Heaven & Mountain Mecca!
Are your halls decked?
Are your bells jingling? Oh yes, Xmas, and all that comes with it, (good and
bad) is upon us. Prez and I usually have the luxury of hiding out in some
foreign country to escape the craziness but this year – for only the second
time in nine Xmas’s together– will be spent in Canuck Land.
This is a weird time of
year for me; fond memories of a traditional family celebration contrast with
the over-commercialized, debt-inducing juggernaut the holiday has become. Part
of me wants to sing carols and decorate a tree, a much larger part of me would
be happy to hide beneath the covers until January 2nd. Merry Xmas or
My feeling of yuletide
split personality disorder isn’t helped by the daily buffet of suffering I
watch, read, or hear about on the news. It is hard to reconcile stuffing myself
with, well, stuffing, and overdoing,
well, everything, when I see far too many out there with, well, nothing.
Overwhelmed as I am, I’ve decided to do something about it this coming year –
more on that later.
For now, let me tell you
about an incident that occurred today…
Baker Street is the hub
and heart of Nelson. At first glance, it is no more than any other trendy
little town filled with shops and restaurants, but look up, look around, and
you’ll see more. Many of the buildings that line Baker St. were built in the
late 1800’s or early 1900’s; the architecture is stunning, the sense of history
tangible. Look higher still and you will see the many peaks that wrap
themselves around the town like a mother’s loving arms. Notice the buskers –
some even braving the winter chill – who are admired instead of scorned, read
the store hours and see how many still close on Sunday (life more important than
money? Crazy), and laugh at the “no moose” or “no pigs” signs spray painted as
a spoof of the city’s “no dogs on Baker St.” bylaw. Look closely and you will
see the oxygen that keeps the heart of the city pumping.
At Xmas, however, Baker
St. is a zoo. Did I mention that part?
I drove downtown today to
finish off a few errands and found myself mired in Xmas shopping mania. Turning
the truck down a back alley, I thought I’d side-step the grid lock only to
drive headlong into a worse jam. Backing out was impossible as another car had
pulled in behind me; I was stuck. As minutes (hours?) ticked by, I felt that
old, city, road rage brewing. The urge to pound on my horn was unbearable. Why
was that stupid van loading and blocking the alley? Why couldn’t the stupid old
lady realize there was enough room to drive around? Why do everyone’s brains
drop out of their head at this time of year? Why? Why?? Why??!! AAAAARRRRGGGGHHH!!!!
Whew. Deep cleansing
I talked myself down from
the edge and began to see how little my anger was helping. Soon the van would
be loaded, the little old lady would drive away, and I would be free. Until
that happened, I could…shift my focus. I looked up and even through the tangle
of power lines I could see those snowy peaks glittering in the afternoon sun.
Beautiful. The alley held beauty of it’s own; the mural of old time Nelsonites
on the back door of the Hume Hotel made me wonder what life was like back then.
On the radio, the CBC was playing “O Holy Night”, my favorite Xmas carol,
performed by a New Orleans band. The horns gave a gritty, southern feel to a
tune that has always seemed majestic, almost ethereal, to me. Lost among all
this wonderful, I almost forgot to pull forward as the alley, at long last,
From madness to gladness
simply by shifting focus. Hmm.
It can work, the focus
thing, not only in a back alley of Baker St. but also on a larger scale. Every
morning, I open up the home page on my computer and see, among the other news
bits, the daily death toll in Iraq. My sadness and frustration over this
horrible situation has grown to the point where I cannot allow myself to so
much as glance at the numbers, let alone read the stories. I’ve spoken out
against the war in Iraq since day one knowing it would be a bloody fiasco, but
there is little comfort or satisfaction to be found in “I told you so’s”. There
is little comfort to be found at all, especially at Xmas time.
Except, maybe, if I
learned to shift my focus.
I decided to hear what
average Iraqi’s thought and felt, so I googled “Iraq blogs” and went on a
journey across the sea. What I found was intelligent, kind, concerned people,
just like us, who were finding ways to make the most of their lives even as
bombs explode around them, bullets whiz by, and loved ones perish. These were
not anti-American, anti-democratic zealots (not that I imagined they would be),
no, they were merely men and women, girls and boys, husbands, wives, mothers,
fathers, students, professionals…people – as I said, just like us.
One blogger, in
particular, caught my attention. Her name (not her real name for obvious
reasons) is Najma; she’s 18 and starting her first year at university. What I
loved about Najma was how passionate she was about school. School is free for
all in Iraq, even textbooks when available, and yet, unlike their North
American counterparts, they don’t take education for granted. Imagine the
determination it must take to just complete highschool under the conditions the
Iraqi students live in, never mind continuing to University or striving to “be
the best in the school” as Najma is doing. I’m so inspired by her.
Najma has also started a
“Library Project” in which she is asking people to donate books to the
university. Any books are welcome but she is particularly interested in the
Environmental Engineering and Computer/Communication Engineering departments.
Prez and I have ordered a book to send but I hope to do more.
And so it is with much
happiness, and a little trepidation (I hope I can make this work), I announce
my “Words Not War” project that I
will begin…um…now. It is my goal to get as many books to Najma’s university as
I can. My reasons for undertaking this are:
#1. EDUCATION. Education
is important to the improvement of any society and Iraq, especially, will need
educated professionals to pull itself out of these dark days.
#2. FRIENDSHIP. If we in
the west are serious about peace with the east then we should take steps to
communicate, to make friends, wherever and whenever possible.
#3. WARM FUZZIES. I like
the idea of doing something that makes me feel so damn good!
Sending the first book to
the university is my first step. Next is to ask you to please click on the link
to Najma’s blog, “A Star From Mosul”, on the top left of the screen. From
there, if you choose, you can either make a cash donation to her Library
Project or you can order a book from her wish list and send it to the
university. I’m going to try to get some kind of a fund going on my end that
folks can donate to, and I’m going to write some emails to solicit book
donations from publishers. (I’m making this up as I go, be patient).
The time for me to shift
my focus on Iraq is long overdue. What better time than Xmas? The season of
giving. What better place than Nelson? A city of peace. Who knows what we all
might see if we look up, look around, and find beauty in the most unlikely of
I’m going to end this
Chronicle with a poem I wrote (I know, I’m not a poet) for the Shoreline
Writer’s Society’s annual “poet-tree”. The idea came from a real-life incident
at an airport where a Jewish rabbi asked if he could light a menorah next to
the display of Xmas trees. The airport’s response was no. The rabbi threatened
to sue. The airport took down all the
Xmas trees. The whole episode is ridiculous on all sides, and here’s what came
from my brain:
Inspired By Actual
If I were Jewish
I’d decorate a Christmas tree
With dreidels, yamakas,
If I were Buddhist,
I’d make snow angels
If I were Muslim,
I’d toast “Lachiem!”
And wash it down with
Non-alcoholic egg nog.
If I were Hindu
I’d dress up for a photo with Ganesh,
At the mall,
Handing out candy canes
And incense sticks.
If I were an Atheist
I’d sing “Silent Night”
At my Kwanzaa party.
If I were Christian,
I’d let an old Rabbi light a menorah
Next to a tall Christmas tree
In the airport
Where everyone could see
What it means to
Love your fellow man.
If I believed.
QUESTION: What do you
Merry Xmas, Happy
Hanukah, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel…Peace on Earth.
Until next week, I hope
this finds you all healthy, happy & lovin’ life!