Author Archives: plaidheart

About plaidheart

Stumbling along the journey.

“The Wonder”: Self-love not self-sacrifice

There’s something about me that shies away from popular fiction: if others are reading it, I din’t want to get involved. Elitism, arrogance, fear of bad writing, or the fact that I hate waiting months on hold at the library! When The Wonder by Emma Donoghue finally got to me, I was excited to read it. My book club read it as a book back in January, so three month later I dove in.

wonder

Source: http://www.harpercollins.ca/9781443450027/the-wonder

I found this book extremely challenging. I was upset and angry and I was totally entranced by Donoghue’s writing. The story revolves around a young girl in Ireland, Anna, who hasn’t eaten in the four months since her eleventh birthday and first communion. The village thinks it is a miracle that she is still alive and a committee hires two nurses–one a nun and one trained by Miss Nightingale on the battlefield–to constantly watch the child to see if she is indeed a miracle. We get the story from Lib Wright’s point of view, the battlefield nurse.

A death watch. For eight hours at a time, both the Sister and Lib watch Anna starve. How can this not make you uncomfortable as a reader? At first, Donoghue draws her readers in through Lib: Lib isn’t certain how the child is still alive and there is an energy of excitement and possibility as people from all over make a pilgrimage to the lowly Irish cottage. Yet as facts are learned and the watch comes close to two weeks, thinks unravel.

Irishbog

Source: http://www.markfisherauthor.com/2016/07/mysterious-bog-roads-ancient-ireland-part-ii/

SPOILER ALERT!!

If you haven’t read the book, best not to read any further. Some major spoilers are below, yet are things that I can’t not write about when I think of this novel.

SPOILERS BEGIN!

Near the end of the watch two thing become apparent: 1.) The mother was feeding Anna in a bizarre way, through a holy kiss with what the mom called manna; 2.) Anna was fasting and giving her own life as a sacrifice to get her brother out of purgatory, or even hell.

What we don’t learn until the end is that Anna’s brother sexually assaulted Anna and he even called their relationship a marriage. It was sacred because they were both brother and sister and husband and wife. So here she is, eleven-year-old Anna, having learned that incest is an evil sin, fasting and praying daily to save her brother from hell. She is willing to give up her life to save her brother’s. When lib finds out about the sexual abuse, she learns that the mother, father, and priest all knew about their secret marriage and are doing nothing to stop Anna from sacrificing her life to save his.

Lib feels the same anger and disgust as the readers: Anna is made to feel that her assault is her responsibility and so the adults in her life allow her to believe that it is her duty to save her brother through fasting and prayer. After learning of Anna’s sexual assault, here are Lib’s thoughts: “Even if the fact could be proved, what lib saw as incestuous rape, others would call seduction. Wasn’t it so often the girl–no matter how young–who got blamed for having incited her molester with a look?” (Pg 262-62).

Earlier in the book, Lib is disturbed by the words of Dr. McBrearty, the old village doctor: “‘They mean to put down the flesh and raise up the spirit,’ he explained. But why does it have to be one or the other? Lib wondered. Aren’t we both?” (Pg 195). 

I’m with Lib: we can’t separate our spirit from our body and what are the dangers and the consequences when that happens.

Mind Body Spirit

Source: http://angeliasartjournals.blogspot.ca/2010/09/mind-body-spirit.html

Anna’s story is troubling for so many reasons. How many women have reported sexual abuse and have had their experience dismissed? I think the the Bill Cosby and the Jian Gomeshi cases as examples. Even the RCMP is realizing that they have a problem with how they treat sexual assault allegations and are moving to reopen some cases. The Globe and Mail reports that 1 in 5 cases are dismissed. What message is that sending? What are the physical and spiritual consequences of so many people being ignored and shamed for what was done to them? In the article, reporter Robyn Doolittle writes,

Every year, an average of 5,500 people are reporting sexual violence to Canadian police, but their cases are dropping out of the system as unfounded long before a Crown prosecutor, judge or jury has a chance to weigh in.

The result is a game of chance for Canadian sex-assault complainants, whose odds of justice are determined not only by the facts of their case, but by where the crime took place, which police force picks up their file, and what officer shows up at their door.

This is not acceptable. In the 1850s, when this book is set, this is not acceptable. In 2017, this is not acceptable. Yet why does it continue to happen? Teaching consent is something that needs to happen at home and at school.

That’s why I love this video about consent. Really, it’s simple. Anything that denies consent is assault. Until society changes how it views consent and sex, nothing will really change.

consent-1

Source: http://affinitymagazine.us/2017/02/25/the-phrase-consent-is-sexy-is-dangerously-flawed/

Because this is the spoiler section, I have to say that I loved the ending of this book. Lib, the nurse, kidnaps Anna with Anna’s consent. Anna dies, as Lib stages a fire. In reality, Nan is rescued and taken to Australia to begin her life over again with adults who will hopefully listen to her and teach her to love herself again.

love

Source: https://8tracks.com/gasps/i-love-myself-today-a-girl-almighty-playlist

 

“The Secret Life of Bees”: I am enough

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd was recommended to me by my Dad’s co-worker, a Catholic chaplain at a federal prison. At a Christmas party, we were chatting about authors who wrote on spirituality (like Thomas Moore, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Henri Nouwen) and he suggested that I might like The Secret Life of Bees.

bees

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Bees-Monk-Kidd/dp/0142001740

I’ve never spent much time contemplating Mary, the mother of Jesus. Growing up, Mary was part of the Christmas story and didn’t show up the other 11 months of the year. Yet in Catholic traditions, she is part of everyday life. I think I like that: having a spiritual woman part of my everyday life. Reading The Secret Life of Bees truly made me grateful that I am a woman, and that doesn’t happen too often. The love, joy, forgiveness, and genuineness that Sue Monk Kidd creates within and between her characters had me mesmerized. Lily, a young teen with a dead mother and an abusive father, saves her housekeeper from jail and they run away together and into the lives of three extraordinary women: May, June, and August. These three sisters keep bees and sell honey, yet they have also created a community around the tradition of a black Mary. These women support each other and have true friendships that uplift and challenge each other to love more.

the-secret-life-of-bees.jpg

Source: http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/secretlifeofbees/

Monk Kidd’s novel tackles racism, abuse, sexism, and depression. She does not shy away from issues that most people like to ignore. In the novel, she creates situations that seem so outrageous, yet most likely happened. Situations of black women being beaten in prison by their white male accusers. White people standing in the way of black people registering to vote. Black teens being arrested for throwing a coke bottle at white men. Yet the three sisters–May, June, and August–are strong and they gather other women around them to encourage them and support them. Lily, who has run away from home, is treated with kindness and love, and with a patience that seems unworldly. As she works with the bees, she learns more about herself and about reality:

“The sting shot pain all the way to my elbow, causing me to marvel at how much punishment a minuscule creature can inflict. I’m prideful enough to say I didn’t complain. After you get stung, you can’t get unstung no matter how much you whine about it. I just dived back into the riptide of saving bees”  (pg 167)

I love Lily’s attitude. Stung, yet dove back into the work and didn’t get angry or upset at the bees. August keeps reminding her to send love to the bees and to remain calm and observe. Life lesson!

Lily isn’t always calm and patient, and has some fantastic moments of rage and pain about how life has treated her. We follow Lily’s progression from an angry, confused girl, into a young woman who is learning that the most subversive thing a woman can do is love herself. As Lily helps the sisters care for the bees, she learns a lot of about herself:

 

Her hands stayed where they were but released their pressure. “And whatever it is that keeps widening your heart, that’s Mary, too, not only the power inside you but the love. And when you get down to it, Lily, that’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life. Not just to love–but to persist in love.”

She paused. Bees drummed their sound into the air. August retrieved her hands from the pile on my chest, but I left mine there.

“This Mary I’m talking about sits in your heart all day long, saying, ‘Lily, you are my everlasting home. Don’t you ever be afraid. I am enough. We are enough.'”

I closed my eyes, and in the coolness of the morning, there among the bees, I felt for one clear instant what she was talking about. (Pg 289)

Lily learns something that most people struggle, not only to say, but to believe: I am enough. The three sisters have a statue of Mary that was inspirational to many black slaves in the area and they continue to draw strength from this statue. Yet in this conversation with August, Lily tries to find strength from outside of herself and August reminds her that Mary is there to draw out the best: Mary’s power doesn’t come from her statue, but instead comes from empowering others to see the beauty and love in themselves.

mary

Source: http://beesbeesbees.weebly.com/the-daughters-and-son-of-mary.html

I found this book refreshing: looking at spirituality, Christianity, from a female perspective. And a wonderful reminder in Lent that yes, I am enough!

enough

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/i-am-enough/

“Our Lady is not some magical being out there somewhere, like a fairy godmother. She’s not the statue in the parlor. She’s something inside of you. … You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.” (Sue Monk Kidd)

“Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with you.” (From the “Hail Mary” prayer)

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Immaculate Heart of Mary. 2010 Stephen B. Whatley

Source: http://www.stephenbwhatley.com/1_the-immaculate-heart-of-mary-2010-30-x-24in-by-stephen-b-whatley-copy-jpg

“The Nature of the Beast”: trust

The Nature of the Beast is the third book I’ve read in the Inspector Gamache series and I’ve enjoyed them all! This book raised some great questions about good and evil, especially when it comes to the question, Can people change?

beast.jpg

Source: http://gamacheseries.com/the-nature-of-the-beast/

Today, while scrolling through Twitter, I was disturbed by an article from the US. It was an article about the number of prisoners being executed in a short amount of time, I think 8 in the next few days in just one state. I scrolled by too fast because I was so disturbed by the fact that capital punishment still exists.

In Penny’s novel, a serial killer is mixed up in the building of a secret supergun. This serial killer isn’t just evil, he seems like he’s irredeemable. he is beyond saving. Even the generous, thoughtful, and wise Inspector Armande Gamache does see the possibility for this man man to change and become a functioning human in society. It was a dark read, one that I wasn’t prepared for.

The village of Three Pines in Quebec, a fictional town, is the site of a genius group of men’s idea for a supergun, one that doesn’t require technology to deliver its devastating blows. The residents of the town don’t know that the supergun even exists, expect for some of the town’s oldest, and most secretive residents. Twenty or so years after the men building the gun came to town, the evil of their presence still lingers in the collective memory of the town. In fact, the town’s poet, Ruth, writes about these evil men, specifically the man who became the serial killer, in her poems and the poem about her encounter with this seeming animal won her awards.

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Source: http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2402940087

The three men responsible for building this terrible weapon, one they were willing to sell to highest bidder, regardless of the destruction that will follow. They also took the construction of the supergun one next step: they named it the whore of Babylon and made references to the Bible’s book of Revelation and the coming of the end of the world. The creepy foreknowledge of these men, and yet their determination to continue with their project brought up issues, like the building of the atomic bomb. How evil cruel can humanity become? But more telling, how much evil are people willing to put up with before they intervene? What is it about our human nature that openly trusts to the point of complete destruction.

05onfire1_xp-master768-v2

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/06/arts/this-is-fine-meme-dog-fire.html_r=0

As humans, what is our limit for evil, pain, suffering and hurt? If we don’t have to do work or cause a stink, are we ok with things like the death penalty? Yet at the same time, what about those of us who are strong, brave, and courageous to stand up and say no. Thank goodness for the police and others who enforce rules and laws to keep the greater good safe. Yet time and again, we are reminded of what happens when we are willing to put up with more and more evil. More and more behaviours and actions that truly are not fine.

Penny leave her readers unsettled. Yes, in the end the murderer is caught and the old serial killer remains in jail, yet what about the thought that some people are not able to change? What about the thought that some people enjoy the suffering of others? What about the idea that sometimes we want to see an eye-for-an-eye justice?

an_eye_for_an_eye__by_this_is_the_life2905-d3evetl

Source: http://www.soulaction.org/justice-theology/justice-theology-the-law/

The courage and strength to forgive and rebuild is something that Penny builds into her novels. Inspector Gamache is rebuilding his life in the town of Three Pines. Three Pines is constantly rebuilding itself as a community tragedy after tragedy. Yet isn’t these moments of suffering and pain that bring communities together? We feel like we might suffer alone, yet that is hardly the case. So, for Penny’s characters, the grief and the burden of overcoming hate and fear is done together. Humans trusting in the good in each other instead of seeing on the bad.

I was reminded recently by an acquaintance that my first inclination is to openly, and fully, trust people. I always assume the best for those I meet. I’m a person who gives you trust, yet as things happen, that trust disappears. I believe this is a great quality! Sometimes I get burned and hurt, yet it’s worth it.

trust

Source: http://www.nivrithitrust.org/contact.html

“Some people keep their darkness inside, and some hide their light. You, mon ami, almost certainly have a croissant in there.” (Penny)

“A gadabout gossip can’t be trusted with a secret,
    but someone of integrity won’t violate a confidence.” (Proverbs 11:13)

7f41f6b0dde39f90c4b542bc3dcf7404

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/you-hurt-me/

 

 

“Half Brother”:hooking the reluctant reader

Being an ELA (English Language Arts) teacher is fun and exciting because I find myself excited about the literature I can introduce to my students, especially to the reluctant readers.  David Bouchard says that it only takes one book to make someone a reader.  Just that one book that hooks them in and makes them realize what they’ve been missing.  There is joy in reading.  That is why I was happy to read Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel.

8400538

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7942534-half-brother

Talking with the other ELA teacher at my new school, I guess this book went viral last year.  It was so funny, engaging, and heart-warming that kids were waiting to read it, even asking parents to buy it so they could read it sooner.  Half Brother is the story of Ben, a typical teenager whose parents work a lot.  But his life changes forever when his parents move him from Ontario out to Victoria and they bring home his new baby brother: a chimpanzee!

Ben’s father is a scientist and is hoping to teach the chimp, Zan (after Tarzan), how to communicate and develop language skills through American Sign Language.  They teach Zan new words, yet they don’t teach him a lot of nouns or connecting words, mostly just nouns.  So when the experiment isn’t the success Ben’s Dad was hoping for, things get tense.

For Ben, Zan is not a pet or a scientific experiment: Zan is his brother.  The two have a great relationship as the novel progresses.  Ben tickles, hugs, kisses, plays with, and loves Zan.  They become best buds, even to the point of Zan protecting Ben from some bullies.

chimp

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/lauramixtacki/monkey-business/

The novel isn’t just about Zan and Ben, it’s about Ben growing up and becoming a teenager.  He has angsty moments where he wants to make his own decisions, yet is held back by his parents’ rules.  He wants to date a girl, but she rejects him and dates someone else.  He learns about the cruelty of animal testing and becoming extremely angry at the work his father does with rats.  It’s like Degrassi episodes, but with a chimp!

I can see the appeal of this book for young teens.  It’s about pushing boundaries, dealing with anger, living with disappointment, creating friendship, and learning how to become your own person.  The funny parts, like Zan stealing the dish soap and spraying everyone and everything, or like Zan loving Jell-O, or like Zan peeing on the father, help bring this novel to life and keeps the reader engaged and curious.

There are a few books that I keep on my shelf because I know that they engage reluctant readers, and Half Brother is now part of that collection!

boys

Source: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/mood/slideshow-decrease-family-stress

“The Back of the Turtle”: gentle reminder

Thomas King is a brilliant storyteller.  I wished for two things reading this novel: one, that he was telling it to me over a course of meetings over coffee or a meal, and two, that it wouldn’t end.  The world and characters he created were so life-like and curious that I was slowing down near the end of the book to make it last longer.

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Source: http://www.cbc.ca/books/2014/09/thomas-king-discusses-the-back-of-the-turtle.html

In the novel, a First Nation on the West Coast is completely destroyed by a newly created bacterium, GreenSweep.  Not used properly, GreenSweep kills everything and everyone in its path in the hopes of clearing brush to lay a pipeline. The irony is that the man who helped to create GreenSweep is Indigenous and knew people in the Reserve that was completely destroyed.  How do you seek forgiveness?  How do you make up for life’s biggest mistakes?

This novel is grounded in the Earth.  It shows the importance of the relationship between people and Earth and what happens when that relationship is taken for granted or exploited?

In the beginning of Barkskins by Anne Proulx, she includes this quotation:

In Anitquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men; centaurs, fauns, and mermaids show their ambivalence.  Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated.  By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in the mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. (Lynn White, Jr.)

After years of reading Canadian Indigenous literature, I am still amazed by the generous humour that they employ.  The humour is gracious because the atrocities that have occurred in Indigenous communities is horrible, yet often times authors approach their message with humour, which engages all readers.  We know that satire is one of the most powerful means of bringing about new thoughts and change, yet this story is a gentle humour that is embraces and brings in readers to the story.  The story is then heard by more and thought of more.  Yet, I believe it comes from a generous spirit.

One of the most heartwarming moments for me was the surprise appearance of some Alberta Elders: Narcisse Blood and Leroy Little Bear (pg 119).  I first ‘met’ Narcisse Blood through Elder in the Making, an amazing film that documents Treaty 7 and the people of Southern Alberta. In “Episode 5: A Broken Treaty,” Narcisse Blood talks about his experience in Indian Residential School.  He took an old school and turned it into Red Crow Community College.  The moment that stands out that he says he is a “person that wants to learn.  A persona that respects myself so that I can respect others.  If I can become a human then I can relate to the land better.”  In “Episode 6: Death and Renewal” Narcisse Blood speaks again.  “The land is like our mother…  We don’t take for granted that the sun is going to come up every morning.  We greet the sun because we woke up.  So we wake up and that gives life.  Our non-human relations have rights to be here.  The folly is when we think that man is it.”  The teachings of Narcisse Blood are beautiful and reminded me as I read The Back of the Turtle that as humans we have lost of connection.  In the episode, Narcisse Blood says that our folly is a kind way of saying stupidity.  As humans, we need to reestablish our relationship with our non-human relations.  In Blackfoot culture, they often say the phrase “All my Relations.”  They acknowledge all of creation and honour creation by saying this phrase.

narcisse-at-red-crow

Source: http://elderinthemaking.com/a-triple-tragedy/

Leroy Little Bear is such an important person in Alberta.  He is a Blackfoot scholar is striving to teach us about the connection between humans and the land.  He is also an advocate for justice and works with prisoners and those without means to find justice to work in the system. I know I don’t have permission to say this to make make this judgement, but to me he is a modern day warrior.  He is tenacious, wise, and generous. In a lecture at Congress 2016 in Calgary.  His lecture compares Western metaphysics to Blackfoot metaphysics:”Big Thinking and Rethink Blackfoot Metaphysics: ‘waiting in the wings’.” He talks about the difference between Western and Blackfoot ways of knowing.  In Western culture, we value reason and work around the idea that God’s creation is good and therefore stagnant.  In our thinking, we categorize and run experiments.  We value the objective facts and like creating and finding order out of chaos.  In Blackfoot culture, they think differently and so see the world differently.  As Little Bear says everything is in flux and motion, and the Earth is never stagnant.  People are made of energy waves, and once they die the waves stop but are not gone.  Blackfoot culture sees more in observation and processes.  Blackfoot draws from the idea that chaos is a constant, and ceremonies seek to bring order.  So when a Blackfoot person says “All my relations” they are talking about non-human relations because they see all of Creation as animate.  For Blackfoot people, renewal is essential.  Ceremonies are all about renewal that use the same songs, prayers, stories, and ceremonies to bring order to the chaos.  An essential way of thinking is sustainability.  Little Bear says that Native Science is grounded in sustainability and our work is to engage in the process and action of renewal.  Even the languages show this difference: in English we like nouns and naming things, yet in Blackfoot it’s all about process and actions, movement.  So when we learn, we need to renew, collect, and see the connections, not divide and create dichotomies and cause and effects.  Within the novel, King shows the difference between different creation stories and different ways of working with the Earth.  Little Bear in his lecture talks about how Western thought likes to create prophets, people who can predict what will happen.  That is shown in King’s book how Dorian tries to control and predict how to manage environmental disasters caused by his company.  Yet in the end, it is Creation itself and the chaos she creates that brings the characters together, even strangers, as they seek to push a boat off of the beach.

DSC_9353.JPG

Source: http://theweal.com/2016/03/29/we-are-not-forgotten/

Later in the novel, King references another large personality: “The Donald.”  His character Dorian is the CEO of the company that created GreenSweep and it is his job to try to make the devastation of the use of GreenSweep, and later a tailings pond spill in Northern Alberta near Fort McMurray to go away. As he is looking for a place to eat, he is referred to The Stock restaurant in the Trump Tower on Bay Street.  As he describes his decision, he says this about Trump: “The man was extravagant and arrogant.  A loud-mouthed egotist who gave wealthy people a bad name.  Trump might have been nicer, Dorian speculated, if he had made his fortune on his own rather than having it handed to him by his parents” (Pg 367).  King shows the lack of connect to land.  He shows what happens when people manage nature instead of exist and work with nature.  The thinking is different.  Trying to predict, manipulate, and exploit seemingly stagnant resources shows the complete disconnect to Creation and the different way of seeing it: not as chaotic, but as something ordered and reasonable to gain from.

What happens to communities, people and places, when environmental disasters happen?  Gabriel, the man who created GreenSweep, comes back to his community and becomes part of the people who bring the community back to life.  It’s different, yet they are in it together and connected to the land and the place.  In the end, King offers hope and a way forward.  Nature recovers and is strong, and people are the same, if we just stop to observe.

thomas-king-quote

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-tuesday-sept-2-1.2925685/the-back-of-the-turtle-thomas-king-s-first-literary-fiction-in-15-years-1.2925694

“The Queen of the Tearling”: fight for women

I found Erika Johansen’s book The Queen of the Tearling on a list from the Calgary Public Library.  I can’t remember what the list was about, but I glad I stumbled upon it because I really enjoyed this book!

the-queen-of-the-tearling

Source: https://missnessiemarie.com/2015/03/22/book-review-the-queen-of-the-tearling-by-erika-johansen/comment-page-1/

This is a post-apocalyptic book that also shows an attempted fail at creating a utopia.  It’s good to get out of the real world and imagine what could happen if…

The book revolves around Kelsea who was raised by foster parents in the forest and on her 19th birthday becomes Queen.  She sees the devastation and poverty of the field workers as she makes her way to the castle.  She see the horrors of a complete unfair treaty with the neighbouring country and stops it her very first moment entering the keep gates.  As she tries to create a country that is equal, fair, and good for all, she faces years of corruption and violent resistance.  Yet she has a strong and loyal Queen’s Guard to protect her and guide her and she has two magical sapphire stones around her neck.

My favourite part of the novel was the scene where Kelsea, who in her dreams is able to see visions of what is happening in different areas of her kingdom, tries to convince her body guard and the head of the Queen’s Guard to leave in the middle of the night to go and save women and children from being exported to the neighbouring country by the black market king in order to keep his relationship with the corrupt Queen next door.  In the scene, Kelsea orders her Guard to get up, pack, and leave.  They try to convince her that it was just a dream, that she was acting hysterical, and that she needed to get some sleep.  They continued to dismiss her and even tried to physically restrain her.  Luckily for her, the magic sapphires allowed her the strength to push these men through the air and against the wall, and that convinced them to follow her direct orders. Think of what they missed out on by ignoring her and treating her knowledge as unreliable.  Think of what would have happened to hundreds of women and children if she didn’t have the power of the sapphires to help her.

control

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/343962490267800640/

The frustration of being told she was just a young woman, that she was crazy, and that the men around her knew better made by blood boil.  That powerlessness, and that feeling of righteous anger hit me hard.  There are moments in life where men wield their historical patriarchal power and physical power to try to control a situation that they have no business controlling.  There are also moments in my life where men have tried to tell me they knew better because they were men and that I was crazy.  I don’t know if men ever have these moments of complete and utter removal of power.  Do they even know what it feels like to be dismissed and controlled?

fight

Source: http://8tracks.com/explore/fight_the_patriarchy/popular

Today I am joining millions of women around the world to march.  I am marching because we have a lot of work to do in North America in regards to the treatment of women.  We need more say in political arena, businesses, schools, and homes.  We as humans need to recognize the benefit of giving power instead of striping away power.  It is a privilege for me to live in a country where it is a Charter Right that I am allowed to gather, meet, and march with thousands of other women in my city to show my solidarity with women’s rights and the fight for equality.

womens-march-on-washington-calgary

Source: http://dailyhive.com/calgary/calgary-womens-march-on-washington-january-2017

Today I remember all the women whose voices have been taken away or silenced.  Today I remember all of the women whose power was taken away simply because of their sex.  Today I celebrate that women can make a difference and that we are persons.  The meeting point for the march today is at the Famous Five statue, a place that honours women fighting for equal rights.

intl-womens-day-mcclung

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-trump-march-on-washington-women-rights-1.3940991

“Phallocentrism is the enemy.  Of everyone.  Men stand to lose by it, differently but as seriously as women.” (Helene Cixous)

“This is how women are trained to stay indoors, she thought, the idea echoing in her mind like a gravesong. This is how women are trained not to act.” (Erika Johansen)

feminist

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/274719645989890660/

“The Night Stages”: the pain of hope

The last time I read a Jane Urquhart novel I was in the midst of breaking up with my boyfriend.  I was reading Away in a coffee shop waiting for my boyfriend to show up so we could have the talk.  It was terrible.  And here I am again, reading a Jane Urquhart novel, realizing, and now planning, that I need to stop seeing the man I’ve been dating for the last couple of months.  Painful.  Yet, Urquhart’s characters inspire me.

jane-urquhart-the-night-stages

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thenextchapter/david-suzuki-emily-urquhart-and-jane-urquhart-1.3240041/jane-urquhart-on-how-airport-art-inspired-her-latest-novel-1.3240431

In The Nigh Stages, Tam is stuck in the Gander, Newfoundland airport as she is trying to create a new life for herself away from her lover and is stuck waiting for fog to clear.  She is leaving Niall, a married Irish man who gives her just enough hope for a relationship and something real that she continues to be with him.  Niall is looking for his missing brother, Kieran, because he feels guilty for taking all of the things Kieran loves in order to win in life, a bike race and a wife.  All the while, Tam is in the airport remembering and reflecting, looking at the Gander airport’s mural by Kenneth Lochhead, who is also reflecting on how his mural came to be.  This is a novel about humans whose lives become complicated because of missed moments, harsh reality, and painfully persistent hope.

“In the next twenty-four hours Kenneth would come to a full understanding about waiting and its sister, hope, how even as you lie in an empty bed at two o’clock in the morning, even when the room you have rented is yours for only three more morning hours, hope will still cross the room to meet you, if only to keep you turning on the spit.  You argue her away from you only to discover that some semblance of her remains in the shadows where the light of the lamps doesn’t quite reach, or just behind a door where a knock might be heard at any moment…Yes, she was there in the mural, the one significant event that never happened.  The path that hope had walked and the corner that she turned” (Pg 325-26).

The pain that hope gives is worth it when what we are waiting for arrives, or turns up in a positive way we weren’t expecting. Yet the pain of hope can become unbearable when we realize that we are the only ones hoping and waiting, and that our hope is just wasted energy. That significant event that never happened.  As I was reading this story of waiting and expectation, this story of hoping for love in the wrong places, I couldn’t help but think of a song by Stars: “Romantic Comedy.”  In the song, one of the lyrics keeps sticking with me: “I cannot hold on and I cannot let go.”  That place of being stuck in hope: you want to hold on, yet you know it’s time to let go.  That’s where I find myself, which is why I think I can sympathize with Tam, the woman who is settling for half of a relationship because she has hope that it will turn into something more.  Painful hope. It’s hard to let go and take the risk of being alone and missing out on something that might be.  Even the littlest glimpse of hope keeps people holding on longer than they should, me included.  Which is why in the end, I understand Tam and her struggle.

hope

Source: http://www.picturequotes.com/stupid-quotes/7

I will say that Tam was not my favourite character in this book.  The character I liked the most was Kieran, the strange Irish cycler who leaves his home as a child and lives with the family’s house keeper in the country.  He has hopes and dreams and works toward them.  Yet when life takes away his hope (his brother takes his romantic interest and his glory in a cycling race), he continues on doing his own thing.  This reminds me of Ben Howard’s song “Keep Your Head Up.”  He writes: “Lookin’ out at this happiness/ I searched for between the sheets/ Oh feelin’ blind, I realize/ All I was searchin’ for, was me/ All I was searchin’ for was me…Keep your head up, keep your heart strong.”  Kieran was the only character in the novel who was able to move on.  He was the only character with the inner strength to take care of himself first. Yes, he was hurt (just as he was hurt in the cycling race), but he kept going: “It was these things that made him come to know it was morning, and that the day about to break was Wednesday” (Pg 396).

So for now I’m stuck a little, like Tam, waiting for some fog to clear so I can make some hard decisions.  Yet I don’t want to let my hope for something more turn into a fear of something less.  More hope, less fear!  Love for self, less for something that doesn’t exist yet.

love-self

Source: http://www.cindygcastillo.com/life-advice/2015/10/19/and-if-i-asked-you-to-name-all-the-things-that-you-love-how-long-would-it-take-for-you-to-name-yourself