All posts by leslie-daniels-online@cogeco.ca

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS

Luckily, the shock did not register in her eyes. Her stomach, however, was another story as it filled up with gyrating butterflies trying to find their way out…

Rebecca shut her mouth and quickly looked down at the paper in front of her.

Regional Councilor Fred Cobourg sat impassively across the boardroom table, fiddling with his pen. When he did finally acknowledge her, it was as a first encounter, a polite nod to the chair of the meeting, not as a secret pedophilic memory…

 

*

 

The old wooden door was green on the outside, always had been, and always would be, she guessed. After all, it had remained so these last twenty years. It led to the basement at the back of the building. Back then, it was always closed…not locked, mind you, but closed. A maze of small rooms each housing an old unused coal furnace formed the majority of the large, cold basement. Fruit cellars lined a passageway from the laundry room to the larger storage room at the other end of the building, where the coal storage bunker had once been.

Separate staircases at the front and back of the building allowed entry from the outside. Anyone could open them and enter, but no one ever did. Those were the days. Today it wouldn’t be left unlocked for long.

Becca was never sure if anyone other than her and her mother had ever ventured down those stairs. When she was younger, they sometimes went up to her grandparents’ apartment through the basement, so as not to have to go out into the snow and cold.

Even then, she was scared. The sounds of people walking on the worn hardwood floors above her made her jump, and the dark space was full of creaks, moans, and smells. Sometimes her imagination would create monsters living in the small furnace rooms. Sometimes she just could not go down there — period!

 

*

 

The last time her best friend Sarah was seen, she was going through that old green door. It was only a few days after the woman next door dropped dead on her lawn from a massive heart attack. The details of that day remain just under the surface of her consciousness, even today, so many years later…

 

*

 

It was a Friday, and she had just turned eleven. Mrs. Boyle, a neighbor, was the first dead person she had ever seen, and it scared her silly. While the neighbors stood around in shock, her mother, a nurse, and Mrs. Boyle’s daughter, also an RN, tried desperately to resuscitate the poor woman. When the ambulance arrived Becca moved down the street as the attendants attempted to create room around the fallen woman.

Two doors down, the banker neighbor was also out on his veranda to observe the commotion. Becca had always wondered about him. Often, when she rode her bike or skated by his house, he appeared in the front window — watching, always watching. Many times she had overheard his name whispered in comments between the adults in her life, and quickly the subject would be changed if she ventured into the room.

No real explanation was ever provided, but she was warned to stay away from that family. For an inquisitive eleven-year-old all, these things just made her more curious.

Fred Cobourg and his wife Jean had two small children. He was friendly, tall and dark, with a light Irish accent. Jean, who was taking the baby for a stroll in his buggy this Friday afternoon in late October, looked more like a preteen, with her flat chest and pixie-cut hairstyle, than she did a mother of two.

After the ambulance arrived, Jean made her way through the crowd off to the park while Fred took Emily, who was five, into the house to change her clothes. Becca, who was playing with the little girl, went along to help.

When Emily stared to squirm and complain, he lay on the bed and began to tickle them both. Lying down beside them, he placed them on his chest and played horsey, bucking them up and down relentlessly. Giggling and laughing, they clung to each other and to him.

Only one time did she feel a little uncomfortable, and that was an accident. He sort of rolled onto her when climbing off the bed, but he made a joke of it, and they all started laughing as he tickled them both again.

The next day Becca was surprised when she met him at the entrance to the community park carrying a briefcase and his little puppy, Clover. She had always wanted a dog, but living in an apartment made that out of the question. The puppy, a golden cocker spaniel, was excited to see her, and Becca knelt down in the grass to pet her.

“Would you like to come with me to the bank? I need to pick up some papers, and you could watch the dog while I copy them?”

Of course she agreed immediately, and he let her hold the lead too. She was so excited.

The bank was, of course, closed on Saturdays back then, but she was only eleven and didn’t know that.

When they arrived, he quickly opened the door and escorted her downstairs to the lunchroom.

“You can play with Clover in here,” he said. The room was spartan, only containing a table, six chairs, and a couch along one wall with a picture above it. He was gone a long time. Both the puppy and she were tired from the long walk and playing. They curled up on the couch and soon fell fast asleep.

Becca awoke to him lying on top of her, his bare legs rubbing against hers… Back and forth, back and forth he moved. Every time he moved, she caught a glimpse of the picture hanging on the wall. She struggled to get out from under him, but he was just too big for her to have any effect. She cried. After what seemed like forever, he abruptly tensed, and his panting made him push his whole weight onto her small body.

Becca cried louder. “STOP,” she wailed, her voice shaking with fear. “Please stop, you’re hurting me.”

His voice, husky and soft, attempted to soothe her. “I’m just trying to warm you up. Your legs were cold from the air conditioning.”

Seeing she hadn’t stopped crying, he got up and adjusted his clothing, which appeared to be damp where he had leaned on something wet. He got her a drink and laid the puppy on her lap, telling her she was the best puppy watcher he had ever had. Confused, but basking in the praise, she settled down. He pointed to the picture of the woods on the wall and said, “Someday we can all go visit and play in the leaves. Wouldn’t that be fun?” His distraction worked, and by the time they left, she was fine with the promise of being asked to visit the park and watch the puppy again soon.

Sarah was gone by the following weekend. The community was traumatized, and Becca was completely heartbroken. Someone had seen her playing near the green door and going inside.

Others thought she had wandered off into the woods and gotten lost. The police canvassed the whole area, searching behind garages, in basements under the grandstand at the park, and the wooded area — many, many times. They turned up nothing. Days, then weeks passed. Life went on, but Becca never forgot her friend.

One day a couple of weeks later, while taking in the garbage pails, she felt rather than saw, or heard, someone lurking in the darkness. She put down the pail and turned quickly ready to race back upstairs when a voice she recognized said, “Don’t be scared… It’s just me… I came down here thinking maybe the police missed something when searching for Sarah. Help me look, you know this place better than I do, Becca.” His face was in shadow, but she knew he was smiling at her.

“Okay,” she said as he grasped her hand and led her deeper into the dark basement. The only light was from the little windows at one end of the stone hallway. He pulled her close to him, which was a bit disconcerting, but when he started to rub himself hard against her hand, arm, and body, she froze. Quickly, with little thought, she bolted. She did NOT want him to do what he did last time they were alone. Running, she made it to the other basement with the stairs leading up to her grandparents’ front door — and safety.

 

*

 

Rebecca never saw him alone again.

Oh she still “saw” him all right, exposing himself in his front window as she walked by, or sitting outside with his children playing, wearing shorts and no underwear. But she was a child and never told anyone, because she was so young and so scared. Embarrassment and shame were her constant companions until she learned the skill. She didn’t even realize what she was doing, but one day the wall was built, and she could live behind it, never thinking again about what had happened to her.

But even today, almost twenty years later, Rebecca wonders how he knew his way around her building’s basement. As an eleven-year-old, it had never dawned on her that he could have had something to do with Sarah’s disappearance. After that she was never allowed down in the basement alone again. Within weeks locks were placed on all entrances in and out of that building and its basement.

It wasn’t until years later that Rebecca realized the effect he had on her so many years ago. Her therapist told her that the banker had affected her ability to decipher proper sexual signals, still a problem she had to deal with. And until today, sitting across from him in the regional boardroom, she had always tried to put what happened so long ago out of her mind. Now, as a Regional Councilor, Fred Cobourg would be sitting on her environment committee… This was not going to work. Even if he didn’t recognize her, how could she function with him even in the same room?

In the last twenty years, Rebecca had become a strong woman, opinionated, smart, with highly placed contacts eager to help her. Maybe now was the time to tell someone about what he had done to her. In the back of her mind, she wondered if there could have been a connection to Sarah’s mysterious disappearance as well. Regardless, he should be held accountable for what he did to her and what he might still be doing to others.

She hoped that mystery would be solved, but more than anything, she wanted to be free of her memories. That, of course, would never happen. But taking some control over them made her feel relieved and stronger somehow. Fervently, she prayed that by her coming forward today, he would never again be in a position to hurt and molest other children, as he had her so many years ago.

The thought of all that had happened made her feel ill. She remembered something else too. Fred Cobourg had run in a provincial election. He hadn’t won, but he had taken on the police, criticizing them for using hidden video surveillance to arrest men who had engaged in public sex acts in a restaurant washroom.

How ironic and how utterly degenerate. The more she thought about it, the more troubled she became.

That was why, during the break of her first committee meeting, she met privately with the mayor, who was a member of her committee, a close friend and mentor. He was shocked by her story about the politician sitting in the next room, oblivious to everything but the normal chit-chat over coffee.

The mayor steered Rebecca to a vacant office, where they spoke privately and she attempted to calm her panic. “Are you sure this is the same guy, Rebecca? It was a long time ago, and people look different as they age…” His voice trailed off as he realized no one could forget a childhood trauma such as she related to him.

“Not only can I see him and hear him clearly, but he even smells the same.” With these last words she began to cry quietly.

Call it intuition, compassion, or just an empathetic reaction, but the mayor called the police.

Not ten minutes later, the police arrived.

Apparently, he had been a “person of interest” in Sarah’s disappearance so many years ago. But it wasn’t until they heard her story of her encounter with him in the basement that they became more interested. Years earlier he had stated that he had never been in that building, and his wife was his alibi for the time of Sarah’s disappearance.

Law enforcement likes to point out that criminals are not smart and are usually caught because they make the mistake of thinking they are. Case in point. Rebecca was just leaving the detective’s office after giving her statement when she saw Fred Cobourg’s daughter, Emily, who had come to drive him home, run up to her father in the anteroom and crying, she hugged him, tears running down her cheeks.

Immediately, Rebecca backed into the interview room, almost knocking over Detective Taylor, who was on his way out the door.

“Is something wrong, Rebecca? You look like you just saw a ghost.”

Rebecca was indeed pale, white, and shaking. “She’s wearing Sarah’s Mizpah locket, the one with the tiny embedded Eilat Stone that her grandmother gave her as an amulet of protection,” she whispered to the shocked detective. “I’d know it anywhere. The blue stone and engraved with the phrase, ‘The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.’” Saying those words caused her to begin to weep softly in remembrance of her friend so many years ago.

Pushing past Rebecca, Detective Taylor told her, “Mr. Cobourg just became a reason to reopen our cold case.” With that said he proceeded to corral the startled Emily and her father, leading them back into the interrogation room and shutting the door behind them.

Over the next few months, new information came to light. Fred Cobourg had been spending a lot of time wandering the woods. On a hunch, Detective Taylor decided to bring in the dogs and have them uncover just where he went on his hikes. They soon noticed a pattern.

A special team, as well as an excavator and ground-penetrating radar machine and dogs, were brought in to search for Sarah’s body disposal site.

Using the excavator, they decided to dig up the area the dogs led them to, following his scent. Then, using the ground-penetrating radar, which detected disturbances in the ground, they studied the area.

When the first tiny bone fragment was unearthed, they knew they had him and her.

His arrest hit the national TV stations, and so did his death not two days later. A massive heart attack, they said.

There would be no trial. No chance to discover “why”? Some questions are best left unanswered but would haunt all who loved Sarah — forever.

So this is what death looks like minus the caring and sense of loss, thought Rebecca. Bare white walls, tile floors, and locked passageways. No weeping and wailing. No family grieving. Just a refrigerated bed sliding in and out of its compartment for viewing and identification. She needed closure, and seeing his body lying there was all she would ever get.

Nobody won here. Nothing would bring Sarah back, so long gone but at least now resting where her loved ones could mourn. His family, however, wouldn’t get off so easily. His wife, children, and extended family would forever be tainted by his so-called life. Dying had been the easy way out, and true to form he lucked into it, suffering no consequences of his actions while on earth.

Maybe, just maybe, God would see it a bit differently.

One could pray, Rebecca thought as she left the mortuary and stepped back into the sunlight.

 

– The End –

EARLY WARNINGS

I grew up in the 1950s. The war was over and society was breathing a well-earned sigh of relief. Barely. Of course we still had the civil defense “duck-and-cover” training drills in our schools bringing the left over Cold War home to all. And who can forget the loud speakers in our communities and the horrible, nails-on-a-chalkboard screeching noise of the emergency alert system on our small TVs.

But little did any of us know how scientific research in the name of winning the war would ultimately affect us all in ways we could never have imagined and how society’s push ever forward into the technological age would eventually catch up with us and not necessarily in a good way.

The learning curve for climate change began back in the 1800’s with Joseph Fourier, a French mathematician realizing that gases could trap heat in our atmosphere. John Tyndall, a prominent Irish physicist, then discovered that carbon dioxide is one of those gases.

During World War II Svante Arrheniu worked on the energy potential of the atom under the “Project Uranium” launched by the Nazi authorities in 1939 and oversaw the production of heavy water in Norway. In 1950, he emigrated to the United States and by the end of the century he was able to calculate by hand that the global temperature rises in lockstep with carbon dioxide levels.

The work of Hans Suess, an Austrian born American physical chemist and nuclear physicist, and Roger Revelle, an American oceanographer showed that the oceans would and could not absorb the excess CO2.

This led directly to their conclusion that CO2 must be accumulating in the atmosphere, “Human beings are now carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future.” (Bill McKibben, The Global Warming Reader)

In 1958, when Charles Keeling, an American geochemist installed the first real CO2 monitor on the side of Mauna Loa in Hawaii and for the first time the world watched the CO2 level steadily rise, it all fell into place. Scary times.

Rachel Carson’s words written in the late fifties are hauntingly real: she attempted to warn us to the fact that, “….the chemists’ ingenuity in devising insecticides has long ago outrun biological knowledge of the way these poisons affect the living organism.

And what of Grey Owl’s prophetic ruminations in the mid-thirties, warning us that, “The forest cannot much longer stand before the conquering march of modernity, and soon we shall witness that vanishing of a mighty wilderness.” (The Men of the Last Frontier  18-18)

Will we never learn to listen to those who know and try to warn us?

Just because we don’t like the message doesn’t make it untrue, unreal, nor not something that can be proven scientifically. These are not “alterative facts” we are being told. They are neither meant to sensationalize, nor is there an economic gain to the messengers.

Archie Belaney, Grey Owl, was truly a man before his time, a leader and visionary to societies in Britain and North America and through his books to readers around the world. He alerted society to practices that would, if continued, cause the extinction of wildlife including Canada’s national animal the beaver, as well as other species and the forests that were their home and his wilderness.

Comparisons can be odious, but humour me for a moment. Picture the world of a century ago. A quarter of all wage earners in the US were unemployed. Severe drought caused the plains to become dust bowls. In Europe Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, marching into Austria a dictator who promised to “make Germany great again.” Elsewhere, Japan invaded China and in Great Britain King Edward VIII gave up his throne.

At the time of Grey Owl’s books The Men of the Last Frontier, Pilgrims of the Wild and Tales From An Empty Cabin, society was looking to be distracted from the problems of the world when along came a storyteller weaving hope and life into a dark troubled time. It was something and someone everyone could get behind and support.

His description of the Canadian wilderness is breath-taking and an example of how he penned his words into pictures and in doing so kindled a love in his readers that we as a country continue to have for our far north to this very day.

Here, even in these modern days, lies a land of Romance, gripping the imagination with its immensity, its boundless possibilities and its magic of untried adventure. Thus it has lain since the world was young, enveloped in a mystery beyond understanding, and immersed in silence, absolute, unbroken, and all-embracing; a silence intensified rather than relieved by the muted whisperings of occasional light forest airs in the treetops far overhead.”

Unfortunately Grey Owl died in April of 1938 and the world lost its focus on his message with the devastating effects of World War II. It was totally understandable, but a great loss that could have eased the environmental movement into action some thirty years sooner if history had not intervened.

However, his message was, and is, timeless and even more powerful and needed today as scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every twenty-four hours.

And in the United States there were ‘early warnings’ about what a Trump government would do with environmental concerns too. On the campaign trail he constantly espoused the theory that global warming was a hoax thought up by the Chinese. Easy enough to debunk with solid science and rational thought of which his advisors seem to have little.

The morning after the election and awakening on the brink of a new and terrifying reality, the world watched as a reality star president and his party faithful ordered the deletion of libraries of scientific research; darkened government information web sites and withdrew funding for important social programs including affordable health insurance. They systematically muzzled their own scientists; and ordered a wall to be constructed and concentration camps to be set up to hold undocumented aliens while fostering attacks on the environment all behind closed doors and by executive orders.

Conflicts of interest aside, monies taken from environmental protection are now being directly funneled into the pockets of billionaires and industrial representatives and their causes, or rather, “business concerns”. No more do they even bother to close the doors but do their raping and pillaging in front of cameras proud of themselves. Do they ever look behind them to the children and grandchildren they will be leaving this world to one day? My guess is no.

In 1962 Rachel Carson the noted American marine biologist, environmentalist and writer released her book Silent Spring which alerted the world to the environmental impact of fertilizers and pesticides.

A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.”

Not surprisingly she was immediately attacked by the chemical industry and many in government as an alarmist.

Unfortunately she died of cancer in 1964 but is remembered as an early activist who worked to preserve the world for future generations. Embedded within all of her writings, like Grey Owl before her, was the view that human beings were but one part of nature distinguished primarily by their power to alter it, in some cases irreversibly.

Over the decades work has continued by scientists around the world who built on those concerns and the earlier climate change research using satellites and ocean buoy sensors to erect scaffolding for observations, while the theorists used supercomputers to prove by the 1980s that our environment faced great and imminent danger from many sides.

Sound familiar?

And finally the research on global warming was brought together by the world renowned institutions such as the UN and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — as they began to combine their studies and knowledge for the betterment of the world, our planet, our spaceship earth.

According to Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, “President Donald Trump and his team are pursuing what I call a ‘control-alt-delete’ strategy: control the scientists in the federal agencies, alter science-based policies to fit their narrow ideological agenda, and delete scientific information from government websites.”

We cannot allow that to happen.

Even as the United States appears to close its doors on the world’s environmental stage, others are stepping forward. The EU’s European Investment Bank pledged “to maintain its target” of investing around $20 billion a year over the next five years to help fight climate change.

In defiance of President Trump, other countries are stepping forward to fight this world battle minus the US.

China, is poised to take a leadership role in the fight “by the end of this decade,” according to a report, as Chinese leaders see greater environmental and economic value in the cause.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made his position clear in a U. N. address — saying, “there is only one Earth in the universe and we, mankind, have only one homeland. China will continue to take steps to tackle climate change and fully honor its obligations.”

With China being the world’s biggest polluter, there’s plenty riding on Xi’s promises. However nothing says more than the deafening silence on climate change coming from the leader of the world’s second biggest polluter, President Donald Trump.

However, the world picture is not and shouldn’t be perceived as completely bleak although many will continue to consider 2016 as a watershed year and fear for the future. For them I highlight the following achievements during the tumultuous and historic year of 2016.

For example:

– The Giant Panda was been removed from the endangered species list;

– Tiger numbers around the world are on the rise for the first time in 100 years;

– India’s commitment to reforestation saw a single day event planting more than 50 million trees. This is a world record;

– China has announced a firm date for the end of the ivory trade;

– A solar powered airplane flew across the Pacific Ocean for the first time, pointing to a new era of energy possibilities;

– British Columbia protected 85% of Great Bear Rainforest, the largest coastal temperate rainforest on the planet;

– 2016 saw the designation of more than 40 new marine sanctuaries in 20 countries, covering an area larger than the United States of America;

– Atmospheric acid pollution, acid rain of the seventies, once a gloomy reality, has been tackled to the point of being almost back to pre-industrial levels;

– Fossil fuel emissions flat lined in 2016, with the Paris agreement becoming the fastest UN treaty to become international law – ever;

– A huge majority of EU Parliament voted to save Europe’s most important nature laws and the world’s biggest network of protected areas;

– Arctic foxes have been found denning in Finland for the first time in two decades;

– Shell Canada has relinquished its 40 year old offshore oil exploration permits in Arctic Canada;

– And last, but not least, America’s Arctic will be free of new offshore oil and gas drilling, at least for the next five years, fingers crossed.

Regardless of the positives one must remember that the fickleness of political will is why we are still talking about Grey Owl and Rachel Carson’s warnings today. Government decisions can be temporary, so as stewards of the earth we have to remain vigilant.

Already the keepers of the Doomsday Clock have moved the symbolic countdown to potential global catastrophe thirty seconds closer to midnight based on President Trump’s comments on nuclear weapons and climate change.

And that my friends is why we need to adopt a policy of argus-eyed awareness when it comes to public policy and environmental regulations. To this end we must support each other and the environment in any way we can whether it be through marches, letter writing, or even non-violent civil disobedience in some cases. Be heard. Make your voice count. Stand up for what you believe in and more importantly what you want to leave of this world as your inheritance to your grandchildren.

We must let them know that we agree with those saying: “There are certain things that we all accept as facts with no alternatives. The Earth is becoming warmer due to human action.

The diversity of life arose by evolution. And … an American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world” – the whole planet, our world, our Spaceship Earth!

God’s Waiting Room

(Edited and expanded: Mrs. Cunningham)

 

To all intents and purposes she was the epitome of a genteel lady, good breeding and cultured. There she sat in the fading light of a late winter’s eve. Her cane at her side and her book placed gently on her lap.

Mrs. Cunningham looked up at the others in the room from time to time as they wandered through on their way to god knows where. Sometimes she wondered who they were and what brought them to this place. The bald man who commanded attention by slapping his hand down on his table top annoyed her. She often wanted to just tell him to stop and learn some manners as he ordered people around.

She soon forgot her irritation with him as she watched the nurse pushing in the tiny woman with the crippled body and the lovely brightly coloured quilt. Poor dear. Her heart went out to her and she hoped she didn’t suffer too much pain as they attempted to straighten her in her chair before the large picture window.

As the elevator opened she couldn’t help but hear the nurse’s voice as it admonished her charge, “Mrs. Fox! Now you stop swinging that cane of yours or we will have to take it away and put you into a chair. Safer for me and you.”

“Nothing to see here,” she said as she continued out into the room, the cane now firmly in her possession.

The show over, Mrs. Cunningham patted her white hair and pushed a fallen strand back into place and smoothed out her flowered skirt, fussing a bit at a spot on the seam. Probably left over from lunchtime. She pulled her hand crocheted shawl around her shoulders shivering a bit so close to the frosted windows.

Opening her little white pocket book that lay on the table before her, she withdrew a tube of hand lotion. Jergens almond scent. Never used any other. With care she opened it and squeezed out a tiny amount which she massaged diligently into the age spots on her long, piano playing fingers.

All that was missing from this tableau was her glass of red wine. When her husband had been alive this had been their ritual. One glass before dinner, never more. Just enough in polite society. She never asked for it anymore. Maybe she was resigned to her newer rituals, or maybe, minus her husband, her wine faded into the past like many other things these days.

It wasn’t all that long ago that she would have serenaded the little audience here with selections from Chopin or some popular show tunes from Porgy and Bess. Today, however, her fingers ached with the arthritis that plagued her when the wintery winds blew. Playing was not an option.

The clock on the wall signaled five o’clock. The lights came on and the music began to play softly out of the speaker above her. She sighed, stood up and started to the exit. Her steps were unsure and she seemed to use her cane more than normal. Pausing, she straightened her posture, gathered her resolve, and continued across the room.

Mabel, her nurse for the evening, came up from behind her and took her arm to steady her. “Umm… Mrs. Cunningham dear, did you dress yourself today?” she asked quietly.

“Oh yes,” Mrs. Cunningham replied proudly.

Mable bent down and gently lifted her skirt to reveal pantyhose rolled down her legs to just above her knees, like the stockings of Mrs. Cunningham’s younger days, virtually hog-tying the poor woman.

“Come with me my dear and we’ll fix you up in no time at all. And then you’ll be ready for dinner. It’s pot roast tonight and apple crisp, your favouites.”

MRS. CUNNINGHAM

To all intents and purposes she was the epitome of a genteel lady, good breeding and cultured. There she sat in the fading light of a late winter’s eve. Her cane at her side and her book placed gently on her lap she looked up at the others in the room from time to time as they wandered through on their way to god knows where.

Mrs. Cunningham patted her white hair and pushed a fallen strand back into place and smoothed out her flowered skirt, fussing a bit at a spot on the seam. Probably left over from lunchtime. She pulled her hand crocheted shawl around her shoulders shivering a bit so close to the windows.

Opening her little white pocket book that lay on the table before her, she withdrew a tube of hand lotion. Jergen’s almond scent. Never used any other. With care she opened it and squeezed out a tiny amount which she massaged diligently into the age spots on her long piano playing fingers.

All that was missing from this tableau was her glass of red wine. When her husband had been alive this had been their ritual. One glass before dinner, never more. Just enough in polite society. She never asked for it anymore. Maybe she was resigned to her newer rituals minus her husband and her wine faded into the past.

The clock on the wall signaled five o’clock. The lights came on and the music began to play softly out of the speaker above her. She sighed, stood up and started to the exit. Her steps were unsure and she seemed to use her cane more than normal. She paused, straightened her posture, gathered her resolve and continued across the room.

Mabel, her nurse for the evening, came up from behind her and took her arm to steady her. “Umm… Mrs. Cunningham, did you dress yourself today,” she asked quietly.

“Oh yes,” Mrs. Cunningham replied happily.

Mabel bent down and gently lifted her skirt to reveal pantyhose rolled down her legs to just above her knees, like the stockings of Mrs. Cunningham’s day, virtually hog-tying the poor woman.

“Come with me my dear and we’ll fix you up in no time at all. And then you’ll be ready for dinner. It’s pot roast tonight and apple crisp your favouites.”

Out Mastering the Masters

I guess I had always known. If I had to rely on killing to survive, I would become a vegetarian. Oh I might learn how to fish but that would be the extent of my foraging of wildlife as a food source.

So like many thousands before me, it was no surprise that I was immediately drawn to GREY OWL, the tall, braided, handsome, gray-eyed Canadian legend. Dirty moccasins on my great aunt’s white broadloom aside, I had heard his story long before I could read my great uncle Lovat Dickson’s books The Green Leaf (1938), Half Breed (1939) and Wilderness Man (1974) and was enraptured.

Horatio Lovat Dickson was my great uncle. Rache, as he was known, was a notable publisher and writer, the first Canadian to have a major publishing role in Britain as a director of Macmillan & Company in London. He is best known today for his biographies of Grey Owl, Richard Hillary, Radclyffe Hall and H. G. Wells. His last work was The Museum Makers (1986), a history commissioned by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Rache had only been in London two years when in 1929 at the age of 27 fate brought Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) and he together. The man he was introduced to described himself as a half-breed born in Mexico of an Apache mother and Scottish father.

He arrived in Canada at the age of seventeen in 1906 intent on learning the ways of survival in the wilderness that he so loved. For his first few years he lived the life of the hunter trapper in the wilds of northern Ontario trading in furs for his livelihood.

When he had inadvertently killed a beaver mother his horrified young Indian wife Anahareo persuaded him to foster the orphan kits. Seems she played on Grey Owl’s Achilles heel. He empathized with the animals he trapped, always feeling deep remorse about taking their lives for him to survive. That sadness stayed with him and eventually would change his life when he began to see the horror of trapping through his young wife’s eyes. The fact that his wife loved their adopted brood, McGinnis and McGinty, led to Grey Owl saying: “She loved them and I loved her. How could I not love them too.”

Since the end of WWI the fur trade was inundated with those seeking their fortune from the fur trade. Whole beaver colonies were being decimated by the indiscriminate slaughter of these gentle animals.

McGinnis and McGinnty were the beaver kits who lived in Grey Owl’s log cabin and became quite the tourist magnets even though it was an arduous journey mostly by canoe into the wilderness to observe them back in the 1930s. Of them he writes:

“Had my finger pressed but lightly on the trigger that fateful morning, these two tiny creatures, whose coming saved from slaughter so many of their kin who followed them and materially changed the lives of several people, would have passed like two wisps from some wandering breeze, back into the Great Unknown from which they had so short a time before set out.”

Grey Owl and Anahareo decided to try and save these animals from certain extinction. Thus began their journey. Once he decided to give up his fur trapping livelihood Grey Owl needed to find a way to survive in the wilderness while searching for a sanctuary to save what was left of the beaver population – if they could. A life-long ambition to write saved the day when a manuscript he sent his mother found its way to a English magazine and was published.

Immediately his writings attracted a following and he was asked to write a book about his conversion from hunter to conservationist which the British journal Country Life promised to publish when completed.

However, when they saw fit to change the title of his book, without informing him, to: Men of the Last Frontier, Grey Owl refused to have anything more to do with them stating they just didn’t get it. His book was about Nature, not man. His famous quote makes this philosophy quite clear, “Remember you belong to nature, not It to you.”

So when Hugh Eayrs, then president of Macmillan Publishing in Canada suggested Rache as an honourable man who would serve him well and not change his words, Grey Owl declared him his publisher of his second book Pilgrims of the Wild.  This, the most famous of all Grey Owl’s remarkable books is the story of the journey he and his wife took without hope or desire of personal gain, looking to find a sanctuary for the last survivors of the “Little People”, the Beaver, before they became extinct in Canada.

Through lengthy written correspondence Uncle Rache and Grey Owl got to know one another. Grey Owl was a prolific letter writer and Rache was fascinated by his simple and genuine character which was fleeing from the social order in which we all live.

In his book Wilderness Man The Strange Story of Grey Owl, Rache declares that it was indeed ironic that he himself had left Canada to seek his fortune and that his “first money-maker would be in a book by an unknown Métis from the adjoining province from which he came,” in Canada.

As an editor and publisher he said, “One does not have to be an expert to pick out a great book; it is the not-so-great that demand judgement. Important books have their own authority; something masterful is apparent as soon as one begins to read. Pilgrims of the Wild is to life in the Canadian wilderness what Robinson Crusoe is to life on a desert island.”

Having read and re-read all of Grey Owl’s books I have to say I totally agree.

An excerpt from Grey Owl’s — The House of McGinnis:

“A LOUD THUD, A CRASH, THE TINKLE OF BROKEN GLASS, THEN silence. A sound as of a hand-saw being run at great speed by an expert, a bumping, dragging noise and a vicious rattling; then another crash; more silence.

“And what,” asked my guest as we neared the camp, “is that an earthquake?”

“That,” I answered, with some misgiving, “is the beaver, the ones you are coming to see!”

We entered the cabin, and the scene within was something to be remembered, the devastation resembling that left in the wake of a young whirlwind. The table was down, and the utensils it had held had disappeared; a four-foot stick of wood protruded through a shattered window, and below the one that remained a quantity of wood had been piled, affording facilities for the effective use of a battering ram. The washstand had been dissected and neatly piled in the bunk from which the blankets had been removed, these being included in a miscellany of articles such as dishes, moccasins, and so forth, with which the stove was barricaded. With hurried apologies to my visitor I assessed the damage, but beyond the disarrangements just mentioned, there was no serious harm done; that is, so far, no lives had been lost. I had been away two days, being delayed by soft weather, which, with its exhilarating effect on these animals, accounted for the delirious attack on my humble fixtures.”

As we are all writers here, I have added a brief passage we should be able to relate to as Grey Owl’s describes the challenges of writing while Jelly Roll another of his beaver housemates observes:

“And while I wrote Jelly pursued her own studies, and carried on with her highly important jobs such as moving and placing objects, and took care of little household chores such as banking up the bottom of the door, or the re-arrangement of the wood pile. Often she would sit bolt upright beside me on the bed, looking up in a most intent manner at my face, as though trying to fathom what my purpose could be with that queer scratching noise.

She was a paper addict and was much attracted by the rustle of the stationery, and constantly stole wrapping paper and magazines and books, taking them home with her, and when she was on the bunk with me she would reach out very often at my notebook and other papers, and we sometimes had lively discussions on this matter in which I was not always the winner.

One day however she succeeded, quite, I think, beyond her expectations or mine. Forgetting to erect the barrier between the bunk and the table, I returned from cutting wood one day to find everything pushed off it, including a camera, a lamp, and a row of books; and she had registered her entire approval of my literary efforts by removing the MS. bodily.

A few sheets of my work were scattered on the floor, but the rest were not to be seen. A visit of investigation to the abode of the culprit was received with squeals of mingled trepidation and protest, but I routed her out and raked up the manuscript with the blackened wooden poker and a piece of wire, the paper fiend meanwhile trying desperately to maintain her rights of ownership.

Luckily all of it but one page was recovered, and as she had no doubt scooped up the entire pile with that steam shovel of a bottom jaw of hers, it was little damaged.

But the resulting mix-up was very little short of cataclysmic. Imagine about four hundred loose sheets closely written on both sides, in pencil, with interpolations, alterations, and notes wedged in here and there, with lines and arrows and other cabalistic indications of what went where, and unnumbered, and you may get the idea.

It took me the best part of three days to reassemble, and in some instances, re-write the script. This time I painstakingly numbered the pages.”

A Grey Owl’s publisher, editor and promoter, Lovat Dickson observed that no one could put into words what Grey Owl’s appeal was. However audiences felt themselves ennobled by supporting it. In fact, thirty years later protest demonstrations seemed to mimic the same devotion and passion to an issue. Grey Owl’s message provided the first view into what unregulated progress could do to the environment in which we live. It made the public who had been satisfied, up to that time to enjoy the benefits of progress without asking what the cost of it might be, uncomfortable.

So impressed was Rache with Grey Owl he persuaded him leave the wilderness, cross the ocean and involve himself in the promotion of his book by personal appearances and lectures.

No one was prepared for the scope of his reception. Audiences were captivated by this tall romanticized version of the Indian, handsome, gray-eyed man with the mesmerizing voice and powerful stage presence.

For more than three months Grey Owl lived with Uncle Rache and his new bride in their little cottage in Chelsea. Both men were insomniacs and so talked most nights until dawn. Grey Owl only required a few hours of sleep but Rache suffered. However he just couldn’t drag himself away from this man and the stories he told.

Demand for more lectures ensued when sold out venues had to turn people away. Grey Owl gave talks, signed books, showed films of his ‘beaver people’ and the wilds of Canada, sometimes three lectures a day, each one different, with no notes, all over England to capacity crowds. It was utterly amazing to everyone. Grey Owl was a star…

Two years later he repeated this arduous lecture tour undertaking with even more success and the addition of a private audience with King George, the Queen and the two princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. A further venture into the United States followed and a Canadian sold out crowd at Massey Hall in Toronto before setting off home to Prince Alberta an exhausted, sick man.

GREY OWL, Archie Belaney, died on April 18, 1938. He died at age 49 years and seven months old from a pneumonia most likely exacerbated by his exposures to the mustard and chlorine gases on the battlefields of WWI. Much, much too young. An international controversy over his origins ensued immediately inundating the media all over the world resulting in Rache’s first book A Memorial to Grey Owl entitled: The Green Leaf”, defending the man, his mission and life.

Back in the 1930’s Grey Owl’s message, warning us that, “The forest cannot much longer stand before the conquering march of modernity, and soon we shall witness that vanishing of a mighty wilderness” was a harbinger of today’s environmental crisis climate change.

Will society never heed warnings? What is wrong with us? As an environmentalist and citizen activist of the Love Canal days I sadly conclude that little has changed in the last century.

Just because we don’t like the message doesn’t make it untrue, unreal, nor not something that can be proven scientifically. These are not “alterative facts” we are being told. They are neither meant to sensationalize, nor is there an economic gain to the messengers.

Archie Belaney, Grey Owl, was truly a man before his time, a leader and visionary to societies in Britain and North America and through his books to readers around the world. He alerted society to practices that would, if continued, cause the extinction of wildlife including Canada’s national animal the beaver, as well as other species and the forests that were their home and his wilderness.

Comparisons can be odious, but humour me for a moment. Picture the world, Grey Owl’s world. A quarter of all wage earners in the US were unemployed. Severe drought caused the plains to become dust bowls. In Europe Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, marching into Austria a dictator who promised to “make Germany great again.” Elsewhere, Japan invaded China and in Great Britain King Edward VIII gave up his throne.

Grey Owl’s books were released when society was looking to be distracted from the problems of the world. Along came a storyteller weaving hope and life into a dark troubled time. The message was something and he, someone people could get behind and support.

His description of the Canadian wilderness was breath-taking. Listen to an example of how he penned his words into pictures and in doing so kindled a love in his readers that we as a country continue to have for our far north to this very day:

Here, even in these modern days, lies a land of Romance, gripping the imagination with its immensity, its boundless possibilities and its magic of untried adventure. Thus it has lain since the world was young, enveloped in a mystery beyond understanding, and immersed in silence, absolute, unbroken, and all-embracing; a silence intensified rather than relieved by the muted whisperings of occasional light forest airs in the treetops far overhead.”

Unfortunately the world lost its focus on his message with the devastating effects of World War II. It was totally understandable, but a great loss that could have eased the environmental movement into action some thirty years sooner if history had not intervened.

However, what he stood for was, and is, timeless and a message even more powerful and needed today as scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every twenty-four hours.

Lovat Dickson wrote three books about Grey Owl. There are a lot of similarities between the two men which I will delve into further as I continue to write but suffice it to say they both felt strongly about Grey Owl’s message and today no doubt would champion the issue of climate change as it threatens our world. As a writer I would only wish each of us could find an editor and publisher like Lovat Dickson that continued to spread the message long after his author and friend was gone.

And that my friends is why we all need to adopt a policy of argus-eyed awareness when it comes to public policy and environmental regulations. To this end we must support each other and the environment in any way we can whether it be through marches, letter writing, or even non-violent civil disobedience in some cases. Be heard. Make your voice count. Stand up for what you believe in and more importantly what you want to leave of this world as your inheritance to your grandchildren.

There is much more to this story as I continue to write and research into the combined lives of these two great authors of the last century. I have no illusions and am not attempting to out master the master storytellers but hope to direct the spot light back onto two of Canada’s exceptional Canadians….

Why do I write?

An author friend asked an interesting question about what motivates a person to write.

Why do I write?

Well I don’t write to make money, or become famous. That boat sailed away many years ago. LOL

And since I don’t write fiction maybe my motivation is a bit different from those who do.

I’m not sure but I think that I write to answer questions. Sometimes they are ones that I need the answers to in order to understand the world around me. Sometimes I need to just express what I feel, have learned, surmise, or understand about an issue, societal problem, or solution.

And sometimes, when things get tough, I write humor as a release…

Muzzling The Protectors

No one likes to be contradicted. So ordering silence when one can serves a purpose. The problem is that this has been going on for ages and we now as the human race will be the ones to suffer for it – again.

Just when we thought we were making progress in the world coming to terms with issues that are affecting our very survival as a species. We had been warned decades ago by scientists like Rachel Carson and conservationists and naturalists like Grey Owl.

The threats are not new.

The fact that the broader public is being informed is.

In my experience, in Canada, it used to be that when something bad was going to be publicly identified the conservative government changed the Minister of that portfolio. Sometimes even the top bureaucrat of the department was moved as well.

Many mornings I would awake with thoughts of an issue soon to be discussed and hopefully solved to discover that overnight not only did the figurehead morph into a somewhat shorter/taller version of whom I expected to deal with but the sex had changed too.

The result? Stop. Desist. Wait, for at the least six months while we get the new kid on the block familiar with ALL the myriad of issues involved in a decision being made on that issue. We’ll call you.

The Donald just added a caveat to his minions: A media blackout at the EPA effectively barring staff from awarding any new contracts or grants. This as part of a broader communications clampdown within the executive branch, which includes “detailed specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency’s social media accounts.”

The message is clear. So to the industries, pipe line proposers, polluters extraordinaire, in the U.S. it is full speed ahead. Do what you want, the watchdog is muzzled. You’re welcome.

The Fox.

boB IS A CANADIAN, eh?

Now you might ask yourself from time to time….”What use is a Canadian… and how can they be recognized?”

Well . . . they are cute, cuddly little things, non-assuming, humble, placid and oh so polite. …

Visitors from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

LOOK up in the sky . . .
Canadians, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with their bare hands, and who, disguised as the average man mild-mannered, and cute (Paul Gross-like) fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, HOCKEY and the North American way.

A few Canadian Actors…

Jim Carey, Ryan Gosling, Tom Green, Pam Anderson, Will Arnet, Dan Aykroyd, Justin Bieber, Raymond Burr, Neve Campbell, John Candy, Tom Cavanagh, Michael Cera, Tommy Chong, Michael J. Fox, Nathan Fillion, Lorne Green, Graham, Green, Paul Gross, Phillip Hartman, Jill Hennessy, Corey Haim, Natasha Henstridge, Michael Ironside, Margot Kidder, Taylor Kitsch, Eugene Levy, Evangeline Lily, Rachel McAdams, Eric McCormack, Dean McDermott, Norm MacDonald, Howie Mandel, Leslie Neilson, Mike Myers, Carrie-Anne Moss, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Anna Paquin, Mary Pickford, Christopher Plummer, Sarah Polley, Jason, Priestly, Ryan Reynolds, Caroline, Rhea, Seth Rogen, Will Sasso, William Shatner, Martin Short, Donald Sutherland, Alan Thicke, Brendan Fraser

Some Canadian Musicians…

The Tragically Hip, Rush, Helix, I Mother Earth, Sloan, Our Lady Peace, Nickelback, The Guess Who, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, A Simple Plan, Theory of a Dead Man, Triumph, Lighthouse, the Stampeders, Chilliwack, Thor, VoiVod, BTO, April Wine, Teenage Head, Goddo, Moxy, The Killer Dwarfs, Saga, Red Rider, Honeymoon Suite, 54-50, the Arcade Fire, and of course, let’s not forget Anvil! How about Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, Glass Tiger, Frozen Ghost, Sheriff, Soul Attorneys, Gordon Lightfoot, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Never Ending White Lights, Moxy, Five Man Electrical Band, Loverboy, Helix, Steppenwolf, Barenaked Ladies, Crash Test Dummies, Aldo Nova, Headpins

And other Canadian inventions of note …

Manure spreader
Canola,
McIntosh Red apple
Peanut Butter, Instant mashed potatoes
Pablum
Canada Dry Ginger Ale
Poutine
Nanaimo Bar
Butter tarts

Walkie-Talkie
television camera
Standard Time
atomic clock
Java programming language
Black Berry
Pager
56k modem
telephone
Bruton compass
IMax movie system
Radio telephony
Fathometer (sonar)
computerized Braille

separable baggage check
hydro-foil
first commercial jetliner
electric street car
Canadarm
variable pitch propeller
snowmobile
crash position indicator
the parclo – partial cloverleaf
uno motorcycle
bixi
JACO- robotic arm for wheelchair
power knee – robotic leg device
TM4 MФTIVE
Quasi-turbine
birch bark canoe
electric wheelchair
prosthetic hand
compound steam engine
electric car

snow blower
foghorn
rotary snowplow

gas mask
G-suit
Canadian pipe mine
SONAR
ASDIC
the Bear trap (helicopter device)
CADPAT

table hockey game
basketball
goalie mask
multi-dynamic image technique
Digi-Sync
Five pin bowling
Lacrosse
Ice hockey
instant replay
Abdominizer
Trivial Pursuit

Insulin
Cobalt-60 cancer treatment
electron microscope
Explosives Vapour Detector
A process to extract Bromine
Bone Marrow Compatibility Test
process for producing Calcium Carbide
invented the process of Acetylene production

Plexiglas
Easy-Off Oven
The garbage bag
The jolly jumper
Caesar (cocktail)
Bi-pin connector
Wonderbra
Cardiac pacemaker
Alkaline battery
Automatic Lubricating Cup
Caulking gun
Electric Oven
WEEVAC 6
Egg carton

A process for distilling Kerosene
A process for making pulped wood paper
The paint roller
The Robertson screw
Ardox Spiral Nail
The Marrette wire connector
The rotary vane pump

=================

Now my friend boB wants to lay claim to a few of these but he really has no proof …

I mean do you believe that he created the first Wonderbra when trying to catch his pet raccoon, willomeniA during the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 ?

Really boB?

And of course we KNOW (chuckle) that he was a’courtin’ memphiS minniE when she wrote the famous “When the Levee Breaks” which was then reworked by Led Zeppelin, and became one of that group’s most famous songs…

Dream on boBby – boy…dream on….eH?

ೋღ✰ღೋ

Morning Has Bro_ken – ♪♫

I guess I had always known. If I had to rely on killing to survive, I would become a vegetarian. Oh I might learn how to fish but that would be the extent of my foraging of wildlife as a food source.

So like many thousands before me, it was no surprise that I was immediately drawn to the tall, braided, handsome, Canadian legend. Dirty moccasins on blue broadloom aside, I had heard his story long before I could read my great uncle Lovat Dickson’s books The Green Leaf (1938), Half Breed (1939) and Wilderness Man (1974) and was enraptured.

Years later I would become an environmental activist. My style however was a little different than Grey Owl’s kind of hands on conservationist approach to Canada’s unsullied wilderness and all its inhabitants of the 1930s. He lived at one with nature taking only what he required to live and giving back tenfold in his lectures, books and films. Saving the beaver and gaining renewed respect for the aboriginal peoples were just some of his many goals.

Now me? I love all animals. I especially love my dog. However, I am afraid of dogs in general having had a bad experience at age four with a cocker spaniel jumping up on me and knocking me down. Henceforth I would cower in cars, refusing to get out when there was a dog as greeter. I just never told our dogs of my fears. Little did they know over the years that they could have ruled the roost so to speak, with an iron paw and a loud bark.

I’m also afraid of bees, well anything that buzzes. I don’t kill anything either which puts me at a distinct disadvantage. Neither do I swat, kick, or try to scare anything away. I don’t get out of moving vehicles anymore though; so I think I’m getting this phobia under some control. Right?

I once sat in my bedroom upstairs, towel across the space between the floor and door waiting for my husband to get home because a bee got in the kitchen door as I let the dog outside. When he got home and found me there, his only comment was: “What did you think the bee would do, find its way upstairs, drop to the floor and crawl under the door?” In hindsight pretty funny. Not.

I don’t care. Laugh if you will. I still remember the day sitting in the car at a publicity photo shoot for my husband’s band. We were out at an old abandoned railway trestle and it was scorching hot out and me sitting in the car with the windows rolled up, waiting. Sweat rolling off me I sat and watched a bee land on the hood of the car, walk up to the window and shimmy itself down through the ventilation grate…Next thing I knew it was squirming through the inside grate trying to get into the car. Me? Oh, I was standing outside with the door closed watching fascinated.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an environmentalist and do truly love animals and nature in all its forms. As such, I advocate for a proper balance between humans and the various natural systems on which we all, human and non-human, depend. I have spoken out publicly in support of our natural environment and the sustainable management of its resources through changes in public policy and individual behaviors. I have worked with government agencies and citizen groups alike to assure problems are addressed and new technologies are both developed and used.

I just like to do all this from inside a building or in front of a TV, petting my dog, not tree hugging in the great outdoors. Bees you know…

I’m certain, Uncle Rache and Grey Owl would understand.

Grey Owl was truly a man before his time, a leader and visionary to societies in Britain, Canada and the United States and through his books to readers around the world. To his peers and royals alike he preached a message that society needed on the backs of the First World War and the subsequent great depression and heading into another war time.

Picture it. A quarter of all wage earners in the U.S, were unemployed. Severe drought caused the plains to become dust bowls. In Europe Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany marching into Austria and Japan invaded China. In Great Britain King Edward VIII gave up his throne. People were looking to be distracted from their troubles when along comes a storyteller weaving hope and life into a dark troubled time. Something everyone could get behind and support.

Archie was always obsessed with the Indian as a child in Hastings England where he was raised by two maiden aunts and a grandmother. He fantasized about his roots wishing he had been born into the culture he loved.  After leaving England at sixteen years old he set out to learn their ways of survival in the wilderness of northern Canada. He became not only a trapper but a guide and keen woodsman. He was made a blood brother after proving himself to a band of Ojibwa and given the name of Grey Owl.

One hundred years ago…. 1917…. Archie Belaney came home from his stint in the Great War. A twice injured foot and the mustard gas exposure he suffered from led to depression as he wondered if he could ever get back to his life in the wilderness. And he was shocked to see that all was not how he had left it. Speculators had virtually raped the forest of trees leaving miles and miles of rocks and tree stumps absolutely desolate country in their wake. They trapped fur bearing animals almost to extinction using viscous equipment that left the animals when caught tortured until they thankfully succumbed.

Seeing his livelihood disappearing and watching the horror on his young Indian wife’s face led him to think. When they accidentally killed a mother beaver Anahareo (Gertie) convinced Grey Owl (Archie) that they owed it to the poor things to take the pair of orphaned kittens home to raise.

This experience proved to be an epiphany for him. Through them he began to see that all animals feel and have feelings. Living hundreds of miles from civilization he began to write about the wilderness and his beaver children. It was sometime before he received financial aid from this and they were lucky to survive with no other income.

He once postulated that “Kindness to animals is the hall-mark of human advancement.” And to this day I totally agree. Conversely if my dog doesn’t like a person, they are suspect in my books until proven otherwise.

Grey Owl as an author was a massive success and so was invited to Britain to go on an extended lecture tour. Journalists started to refer to him as a “full-blooded red indian.” He did not contradict this label because as he once said he would do anything it took to save the beavers. After his death it was this controversy which attached itself to his name. He was called a fraud and an imposter but those who knew him and what he stood for would have nothing of it.

Grey Owl’s books reflect his philosophy of life and could be summed up in a word “tolerance”.  He did not fight to have the logging halted or the fur trade abolished. He saw compromise as a solution to most environmental concerns. Trees felled and new ones should be planted. Animals should not be hunted in the spring but allowed to survive in nature to produce more before taking the older animals in as humanely a method as possible. Clean water and air should be available for all of nature.

My great uncle was Grey Owl’s biographer, publisher and friend. After his untimely death at age fifty Rache compiled The Green Leaf “to record the closing scenes of Grey Owl’s life, and to reflect, by setting out some of his letters and some extracts from his published and unpublished writings, something of the integrity and nobility of his spirit.”

And so here we are 79 years after one of the first and greatest environmentalists and conservationist’s death at a cross roads. Some think of 2016 as a watershed year and fear for the future. Some don’t even realize how much was accomplished in that year.

For example:

The Giant Panda, arguably the world’s second cutest panda, has officially been removed from the endangered species list;

Tiger numbers around the world are on the rise for the first time in 100 years, with plans to double by 2022;

India’s dogged commitment to reforestation saw a single day event planting more than 50 million trees, a world record;

China has announced a firm date for the end of the ivory trade, as public opinion is becoming more staunchly environmentalist;

A solar powered airplane flew across the Pacific Ocean for the first time, highlighting a new era of energy possibilities;

British Columbia protected 85% of Great Bear Rainforest – the largest coastal temperate rainforest on the planet;

2016 saw the designation of more than 40 new marine sanctuaries in 20 countries, covering an area larger than the United States;

Atmospheric acid pollution, once a gloomy reality, has been tackled to the point of being almost back to pre-industrial levels;

Fossil fuel emissions flat lined in 2016, with the Paris agreement becoming the fastest UN treaty to become international law;

A huge majority of EU Parliament voted to save Europe’s most important nature laws and the world’s biggest network of protected areas;

Arctic foxes have been found denning in Finland for the first time in two decades;

Shell Canada has relinquished its 40 year old offshore oil exploration permits in Arctic Canada;

And last but not least, America’s Arctic will be free of new offshore oil and gas drilling, at least for the next five years.

However, this is the reason we are talking about Grey Owl today, almost a century after his death. Government decisions can be temporary. So as stewards of the earth we have to remain vigilant.

Thirty five years ago I led a successful fight to oppose the siting of a poorly planned, technologically unsound hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility. I followed that up working for the government in producing the safest plan to deal with Ontario’s industrial wastes. My eldest daughter was five years old.

She is now forty one and we still don’t know where these wastes are going or if they are being treated properly. Why? We thought we had done the job and retired from the battlefield. Just ask Lois Gibbs of Love Canal fame whether you can ever afford to “retire”.

Oh we have made strides in many areas. Today we have PETA; hunting and trapping regulations and guides; environmental laws and conservation organizations all over the world. However all it takes is a change in a government’s perceptions and goals to send us back years.

Take climate change for instance. According to David Suzuki’s analogy on climate change, “We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit.”

Wonder what Grey Owl would have to say about that?

Deep Fried boBby – Strumped at last?

Oh geesh … really? A sunscreen that smells like KFC extra crispy chicken? Now hmmmm…. Let me see who might find this appealing …?

Our buddy boB was on top of it like gravy on fries.

Officials said some 3,000 tubes of fried chicken-scented sunscreen were snapped up in two hours. Yep you read that right: sun-protection lotion, SPF 30, was scented to smell like fried chicken. Buyers included both Trump’s nemisis our pal boB and Trump his orange, greasy self.

Now boB took his pumpkin spice everything this Halloween one step further. His costume…Donald in all his glory. boB’s face is now officially “Donald Trump-orange” thanks to Crispy chicken sunscreen …while his hair remains the flyaway version of corn silk gone retro…

trump-bob

However, boB may have missed the point the REAL Donald is trying to make this election season. Since subtlety is not boB’s forte, long or short suit, as we all well know.

In some venues it’s suggested that this may just be the Trump camp’s strategy to “get the black vote” out. After all what’s not to like? Tacos for the Mexicans and fried chicken aroma for the black vote. Sounds like the deplorables have hit pay dirt in a manner of speaking. Right?

Now as well as being able to see him coming a virtual mile away one will be able to ‘smell’ him and his deplorables… in any crowd…boB on the other hand found the smell a bit of a problem and was last seen running madly through town followed by a menagerie of dogs, cats, werewolves, Anna and Elsa’s, bears, ghosts and goblins, the odd witch and rats galore.

It is 🎃 Halloweenie 🎃 don’tcha know?