Start Wearing Purple – It’s Purple Day

Purple Day Cover

I wanted people around the world to come together and teach others about epilepsy. ~ Cassidy Megan, founder of Purple Day 

All over the world today, people are wearing purple and holding events for epilepsy awareness. I salute those who are doing so much, including my friends at SUDEP Aware whose compilation, published last year, highlights what the day means to families bereaved by epilepsy.

My wife Traci Cleverley Pink lived with epilepsy from a young age, but she never let it dominate her life. Considering that her seizures were largely controlled through medication, her death from SUDEP in November 2011 at the age of 39 came as an utter shock. Hers was a compassionate, generous soul and she left a large hole in our community. I pray for the day when no one suffers the devastating loss of a family member from SUDEP, and thank the organizers of Purple Day and the SUDEP Aware team for continuing to spread awareness about epilepsy and SUDEP. ~ Doug Cleverley, Purple Day statement for SUDEP Aware

Today, I will wear purple, and remember.

If you or members of your family have epilepsy, I encourage you to find out all you can about seizure prevention and about SUDEP. It’s been said by many that epilepsy has been in the shadows for too long; then there is SUDEP, hidden in the shadows of epilepsy. How many family members of people with epilepsy know nothing about SUDEP? Don’t let tragedy be the reason you find out, as it was for me and continues to be for too many families.

campaign_logoFor more information, I highly recommend SUDEP Aware’s “Making Sense of SUDEP” eToolkit – click here to visit the campaign page and download the materials. For general information about epilepsy, I recommend you visit Purple Day’s Epilepsy Resources page or the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance website.

Will you join me in wearing purple today? Help bring epilepsy and SUDEP out of the shadows!

Burlington-20120326-PurpleDay

Lisa Scott’s Purple Day 2012 miracle orchid – see Moving In and scroll down to the end.

And now for something completely different, because I can never think of Purple Day without thinking of this song, a favourite of Traci’s. Purple is the colour for today …

 

Always remembering Traci

Traci at White Point Resort, Nova Scotia

Your name is upon my tongue
your image is in my sight
your memory is in my heart
where can I send these words that I write ?
Rumi

You would be 42 years old today. I’m reflecting on this, and thinking today will always be a day to remember you. I am sad that you are gone, but happy you were born, and that we shared a life together for a few years.

Today, Shadow and I will brave the bitter weather and go for a walk on our beach. You will be there with us, in spirit, and I’ll throw a stick for Shadow, thinking of you.

Readers, I have little more I can add to what I wrote last year, and the year before. My life is changing, the face of grief is evolving, and I find I have little to say today that hasn’t already been said. If you knew Traci, and if you are so moved, please just take a moment today, and say, Thank you.

Previous birthday posts:

 

Choosing hope in a desperate time

My reflections (finally) on the article by Charles Eisenstein, published here earlier this month.

sunrise ceremonyIn his essay, 2013: Hope or Despair?, Charles Eisenstein suggests a polarity of ways to look back on the year past. He lists many developments and trends which would justify a feeling of despair, juxtaposed by quieter but compelling reasons to hope. Of the latter, he extrapolates on three trends which he sees as indicative of seismic cultural shifts, trends that mainstream society has yet to absorb but which nevertheless justify feeling hopeful, as they point to “vast, nearly unimaginable changes in coming decades”.

The three trends he identifies are curious indicators, to be sure: cannabis legalization, social acceptance and legalization of gay marriage, and the effect of public pressure in the USA to avert military action against Syria and Iran. Rather than analyzing the specific trends he chooses to highlight as indicators of much greater change to come, I’d like to focus on the question at the end of his essay. Eisenstein asks “that we treat these positive developments as harbingers of the future, and stand firmly in the energy of their possibility. They are not distractions from despair’s version of reality; they are heralds of a more beautiful world. As we move into 2014, let us ask, If these are possible, what else is possible?”

It is that ability for human beings to envision and realize a brighter future which has always inspired my hope. Some call hope a denial of reality, but as I said in my first post of the new year, “only hope without substance is vain.” In some ways, though I only read Eisenstein’s essay after I posted my own thoughts on hope, my personal reflection seems to me to suggest the next step.

After identifying trends in the world which inspire hope rather than despair, how do we make sure our hope is not in vain? Eisenstein asks us to envision further possibilities; while I agree, I think it is also important to act upon those hopeful possibilities. Inspire hope in others, by being part of the movement towards positive change.

Whether it be volunteering in your local soup kitchen, or signing and sharing petitions for causes which speak to a brighter future, or simply recognizing that we all share a responsibility to act even when action seems futile, to love even when despair threatens to divide us, to hope even when all seems hopeless, the actions we take may inspire others to act even though our efforts seem like a drop in the ocean. After all, as Adam Ewing says near the end of the film Cloud Atlas, “What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”

water, drop, globe, ocean, environment, earth

Comes a time

My take on Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 retrospective is going to have to wait. My recent concert experience in Toronto takes precedence. Here, by popular demand (well, if one friend asking for it half-jokingly qualifies as “popular”, is my review of Neil Young’s recent concert at Massey Hall in Toronto. My apologies for the blurry photos – the distance was a challenge for my phone camera. 

neil young, massey hall, 2014

You and I we were captured
We took our souls
and we flew away
We were right
we were giving
That’s how we kept
what we gave away.

~ from Neil Young, Comes A Time (1978)

A few nights ago, I was treated to “the Neil Young concert every fan hopes to see once in their lifetime,” as a friend described it after hearing my report. Tickets for this rare solo acoustic show sold out in the first half hour after they went on sale in September, but my persistent friend kept checking and three days before the concert she lucked out and bought two tickets online, direct from the Massey Hall box office.

As long-time readers of my blog may recall, I’d seen Neil in concert not that long ago, but that was in a large arena with his band Crazy Horse. It was a great experience, but seeing him up close and personal in an intimate concert hall with the finest acoustics you’ll hear anywhere is a whole different ball game. And he knocked this one out of the park.

neil young, massey hall, 2014First, he just seemed to be in a very good mood all night. Maybe it was all the attention he was getting in the media about his anti-oilsands views. Maybe it was the warm reception the audience gave him. Maybe it was the fun he was having, once he’d settled into playing classic songs that he recorded long ago, and rarely performs anymore. After all, he did just finish a four-night sold-out run at New York’s Carnegie Hall, so he must have been feeling pretty satisfied.

And there he was, less than a hundred feet from where I sat, belting out sings like Helpless, After the Gold Rush, Ohio, and Southern Man; songs I’d never hoped to hear him sing in concert. In between songs he’d tell stories about his instruments – the high heel mark on one of his guitars, the bullet hole on another, the upright piano he rented from the Hollywood Piano Rental Company in 1970 for the recording of After the Gold Rush – and never returned.

neil young, massey hall, 2014Midway through his set, he climbed a platform at the back of the stage and began playing an ancient-looking pump organ, complete with candles, to perform an electrifying version of Pocahontas. This became his strongest political statement of the night, as he revised the lyrics and sang of Stephen Harper and broken treaties instead of Marlon Brando. He also brought new life to one of his oldest songs, Mr. Soul, hunched over the pump organ like a cross between Tom Waits and the Phantom of the Opera.

neil young, massey hall, 2014From the stage, the politics were under-stated. In interviews Neil Young makes his opposition to Canada’s tar sands project abundantly clear. On stage he allowed the music to speak for itself, his passion for the cause coming through in his selection of songs and the occasional slightly altered lyric (“we’ve got mother Nature on the run in the twenty-first century”) comes to mind. He frequently demonstrated a wry humour, however, with his message clear and succinct, such as when he took a drink out of a tall water bottle, then pointed at it and said “Water. In glass. Try it.”

Another amazing performer opened for Neil: Diana Krall. Normally known as an elegant jazz chantreuse, she took a different approach, appearing on stage in a leather jacket, jeans and knee boots, rambling through a set of mostly obscure pop songs by famous writers, more like a singer in a honky tonk than a concert artist.

This was the first of four concerts across Canada under the title Honor The Treaties. The concerts are a benefit for the Athasbascan Chipewyan First Nation’s Legal Defense Fund, as this small First Nation in Alberta takes on the federal government and Shell Oil for violation of treaty rights, and the ongoing social, economic, and health disaster which the tar sands represent to their people. There were many First Nations people in the audience, and a traditional drumming group the All Nations Drummers played before each set.

drummers, First Nations, all nations, neil young, massey hall, 2014The Athabasca Chipewyan are fighting an uphill battle. For decades their traditional lands have been encroached on by the oil sands development, which if current plans are fully realized will turn an area the size of England into an industrial wasteland. The Athabasca Chipewyan are not saying “no more development;” they have drawn a line in the sand and said no more past this line. They are asking the Canadian government to honour its treaty obligations. They are taking the government to court, a long and expensive battle, and this week, across Canada, Neil Young and Diana Krall are drawing out the crowds and generating lots of funds and media attention to help the cause.

Thanks to a persistent friend with a heart of gold, I was there to witness it. Comes a time, indeed.

Google “Neil Young – News” and you will see pages of articles from just the past ten days or so. The man knows how to get the media’s attention! Here are a few, but I encourage readers to explore further:

2013: Hope or Despair? Essay by Charles Eisenstein

Traditionally end-of-year retrospectives are published before the end of the year and before the essayist’s scan of the year ahead, but I’ve never been bound by tradition. I received a subscription email from writer and philosopher Charles Eisenstein a few days ago containing the essay below. I immediately felt compelled to share it with you, my own readers, and thank Mr. Eisenstein for offering his writings freely to the world through a Creative Commons copyright. The Rambler will return in the next post with my own reflections on the following.

2013: Hope or Despair? | Charles Eisenstein

2013: Hope or Despair?

This essay has been translated into Croatian.

“Things are getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster simultaneously.”

– Tom Atlee

Was the year 2013 a cause for hope or a cause for despair? Were the positive developments signs that the world is turning the corner? Or were they delusionary exceptions to the downward spiral into tyranny and ecocide?

The case for pessimism is hard to refute. We have the good news, like outbreaks of people power in Turkey, in Brazil, in Thailand and the Ukraine, juxtaposed against the collossal disappointment of the Arab Spring to bring economic, social, or political justice to the Mideast, as Egypt slips back into dictatorship, Bahrain further into autocracy, and Libya into chaos.

We have the good news – for the first time, solar and wind power have reached grid parity with fossil fuels – paired with record demand for oil and the vast expansion of fracking and tar sands exploitation, as CO2 levels topped 400 ppm for the first time and the Warsaw climate talks imploded.

We have a rennaissance of cooperative economics in southern Europe, even as austerity deepens, youth unemployment hovers near 50%, pensions are cut, and professionals flee.

In the United States, the moribund labor movement shows signs of life with strikes at Wal-Mart and McDonalds, while at the top of the pyramid, the rich get richer and Wall Street perpetrates on even greater scale the same kinds of abuses that precipitated the 2008 crisis.

Uruguay, Colorado, and Washington state legalized marijuana in 2013, yet the militarization of police forces reached new levels. Edward Snowden exposed the surveillance state to the public, yet the capability of governments to monitor people continued to grow.

Sometimes the positive developments look like pinpricks of light under a blanket of darkness. The points of light are tiny in comparison to the injustice and the ecocide. Let us not delude ourselves: Nothing substantive has really changed. The environment continues to degrade. The ocean grows more acidic. Drought spreads across the globe. Life dwindles in the oceans. Military spending increases the world over. Fukushima keeps leaking. Concentration of wealth intensifies.

The points of light, however, are not merely temporary exceptions to a negative trend, isolated bits of good news. Many of them signify a deep and ongoing tectonic shift in the psychic and ideological foundations of our culture that, while it has yet to substantially manifest in our systems and institutions, portends vast, nearly unimaginable changes in coming decades. That is why, unreasonably, these pinpricks of light inspire such hope within us.

Here are a few examples. Cannabis legalization might seem a drop in the bucket compared to the vast systemic injustice that pervades the United States and the world, but here is what it portends: (1) the demise of the ecologically destructive cotton and wood pulp monopoly for fiber and paper, as industrial hemp comes back; (2) the social acceptance of altered states of consciousness that, unlike those offered by caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, tend to accompany withdrawal from a violence-based, hurried, linear, machine society; (3) the acceptance of herbal medicine – cannabis, the first herb in a century to enjoy widespread medical use, might be a “gateway herb” at a time when conventional medicine is failing to address so many chronic conditions.

Second, consider marriage equality for gay people. The cynic might doubt whether this victory for a relatively privileged group of North Americans, with no disruption to business as usual, really deserves so much more attention than, say, ending human trafficking or sweatshop labor or water privatization or predatory lending. It is no accident, say the cynics, that the powers-that-be have channeled reformist energy into this relatively innocuous arena. I beg to differ, because gay rights is an outcropping of a deeper vein of principle that holds all human beings equally deserving of every right. Social acceptance of gay marriage marks a momentous retreat from the “othering” of people who are different from oneself – and this othering is the basis of war, punishment-based “justice,” discrimination, and to a large degree, economic exploitation.

A final example: For the first time I can remember, in 2013 public pressure averted American involvement in a war (Syria); it also reversed the trajectory to war with Iran. Insignificant, perhaps, in the context of unabated drone strikes, conflict in Afghanistan, and military bases around the globe, but rather than see Syria as an exception that proves the rule, we might see it as the start of a new trend. It foretells the end of the age of conquering the enemy, a time in which we know we are, as the Black Eyed Peas song puts it, “one tribe, one world, one people.”

Could we be seeing the next stage in the obsolescence of war, that began when the hydrogen bomb made total war between the great powers unthinkable? Could it be that the ecological crisis is making concepts of “America’s adversaries” ring hollow and obsolete? Could it be, as the $15 minimum wage movement and European unconditional basic income movement suggest, that we are beginning to assert the right of every person to be free of material want? Could it be that the rights of nature, as written into law in Ecuador and Bolivia and the subject of Europe’s ecocide initiative, are becoming as self-evident as the rights of man?

Of course, none of these possibilities are original to the year 2013. My point in illuminating them is that we treat these positive developments as harbingers of the future, and stand firmly in the energy of their possibility. They are not distractions from despair’s version of reality; they are heralds of a more beautiful world. As we move into 2014, let us ask, If these are possible, what else is possible?

(Photo Credit: Dan Foy)

Hope for the new year

hope, lights, survivor, relay for life, new year wishHappy New Year!

Some say hope is vain. Nietzsche even called it “the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.” But only hope without substance is vain. To hope without resolve to act, or without clarity: that can indeed prolong one’s suffering. But hope need not be without substance, and life need not be without hope. Maybe the specific thing you long for in your heart, that thing you know to be impossible, that thing can cause you heartache and distress, but if you accept what is and open yourself to the possibilities of what could be, then hope is not in vain.

I am hearing many friends say that 2013 was a hard year, and it certainly was for me and my children as well. But 2014 is beginning on a hopeful note, and I feel clarity and resolve coalescing around that hope.

To speak of “resolve” on New Year’s Day suggests that I may be making resolutions, but I prefer to put words into action through specific, concrete goals rather than vague resolutions. I’m inspired by my friend Lisa Scott’s words on the subject:

Have you identified your Five Big Goals for 2014?……Set Five Big Goals that give you clarity, focus, and a game plan, and then align everything you have to do, to those Five Big Goals. Make them your filter for what you will say yes to and what you will say no to…..then you can increase your effectiveness.  Don’t make resolutions…..set goals and then get busy.

Have you set your goals for 2014? I did, this morning, wrote them down on a fresh page in my journal, where I can refer to them often and remind myself of them. They are SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I won’t list them for you all, but in a year’s time, I hope to share them with you as goals successfully achieved.

I return to where I began: Hope. Hope will not lead me to the fulfillment of my goals, but it does give me energy to act in the direction of their fulfillment. As you look to the year ahead, my hope for you is for the fulfillment of your goals, whatever they may be, and for a life richer in all the ways you desire it to be.

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. ~ Epicurus

 

Gifts of the Magi

nativity-scene-1

Ah, Christmas. Even many of us who have left the formal church behind still feel the pull of tradition at this time of year. Years ago I asked my kids what they liked most about Christmas, and they both answered with no hesitation “Family.” This is one of the few times in a typical year when the Cleverleys gather together. We will be fewer in number this year, with one brother’s family away in Vancouver along with my mother.

To me, this time of year is about the returning of the light. Today is in fact the Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. The birth of Jesus represents the return of hope, and a reminder that life flows from love.

I have three favourite Christmas-themed stories: the 1951 Christmas Carol movie adaptation starring Alastair Sim (the non-colorized version); A Christmas Story, the classic tale of Ralphie and his quest for his most keenly-desired gift, a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock; and the short story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry which I reproduce in its entirety below.

Each tell a tale of hope, love, learning from one’s mistakes, and redemption. All good things to reflect on at this and any time of year.

To all my loyal readers, thank you for staying with me through all my ups and downs. Whatever your tradition or belief may be, I wish you peace, love, health, and joy as the seasons turn and the New Year begins.

And now, a clip from my #1 favourite holiday movie Christmas Carol, and then my favourite seasonal short story.

This is from the colorized version, unfortunately. And warning: the charwoman’s screams in the later scene are ear-piercing! But I do find both her and Alistair Sims’ performance in this scene highly entertaining, and I hope you do too. If you want to skip the dark and overwrought scene at the beginning, advance the clip to 1:55 and start there.

I first heard the short story The Gift of the Magi read by Alan Maitland on CBC Radio years ago (listen to it here). I find it a moving evocation of the spirit of the season. It isn’t the gift you give that matters so much as the thought behind it, as this story so cleverly (and somewhat ironically) points out.

If you’re still with me after there’s a story, there’s a special musical treat for Jethro Tull fans. In keeping with the spirit of the season, as it were.

The_Gift_of_the_Magi

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI
by O. Henry

Source: www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/Gift_of_the_Magi.html

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value–the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two–and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again–you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice– what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ‘em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

THE END

Remnants

As layers peeled away, desolate corners cleared out, and clutter amassed and dispersed, a few remnants of the life she and I shared come to the light …

happy wife happy life… a favourite catch phrase, jotted on the white board in our kitchen long ago, reminding us both of keys to happiness …
 
 
full potential

 
 
 
 
… a self-quote she jotted down and saved, sounding like an echo from an earlier time before acceptance …

found poem 1
 
  
 
… found poems, pieced together with magnetic word tiles on the side of appliances, speaking of love’s promise …

 
 
 
 
 
found poem 2… and its challenges …

 
 
 
 
stones long view

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 … all those stones she left behind, once laid all around our house. perhaps she wished they would hold her body to the ground ..

 
 
don't quit

 
 
… tacked on an unfinished wall, a poem/poster containing timeless wisdom and encouragement, even now …

 
 
Mutts-thank-you

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 … and then, on another wall, a reminder from a wise teacher of old through the eyes of a contemporary cartoonist …

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thank you, Traci.Traci's tree close up

Getting by

friendship certificateIt’s been only two weeks since Moving Day, and already it feels like much longer. It’s been an interesting two weeks. I had no home phone or internet for the first week, and no car for most of the second week. I’ve been in a bit of a stupor, falling short on sleep, yet trying to make myself do a little something every day to feel more settled in the new apartment. This transition time is making me uneasy, but at the same time, I have a strong feeling that everything will be okay, and that I am doing the right thing.

It’s back to that analogy of climbing Mt. Everest one step at a time. My Everest is a mountain of debt, which my current actions are helping me conquer. My house will be either rented out or sold by early spring; either way, the course is laid out and one day the mountain will be behind me. I know many others have been in my footsteps before me, including members of my own family. I am not a religious man, but in this situation, I have faith that the journey will be a success.

handel, messiah, owen sound, georgian bay concert choirHm, I may be feeling a little more spiritual than usual. It might have something to do with singing Handel’s Messiah with the Georgian Bay Concert Choir last night, accompanied by a chamber orchestra, a harpsichordist, and four professional soloists. We are a choir of seventy voices now, including eleven in my section, the tenors. I wish I could share with you an excerpt of that performance. It was an amazing experience, the hall resonant with our final “Amen” as over five hundred audience members leapt to their feet, many shouting “Bravo!” Not bad for a little town in Ontario’s near-north. Not bad at all.

To wrap up today’s brief post, I would like to shout out thanks to the friends who helped with my move, and to those whose advice and professional services helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. You know who you are. Thank you for making this difficult transition a little easier for me.

I guess it boils down to: I’m going to try and get by, with a little help from my friends …

Moving Day

house, winter, sky, snowAdapt. It’s one of the most incredible and helpful words I know. If you can adapt to a situation you can overcome it and end up out on the positive side of whatever you find yourself in. 

~ Traci Cleverley Pink

Once again, Traci’s simple wisdom helps me gain perspective on the newest change in my life.

Today is Moving Day, and I feel the weight of layers of meaning within those two words. I am, frankly, struggling with the reality of leaving my valley road home after twelve years, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. My entire life with Traci was here. My children became teenagers and then young adults while living in this house. I became attached to a certain way of being, living here, and now I am learning to let it go. This is a good thing, I know it is; it is time to move on. But I can’t help feeling a little sad and wistful about what might have been.

bin, dumpster, green, bin there dump thatThere was so much to clean up. Friends helped me distribute truckloads of accumulated household items to Value Village, the Salvation Army Thrift Store, and the women’s shelter. What was of no good to anyone anymore filled the big green dumpster sitting in my lane, or in the case of Traci’s many rocks and sticks, returned to nature.

stones long viewstones close upIt may sound strange when I say this, but I feel at peace with my decision to move and sell the house, and imagine Traci’s voice again reassuring me, letting me know it’s all right. This is, after all, her moving day as well. It’s two years ago today she moved off to some other plane of existence, her legacy still unfulfilled and yet continuing to inspire many people who knew her. I hear it all the time: friends of Traci’s inspired to lose weight, to complete community projects, to reach out to the less fortunate. And she continues to inspire me as well, in my career path and in many other decisions. I could have “held on” to this house a little longer, but doing so would only have delayed the inevitable. My gut is telling me to be ready for the next phase of my life, and that I need to be as unencumbered as possible for it, so let it go.

lilies and BuddhaTonight, the move accomplished, I’m going to have a little ritual time back here at the house, saying farewell and thanks for the memories. So many memories, so many things to be thankful for here.

Then, I will return to my new home, a spacious apartment where someone else pays for the heat, water, and property taxes, my kids and I have a roof over our heads which we don’t have to worry about fixing, and we all, including our pets, learn to adapt.

Traci's tree close upI am focusing on the positive, Traci, just like you always encouraged me to do. It’s a beautiful apartment, and I’m going to enjoy living there. In the meantime, someone is looking for a country home in the city, just like our valley road home, and it will be perfect for them. All will be well. A door is closing, and many more are opening.

house, door, winter