe it is, it must grow out of a clear-eyed and heartfelt acceptance of the challenge we and the world we live in face at this critical moment in human history. Continue reading

Thoughts at Sunset

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The setting sun appears to be resting for a moment on the tin roof of an old shed at Cathedral Drive Farm before going down

Dark hills at evening in the west,
Where sunset hovers like a sound
Of golden horns that sang to rest
Old bones of warriors under ground,
Far now from all the bannered ways
Where flash the legions of the sun,
You fade—as if the last of days
Were fading, and all wars were done.

The Dark Hills, by Edwin Arlington Robinson

That’s always been my favourite poem, ever since I first read it as a teenager and put it to memory.

It’s a poem with more than one level of meaning, including the most obvious one that usually brings Second World War General Douglas McArthur to mind – mine, anyway. I don’t know if he was recalling this poem when he uttered his famous, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away” line in his farewell address to Congress after being relieved of command during the Korea War by President Harry Truman.

If so, his sentimental reference didn’t do justice to a great poem.

Though it certainly works on the literal level, it’s always moved me – and I hesitate to risk breaking the spell by trying to explain what really doesn’t require explanation and, God forbid, analysis – on a deeper level of pathos that speaks to being alive in the world, and then the end of it. Perhaps even the end of all things.

That may sound morbid. But I sometimes find myself, like tonight as sunset approached here at Cathedral Drive Farm, reciting it quietly over and over to myself, for spiritual consolation.

It’s comforting as well to know that their was a man – an American, by the way – who once lived in the world and was so wonderfully inspired to write such a great poem, so simple and accessible, yet so utterly, and mysteriously profound.

I am reminded of my favourite moment in music, a few minutes into the first movement of Sergei Prokoviev’s last piano sonata, the 9th. I first heard that too as a teenager listening to a recording of it played by Sviatoslav Richter. Prokoviev dedicated the work to Richter.

I am approaching an age now where the poem is becoming more meaningful for me, and the state of the world, which I confess I find depressing. But that’s not helpful, either for me or the world. So I’ve got to do something about that.

And one thing I do, perhaps too often, is bear witness here to the reason why I, and, I think, a lot of other people are also feeling discouraged about hopeful prospects for the future.  Continue reading

Searching for hope on rainy days

This question is often asked by historians, and others who take an interest in such things:

How did one of the most civilized, cultured nations on earth fall victim to takeover by a ruthless, mass-murdering, dictatorial tyranny? How was the nation that gave the world the music of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart led into a world war that killed many millions of people and left much of Europe in ruins, including Germany itself? Continue reading

Trump takes aim at Canada

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Cows being milked on a modern dairy factory-farm

Oh-oh.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, in the midst of worsening tensions with North Korea and the risk of a major, possibly nuclear war that entails, U.S., President Donald Trump took aim at Canada and fire what sounded an awful lot like a trade-war shot across our bows.

But of all the things Trump had to pick as an excuse to get bigly tough with Canada on trade, why did it have to be dairy? Continue reading

Let’s make a miracle

 

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Cathedral Drive Farm homestead

It’s a lovely spring day here at Cathedral Drive Farm. The sun is shining in a clear, absolutely cloudless, blue sky.

I walk around making mental notes of all there is to do: a big pile of scrap wood to sort out and do something with; new eavestroughing to put on the new roof I built last fall for the extension on the house; a big barn-door to rebuild after it got blown off during a winter storm; and last but by no means least, garden-ground to cultivate when it’s dry enough, maybe by the end of this month. Continue reading

The tears of the hopeful dead

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The Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Yesterday Canada celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War. That battle in which thousands of Canadian, British and German soldiers died has become part of Canada’s national mythology, a seminal event from which its emergence as full-fledged country in its own right is often dated.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and and a total of 25,000 other Canadians were there, along with many other dignitaries, including members of Great Britain’s Royal Family, Prince of Wales, Charles, and his two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. French President Francois Hollande, were also in attendance.

But I daresay the dominant presence was the collective spirits of those who died there, watched over by one of the most strikingly-impressive, national war memorials ever conceived and built. The crowd has gone; the field of battle is relatively quiet again except perhaps for some visitors paying their respects. And of course the dead remain, in known and unknown graves.

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