What’s it worth to you?

I am reallyreally angry that I’m having to write this. Really.

As of this afternoon I am officially on ‘staycation’- some time off work that was booked ages ago, before the Canadian dollar started its slide downdowndown and made us re-think a US holiday, at this time. Even though I’ll be taking some work home with me, it’s the first more-than-an-extra-long weekend I’ve had off since last years’ trip to the UK (which included my meet-up with the incomparable Anne-Marie, who lovingly and poetically remembered our pub night last week).

I’m okay with the ‘stay’ part. Especially since at 3:37 this afternoon my home team began its ‘Hunt for Blue October’ (whatever ad company came up with that little gem deserves a round of applause) and 3rd run at becoming World Series Champs. Some might think I’m jumping the gun, since they still have to win the AL, but if the atmosphere in this town has any effect on the Boys in Blue then they’re going all the way. All. The. Way.

It’s electric around here. You can feel it in the streets. And, apparently all across the country, as even those who purport to hate Toronto (obviously people who have never spent any time here. Obviously.) rally behind our one Canadian Major League ball team.

It was a rough and scary Game 1- Josh Donaldson (soon to be known as ‘MVP Josh Donaldson’) got knocked in the noggin on his way into second, and Joey B- after a lovely home run- left the game with a strained hamstring- but we will rally and come back in full force tomorrow (Josh WILL be medically cleared and good to go- keeping the faith).

Baseball angst notwithstanding, here I was, looking forward to a bit of a break from dealing with the day-to-day, serious stuff, while watching my Jays and getting some things done ’round the house and ’round the town. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, so there will be time with family, and one of my favourite musical dudes is paying us a visit on Sunday night at Lee’s (unfortunately conflicting with a Jays game, but I’ll miss that one to hang with Jesse – interesting that I first wrote about him in the context of some concerns I had with the federal bureaucracy), some spa time, a little wandering around and enjoying the change of the season (and storing up memories of relative warmth before the horrors of winter set in. I don’t like the cold, have I mentioned that before?).

I talked a bit about our federal election last week – and emphasized the importance of everyone getting out there to cast a vote. Preferably a vote against our incumbent government and its leader. I thought I was done with yelling about the dangers of maintaining this particular status quo.

Yeah no. Evidently not.

In the realm of dirty politics- a place that is a second home to our current PM- he is hitting new and ever-more egregious lows. I’m not being rhetorical or alarmist when I use that word- or any of its synonyms. Words like shocking, appalling, abhorrent, terrible… All of the above are applicable.

His always-borderline misogyny, racism and xenophobia has crossed the border. He is vocally demonstrating that he lives in the heartland of overt racism and elitism, now. He can’t even see the border any more. And I say that as someone who is pretty ‘old stock’ (4th generation Torontonian, on Dad‘s side).

I’m not even talking about C-51, or his unwillingness to investigate the disappearances and deaths of scores of indigenous women in this country (and I certainly won’t mention the former Tory MP who said that they had it coming), or his inexplicable hesitancy reevaluate his policies about refugees – even in light of the humanitarian crisis that is happening in Europe (that is a whole other rant in itself- one that sits, temporarily languishing, in the drafts folder until I can achieve some level of relative coherence about it all).

With indicators that his ‘popularity’ is sliding (hard to measure the true popular vote in our outrageously out-dated ‘first past the post’ electoral process- THAT’S something that needs to be overhauled by our next government… but I digress), Harper is looking to reiterate and maximize his politics of division- especially in parts of Quebec, which, as we have seen, has its own issues with xenophobic and racist policies.

He is focusing his attentions on an issue that affects such a small proportion of the population that I’m amazed (and, frankly, dismayed) that it is being given any airtime at all. Yet, for some reason, his ongoing emphasis on wearing the niqab is dominating discussions and has escalated to the extent that he has declared that, if he is re-elected (avert!), choosing to do so would not be permissible for federal employees. Even though it has never been raised as an issue in the public service. Ever.

Didn’t work so well in Quebec, but hey, I’m the last person to suggest that he not shoot himself in the foot by alienating more members of the public. His proposed ‘rat on your neighbours‘ policy? THAT should go over well…

As Justin Trudeau said in the preamble to the Current, women are being attacked in this country for wearing the hijab and niqab. ‘This is not Canada,’ he said. You know I’ve had my issues with Mr. Trudeau, at times, but that point is indisputable.

Especially since women don’t have to be wearing an outward manifestation of their faith in order to come under attack, apparently. This reality became personal to me this week, as my dear friend, Farah, was subjected to an Islamophobic verbal attack in our city’s main downtown mall. In, irony of ironies, that most-quintessential of Canadian stores, Roots.

In addition to being a brilliant and caring friend, Farah is an inspirational social activist with an impressive history of using her powerful voice in support and effective aid of those who are, often, voiceless. She also has a pretty big Twitter following. That social media presence- active since her quest to have the Iranian government release her friends from illegal captivity – and her fearlessness, shine a light on the disturbing effects of Harper’s policies and rhetoric- including the ‘uptick in anti-Islam sentiment since the niqab became an election buzzword.’

Ya’ll know I love Stevie Stills. I write about him a fair bit. Back when he was with a band called Buffalo Springfield he penned a little ditty.

The title is taken from an idiomatic statement that is, generally, used to moderate an opinion that may differ from the opinion of its audience, and to emphasize humility while prompting the audience to provide their judgement of worth against the statement being made (my thanks to Wikiwords for helping to parse the phrase and its origins).

A whole lot of people- myself included, once upon a time- thought that the song was sourced in anti-war sentiments. It was certainly adopted by those who protested American involvement in Vietnam, and it became inextricably linked with the events at Kent State in 1970 (odd, since the song was written and recorded in 1966. I’d be the last to argue that Stephen isn’t prescient, but I don’t think he’s quite that good).

It was about civil disobedience in the face of prejudicial lobbying and ordinances against a portion of the population. Young people, who regularly gathered on the Sunset Strip (where Buffalo Springfield were the house band at the Whisky a Go Go) protested the actions of local residents and business groups who successfully worked to have curfew laws imposed, in what began as a series of peaceful rallies. As is too often the case, the unrest became violent as clashes between the protesters and police escalated.

It’s an assessment of a lack of social justice.

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

Perhaps Stephen (Stills, not that other guy) is more prescient than I credited, earlier. His song transcends time and is as applicable now (sadly) as it was in 1966. Harper’s Conservatives are drawing battle lines, inciting paranoia and repeatedly telling us we need to beware. Of our fellow citizens.

None of that has a place in MY Canada.

So. In the midst of celebrating- Thanksgiving AND Blue Jay wins (I’ve got your backs, lads)- we need to take the time to stop, listen and look at what’s going down.

Rick Mercer came back from his summer holidays this week and, unsurprisingly, had a few things to say about this election campaign. The words of the immortal Sam Gamgee stand true, and, as Rick said, the main job we have, as Canadians, is to show up and vote for those good things we want to see enacted.

Which doesn’t include men coming to take us away if we step out of line. Especially since that line, as they draw it and cross it, is becoming increasingly un-Canadian, in the way in which I measure such things.

It certainly doesn’t include a PM whose leadership example encourages racist and xenophobic behaviours that destroy safe spaces for all Canadians. Instead, I will follow the example of one I’m privileged to call friend and use my voice to shout, without breaking for ‘vacation’ if necessary, in order to ensure that we preserve and enhance that which is good.

For what it’s worth.

‘Sailing a reach’

“When you get to the end of your rope tie a knot and hang on”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

This has been a weird week.

And it’s only Thursday so who knows what else might get thrown in my general direction before the weekend.

There’s been lots of introspection and trying to work things out/find next directions- much of which has been done through this little forum of mine here at colemining (thank you for your patience if you’re still following along).

I’m trying.  Really.  To keep it together.  To tie a knot.


It’s a lovely, sunny, breezy day here in this burg by the Great Lake, so between all the ropes and knots and winds, this most recent bout of wishing I was anywhere but here has me out on an imaginary sailboat, enjoying the day, instead of once again way too locked up in my brain.

I love sailing.  It’s been too long since I’ve been out on a boat, feeling the tension between controlling the tiller and the sails yet knowing that no matter how closely you watch and try to read your surroundings, the wind and the water are still in charge.  It’s about being in control- to a point, and going with the breeze- or choosing to drop the sail- when control slips through your hands like a recalcitrant jib sheet.

I’ve ended up in the drink far too many times to forget that seeming to be in control and being in control in actuality are two very different things.  Sailing is full of such lessons.

A whipping knot is a whipcord binding that is tied around the end of a rope to prevent its natural tendency to fray.  The sailmaker’s whipping is one of the most durable whipping knots, threading the twine diagonally through the rope and wrapping and reef knotting the end to secure the whole shebang.

Looks pretty well-wrapped, doesn’t it?

Since I’m feeling somewhat less than well-wrapped at the moment, and given the propensity of the ends of ropes to fray, in order to keep on holding on, per FDR’s advice, I’m feeling in definite need of a secure whipping (minds out of the gutter, people.  Keep with the context) just now.

There’s this song.

(‘of course there is a song’, you’re saying to yourself if you’ve come to know me at all).

It’s about running away and facing reality, and holding on and letting go.  And the comfort to be found in sailing and the ultimate consolation of music.  All at the same time.

It’s beautiful (like all CSN(Y) creations).

From Crosby, Stills and Nash’s 1982 album, Daylight Again, ‘Southern Cross’ describes an existential struggle and the wisdom that can be found under the constellation ‘Crux’, the Southern Cross, in the seas near French Polynesia.

In addition to being the Latin word for ‘cross’, a crux can be both the central, critical point and a puzzling or seemingly insoluble matter.

The Maori name for the Southern Cross is Te Punga– the anchor.  Stephen Stills sings that his ‘love is an anchor‘- both a good thing- for its stability, and not so great in light of his inability to let go of the past and move forward.

Fitting locale to try to figure things out, no?

Stephen based the song on one by Rick and Michael Curtis that needed some tweaking and focus.  He combined their original template with the long sailing trip he took after a major change in his life and transformed it into a story about using the power of the stars, water and winds to heal wounds and grant perspective.

The Curtis Brothers’ original song was called ‘Seven League Boots’, a nod to a motif used in European folkloric traditions, including the stories of Charles Perrault, whose use of pre-existing folk tales formed the foundation of fairy tales as a literary genre, and included such stories as Cinderella (Cendrillon) and Bluebeard (La Barbe bleu).

Seven league boots allow the wearer to stride said seven leagues with each step taken, and generally were given to the heroes of the stories by a magical intermediary seeking to help ensure the completion of an important task.

Jack the Giant Killer and Goethe’s Mephistopheles (in Faust), for example, use the boots to accelerate the action to the climax of their particular goals.

To sail ‘a reach’ is to sail approximately perpendicular to the wind and ‘a following sea’ describes wave direction that matches the direction the boat is traveling.  It is used interchangeably with the points of sail below a beam reach and suggests good winds and smooth sailing.

I find myself at a true crux right now- in both senses of the word.  No supernatural intercessor has shown up to hand me a pair of seven league boots, and I am, sadly, without access to a sailboat at the moment or the ability to visit Papaeete any time soon.

But, as Stephen notes, there is always something that I can rely on when the thinking and the analyzing and the planning next tacks have become too much, and coherence and optimism have left the building.

‘I have my ship, and all her flags are a’ flying, she is all that I have left, and music is her name.’

I will spend my evening in her company (perhaps with a Corona in hand in memory of good times with my sailing peeps) and be grateful for her continuing presence as my sailmaker’s whipping, until I’m ready to once again go looking for an ideal reach and calmly following sea.

‘In the Southern Cross’.