Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Thirsty Garden

RAIN SPATTERED and the wind howled in Surrey over the past several days. Although a cloud still broods on the horizon, the weather has settled and now the sun occasionally peeks through. Although I haven’t found any rainbows, (except for this windsock), I did find a poem due to a raindrop clinging to the eaves that suddenly plopped on my head. It got my attention and reminded me of a kid's poem I once wrote during an unusually dry spring in the Lower Mainland.

THE THIRSTY GARDEN

The garden sat silent and still ‘til
A raindrop plopped gently down
Onto the little boy’s nose

The sky watched the blob slowly roll
And slip to the tip where it swung
To and fro in a wet glow

The suspended bead splendidly hung
As it paused at the sloping edge
And clung to the tiny nose

The earth below saw the drop stop
Then arrive with a thud like a flood
Into the dusty garden

The garden gasped at long last
Knowing more rain would soon follow
To help its needy seeds grow

The dry ground tried for weeks
To speak to the little boy who
Paid no heed to his garden

Water me, please!

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Child Find: Hope For Lost Little Lambs

I WAS ABOUT TO WALK IN the door of my local drugstore when I spotted a table of t-shirts and pamphlets promoting yet another worthy cause seeking financial contributions. There are so many credible reasons to give and/or buy something that it can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, it is difficult not to put Child Find on top of the donation list.

The face of four-year old Michael Dunahee is still etched in my mind after all these years. Sadly, the mystery of his disappearance has remained unsolved and is a cruel reminder of how vulnerable society is to evil-intentioned people. Michael was presumed abducted in 1991 from a playground in Victoria, BC, where there is now a Chapter of Child Find.

It isn't only money that the organization needs. A human heart moved to volunteer is a priceless commodity, particularly when it comes to non-profit organizations. No doubt volunteers play a major role in the 98% plus recovery rate for cases in which Child Find is involved. Volunteers also actively take part in education and prevention programs. This generosity of spirit is the counterbalance that offers hope in the midst of despair.

For those looking to be involved or who simply crave a workout, the Keep the Hope Alive Drive 2010, in Michael Dunahee’s name, might be a good place to start. The 5km family fun run/walk is on Sunday, April 4th, at 10 a.m. at the Esquimalt Curling Rink located at 1151 Esquimalt Road. The Entry Form to attend can be found here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recovering The Spring In My Step

THERE WAS A SPRING in my step as I walked South Surrey pathways, breathing in the fresh dewy air.

My focus was on budding nature and the colours and schemes that decorated the sidewalks.

Almost, but not quite fully, recovered from a fracture to my toe that occurred over a year ago, I was definitely feeling grateful that my feet were well enough to take me where I wanted to go.

Still, I was not tempted to travel down the multitude of steps, twists and turns that beckoned me from below.

Instead, I chose a less rigorous road.

This newly traveled simple path carried me lightly along my way.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Dog's Dandelion Fetish Wilts

THE EARTH ROLLED around to another season and I’m glad to see it is Spring again, officially on March 20th. The fresh sightings of blossoms and dandelions feel like new beginnings. They also remind me of past beginnings. I remember the excitement of an adorable puppy and how he brought joy and occasional stress into our home. I was puzzled and had no idea what to do about his desire to chomp on every dandelion he came across. I thought this fetish would never end but was surprised to discover it only lasted for a couple of months. I could have saved myself the worry because it was just one of many stages we went through together that would work itself out. I suppose this is true of many passions that come and go in the circle of life.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Luck, Faith & Folly

ST. PATRICK'S DAY CELEBRATIONS and my earlier post about fortune cookies got me thinking about how spirituality and superstition have merged in the minds of man. Although one is granted the credibility that the other lacks, there is a blurring of the two facets in the human psyche that often takes the shape of a symbol.

As a child, I combed through the grasses in search of four-leaf clovers that when discovered and pressed between the pages of a book I thought would bring me good luck. It is this type of magical thinking that both young and old have never outgrown and it wears many disguises. St. Patrick explained the Trinity through the use of a shamrock that eventually was conceptualized with an additional petal to symbolize God’s grace. The symbol later transformed and was popularized to express faith, hope and love, with the fourth petal representing luck.

As my previous post explains, the fortune cookie was a commercial venture rooted in a traditional belief in religious omens. It could be a hoax when a bamboo shoot sprouts out a desired message, or a crystal or stone offers metaphysical healing, or a cross is said to ward off evil … if it were not for the enduring faith of the believer.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tale Of The Fortunate Cookie

CRACKING OPEN our fortune cookies during a recent visit to a Chinese restaurant was a fun way to end a good meal. It reminded me of an article I once wrote about the history of the famous cookie and how it came to add a dash of sweetness and inspiration to Western tables.

I was surprised to learn that travellers to China who expect to be served fortune cookies after their meals will likely be out of luck. Dinner could include lily blossoms, duck’s tongue, bear’s paw or fish lips, if the restaurant is “exotic”. But it might be difficult to find even a single fortune cookie in the entire nation.

David Jung, an enterprising Chinese immigrant who owned and operated Los Angeles’ Hong Kong Noodle Company, is most often credited for inventing the communicative cookie in 1918.

Apparently, Jung was clever enough to envision the cookie as a fantastic money maker. Initially, he promoted the product as a way of lessening the boredom of customers who had long waits for their orders in the many Chinese restaurants sprouting up in the West.

The cookies became so popular that people were eventually content to wait until AFTER their meals in anticipation of reading the messages locked in their cookies. With the same eagerness of today, they broke open their mildly sweet treat and pulled out a small slip of paper that gave insight into themselves and their future.

A Presbyterian minister was first hired to condense Biblical verses into fortunes. Professional writers, often in flowery prose, later composed classic lines such as: Your feet shall walk upon a plush carpet of contentment.

The ingenious creator of the cookie understoood the deep-seated interest in personal destiny and blended that with the Chinese knack for conveying snippets of wisdom.

In ancient times, players of a Chinese parlor game wrote wise and witty sayings on scraps of paper that were tucked into a twisted cake. Also reminiscent of the chatty cookie, birth announcements were wrapped in sweet dough and sent to family and friends.

Many people in modern China believe that knowledge of their fates and fortunes can be attained spiritually in various ways. It’s not uncommon for religious temples to provide prophetic scribblings about finances or health on bamboo slivers shaped like popsicle sticks. Several of these mini-messages are stuffed into bamboo shoots which when shaken drop out some remarkable insight into the “shaker’s” future.

A variety of such practices exist throughout China today, partially due to a common belief in the good and evil influences of departed ancestors. This results in what some say is an endless array of superstitions. To ward off evil and ensure good fortune, written symbols for happiness and longevity are penned onto everything from clothes, to paper, to leaves.

Although the California-born cookie embodies a significant part of the Chinese psyche, it enthralls all people from around the globe with its delicious promise of hidden knowledge.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lip-synching to O Canada?

ARE WE A NATION that increasingly only mouths the words to our national anthem? I could be wrong but viewing all the Olympic success at the podium seemed to suggest some folks don’t quite know the words (at least to the English version) of O Canada.

Perhaps this was due to excitement or for linguistic reasons. I don’t know how to sing the French version of O Canada. Nonetheless, it makes me wonder if the fact that more and more Canadian schools no longer sing the anthem regularly could be causing the confusion.

I liked singing the anthem every morning in elementary school. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it gave us kids a sense of unity, if only for that moment. We came together from all walks of life and found common ground in a song that woke us up to the day.

To me, the anthem is not militarist, overly proud or nationalistic. Rather, it is respectful of a vast inclusive land that we strive to protect in many different ways.

Oddly enough, we were quick to protect the current lyrics, although the song has gone through previous transformations. A recent suggestion to change the anthem into something more “gender-inclusive” was rapidly rejected by the public. It seems that women do not require the validation of a politically sensitive anthem.

Ironically, the suggested minor change from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command” would probably have gone unnoticed by those of us who are challenged to remember the lyrics.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Misreading Pearl: A Continuing Story

IT OCCURRED to me that good people who mean well still manage to misunderstand one another on so many different levels. The result ranges from minor disputes to silent suffering and misguided decisions, to global strive. Human survival depends on a marvelous mix of signals we give and get. Yes … we achieve a connection and empathy much of the time. But we also get it wrong and make assumptions to fill in the blanks. In fact, we are all storytellers in our own minds continually creating motivation and implications about the behaviors of others.

Misjudging starts early in life and leads to serious as well as funny consequences. This notion inspired me to explore the humorous possibilities through a fictional character called Pearl, whose story I will expand on from time to time in this thread. Eventually, I plan to piece together a series of events that explain how Pearl ended up in the awkward position of hanging onto a ceiling fan, with a fork in her foot.


MISREADING PEARL: A CONTINUING STORY
Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms
Illustrated by Holly Pavlik

Pearl is a dear little six-year-old girl whose misunderstood actions result in strange and unwanted reactions. The latest misread of Pearl’s dubious deeds has her kicking and screaming in the principal’s office. Her head in a whirl, she cannot fully grasp what led to her spinning on a fan in the ceiling, with a fork in her foot.

Pearl was too small to recall she had been wronged from the start. A newborn home from the hospital, the pattern was set when her teary outburst, caused by a tickle in her throat, drove her parents into a frenzy.

The reason behind Pearl’s neon-bright face and siren-piercing screams was a mystery to her mom. When she picked Pearl up and started to swing her briskly back and forth in her arms, Pearl's sobs suddenly stopped from the shock of being so forcefully rocked.

“Oh,” said Pearl’s mom, “this does the trick!” She never discovered that Pearl's throat had a tickle and that her problem was solved only after she gulped down lots of milk from her baby bottle later for lunch.

Muddle ups kept happening in the months that followed. Pearl was a toddler when she ruined a healthy green plant by dousing it with pickle juice.

But it wasn't her fault. Pearl’s mom left an empty jar of pickles within easy reach on the kitchen table. The juice that was still in the jar looked like the water Pearl’s mom fed the plants regularly.

"Stop!" her mom yelled when she caught Pearl pouring in the last drop. The leaves never recovered and Pearl guessed she should keep her distance from all potted plants everywhere.

Pearl was two years old when her dad found her hanging on the ledge of a cupboard. She was too scared to jump down and too small to hoist herself up. The chair she was standing on toppled over when she was reaching for a box of ...








Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Paralympics: Dreams Are Portals

DREAMS ARE THE PORTALS from which great achievements are made. But although that is how it all begins for athletes, it took dedication and an “umbrella” effort from thousands of supporters for the 17-day whale-of-a-ride Olympics to become reality and lift us up as a nation. Joy rang in the streets and we held our collective breath as events culminated in a hockey cliffhanger and storybook ending for Canada.

Now that we’ve exhaled, the Paralympics are here to carry on the excitement in Whistler from March 12 to 21. Over 1300 champions from 44 countries will participate in the first Paralympic games on Canadian soil. Team Canada will consist of some 55 embodiments of the Olympic spirit.

Seeing people fulfill dreams, overcome challenges and compete with excellence is thrilling and inspiring. We live in uncertain times of heady losses and there is much to overcome. We saw skater Joannie lose her mom and Georgian parents lose their son. An unfathomable number of parents and children were lost in Haiti and now there is devastation in Chile. From losing loved ones to losing the use of a limb, humanity does not allow itself to lose heart for long.

Whether through chance or by fate people throughout the globe have something to conquer. The inspiration we gain from the successes of others helps us weave dreams of our own. Whether to fulfill a goal and excel in a sport, master a physical challenge or simply get out of bed to face a fear, the Paralympians light our way with their can-do attitude, toughness and drive to win.

We crave their inspiration. But as 2010 shows it is a symbiotic relationship. Spectators and athletes need one another to feel the power. The Paralympic flame has now been ignited in Ottawa. It will make its way across country to first appear in Vancouver Island, BC, on Saturday, March 6th, when we will be watching.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Not So Funny Bunny Tales

I DON'T BELIEVE RABBITS make the best pets and generally suggest folks settle for the chocolate kind instead. But this is a case of do as I say (not as I do) as I’ve had two pet rabbits. Mini lived for only a few months and devastated the family when she died from digesting some rope that was foolishly tied to her cage. Oliver lived for almost nine years and had the run of our garage AND back yard most of the time. Because we hated leaving him in a cage our cars got a little rusty and weather-worn from being parked outdoors. The garage, too, was worse for wear around the edges from being chewed by Oliver who I could forgive anything.

It would be so easy if we could simply erase the pets we purchase when we no longer have time or space for them. Many baby bunnies are bought in early Spring as an emotional response to the Easter season. Their cute and cuddly bodies are hard to resist. Families often aren’t prepared for the long-term commitment, however, especially when sellers downplay the life span of rabbits. I’ve heard them say up to five years for dwarf rabbits when five years is usually the minimum and often extends well beyond seven years in a good home.

Very often the furniture-chewing adult rabbit is tossed out in the cold to possibly become dinner to the hungry wildlife lurking outdoors. If the bunny is lucky enough to survive and find another bunny, they multiply and become wild themselves eating their way through gardens and lawns of suburban homes and even univeristies such as The University of Victoria in BC, a classic example of an abandoned rabbit overrun.

This bunny bonanza inspired the university to start a pilot project in December, 2009, to test non-lethal animal control methods. The Mandate is to: "test non-lethal approaches to remove at least 150 feral rabbits from areas in and around the university’s athletic fields. The pilot project involves live capture, removal from campus, sterilization and relocation to new homes."

I don't regret my bunny relationships. But as a pet owner who cares I didn't foresee the extent of dedication such a pet requires. It couldn't hurt to think twice before taking on such a responsibility. The best explanation of what happens to most rabbits in the end can be read in a thought-provoking poem by Mary Brandolino called EASTER BUNNY.