Friday, July 22, 2011

Power to the Peaceful ...

Just a little post today, but a big thank you to Rachel for sending me this heartfelt little bit of embroidery. Maybe it's that she's used my favourite colour combination, or maybe it's that lovely hand-stitching, or maybe that it arrived out of the blue just as I'm planning a prayer/intention flag art party with some friends to celebrate my 2nd birthday party (yes, I'm more than 2 years old, but I had my first one last year, so this really will be my second birthday party ~ honest).

Anyway ~ just made me go all warm and fuzzy when I opened the envelope ~ I wondered why her zine felt a little thicker than usual. Lovely little thing, Rachel, thanks so much for the time you spent making it for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wherein a dog will steal your heart ...

Recently I've been enthralled by my friend Holly's story about finding a stray dog. Her story reminded me of George, a best-loved dog from my own childhood. I don't even know if I own a picture of George, but he looked very much like this ~ right down to the knowing eyes.

George came to our family in a most unusual way. At the time we lived in the back of beyond, a remote house on a remote road, without running water or electricity. My Dad had gone out to buy us a wood-burning cookstove. I was never clear where he bought it ~ he knew a man who knew a man who had a stove for sale, that sort of thing.

When it arrived, it was sadly in need of a cleaning and had probably been stored outdoors. While it was still on the back of the truck, my Dad opened up the oven and out popped a very frightened puppy ~ who skedaddled right off the truck and headed for the hills. What I recall of that day was my family wandering along the road and through the bush calling "Puppy! Puppy!" until it got too dark to see and we were in danger of getting lost ourselves. That night, as we talked and read around the kerosene lamps, we were all pretty solemn, thinking of that little puppy ~ cold, frightened and hungry ~ and knowing there wasn't even the remotest chance that anyone else would find him, and worse: that he might wind up as a bear's dinner.

But - happy day! The next morning on our way out to the woodpile, there he was ~ shivering with cold and hunger, still very frightened but having found his way back to us, willing to give us the very slimmest benefit of a doubt that we were better than the wild wild woods.

The first order of business was a name. My Mom said call him whatever we wanted, as long as it was anything but George. None of us could come up with anything that seemed to suit him, and for the first few days we called him Anything But George. Eventually (of course!) it just got shortened to George (sorry, Mom). Wherever he came from, he'd obviously been treated very badly. He crept along the walls in the house and whenever my Mom picked up the broom to sweep the floor he'd pee in fright. Making Jiffypop popcorn would drive him into a frenzy of fear, and he'd have to be put in a "safe" room. But, being a puppy, and surrounded by four kids who were like *so thrilled* to have a puppy, we gradually won him over.

Nobody really knew what sort of dog he was. From the knees up, he looked very much like a Border Collie, but his legs were so impossibly short that it's hard to imagine him herding anything but mice. With such short legs he couldn't run, so he "bounced". And I don't mean that figuratively ~ he actually moved like a springbok ~ he could bounce at least three times his own height. I remember he used to meet us at the school bus in the winter by bouncing OVER the snowbanks. The other kids would all gather on one side of the bus just to watch this crazy dog come to meet us. He also had an unusually large plume of a tail that cleared off the coffee table if he happened to walk past it while wagging happily.

If anything in my young life taught me how deep devotion can go, it was George. He followed us everywhere and was possibly the sweetest animal I've even known. He did this weird verbalization thing ~ sort of yawning and gurgling and nodding ~ like a baby might before it has words. Late one night after attending a concert, my brother and I were trying to sneak quietly into the house so as not wake anyone ~ but no dice, there was George at the top of the stairs, loudly "saying" how happy he was that we were home, and the more we giggled and told him to stop, the more happy, verbal and loud he got. Since mostly we lived in remote places, he'd grown up without other dogs to show him how to be a dog, so I think he thought he was one of us. He sat on the couch like we did (back straight, feet out), and got pretty miffed if he was left out of a treat that all the *other kids* were getting.

We always thought he was incapable of barking until we moved into a little neighbourhood that had three (count'em THREE houses!) and each house had a dog. One night at dinner we could hear a dog barking. It wasn't the deep voice of the German Shepherd in the house west of us, and it wasn't the soft yap of the little dog east of us ~ it was our very own George, who'd finally found his doggie voice ~ we all ran outside to see if he was okay, and he seemed as surprised as we were to find him barking. I was so darn proud of him in that moment, and even though we'd had him for years and loved away all the memories of how badly his life started, I felt like this was the moment he'd finally become "his own dog".

George was an important part of our family, but eventually I did what all children do ~ left home and started a life of my own. George was always happy to see me when I visited, and the other *kids* too, as they moved on. At the end of his life, he was quite infirm, and eventually in great pain. My parents sadly did the decent thing even though it broke their hearts, I'm sure. He lived a grand old life, adored by all of us, and he was, as far as I'm concerned, irreplaceable.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Science Fiction at the British Library ... ooooh, aaaaah

Anyone who knows me knows I love science fiction. Wait, let me qualify that ... I love "good" science fiction. If I were a librarian (and who hasn't wanted to be a librarian at some point in their life, I ask?), the science fiction section of libraries would be a whole lot smaller. It seems to me there's a whole bunch of stuff (we're being polite here) that very clearly *isn't* SF that's put there because they didn't know what the heck to do with it otherwise. And don't get me started on Fantasy ... um, yeah, like SO not Science Fiction.

On previous trips to England I've relied heavily on buying a copy of Time Out magazine on my way out of Heathrow Airport (oooh, place name dropping!). This year, I chose to do my pre-trip planning from the comfort of my own home, by checking out all the usual museums, etc. online first.

I got *really* excited when I saw that the British Library was hosting an exhibit called: "Out of This World : Science Fiction, But Not As You Know It". As a person who's read quite a lot of SF, particularly the classics, I wasn't expecting to see a bunch of "new" stuff ~ but (of course) I did. I spent some of my precious time writing down titles that needed to be checked out in the future (no pun intended), but at a certain point gave up and decided to buy the exhibit guidebook ~ which contained not only a complete list, but grouped them by theme and is profusely articled and illustrated.

Years ago when I was an obstreperous teenager, I remember arguing with my Dad about the merit of SF ~ he didn't see the point of it. I may have won that argument, he started reading SF after that. For me, SF has almost always been about the "big questions" ~ why are we here, what would the present look like if the past had been different, and what will the future look like if we make different choices now? As I see it, one of the tools of SF is that it lets you isolate one aspect of human existence and spin it out into the grand "what if?". Because in the end, however well the writers write, they are still human writers writing human stories for human readers, and I think the best of the best of the SF I've read over my life has made me a better human. And I continue to read SF ~ apart from the exhibit guidebook, most of the books I bought while in England were SF, and classics to boot ~ including one that's eluded me for years, but the how and when of buying it is an interesting story for another day ...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond ...

In case you've been wondering where I've been for the last month ... I was here (see photo at left). And lest you think it's the Capitol Dome of one of the many places that might have a Capitol Dome ~ it's St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

This is one of the first of several hundred photos I took on vacation in England. This is the first year that I've carried my digital camera with me everywhere, and as a result I have pictures of stuff that I swear will be of *no* interest to anybody but me.

But we'll start with this one ~ which at least has the merit of being iconic. It was taken while standing on the Millennium Bridge looking back into The City (or "downtown" as we North Americans might say). I've never actually been into St. Paul's ... and since we were headed away from it and across the bridge to the Tate Modern, I didn't make it there that day either. It occurred to me (as I took this photo) that somebody went to a whole lot of trouble to make sure that people walking north on the bridge (i.e. heading towards the "downtown") would have a great view. This might not seem like it would be difficult to arrange, but if you've ever been to London and seen it's windy, twisty streets, you'll know a clear view of *anything* is tricky.

Since there are (literally) hundreds of photos, I'm going to do a series of short posts with a new picture each time. I may even spin the wheel (metaphorically speaking) and write about whatever photo I happen to land on. Today you were lucky and got St. Paul's.

Next time, who knows? I have a disconcertingly large number of photos of textures, particularly stone walls, walkways, brickwork etc etc. They're for a future art project and the more I noticed them the more I noticed them, if you know what I mean. I'll let the wheel land there once, but there's only so much you can say about rocks ...

So nice to be home ...