Archives for category: Culture

Prospects for selling my book at the Byward Market in Ottawa when I arrived at 10 a.m. Wednesday looked as dim as the thunderstorm forecast. Still, I bet myself I could sell enough copies (five) in the next six hours to buy tickets for a big treat. I defied the skies to clear in time for a picnic with our granddaughters and their parents before watching the preview performance of theater under the stars on the banks of the Rideau River that night. mmarket.jpgWork crews carrying partitions, shopkeepers rushing with arms full to set up for the day, twosomes and threesomes speaking languages other than English brushed past. Where were my buyers?

  • The atmosphere enlivened at lunch time, with music and dancing in the adjacent square attracting a noisy, lively crowd. A quarrel between someone not quite in his right senses and a big truck disrupted the self improvement, creative atmosphere I was trying to inject.
  • A dreary-eyed, homeless man with his bundles and bags slouched up against the bricks, heritage plaque and sesquicentennial posters on the market building facing me. Where were my readers?

It was discouraging and my devoted hubby of 61 years decided I was crazy and he might as well abandon ship and go home.  While he hesitated, I was ready with my elevator pitch to summarize my book in two sentences.

  • Anyone drawn to the table for a closer look at my framed newspaper article headlined “Call of Love in the Wilderness” got it. An old toothless man mesmerized by a 1904 picture of my mother as a child in a sailor outfit stayed because he wanted to hear her full story.
  • With a cheery “Hi Margaret!” up strode author Stevie Szabad, eager to buy two of my books and pick up advice from someone she perceived as having accomplished things she wanted to do. We plotted to sell together at the Galeries Aylmer Christmas market. 

Hubby stayed when I reminded him I was there to get my parents’ exemplary story out, not just sell the product. A take-out lunch of chicken sandwiches and smoothies fortified us both. 

  • Then a ray of sunshine, a tourist from Vancouver, suddenly appeared. He wanted to know more about why I called my book “A Book of Kells” and gave me advice on genealogy. He bought a signed copy as a gift and souvenir of Canada’s 150th.
  • A particularly friendly face came to the table confidently and I was able to engage her in conversation. For the next twenty minutes Tom and I found we had much to share with her and vice versa. Gale O’Brien is a lovely, avid reader who lives in Britannia by the Ottawa river. She now owns one copy of A Book of Kells and one of  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride which I hope she will enjoy reading.
  • When Kelly Buell turned up because she had been following me online, Tom was getting the car because it was 4 p.m., time for us to pack up. Kelly and I chatted and hope to help each other in future as writers so often do.

When I first met her, the organizer of the Byward marketing team told me she is a ‘Kell’ on her mother’s side. I was able to tell her that, in fact, we are second cousins twice removed. That was my final sale of the day.  It is a good omen for my much-anticipated return stints at the Byward Market on August 2 and 3.

By the way, the outdoor performance in Strathcona Park was superb. The Amorous Servant by Carl Goldoni staged by Odyssey theater plays until late August. My granddaughters, aged 10 to 16 were absolutely thrilled with it. Grandpa and Grandma enjoyed its humor and sensible advice for all ages, too.

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Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics until We Meet Again!

 

10186066The radish had its moment as a symbol of Canada even before the Maple Leaf flag.

The radish is a reliable, tasty quick-growing snack, often the first vegetable in Canadian gardens to be ready to eat by the July 1st national holiday. It is annual proof that we have vanquished winter. Canada Day is celebrated in various, inventive ways, always with the flag with a red leaf on it being waved vigorously. But only once on record did the humble radish ever get any such glory.

For a moment on July 1, 1927 this sidekick at every summer feast reigned supreme.  It was Canada’s Ronald Reagan moment, when Americans chose Hollywood’s most gifted supporting actor to be their president. This was supposed to happen only to maple leaves. Usually the height of a radish’s success is to be carved into something resembling a rose that blossoms when set out on a tray of ice. Joy for a radish is to be nibbled as noisily as possible. 

It happened on the diamond jubilee of Dominion Day ninety years ago. The Spirit of Saint Louis landed in Toronto as Parliament Hill in Ottawa groomed itself to greet guest of honor Charles Lindbergh. Due to miraculous radio technology, Canadians from sea to sea tuned in simultaneously to a nationwide church service with biblical passages selected and read by federal members of Parliament.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the northwest, JACK (John Ambrose Campbell Kell), an Ontario farm boy assiduously cultivated into a missionary, was brimming over with patriotism. He wondered how he could create a feeling of joyous belonging in his charges on the Swampy Cree reservation at Oxford House, MB.

He represented a Church that strove to evangelize the ‘Indians’ (as Canadian law called them) and a Government that wanted to make its citizens more homogeneous and had to fulfill treaty obligations. He was preacher, spiritual guide, welfare officer, medical officer, justice of the peace and teacher (if the real one fell sick, as happened, and had to leave the reserve.)

It was a lot for a 29-year-old to handle, but not too much for one energized by good faith and the potential of Canada’s youthfulness, beauty and exuberance. All he needed was a few practical tools:

Proclaiming a holiday

  • JACK gave the men a day off with pay from their work of building a fence around their community garden. When he had arrived at Oxford House he immediately saw the people didn’t have enough to eat yet never grew food in their fertile soil.  They were semi-nomadic hunters who ate meat and baked bannock made from fat and berries. JACK got them to plant four gardens: one for the missionary, one for the teacher, one for the chief and one for the community.

A guest of honor with a connection to royalty  

  • The old guide who had led the Duke of Connaught from Norway House up to York Factory many years ago lived on the reserve. JACK got him to tell the young boys about his adventures and what their lives might be like too.

Educating the Indians in Canadianism

  • ‘Dominion Day’ had to be made relevant to the Indians so they could feel included in this strange thing called ‘Confederation’. JACK told them the word ‘Canada’ was from the Iroquoian word ‘Kanata’, meaning ‘village.’ He reminded them that they were already familiar with the word ‘Dominion’ from Psalms 72: v 8 in the Bible. He told them he dreamed of the day when they would be full citizens of the country and have a vote. (This did not happen until 1960.)

Preaching a Pearsonian vision of Canada’s role

  • JACK told them the Jewish people in the Bible had a vision of what God expected of them. In the same way, Canadians were chosen to show how a nation may be built in peace, righteousness and sincerity. It would be an example of how people of varying religions and races may live together in one nation with tolerance and honor. Nobel peace prize winner Lester Pearson was JACK’s history tutor at the University of Toronto.

Conspicuous shiny, glittering or red objects as symbols

  • Gold ore, not diamonds, lay buried near Oxford House but JACK had an even better idea. The first vegetable of the season had ripened and what was the Indians’ surprise when JACK dug beautiful red radishes out of the soil and gave one to each person. Anyone who really knows radishes knows how good they taste when they don’t get too much sun so aren’t too hot. My old blind Aunt Suzy discovered that if you want them to taste even better, you should eat the wormy ones. Not only that, they are a health food nut’s delight, full of good vitamins and minerals.

O Canada ! If JACK’s story had been revealed in time, what competition the Maple Leaf flag might have had when it was adopted!

Happy 150th anniversary of Confederation this Saturday, Canada!

This and other colorful incidents from Canada’s past are recounted in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and Kathleen’s Cariole RidePlease press the Home button above to see my archive of blog posts or take a look at www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany or www.margaretvirany.com

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IMG_0765To the tune of oxymoronic incongruous\appropriate music, 300 fresh-faced, happy teen-agers in red and white caps and gowns commenced real life Saturday in Pennsyvlania’s Peters Township. The high school band did not give up on churning out Land of Hope & Glory until it lauded every last grad into a seat on the football turf prior to being called to cross the stage to get a handshake and diploma.

Few realized the mind-blowing march music also has words. The setting of majestic trees, and sunshine that emerged late in a thunderous day thrilled us grandparents. We were among thousands of proud family members invited to honor the young ones’ achievements. People on the public bleachers looked on from the other side of the stage.

“Why does Britain Use Our Graduation Song As a National Anthem?” http://www.anglotopia.net/anglophilia/lost-in-the-pond-how-americas-graduation-march-was-actually-a-product-of-england/

1. Land of Hope & Glory was composed by Englishman Sir Edward Elgar in 1901 as part of a series of marches called Pomp & Circumstance. When Queen Victoria died and her son, King Edward VII, acceded to the throne, Elgar was asked to compose appropriate music. The new king liked the section of Pomp & Circumstance we now know as Land of Hope & Glory so A.C. Benson composed words to it.

2. Benson’s words to the favorite stanza which is replayed incessantly are:

Land of hope and glory, mother of the free

How shall we extol thee, who art born of thee?

Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set

God who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.

God who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.

3. It became a very popular patriotic song which Elgar called the “music of a lifetime.” It bragged about England’s three centuries of worldwide imperial conquests. While he was still alive, the lyrics helped Britain win world war one.

4. In the 1920’s Elgar was awarded an honorary degree by Harvard University. At the end of the ceremony, Land of Hope & Glory was played as a recessional. The crowd liked it so much they have played it every year since. Other universities all across the United States followed suit. More and more are playing it until this day. Now it has reached down even to elementary school and kindergarten levels.

5.Vera Lynn’s recording of it stirred British courage as they went on to win world war two. Meanwhile, it was picked up to be played when British athletes won medals at the Olympics. Several football teams in the UK rewrote the words to make it ‘their’ song. It was almost chosen as the British national anthem instead of God Save the King.

6. The BBC philharmonic orchestra in London plays Land of Hope & Glory on its ‘Last Night at the Proms’ every summer. The audience rises to sing the words, waving their union jack flags in an electrifying display of patriotism.

Wild Roots Worth Honoring in America’s Future

Reference: https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-06-17/wild-english-roots-song-youll-hear-every-graduation-summer

1. Nothing is more powerful than being imbued with patriotic emotions in one’s childhood. My mother took me to England when I was four and when I reheard Land of Hope & Glory now, at age 84, I imagined I saw the Buckingham Palace guards marching as the words went round and round in my head. I did not feel vicious, just thrilled, strong and ready to face the music of life, so to speak.

2. Other writers on this subject point out the empowering, stirring music (see links above) casts off and loses its outdated messages of racism and expansionism “in the pond” on the way to America.

3. We forgive our parents’ mistakes and are one big happy family, appreciating our inherited influences and parents’ love and guidance as we set out in our own direction.

4. This was a good message for the grads to absorb on their hopeful, glorious night. Now they commence living in a world made more secure by their maturing emotions and thoughts.

May they be blessed and find wide and mighty opportunities for fulfillment, success and happiness!

shopping

We’ve just returned from a first visit as house guests at a beautiful friend’s circa-1923 lodge and garden in Gulfport, Florida. These few bits of advice helped us wise up and fit in fast:
1. For a few dollars, you can buy a pair of aqua shoes to wear in the water. They protect your feet from the sharp edges of broken shells, for example.
2. Sunny Florida is also often windy. It’s good to have a hat that ties underneath the chin, especially for boating. The Gulfport marina was celebrating its Funday, so we were invited on a private yacht cruise with hot dogs and iced tea afterwards. I learned this tip the hard way; my mauve hat with the wide brim is now bobbing up and down on its way back to China.
3. The way to swim in the ocean waves is to proceed sideways, parallel to the shore. It is much more exhausting if you try to let the tide push or carry you. Try it and you will be amazed!
4. Keep your eyes open for manatees bathing below the surface in a quiet stream while you are kayaking, pelicans fly overhead and an egret watches from shore.
5. Florida wild life often shares the same inner premises as people in a way not seen or tolerated in northern cities. A possum nonchalantly passed through the semi-open patio of a trattoria as we ate appetizers. The black non poisonous snake lurking around the mansion court’s garbage bin is regarded as a valuable guardian who keeps the rodent and beetle population down.

6. The northerner who moves in with cans of pesticide is looked at askance as someone needing to be educated. It is important to keep the delicate natural world in balance. Wasps and bees don’t just sting, they are also pollinators, some of them super and endangered. “If you don’t bother it, it won’t bother you,” is the motto to
follow.

7. Little gheckos, something like lizards, are everywhere so learn to love them! Fortunately they are cute, charm a lot of people and eat annoying small insects. It’s upsetting if they die from pesticides aimed at other targets.
We thoroughly enjoyed our first extended visit to Florida and look forward to returning some day soon.

Happy Reading from

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With the infallible timing of a playful fairy-tale eager to update us with all-time savvy, the romantic family fantasy musical film Beauty & the Beast opens this March. Everybody recognizes this exciting title but with each revival the details of plot and setting change.

Audiences interpret the message in their own minds according to what they need to know to cope with universal truths under current circumstances. In 2011, novelist Alex Flinn’s Beastly gave the plot a new high school/narcissistic twist. In 1994 it was a Broadway musical based on the animated film released by Walt Disney studios in 1991. Earlier in the fifties and thirties Disney failed at two adaptations  but Jean Cocteau succeeded with his 1946 film. Many people think the whole story is based on two 18th century French fairy tales, one by Villeneuve and one by Beaumont, but this is not true. It goes ‘way back to the Roman writer, Lucius Apuleius, who created it in the second century. It was a very long story called Cupid & Psyche inserted in the middle of his Metamorphoses (aka The Golden Ass.)

It is the third oldest fairy tale in the history of western literature and influenced many other stories, such as Cinderella and Gulliver’s Travels. Florida resident and researcher Mari Ness studied it and advises that it is much too complex and long to read. She decided that Apuleius’ theme, in the end, was about woman’s survival. Apuleius wrote at a time when the Roman empire was in upheaval due to the influx of Barbarians and the proliferation of new religions that appealed directly to the public.

The promo for the ’17 variety of Beauty & the Beast says, “It looks behind the Beast’s hideous exterior, allowing Beauty to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. A hunter named Gaston is on the loose to take Beauty for himself and hunt down the Beast at any cost.”

Let’s return to real life and this week’s presidential inauguration.

Donald Trump’s verbal monstrosities proliferate in a rabid echo chamber. But his authentic core explains the infallibility of the passionate voter guts that got him where he is. mary-trump-hairHe blew in as the brash, gigantic, orange-haired son of an immigrant pattern-maker mom and her rich Manhattan husband. Mary had been raised in a God-fearing Calvinist village on a literate peat-bog isle in the Outer Hebrides. Donald spent his formative years identifying with his father’s survival instincts as a real estate owner who stood off to the side after knocking on a door to collect rent, in case a tenant shot first through the door. Donald boarded at New York Military Academy for his eighth grade and high school education because only they could discipline his out-size make-up. In the 1980’s, his older brother died from alcoholism, first making Donald promise never to touch a drop of drink.

He worked ’round the clock, vowed to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, drugs and coffee, made a fortune and drilled the same habits into his four children. He settled into a good, stress-free marriage (his third) in 2005 with the wise and beautiful Melania who bore him a third son. She put him through the scrutiny of her family and village in Slovenia before determining he was a gentleman and accepting his proposal. Now Donald’s self-declared challenge was to become as good a husband as he was a father.

At election-campaign time 2015 he declared himself the hero with the best vision for the future of country and expressed the confidence only he could make it great again. He said he had been greedy for himself all his life but now wanted to be greedy for America. He vowed to repeal Obamacare with the caveat, “We can’t let people die in the streets.” He tempered his Mexican immigrant remarks by saying many of them were good people. He  told the Gold Star father he was sorry for the death of his son and was trying to make sure such a thing couldn’t happen again.

He accepted the surprise news he had won by saying he would “unite the country” and be the “president of all the people”.  He said on 60 Minutes he would drop his business because it was not important, “only real estate”, and the people deserved a “full-time president”. Henry Kissinger briefed the president-elect and gave the verdict he was serious, wanted to be a good president and was the only man who had ever come into the office without any “baggage”. That is, he was the most free to act in the individual voters’ interests because of his financial independence. Kissinger warned the people not to hold Trump too strictly to things he had said in the campaign because, after learning more about the job, he should be given leeway to change his positions.

The part of America which sees nothing authentic in Trump and doesn’t comprehend how anyone else could is in shock, hysterics, recoiling and denying. They saw and heard the worst of him repeated and dissected too many times on TV and the internet. On the other side, it was impossible for the people who had gotten poorer and couldn’t find jobs to genuinely, passionately, spontaneously want to prolong the mandate of the party that had been at the helm for eight years. Especially not when they had such a charismatic alternative! Many felt they had seen this very same Clinton picture before. Wasn’t this the woman who had already lived in the White House for eight years in the nineties?

Gaston, the hunter who is determined to take Beauty back from Beast no matter what is the real threat. That would create a revolution and destroy all our liberties. Such a cloud of dim prospects is spoiling the inauguration this weekend.

It’s time we all went out for a good night of magic spells, mirrors, romance and comedy at the theater. As story-telling apes at heart, we don’t personally eat or love empire-building strategies. We thrive amid family, arts, culture, history and villages where everyone knows everybody else. In this helpful atmosphere, society comes to its senses. So let’s take a deep breath and try to get things back into balance. As the old 1940’s hit-parade song goes, “You gotta accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.”

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Credit: Library & Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1982-124

Lucky me. I’ll be selling my books and displaying aboriginal artifacts this Sunday afternoon at a site once inhabited by the tribe who greeted the pilgrims on the Atlantic shore. No. The above picture is not a Currier & Ives Christmas card. It is a steel engraving by William H. Barlett famously published in Canadian Scenery Illustrated in 1842. As in the picture,  people will be gathering at the Lake Deschenes bend in the Ottawa River to be warmed and refreshed amid the nostalgic aura of dormer windows, conjoint staircases and veranda vistas.

  • The event this time (Dec. 4) is a light show and artisans’ sale after the Santa Claus parade down Main Street and the Christmas Bazaar at the British Hotel.
  • The Kitchi Sibi Anishinabeg first inhabited this site thousands of years ago. Chief Tessouat was a busy commercial middleman in the years of the fur trade. Champlain and his voyageur explorers rested at this pleasant spot in 1613. They thought they had found a route to China but at least were the first to get as far as Lake Huron. Charles Symmes from Woburn, MA built the Inn in 1831 and helped his uncle Philemon Wright found the townsite. Pioneer settlers made their way to Aylmer from Montreal by stage  coach and stayed overnight before continuing their journey. This was the landing place for busy steamboat traffic.
  • When we moved to Aylmer in 1976 we built a sailboat (from a kit) and berthed it at the Marina (above). One day after sailing I saw one of our municipal councilors, Denise Friend, charge across the parking lot to accost some gentlemen stepping out of a black limousine. They were officials of the Quebec government and had a purse to spend on heritage projects. Soon news came that the historic Inn reduced to rubble after being used as a flea market and consumed by a fire was to be restored. It re-opened in a good imitation of its former glory in 1978.
  • Today it is a Museum with fine exhibits as well as being a heritage gem of the Outaouais region. It will always be at the heart of the townsfolk of the Aylmer sector of the city of Gatineau. That’s why my books, indigenous artifacts and I will be smiling so happily from the inn-side this Sunday. The artifacts I have include a birch-bark basket, two birch-bark trivets, an ermine hat and scarf set and a pair of embroidered moccasin slippers. They’re from my parents’ days as missionaries on the Cree reservation at Oxford House, MN in the roaring twenties. Their story is told in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.
  • Merry pre-Christmas season to you too!

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photo 2My parents lived the quintessential Canadian dream with their focus on immortality. They took snapshots at significant moments and left them behind with names, dates and locations on the back. They kept diaries, and wrote journals on special trips. My mother locked their love letters and birth certificates up in a metal keepsake box. They were both well educated; my father got an MA in history with Lester Pearson as a tutor. Because I had a BA in English Language & Literature, after our parents died my sisters delegated me to make a book out of our family.

  • The bare facts of their story are that Kay and Jack were an English girl and a Canadian boy; he joined the Navy in world war one in 1916 and was sent overseas to the Portsmouth barracks. Her high school sweetheart had got cholera while fighting in France and died at age 19. She enrolled in the London School of Medicine for Women to become a doctor but dropped out because of a nervous breakdown. Kay and Jack met when her father, a municipal councilor commended by the Prince of Wales for helping veterans, invited colonial servicemen home for tea.
    Her sister wrote to Jack for nine years on behalf of the family but then married and moved to Australia, so Kay took over the correspondence. She was 25 and thought she was going to be an old maid but her letter was perfectly timed.
  • Jack had finished studying theology at the University of Toronto and was going up to Oxford House, MN as a United Church of Canada minister to the Swampy Cree. The job came with a house and he yearned for a wife to keep him company but so far it was a hard sell. No Toronto co-ed seemed interested. He proposed to Kay and she asked him to come over so she could have another look at him. They just had six days and she said it would be too risky. He got her to agree not to make her answer final for a year during which they would write to each other.
  • Jack pulled out all the stops; he really wanted Kay; she was such an exceptional, smart person with a warm heart and an adventurous streak. Canada and the United Church, not himself, were his best selling points. This beautiful, exotic semi-nomadic settlement beckoned with brisk air, splashing waves, colourful leaves, good-looking childlike faces, gold-panning, delicious moose nose and a cosy wood-burning hearth. Enormous potential for her to do good lay among these folk desperately in need of an intelligent, well intentioned person’s interest in them. The merger behind the United Church was attracting worldwide attention as an example of tolerance. The future was full of promise; she was well equipped for whatever lay ahead so need not fear a thing. If only he had her he would be in seventh heaven.
  • She asked him to come over again and this time they got married almost the minute after she made up her mind; they flew over the English Channel to Paris for a 24-hour honeymoon before he had to hustle back 5,000 miles to work. She packed up, said goodbye to everything and everyone she had ever known and joined him in the spring. She met his family on their farm in Cookstown, Ontario and was welcomed by his friends at a reception in Toronto before they went up to the reserve 600 miles northeast of Winnipeg by train, steamboat and canoe. They lived with the Indians, as they were then called by government, helping, teaching, laughing, sharing and exchanging cultural habits, forming attachments and etching indelible experiences both sad and happy upon their hearts. Their first child was born after a five-day, 120-mile trek to hospital at 30 degrees below zero on a cariole (big toboggan for special occasions and people) in January, 1929.
  • They left the reserve in June, 1931 and became an ordinary Ontario United Church minister’s family in Nakina, where a second daughter was born, Lemonville, where a third daughter was born, Fairbank (Toronto), Cochrane, Thistletown (Toronto), Durham and Flesherton. They retired in Owen Sound in 1966 and lived there until Jack died in Kay’s arms in 1988 and she passed away in 1990. They had been married for more than 60 years and left nine grandchildren.
    Kay and Jack had little in common to start a lifelong marriage except that both were avid readers. They were familiar with biblical texts they applied to daily life. They identified with the heroines and heroes of the same classical books and had faith they would succeed if they lived accordingly, doing the right thing towards each other and everyone else in the world.
  • What Inspired Me to Do This Creative Work
    As retired editor and co-owner of my community newspaper in Aylmer, Quebec, in 1996 I took my mother’s keepsake box to a grade four classr on Heritage Day. We sat cross-legged in a circle on the floor and I began reading to them from a journal my mother wrote seventy years before as she was riding up the fur trade route to Oxford House, MN in a canoe. I told the children if they wrote something in a journal today, it would become heritage for children of the future.
  • Then I passed a page of the handwriting around the circle and pointed out that my mother had made a note in the margin saying the splotches were made by drips from the paddle. Involuntarily, I choked up and almost added a tear of my own to the page. The children were all staring at me with their eyes wide open and the teacher, a friend who wrote a column in my newspaper, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Margaret, you have to write a book.” That was the magic moment I decided to jump in and do it. For the kids. For these kids and all kids everywhere so they will know their heritage.
  • Actually I had been more or less assigned by my older sisters to write a family history but now I went about it with passion. I would do my best to make my parents immortal and please my favorite professor, Northrop Frye. Most of the content was on hand but I had to research an amazing number of facts, maps etc. to make the story absolutely reliable. It was a labor of love, an exercise of my abilities and skills, a challenge I couldn’t resist, an important project for my retirement years.

(I submitted the above as a brief to the Canadian Heritage consultation on Canadian culture and creativity on Nov. 24, 2016)

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Cookstownchurch

Watercolor by Cookstown artist Jay Kirk-Young

On May Day I fled my computer to go sit in the pew where my grandfather sat when he was raising a family in the early 1900’s in Cookstown, ON, north of Toronto. I was not alone. We were a flock of 200, the size of church needed in 1825 by a tiny rural village of 500 (not counting the animals) which had only three churches.

  • We sang the old hymns. We listened to memories. We seized this last inspiring moment. We and the old building with its organ pipes and choir loft harmonized and rode into the sunset with the Churchill Boys country music group. We squirmed during a too-long yet relevant sermon. We knew after two hours it was time to say the closing prayer’s “Amen”. We lingered over the last potluck in the basement. We hugged our relatives and new friend, the funeral director, whom we will meet again.
  • My grandpa (a speaker had reminded us by citing ‘A Tribute to Our Parents‘ written by my father) read the Bible every morning at the breakfast table.When hushed, everybody in the family, even the two hired men, got off their chairs and knelt to pray.
  • I wonder if I was sitting in the pew where grandpa sat before he died when he fell from an apple tree, where father sat the day he was sponsored as a candidate for the ministry, where mother sat on her first Sunday in a strange country as part of a family she didn’t know, or where I was held the day I was baptized.
  • We say thanks by celebrating occasions like the decommissioning of an old church, or by writing books about our families. The Cookstown United Church people, now comprising only 25 families, will continue to worship with the Countryside United Church people in the town of Thornton just up the highway. The building will not be destroyed because the core of the village, still of 500 but just about to be developed, has been declared a protected zone.
  • This is the heritage I celebrate in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. Then I wrote a second book, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, singling out my mother’s winter bush adventures in northern Manitoba and including pictures.
  • Like the Lady of Shalott in my avatar, my creative efforts died while I fled from my writing web but now they are alive again.

On June 4 I will join other authors selling their wares at Prose in the Park, a wonderful, free outdoor family literary event in the market on Parkdale Avenue in Ottawa. I will be with friends from the Media Club of Ottawa and Ottawa Independent Writers.
What will really make it special is if you can be there too (in spirit, if not body).

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Abdennour_Bidar_par_Claude_Truong-Ngoc_janvier_2014

At least one man is trying to analyze the big problem at the crux of recent killings in France, and even solve it. Abdennour Bidar (his first name means ‘Bearer and Herald of the Light’) is a 44-year-old French philosopher who has written books and articles. Most famously, after the Charlie Hebdo shooting, he tenderly wrote an “Open Letter to the Muslim World”.
http://pamelageller.com/2014/11/in-open-letter-to-muslim-world-french-muslim-philosopher-says-islam-has-given-birth-to-monsters-needs-reform.html/

Bidar works for the French Ministry of National Education on devising a model curriculum for a lay (non clerical) society. He consults with other governments and organizations wherever it is safe for him to travel. He was interviewed by the French-language newspaper Le Devoir on Nov. 9 while in Quebec and I have loosely translated his nine main points. He said his work in France is going badly and here’s why:

  1.  France cam’t find a national consensus for a multicultural society where people live together in spite of their differences around an agreed set of shared values. 
  2. We seek to find a formula that lets those who believe in heaven and those who do not live together with the same rights and duties. 
  3. An ideal state of equilibrium would do justice to both unity and multiplicity. It would recognize the right to be different and, at the same time, investigate what the people have in common.
  4. We French have never really seized the notion of ‘fraternity’, although we talk a lot about ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’. 
  5. Fraternity is at the heart of the proposed reform because it has an ethical dimension.
  6. Enmity and disunion are evident at the extreme.
  7. He defends an individualizing conception of faith and spirituality — a sort of protestantizing of the Muslim’s relationship with Allah.
  8.  Today, the individualizing of belief has reinvented the ways of belief. From this comes the crisis of the sacred dividing West against East. 
  9. The cancer which gangrenes Islam comes out of Saudi Arabia. This country is charged with being the guardian of sacred places and the center of the diffusion of the true intelligence of Islamic culture but it is the incarnation of anything but.

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaret virany

http://www.margaretvirany.com

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

 

No good concerts were on in Ottawa when we celebrated our Diamond Jubilee last week, so we put our savings into a Magic Circle and dinner at Hy’s Steakhouse instead. Both were well worth it, for ever.

magiccircle

A custom-made Magic Circle by Iris tenHolder

An artistic photographer and friend who is vice president of the Media Club of Ottawa also designs and knits mini rugs while others sleep. Her husband William tenHolder, former owner of upscale Café Wim and author of the book by that name, hosts open houses in Iris tenHolder’s heritage studio where her work is shown. As a memento of our sixtieth anniversary, we asked her to make a Magic Circle for our home. It’s the perfect gift for people who love to have something unique.

Starting from scratch, she and Wim came to our house with samples of designs and yarn colors to see what blended into our rooms and what we liked. It was completed on time and delivered in person.  Now our ugly little coffee table/footstool is a gorgeous focal point admired by all, a constant reminder of our big day. The price, based on the size, the yarn and the time it takes, is right too.

A serving of Beef Wellington at Hy's Restaurant

A serving of Beef Wellington at Hy’s Restaurant

The Citizen of Sept. 10, 2015 ran a front page headline, “Hy’s Steakhouse Closing in February”. We were shocked to see this hub of the capital’s political life was mortal, like Café Wim. The story said the owners had been unable to come to an agreement with the landlord over the lease.

We discovered it in 1985 after Arthur Mantell asked me and Tom to be his and his wife Kitty’s partners in the Aylmer Bulletin. A weekly newspaper has to hold an annual meeting of shareholders. This meant the four of us went out for dinner at Hy’s and charged it as a business
expense. Since the Mantells ran the business side and we did the editorial side, the decision wasn’t ours to question. From our curved, upholstered couches, we just ate and gaped at the beautiful guests, open fire chamber, fabulous decor and competent staff.

We headed to Hy’s near Parliment for our sixtieth anniversary dinner and dared to order what we really wanted from the menu, i.e. Beef Wellington. It tasted heavenly but the occasion was bittersweet for some. Our waitress said they received news of the closing a few days ago. She had worked there for 29 years and her colleagues were like family. We asked her what she would do and she said she didn’t know but she couldn’t afford to retire. After we finished eating, we lingered to soak up the atmosphere which was not as crowded and upbeat as in 1985.

The Hy website is sweetening the blow for customers by announcing an online contest worth $1500. If you win, you might be able to plan having a blast there before February and inviting all your friends! The contest is Hy’s way of celebrating their Diamond Jubilee, since the company was founded in Calgary 60 years ago and none of its other stores is closing down.

Ironically, part of our family too is closing down. We reach this milestone just as a child of ours goes to court to settle a divorce after 17 years. So life goes on. We celebrate our big occasions as exuberantly as we can while remembering others are not so lucky.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

http://www.margaretvirany.com