I hang small flags
upon the fabric, flickering in a line
across the yard until
not thoughts and prayers
It hasn’t been perfect, true.
Whatever perfect is.
There have been sunsets.
There have been creampuffs (and the cages are rattling for more). There has been candlelight and firelight and tea on the patio and music and words spoken and read and thought. There have been ideas realized and hands held, rides on strong broad shoulders, and monkeys. Yes, there have been monkeys!
There was the ocean and the star that night and there have been birds and a fox, several rabbits, deer leaping over a fence, too many squirrels to count and their nests impossibly high and visible only when the leaves fall. There was a crop of garlic and green bean salad and all those fat, happy worms.
There was snow and there were snow angels and invitations and real mail in real mailboxes.
There was rain and the lake with its waves and tides and beach glass. There were stones.
*And now there are pomegranates to remind me of what is not nothing.
With thanks to everyone who was part of the everything this year.
Everything that was. And is.
The light and love of the season to you all (laughter and pizza implied).
See you in the new year.
Milly Zantow falls into the category of People You’ve Never Heard of Who Have Changed the World. In this case, the world of recycling. Because Milly Zantow is the person who created a tiny thing called the global recycling standard for plastic, more commonly known as the-numbers-inside-those-little-triangles-on-your-water-bottles-and-stuff.
It’s what made plastic recycling possible.
But it’s the HOW this all came about that’s jaw dropping. What Milly Did (a childrens’ book for all ages, including adults in my opinion) by Elise Moser, is an extraordinary story about a woman who, at age sixty or so, decides to do something about the growing problem of plastic in landfills.
Enter Milly, an ordinary woman, raised on a farm, who has no experience in anything even remotely related to anything to do with recycling but who just really believes that something can be done.
So she says pfffft to the naysayers and starts reading about plastic; she studies it, takes courses, learns everything she can then cashes in her life insurance policy, buys a gigantic grinding machine and opens a company called E-Z Recycling where she and a few others do much of the grunt work by hand, seven days a week.
Moser captures Milly’s spirit as a woman who is in no way ego driven. Nor is becoming rich her motivation; she simply wants to make sense of trash and to that end she does whatever she can to help people recycle, including establishing programs in nearby towns.
Eventually her vision catches on. Various community groups form, tipping fees for landfill sites are established and in 1988 her system for grading plastic is adopted by the Society of Plastics Industry, which means a standardized recycling practice across North America.
The story, of course, isn’t quite that simple. There are many hurdles along the way, people who laugh, who say that what she’s proposing is impossible, and then there are the times themselves, the 1970’s and early 80’s, which aren’t overly receptive, or even friendly, to the idea of recycling. Moser has done an excellent job of telling Milly’s story against this back drop of time and place.
A clever addition to the story are sidebars throughout the book, telling about bridges and boats made of plastic bottles, stats on current plastic usage and where it all goes, yo-yo trivia!, the ABCs of modern recycling, innovations in biodegradable plastic… all bite-sized, very readable for any age, and all to the accompaniment of sweet b&w illustrations by Scott Ritchie.
That this is such an unknown story is mind-boggling. I’m grateful to Elise Moser for telling it. It needs to be shared. I hope the book will find its ways to schools and to homes, not only as an eye-opener to an important piece of history, but to open at least two kinds of conversation… One, about the problem of a planet full of garbage and, two, the power we have as individuals to make the world better.
Finally, what maybe I love most about this story is what Milly didn’t do… she didn’t complain, blame, whinge or whine or suggest that this problem to solve was someone else’s job…
Or that the difficulties she faced were someone else’s fault.
She just got on with it.
The world could use more Milly.
Here’s the thing.
The Blue Jays.
How great. I mean, it’s really great. I get that. Even though, in the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t give much of a rat’s back-end about sports.
I do, however, like happy people, I like the excitement, the joie de vivre all over the place (on game days), the way revellers make room for traffic. I love us. We deserve this, the winning, the mad happiness. Who wouldn’t love it?
They say this kind of thing brings people together. On game days. And the economy gets a boost. Liquor and beer stores, junk food purveyors. Hotels, TV networks, airlines. You know, the people who need a boost.
Oh, and Rogers Communications. Owners of the Blue Jays dynasty. Apparently their shares have gone up rather noticeably during this period of frenzied winning/not winning/winning. The TSX, on the other hand, went down during the same period. But let us not concern ourselves with negatives.
The Jays are winning!
And we are being brought together as a community.
On game days.
However, in between and especially after the game days are over … it is, sadly, business as usual. That’s to say the homeless (‘boosted’ too by all the Blue Jay excitement) will still be homeless. Children will go to school hungry. If they go at all. Women will be beaten by spouses, some of them sports *stars* high-on-winning adrenaline, some just assholes, others on welfare, most somewhere in the middle. Old people will still die alone and prisons will continue to fill and the rest of us will still hate and judge and hate some more. No matter how big, how grand or how much money is thrown at sporting events, no matter how exciting or how often we are told these things bring people together… there are no games that have brought the world, or even a city, or even a community, together in a way that sticks beyond the game days. As far as I know, no Olympics or World Series has erased persecution, corruption or any manner of ‘isms’. After the winning, a handful of men will wander off into the horizon with truckloads of gold while the rest of us are scraping cold pizza off our couches. Nothing will be any different. Aboriginal communities will still have undrinkable water and mould on their paper thin walls and the oceans will still be clogged with the debris of our need to turn away, to be distracted by something more pleasant than reality, like the easy god of sports and winning. (Remind me…winning for the sake of what again?)
Oh yeah. Because winning is fun.
I get that. I do.
It just seems so trivial. The players and owners, I understand why they want to win. (And it’s not for the joie de vivre.) But what do we get?
(I know that certain players and individuals contribute privately to various organizations with their time and money… it’s not about individuals. This really is about the owners, the corporate aspect of sports.)
So I was thinking, what if we got something too… what if the corporate aspect, the people that make the ten trillion dollars from our love of the game celebrated each win by donating some of their gold to the community. To feed those kids or build some housing or offer opportunities to people who’d otherwise have none. There are agencies in every city that would gratefully accept a few thousand bucks. A few hundred thousand, for every game won during playoffs… well, that could change a city.
Now that would be worth cheering for, winning for, no?
“Big Sports” (and it’s always ‘male sporting events’) are a powerful vehicle. By adding this element we lose none of the fun. All we do is add ‘goodness’. It stuns me that we don’t demand it.
Just an idea.
From your neighbourhood party pooper.
(p.s. go jays.)
There’s so much inequality. For men, I mean.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, on International Women’s Day, a few chaps harhar’d about why isn’t there an International Men’s Day??
Turns out there is one.
But the sentiment remains: the women’s version gets more attention.
And that begs a few questions. Beginning with why?
Because if you look around, you’ll soon realize it’s all about the women. And I can see how men might be feeling left out.
Even something as simple as a title… women luck out. They’ve got so many to choose from. Miss (status: available), Mrs. (status: unavailable), Ms. (status: pain in the ass feminist who refuses to say if available or not). While men only get one. Mr. (status: male). Fine, we know they’re male, but how are we expected to know their status??
It gets worse.
Consider the TV show, ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’. Where’s the boy version? One that features spray tanned four-year old lads in speedos and fake facial hair who are encouraged to pat their butts in saucy ways while winking and blowing kisses to strangers?
The moms on the show say this gives their girls confidence and boosts their self-esteem. Hello! Boys need self esteem too. How else to prepare our sons for teen and young adulthood when, instead of being relegated to host or judge, they should be entering beauty pageants.
Where are the beauty pageants for men??
And what about fashion? Why do designers hate men so much? It’s almost impossible to find skin-tight clothing in the lad’s department, never mind shoes with heels high enough to flatter the calves. And what about pushing things up? Couldn’t men benefit from a little under-wire support… somewhere?
While we’re at it where is there a Victor’s Secrets?
And the media, shame on them. Always focussing on what Angela Merkel is wearing. What about what Vladimir is wearing??? Sure, he pretends he doesn’t care, but all that attention to what he does rather than how he looks must get to him at some point.
And magazines. I can’t imagine being a man walking past a magazine stand in a corner shop, drug store, grocery store, newsstand, airport, well, everywhere really… they just can’t get away from the humiliation that is the outright boycott (let’s call it what it is) of men’s pretty smiles and perky buttocks on covers. After all, they have just as much right to air-brushing and ‘visibility’ as anyone else. Damn straight they do.
Then there’s what’s in those magazines. And, as can be expected, it’s NOT men’s issues. Which begs the question: where are the ads and articles and 10 Top Tips featuring Mens Problems? How are men supposed to know how much is desperately wrong with their eyes, neck, ear lobes, teeth, cheekbones, jaw line, hips… well, you know, things that are messed up. How are they supposed to become perfect if they don’t have instructions???
And where are the age-defying creams for men? It’s a travesty that the entire cosmetic industry appears to give less than a rat’s ass about the condition of a man’s pores or the depth of his wrinkles.
And his hair? Is it supposed to just go grey??? Is he supposed to walk around with grey hair??
Where are the instructions?
Men are right. Women get all the attention.
And men do all the work.
Just watch any film. They’re doing all the work. Behind the scenes as well. And look at history. Men, men, men. They did it all. Women mostly knit while the universe was carved out by the fellas. And the space program and sports (yes, women do trouble themselves to play sports and get into rockets but who cares, they don’t do it right, or something). Look at science (it’s not hard to avoid the women)… it’s mostly frazzle-haired men we know the names of. The faces on our money. Painters, playwrights, protagonists, sculptors.
Consider what’s happening in any corporation, any religion, any government, any board of directors. Look at the military, any military. Hells bells, almost any industry you can name is run by men. Essentially, the entire world is run by men. Does anyone even begin to think how exhausting this must be? Obviously not or there would be a few more ads for spas featuring our menfolk in sexy robes and towel turbans sipping cellulite busting guava juice, legs crossed (also waxed), and chatting about non-essential, stress-free issues.
That we have an International Men’s Day is good news, but in fairness to men, that shouldn’t be where we leave things, with a simple token gesture. No, let’s give men a better start in life by treating them equally right from toddlerhood. Teach boys to cry and play coy and let other people ‘go first’. And let’s lobby the cosmetic and fashion industries to take into consideration the feelings of young males and how they, too, would like to know what’s wrong with them and that they, too, would like to think about this constantly and to have goals such as pectoral implants and hair extensions and striving to have an ass that looks good in skinny jeans.
Let us encourage our sons to be the go-go dancers in music videos.
And let’s explain how winning isn’t everything, it’s how you look and that maybe, if they look really, really good, they might find the right person one day and then what will winning matter anyway…
Let us tell our sons that if they must work, they should become nurses not doctors; waiters not chefs; receptionists not lawyers.
And please, let us for once and for all stop assuming that only men should do all the work.
Let us allow them fulltime child care, to assume the role of homemaker and caregiver to the elderly; baker for fundraisers, cafeteria monitor at Susie’s school, anything that will give them more time to just chill at home. To get their nails done.
Surely, this is the least of what they deserve.
You go, boy!
I was googling the title to see if there were already a hundred things called this and it seems there are not. In the process I found a short film made by an actor posing as one Hans Freeberling, an artist installing a show about nothing. The gallery is empty. People come. They think it’s real, that the artist is real, and so they try not to scratch their wee wannabecultured noggins until, eventually, they make up Their Own Point for the point of the nothingness. Because there must be one, right??
As a satire, it’s gorgeous. Says so much about us. Most of which is questionable, but there’s this too: that faced with a blank canvas, real or metaphoric, we can choose to impose our own thoughts. This is a kind of art form in itself. Getting People To Think From Ground Zero, we might call it.
The lack of ‘something’ might also be compared to a one word poem. Or a single toilet cemented to a wall. I mean, we can have real discussions about these things. (I recently had a strangely satisfying time discussing the ‘poem’ balloon. One word. Discussion went along the lines of who says it has to have only two L’s and where’s the law about the emphasis remaining on the second syllable… and so on.)
There’s always the chance these chats will lead to… oh, something interesting or important even. Possibilities are always endless where conversation is concerned and, really, anything at all can be a prompt.
But because something serves as a prompt, or because it causes us to think in possibly new ways… is it art? And who gets to say?
And what isn’t art?
And who gets to say?
I’m not looking for a definition. Or even an answer. Is there even an answer? Tons of opinions. And all manner of conversation and argument and (most sadly of all) very little light-heartedness about things, including toilets, so I’ve decided to stop asking. In fact this whole ramble is a digression.
What I meant to write about is nothing, the art of it.
Which leads me directly to my dad, a chap who would not have called himself an artist though he played with paint, on both canvas and walls. He built our first house then spent decades renovating the second. The garden too. Rockeries and rose beds. Our hedge was almost a topiary. If he wanted a fence, he’d go down to the beach, find some driftwood and make one. Then he’d make a driftwood coffee table, an end table, a floor lamp. He made bookshelves. A fireplace, a BBQ and a bird bath out of stone and in the rec room he painted a wall to wall, floor to ceiling mural of a favourite spot under a tree on a beach in Barbados. He included my mother’s striped beach bag hanging from a branch. (The people who bought the house after my parents died, said the mural was a selling point.) He built two patios and a car port, refashioned our front door, and the back one too, to look more Spanish, a style he liked. And then he began making the inside look more Spanish too. To his mind anyway.
He did all this after his day job, and on weekends. Mostly in Hawaiian shirts, paint splattered pants and shoes with no laces.
This was his thing, this making.
I used to wonder how he thought up all this stuff. How could a wall that looked perfectly fine to me in its bareness or with a few holiday pennants hammered on, to him scream: paint a beach scene!!! don’t forget the bag.
He did a lot of sitting in-between the making. This was all before busy-ness was invented, when people really were busy, doing real things without an abundance of appliances and before nannies and dog-walkers. These ancient busy people, it seems, made time to sit, have a coffee, light a pipe, and if you were to join them, say, at the picnic table on the handmade patio, they wouldn’t talk about being busy, they would say something about squirrels or sedimentary rocks or have you noticed how many buds are on the apricot tree this year? You might be wearing pedal pushers and drinking Koolaid when you ask if there’s such as thing as UFOs and they might draw a few times on their pipe, think for a minute, let the smoke out nice and slow as they say could be, who the hell knows…
My dad would be surprised to learn that the most important thing he taught me was not to make sure the vice on my workbench was closed at night or how properly to wash a car, but how to love what you do, to do it as well as you can and, most importantly, to take time for the nothing. In fact, he’d be surprised to know he even did it.
Some of my favourite moments, those nothing ones. Still are. I realize in my own nothings that that’s where we re-fuel, where we find our next mural.
A whole different kind of art.
I have a labyrinth.I made it out of snow.It runs past all the stuff I didn’t cut down because the birds like the Rudbeckia seeds… and I didn’t get around to the tall grasses or the hydrangea.A trained eye will see that it’s technically more “snowy paths in my yard”… but it works exactly the way a labyrinth does.That is, you walk and walk and walk in a more or less circular way, turning left or right without thinking because the goal is not to think — once you begin thinking you’re toast. At that point it becomes less meditative labyrinth walking and more I wonder if the neighbours are frightened yet walking.If you’re doing it right, you’re not thinking a single thing except maybe about the crunch, crunch, crunch of the snow under your steps. The zen of crunch.It’s occurred to me to wonder how many steps long the labyrinth is but I’ve never paced it out. There are angles to be considered and the whole process would require a certain amount of addition.
And who needs the math…
On the subject of labyrinths…