Monday, September 16, 2019

Declaring myself

I just realized that it's been two weeks since my last moodling. Not that I haven't been doing plenty of it in other places while I'm harvesting my garden and working on other special projects. Harvest time is coinciding with a Federal Election, and I've decided that I can't sit on my hands this year when it comes to political participation. Less online moodling, and more action!

So as I'm dealing with produce, I'm also declaring my affiliations and getting active in a local election campaign, and I'm inviting you, my readers (all 16 of you, ha!) to do the same.

No photo description available.
My daughter is wearing this t-shirt these days...
You may hate the idea of talking politics, but I'd like to assure you that there has never been a more important time to do so. The human population of our country and our world need to get our act together and step up to the challenge of reducing and adapting to the changes in climate that we are noticing more and more. For most of us in Canada, climate change is not serious yet, but we can't let that lull us into complacency! 

Listen to our scientists -- the people who study what's going on because of their passion for our planet have been telling us that its warming is endangering our survival. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report gave us 12 years to cut our fossil fuel emissions drastically, or we may not last much longer as a species.

But some say that 12 years is optimistic -- already we are seeing mega storms, mega fires, mega floods, mega droughts, mega heat waves and more than 7 million climate refugees looking for safer places to live since the beginning of this year alone... and on it goes.

In my part of the world this summer, we have had one of the coldest and wettest seasons on record, and I've heard lots of people comment, "Global warming? What global warming?"

My response is that it may not be hot here, but Europe saw temps around 45 degrees in some places this summer. Tuktoyaktuk is already losing land due to higher seas. Greenland was warmer than Edmonton a lot of the summer. Stream temperatures in Alaska reached the predicted temperature for 2069, fifty years ahead of time, and spawning salmon can't survive that kind of warmth. The burning of the Amazon is only making things worse. And how about Hurricane Dorian? Dismiss all these things as one-offs, and you're missing the message that our planet is trying to send us all.

If you know me at all, you know that I'm not the kind of person who is a pessimist. But I'm a realist, and I cannot, in good conscience, work for one of our three best known political parties. I'm working for the Greens because they are the only ones who are constant in making climate issues a priority.

I know that a lot of people are worried about vote splitting creating an opportunity for a less appreciated party to come up the middle and win, but this time, voting strategically is not an option for me. I want to see vote shifting -- using our limited resources to get to a greener economy, away from big polluting industries and toward options that care for people and the planet.

I am voting for, and working for, our climate. Sure, there are many other issues, but if we don't have a liveable environment, none of them matter. Though our Alberta government might be in denial, the world is shifting from fossil fuels to greener options, and I want Canada to hurry up and get on that bandwagon. And I'd like to see how the Greens would bring that about, because the other parties don't seem to understand that climate change and moving away from creating greenhouse gases is the main issue for this election and for our survival.

If we we work for our climate, we'll have a better planet overall. If we don't work for our climate, we may not have many more elections to try and fix things. 

We don't have much time. And making positive sacrifices for the sake of the planet right now, when things are relatively okay, will be much easier than adapting to bigger disasters further down the road.

Please, check out your green candidate, or better yet, call them and see if there's something small you can do to shift votes for the climate.

The time to make a difference is now.


Monday, September 2, 2019

A truly amazing story

Before I tell my amazing story, you might like to see this:

It's a song I learned in the early 80's from a wonderful folk singer named Joan MacIsaac. Joan was a warm and wonderful person who performed locally, and we had a few common friends who would let me know when she was performing so that I could attend her shows. I loved the song you see above from the very first time I heard it. So I borrowed some money from a friend, bought Joan's Wintersong album, and committed those lyrics to memory almost immediately. I wanted to sing them for my high school friends at a party we had right after graduation, before we made our way in the world. I remember Joan mentioning that she liked to sign off on her personal letters with the song's title, and I've adopted that, too, often shortening it to just, "Hovering, Maria," when I write to my friends who have heard me sing the song. That would include my best friend, and friends from summer camps where I met some pretty special people.

After finishing university, I traveled around North America and Europe for a year with a performing group where I made some more life-long friends. I taught the song to some of my cast mates, and we sang it to the rest of our cast at a year-end talent show. And I also sang Joan's "When I Can't Play" as my grande finale, inviting them all to sing along. Needless to say, they loved it.

A few years later when I attended our Edmonton Folk Music Festival, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut when another performer mentioned that Joan had died, still very young, and with so much talent untapped. He sang "Wintersong," and I sat and cried. Joan had been so positive and encouraging of me and my rather inferior talents, and when she sang, she shone like the sun. The music world dimmed for a time -- and I was really sad when my record player needle wore out and I could no longer listen to her album. But it's a rare occasion when I don't play "I Hover Over" on my guitar, though I realize now that I've got it a little bit "wrong," probably because of all the years of singing from my faulty memory! I've sung it for many special people over the years, usually when there was soon to be "miles between us..." that, of course, "don't mean a thing..." because "we conquered them so many years ago..."

It was a chilly day in February of 2010 when I realized that an over-seas friend was celebrating her birthday, so I sent her an email signed, "I hover over your left shoulder." She responded within the hour, saying, "I remember! But I can't remember the melody!" Having nothing better to do right then, I set up our digital camera and started to make a video, but Buddy the Budgie struck up a scolding ruckus. So I opened his cage door and the second take is what you see above. I couldn't have planned it better myself, with him sitting on my left shoulder being his boppy little self! He was chattering up a storm, all his favourite phrases, like "Whatcha doin?" and "Hey, Buddy!"

Worried about copyright infringement, I searched the internet to see who I could ask for permissions before posting the song, and even tried to look up Joan's record label, but came up empty as Joan's music was written pre-internet. Taking a chance that no one would object, I uploaded the video, and sent the link to my friend overseas, who was very pleased to sing along. The video has also made the rounds with other cast mates and a few high school buddies.

A couple of years ago, I was snooping around YouTube and found that a certain Paul MacIsaac had put many of Joan's songs up on the platform. I sat and listened to them all, and sent a little note via his YouTube channel to thank him, but whether he saw it or not, I don't know. I'm not sure how these things actually work a lot of the time, so maybe it didn't get through.

Fast forward to this year. I keep some of my videos on this blog in the far right "Songs" tab under the header picture above, and have received some wonderful comments over the years from people who knew Joan MacIsaac, or who wish they had. But in April, something really special happened. I received a message from one of Joan's immediate family:
Hi Maria. I have always enjoyed your videos of you singing Joan's music. Your joyful delivery is reflective of the encouragement and caring in her music and warms my heart and soothes the feeling of the loss of her incredible voice and talent. I am so grateful that you posted those when there was nothing out there of Joan's music after her death. I am Joan's sister Molly and had sung with her as a duo before she went solo... I witnessed the creation of many of her songs and there are still many more that were never published. Our brother Paul posted her music after you did. All our family had the opportunity to watch your videos and were grateful and encouraged by it. It was due to our great loss that there were years of silence. But now the music is still circulating and encouraging others as it was meant to be....
I responded immediately, so thrilled to have heard from Molly. I asked her where she was writing from and whether her family would prefer that I take my videos down. Unfortunately, there was no way of knowing whether she would ever see my message. I heard nothing further from her, and because her comment was "Anonymous," I had no contact info. Suspecting that Joan had family connections to the Maritimes, I thought Molly might live there. I gave up, hoping that somehow she would know how much I appreciated hearing from her.

In mid-July, I attended my nephew's wedding here in Edmonton. It was a lovely event, an opportunity to really enjoy the party and dance up a storm with my hubby without the responsibilities we had at our daughter's wedding two weekends before. I was thoroughly enjoying myself, being a bit of a goof, leading a chorus of That's Amore to get the newlyweds to kiss, and introducing myself as "Auntie Maria" to tell a story about my groom nephew for the same reason. My sister-in-law and I were very much enjoying dessert and a bottle of red wine when a small, attractive and sharply dressed woman with her hair in a silver bob came to me saying, "You don't know me, but I know you, Maria. You've sung my sister's songs on YouTube, and I've been so grateful for that!"

My chin dropped to the basement. "Molly??!!"

We were immediately wrapped in each others' arms and laughing at the quirkiness of life bringing us together as guests from opposite sides of a wedding. Molly is a dear friend of my new niece-in-law's family, and we have had several lovely email exchanges since that evening. There's no denying that she and Joan are sisters. And there's yet another connection between us -- my son-in-law has a close friend named Claire, who is the niece of Molly and Joan.

I am flabbergasted by all these sudden connections, and I think it's safe to say that Molly is, too. It has meant a lot to me to reconnect with someone so close to Joan, and it meant a lot to Molly that I thought to post a few low-budget home videos of Joan's music online when the loss of Joan was still too painful for her family to do it. As Molly says, sometimes we do these little things, put a little positivity out there for the world, with no way to know how far the ripples go.

It's been amazing to have these ripples come back to me with a new friend. I hope to sing with Molly sometime soon. Her family and mine both like to have singing parties, so perhaps we'll attend each others' somewhere down the road.

In the meantime, here is Joan singing the song that started it all, as posted to YouTube by her brother, Paul. No one can beat this -- she was an excellent guitarist, and I still just love her voice! Enjoy!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Sharing in God's goodness

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Psalm 68.

In your goodness,
O God,
you have provided for your needy ones,
all your creatures.

You have given us everything we need
and more.

We should be singing and dancing
in joy and gratitude,
exulting in your goodness to us.

You have given us a home filled with abundance,
a prosperity we can scarcely take in.

Love in abundance is your name
since you're always
showering us
with blessings,
restoring us
when we languish,
and sheltering us
in your goodness.

In your goodness,
O God,
you have provided for your needy ones,
all your creatures.

Help us humans to forget our egos
and remember that all you give us
is meant to be shared
with all of your creatures.


* * * * * * * 

God's provision for us needy human beings is pretty incredible when you really think about it. It's just too bad that our wisdom hasn't kept up, that we've forgotten how interconnected we are with everything God has made. In this week's 5 paragraphs of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis names some of the amazing technological advances of the past two centuries, and notes our need to rediscover wisdom for our planet's sake. See for yourself by clicking here and reading paragraphs 101-105.

We've completed the second chapter of Laudato Si, The Gospel of Creation, and now we are moving into Chapter three, The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis, which will look at how "human life and activity have gone awry, to the serious detriment of the world around us." Our encyclical writers "focus on the dominant technocratic paradigm and the place of human beings and of human action in the world" (paragraph 101).

"We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change" begins paragraph 102, and here's a long list of some of the changes mentioned:

steam engines
the telegraph
chemical industries
modern medicine
information technology
digital devices
domestic appliances
transportation systems
bridges, buildings and public spaces
nuclear energy
information technology
knowledge of our DNA (all in paragraphs 102-104)

And I'm sure there are many more that our writers didn't name. God-given human creativity has brought about all these wonders, many of which have vastly improved the survival and fulfillment of many human beings on earth. The problem is that these things have also given human beings "tremendous power" and dominance over one another and all God's other creatures.

The problem is that our technological advances keep occurring faster than our understanding of what they mean for all of creation in terms of "human responsibility, values and conscience" (paragraph 105). Our awareness of our limitations is clouded by human ego -- "look what we did! Isn't it incredible?!" -- preventing us from remembering -- "every choice we make matters, and we must be careful because some of our choices can affect other creatures in ways we may not be aware of." If we really think about it, there hasn't been a bridge built or a medical procedure invented that hasn't altered the lives of countless creatures, human and non-human, in one way or another. As has already been mentioned four times already, everything is interconnected. But we have the freedom to create, and unfortunately we don't always use wisdom to remember those connections, or use our creativity the way God intended.

The last three sentences of paragraph 105 sum it up pretty bluntly:
Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.
I'd like to underline two key words in this last bit: spirituality and self-restraint. It strikes me that, had human beings created that long list of wonders above while in spiritual, meditative relationship with God, one another, and all of creation, self-restraint would have come naturally, and wisdom would have played a much larger role in our creation of a world with fewer problems. But we humans are often in too much of a hurry to wait for Wisdom, she who calls to us so beautifully in Chapter 8 of the book of Proverbs (click here to read it).

As this Sunday's Psalm reminds us, God has provided us with everything out of God's goodness, and we need to remember God's goodness, earth's limits and some wise self-restraint in the way that we use our knowledge and power in our world.