the teachers are leaving… i hope we’ve been paying attention


I’m thinking of so many teachers on a morning when we woke to find we’d lost one of our best, one who taught through music and poetry, such gentle lessons… the kind that change us in ways that allow us to find the strength to build and change our world with compassion.

Have we made notes? Because it’s up to us now.

And I’m thinking about those who fought against the *isms* … Oh, to find a way of fighting without harming. Maybe that’s the hardest fight of all.

dsc07670It’s not much, but I went out onto the main street of our tiny downtown and watched those men and women march to the cenotaph. Each year there are fewer gray heads but those still there always have the same look in their faces, their eyes…

dsc07680I’m not a fan of war (are there fans of war?). Or even the military. That’s not what I’m paying respect to.

At least not directly.

I’m there for the individuals, not the machine.

I’m there for the same reason I once stood at the side of the 401 while the car carrying the body of a boy home from Afghanistan passed and the crowd of people went silent and a mother and a father were somewhere doing god only knows what mothers and fathers do at times like that.

It’s not about condoning why people die, it’s about not being able to pretend they don’t.

And so every year since this one I try to make it to the parade and stand in silence, together with neighbours I don’t know, all of us there for probably very similar and yet different reasons.

Does it matter that there are different reasons?

dsc07667 dsc07668 dsc07666 dsc07675However you look at it, it’s a sweet thing in a fleeting way.


Bonus: on the way back to my car this beautiful old man in a don’t-hit-me fluorescent vest, said hello in that way the very old have perfected as an art. One of those things we might have made better notes of… how to greet the neighbours we don’t know.



The Gift,

by Leonard Cohen

You tell me that silence
is nearer to peace than poems
but if for my gift
I brought you silence
(for I know silence)
you would say
This is not silence
this is another poem
and you would hand it back to me.

7 thoughts on “the teachers are leaving… i hope we’ve been paying attention

  1. I hope we’ve been paying attention, too, Carin. I clicked through to your “One Tin Soldier” post. So moving. That song affected me profoundly when I was young. Thanks for both posts – and all the rest.

  2. I am touched by these words and pics–both posts. I’ve always felt Remembrance Day is not mine to remember. The feeling hangs on from childhood when our family lived on an Ontario street with other families who had come from New Brunswick to work in the factories. They fit in more than we did with our braids, a mother who wore dresses and made jam when every other mom drove to the grocery store in pedal pushers, a father who played oompahpah music while he worked on his car. Because of my parents’ accents, the other kids in the neighbourhood called them vampires. On Remembrance Day, I dutifully pinned the poppy the teacher gave me on my jacket, but the other kids shouted at me to take it off because my granddad had killed their granddads. I wasn’t sure about that but I didn’t dare ask. When I was older and learned more about history, I realized it was possible. So I have always felt like an imposter on Nov 11th. But maybe not after reading what you have written here. Thank you.

    1. I can relate to so much of this. Eating open-faced liverwurst sandwiches when everybody else had peanut butter and jelly. Accents, yes. That was big. And of course the whole ‘war’ thing. Big subject. I often think how it was not discussed then, and has since been lost to the more ‘discussable’ issues of present day immigrants. That the children yelled at you for wearing a poppy… my god. The scariest part of which is that the children’s reactions were likely learned (condoned?) from their parents. Plus ca change?

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