Monday, November 27, 2017

YESSS!!!! You CAN work with City Hall...

This evening, city councilors and the mayor voted 8-5 in favour of changes to the Holyrood Gardens Development application, including its referral to the Edmonton Design Committee for further consideration. Residents of Holyrood in attendance (including me) are pleased with the outcome of the public hearing, and look forward to working with the City and the developer toward a better plan for the safety and well-being of all who live in the Holyrood area. (For last week's moodling with background on this, click here.)

Huge kudos the ordinary citizens of the Holyrood Development Committee for offering strong presentations on behalf of their community. The hundreds of hours of time and effort paid off. And thanks to City Council for listening and realizing that a better plan is possible.

Good things are happening in Holyrood!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A prayer to the One who runs the universe

Cefalu Christus Pantokrator cropped
Cefalu Christus Pantocrator
photo by Andreas Wahra via Wikimedia Commons
O God,
you are to be praised and adored
for the many wondrous ways
that you reveal yourself to us.

We thank you...

You were there before all time
and will continue to be beyond all time.
You are deep within us
and extend beyond the furthest reaches
of our understanding.

We thank you...

From the moment we begin to exist,
we are hidden
in the warmth and unity that is you,
just under our mothers' heartbeats.

We thank you...

When we take our first breaths
and are welcomed into the arms of our parents,
we become part of your beautiful world.

We thank you...

As we grow
we learn about our surroundings
we come to know you
through all your creatures,
in the sparkles on the water,
the leaves on the trees,
the stars in the sky,
and the love of family and friends.

We thank you...

As we work alongside you
to build lives of hope and meaning
for ourselves and others
we learn to share what we have
and care for our corner of your creation.

We thank you...

We know you through our limited senses
and through the many ways we have learned to see
both the microscopic and the far reaches
of your universe.

And you are ruler of it all.

Your reign is here and now
wherever love is found,
and always yet to come
as we grow into you.

We are humbled,
and blessed
to be your co-creators.

Teach us to be wise
in your ways,
to feed the hungry,
give drink to the thirsty,
welcome the stranger,
clothe the naked,
and visit the sick and imprisoned.

We thank you, we praise you, and we bless you
who run the universe.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

You can't fight City Hall... but maybe you can work with it?

Over the past year and a half or so, I've had something of an education in how the Edmonton City Planning Department works. I have to admit that I'm not terribly impressed thus far, but I have hope that all shall be well, somehow.

Our neighbourhood of Holyrood has a strip of rather dilapidated two-story housing units on its southwestern edge. Regency Developments bought the land some time ago and made a development application to the city that could potentially see 1200 units sitting on a half-block wide strip of land (5 hectares) between 90th and 95th Avenue on 85th Street, north of the Bonnie Doon traffic circle.

Having spent a full day last Friday in Council Chamber listening to the pros and cons of this development, it's quite clear that the City of Edmonton Planners have been trying to bend city bylaws in order to accommodate the developer rather than expecting the developer to abide by the city's bylaws. As a result, there are so many problems with this Transit Oriented Development plan -- problems with parking, traffic, safe pedestrian routes, height of the buildings and the shadows they create, lack of affordable housing opportunites, and the list goes on. The developer's consultation with the community amounted to a few open houses where Holyroodians were given two picture boards like the boxy image above and asked, "would you prefer skyscrapers model A or skyscrapers model B?" Details were lacking, and opportunities to offer alternate ideas were ignored, making conversations around changes to the proposal one-sided at best.

On Friday last, the arguments for and against the proposal were presented during a public hearing that ran from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm -- a long day in everyone's books. This coming Monday (November 27) the public hearing continues at 3 p.m. The community is hopeful that City Council will send the proposal to the Edmonton Design Committee, a group that uses best practice principles for urban design in its considerations and recommendations for development. The Holyrood Development Committee, comprised of a group of local citizens who have been extremely dedicated to creating a better plan, is hoping to fill the council chamber with people who would like to see a Transit Oriented Development that all Edmontonians can be proud of. If you fit that category, come join us!

Holyrood Gardens Development Application Public Hearing
3 p.m. Monday November 27
City Council Chamber
1 Sir Winston Churchill Square

Come support your city's decision-making process...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

We are all children of light

After hearing today's reading from St. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, I am smiling and shaking my head at God's wisdom -- and timing. Paul writes: But you, beloved, are not in darkness... you are all children of the light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness." (1 Thessalonians 5:4a, 5) And there is a part further on in the reading (verse 11) that also fits my experience today: "Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing."

Back story: Since my last visit to Taizé in October of last year, I have had a dream of sharing a peace prayer with communities of different faiths in our city. The Brothers of Taizé start each week with a simple Sunday evening prayer for peace, a half hour of silence that ends with a chant asking, "Grant us your peace, O Lord..." For the past year, I have been trying to connect with people of different faiths who would be open to such a prayer.

Today, through a series of fortunate events, my friend Julien and I spent a few hours meeting and praying with people of an interfaith community that is very excited about the possibility of peace prayer together. The Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre was celebrating the birthday of their founder this afternoon, and the community offered us wonderful hospitality by means of a delicious afternoon snack, a meaningful performance about caring for creation offered by their young adults' group, heartfelt prayer in call and response chants in Hindi, Sanskrit and English, a wonderful vegetarian supper (complete with birthday cake), and lots of excellent conversation. (Stay tuned to these moodlings for information about an upcoming interfaith Peace Prayer...)

But what struck me most about our visit was the beautiful prayer just before supper, at which men and women of the community waved lamps in large circles and held the light out to all in the room, waving the light toward us as a sign that we are all filled with God's light.

It underlined for me the understanding that the names we give to God and the forms we imagine that God may take are not what is important in this life or in our prayer. What matters is that we understand that God lives and loves in every being on this planet, and that we are all children of the light no matter how we believe. In this regard, we have more in common than we can possibly understand.

O God of light,
thank you
for showing us your light,
for filling us with your light,
and for lighting our way
toward the unity and peace
you intend for all of creation.

Bless us
and remain with us
as we seek you
and find you
in each other's light.

Help us
to care for your beautiful creation
by living simply
and by recognizing your light
in all that you have made.

Show us
how to encourage one another
and build each other up
so that we may work together
until all enjoy
the peace and unity
you intend for our world.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Helping the Rohingya

Sometimes, I'm a bit slow on the uptake. After months of hearing about the Rohingya refugee crisis, I finally made a donation to help them this afternoon.

It can be hard to know how to donate, but it's only procrastination that kept me from it until now. I always have complete confidence in giving to Caritas Canada (also known as Development and Peace)  because it offers clear ways to assist partner organizations in areas affected by injustice and disasters. This summer my 23-year-old daughter had the experience of meeting with partners working in Bolivia, and she came back more committed to D&P than ever. The stories she tells are enough to convince anybody about the importance of Caritas' work!

D&P's partner organizations are staffed by people who are best able to serve the needy because they come from the same place, speak the same languages, and understand the difficulties that brought about the crises as well as potential solutions. The workers in Caritas Bangladesh are on the ground where the refugees are, already doing what can be done, and a donation to Caritas Canada helps their work in providing shelter, hygiene kits and sanitation facilities, and protection for children. Donations made before November 28th will be matched by the Canadian government.

To learn more about our brothers and sisters fleeing persecution in Myanmar, click here, and if you are able, send Caritas Bangladesh some financial assistance. It's the least we can do. And, perhaps, the best.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Simple Suggestion #269... Drive smarter

Did you hear about the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice in the news yesterday? Being released on what was the statutory Remembrance Day holiday for many people, its timing wasn't the best, as often happens with these very important news items.

Basically, 15,364 scientists from 184 countries around the globe (the most co-signers of a journal article ever recorded) signed a joint statement (please, go ahead and read it by clicking here or on its title above -- it's a quick and informative read). The Warning's signatories are doing what they can to push us, earth's human citizens, toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, restoring damaged ecosystems, limiting human population growth, and reining in material consumption. They share information about our planet's losses since the first warning in 1992, and tell us:
To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world's leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.
In understanding that Earth is our only home and that it is in serious trouble (as Pope Francis noted in his June 2015 letter to the world, Laudato Si:On Care for Our Common Home), we need to make some serious sacrifices. The scientists' warning offers many suggestions for transitioning to a more sustainable world, and encourages us to look at how we can live more sustainably to reduce our impact on our over-stressed planet and to work from the grass roots to bring about change. Which changes can we make right now?

One thing that we have done as a family was to give up certain conveniences, including our second car. It's been challenging at times when people are going in different directions, but living in a city, we are fortunate to have transit or taxis (or family and friends to help us out on occasion) when too many things are happening at once. We've also forgone attending the odd event just because it wasn't possible to make our single family vehicle bilocate.

But for many people in our spacious and vehicle-oriented country, it's not possible to give up personal transportation. So for those of us who have vehicles, a number of organizations (including the City of Edmonton) have joined with an online program called the Smart Drive Challenge, a program designed to teach us how to be more efficient with the fossil fuels we do use. Click on the highlighted link above to check it out.

Of course, even better than taking the Smart Drive Challenge would be to give up vehicles altogether -- like my friend Terry has. She's been car-less for years, has saved a fortune in insurance, gas, maintenance and registration fees, and only rents a vehicle once in a while for those things she can't do on foot or by public transportation. I wonder how many fewer greenhouse gases she's responsible for. Terry proves that it IS possible to go one step further than driving smarter, and simply give up having a car in Edmonton for most days of the year. But make no mistake, it is a sacrifice. She's at the mercy of our transit schedules a lot of the time, and bus service here seems to end at the supper hour in many cases.

Going car-less is a really radical idea, but somehow, I suspect that our 15,364 scientists would approve. If that's a bit too radical for you, I'll bet they'd give a secondary thumbs up to the Smart Drive Challenge. Try it!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seeking Wisdom

O Wisdom,
we find you in all your goodness, beauty and truth
when we allow love to lead us.

O God of Wisdom
how quickly you show yourself
when we allow you
to work in us,
to do what is right and just.

You wait
for us to seek you --
even as you are constantly seeking us.

You appear on our path
and meet us in our minds
whenever we see you
and love you
in all that surrounds us.

When we act with compassion
Wisdom is in us
and we are in Wisdom;
you are in us
and we are in you.

Help us to remain in you always.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembering them

We've marked Remembrance Day in many different ways over the years, from visiting City Hall's cenotaph to holding our ears against the 21-gun salute at the Legislature grounds to witnessing the indoor parade of veterans from the Butterdome bleachers at the U of A. But I think we've found our favourite way to remember with the small crowd that gathered at the north end of Ainsworth Dyer Bridge at 11 a.m. for the past two years.

Today was a sunny Remembrance Day. Lee and I parked in Gold Bar Park and walked over the Ainsworth Dyer Bridge across the North Saskatchewan, reaching the quiet crowd waiting in Rundle Park on the other side.

The ceremony is simple. A pastor begins with a blessing, reads a scripture of lament and one of hope "...they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks...". Then the names of 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan are read out four at at time, and members of the crowd come forth with small wooden crosses emblazoned with the soldiers' names, and stand them in the snow. The crosses were made by Aart Van Sloten, the father of Ainsworth Dyer's fiancee.

Standing in the snow, watching families, friends and members of the military press the crosses into the ground and remember lost soldiers with a nod or a salute, is a powerful thing because it makes the sacrifice of our veterans more tangible and the world's need for peace more real.

Once the crosses were set, taps, one minute of silence and reveille were played. We heard "They shall not grow old..." and Flanders' Fields, and everyone present sang O Canada.

Simple and powerful. One way to show our gratitude and respect for those who died in one of the many Canadian involvements in global conflicts, and our hope for a future filled with peace.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A talented bunch, singing about hockey

At the recent 50th Anniversary Gala for Development and Peace, all who attended were treated to some pretty great entertainment, including the Logan Alexis Singers. Just four of them came to sing for us with their drums and powerful voices, and I had goosebumps. Their talent and gentle humour added a lot to the evening, and I knew I'd have to look up their Connor McDavid song and share it in these moodlings.

Connor McDavid is one of our local hockey stars, the next great hope since Wayne Gretzky. The Logan Alexis singers really know how to sing and are pretty passionate, not only about their singing, but also about encouraging the Edmonton Oilers!

Even if you're not a hockey fan, here's their song for your enjoyment.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy 50th Anniversary, Development and Peace!

For the last 50 years, a Canadian Catholic organization has been doing what needs to be done when it comes to standing up for justice and peace in the developing world. I'm old enough to remember quite a few of the yearly Share Lent campaigns and different projects that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has offered in those 50 years, but it's only as our oldest child has become a staff member with CCODP that I've paid closer attention to the work of the organization. Development and Peace, as it's less officially known, has taught many Canadians that people in the developing world aren't looking for charities to parachute in with North American solutions to their local problems -- rather, they are looking for partners to help them develop their own solutions more fully. I have no difficulty with supporting projects found at because I know that the communities most affected by the projects are on board 100%.

50 years of social justice work around the world is worth celebrating, and there have been events and activities planned throughout this anniversary year, including a series of videos recalling D&P's many projects in the past. The video below is one of seven three-minute shorts to give you an idea of what's been going on since the Canadian Catholic Bishops founded Development and Peace (now also known as Caritas Canada) in 1967. It's definitely worth watching this amazing solidarity timeline. I've posted the first of seven below just to get you started... Enjoy!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Come to the quiet

This Sunday's readings remind us of the importance of humility and how the beauty, goodness and truth in our lives are not something we claim in order to hold ourselves above others, but are simply gifts that come from God. Self-importance gets us nowhere -- it's genuine humility that is truly appealing. Just think of the humblest person you know, and the feelings he or she elicits when you think of that person.

I think this is why today's Psalm (131) appeals so much to me. It reminds me to be humble, not to occupy myself with things that are beyond what God wants for me. That, and it brings to mind the music of John Michael Talbot, in particular his Come to the Quiet album, which I wore out during my first year of teaching. It's all about the greatness of God, and God's gifts of mercy, peace and justice. So this morning I was delighted to find that someone managed to put it up on YouTube for our listening enjoyment. My very favourite of JMT's sung prayers (Psalm 62) is at the 39 minute mark on the video (sound file, really) below, but the whole album is better than ever, probably because I've lived a lot in the years since I last heard it. Listening to its gentle melodies is like coming home.

Here are John Michael Talbot's lyrics to his sung version of Psalm 131, the last one in the video below. Have a lovely Sunday, and enjoy.

my heart is not proud
nor are my eyes fixed on things beyond me.
In the quiet
I have stilled my soul
like a child at rest on its mother's knee.
I have stilled my soul
within me.

O Israel, 
come and hope in your Lord
do not set your eyes on things far beyond you.
Just come to the quiet.
Come and still your soul
like a child at rest
on his daddy's knee.
Come and still your soul

Friday, November 3, 2017

A critical time for reducing waste

Waste reduction week 2017 (October 16-22) was just a few weeks ago, and since then, city managers have discovered that part of our  Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence is having some structural problems. The snowfall on the aging roof of the Composting Facility's 18-year-old aeration hall, a building large enough to hold 2.3 CFL-sized football fields, has rendered the building unsafe.

This means that all of the city's waste, including our organic compostable kitchen scraps, now must be trucked 85 km down the road to the landfill at Ryley, AB, until a solution can be found. In the meantime, Edmontonians need to do everything we can to reduce our waste. Recyclable materials will still be recycled -- it's the things that can't be recycled that we should give more consideration.

Do you know where your garbage goes? How many fossil fuel emissions are involved in getting it to its destination? If you've never given the idea of composting a thought, now's the time to do it. If there's a corner of your yard where you can put a compost bin that you can fill with organic kitchen waste (plant matter, vegetable peelings, fruit cores, coffee grounds, tea leaves, etc.) over the winter, now's the time to do it. If you'd rather start composting in the spring, compostable waste can be frozen in an outdoor plastic garbage can until things warm up. The Compost' S cool website has different ideas to help homeowners reduce the compostable part of their garbage, and our libraries have many resources about composting and recycling ideas.

As for the non-compostable stuff, in Edmonton we need to make sure that we're making full use of our blue bags for recyclingEco-Stations for electronics, chemical waste and large items, the Reuse Directory -- which lists charity organizations that accept reusable items -- and Edmonton's own ReUse Centre. Other cities and towns have their own ways of reducing the tonnage that goes to landfill -- for many Canadians it's just a matter of doing a little research and jumping on board with the good planning that's already in place.

But probably the most important thing we can do is question ourselves every time we are about to dispose of something. We need to ask ourselves: Is this really garbage? Is it still usable in any way? Can it be repaired? Would someone else be able to use it? Should I throw it away or find a different way to get rid of it?

And we need to question ourselves every time we go shopping, whether it be for groceries or other household needs. Again we can ask ourselves: Do I really need this right now? Can I wait a little longer for it? Is there a way to buy it without so much packaging? and other questions, depending on the item...

Now is a critical time for reducing waste in our city, but really every day should be. It's simply good practice to keep waste reduction in mind at all times because all of the "leftovers" in our lives will have to go somewhere else eventually, even once this problem with the Compost Facility is fixed. It's always better if our things can be passed on, composted, or recycled rather than ending up in a landfill 85 km away!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Simple Suggestion #268... Make a simple fruit fly trap

Every fall when I bring in garden produce, and sometimes midwinter if I buy bananas, more fruit flies than people live in my kitchen. Tiny flies can be quite an annoyance, but they aren't hard to catch with the right trap.

Unfortunately, marketers have come up with mostly plastic but snazzily-designed traps that you can find in many hardware or department stores. But don't buy more stuff when it's really easy to make a trap of your own with common items around the house!

The one pictured is just an emptied beer bottle (any bottle will do) now holding about 1/4 c wine vinegar (you can also use cider vinegar), a little splash of water, and a few drops of dish soap. Some people just leave the mixture in a dish for the flies to drown in, but I find the bottle takes less counter space and can be moved without spillage. I like to shake it up every so often -- it seems to strengthen the vinegar fragrance that attracts the flies and they get trapped in the bubbles, which eventually dissipate until I shake the bottle again. The whole thing is simple, harmless to the environment, and it sure cuts the fruit fly population. The vinegar/soap mix can be poured down the drain when I'm done with it and the bottle recycled, unlike the plastic traps sold in department stores. And bonus: there are no sticky plastic chemical strips.

Our garden has been put to bed and, sad to say, my summer beer stash went with it. The snow is falling, we're eating our last few tomatoes, and fruit fly season is pretty much over for this year. But I'll keep at least one empty beer bottle on hand in case those pesky flies make a comeback somehow. How about you?