I Said it Out Loud: I am hanging up my red rubber nose.

wilftiger

ROAR!

I was out in a social environment, drinking a beer, chatting. In reference to something, someone said, “Oh yes, you are a clown aren’t you?”

Having said out loud that I was retired made it true. But it has been a long time coming. First off the fact that parents started telling me that clowns were “scary” and they would prefer that I not dress up. (I think I am way more scary without my clown makeup but hey, if they don’t want clown face I don’t do clown face.)

But I also started to notice how physically demanding it was. I love talking to the kids about what they imagine they are becoming as I paint their faces, or just seeing their level of commitment as they patiently wait as I apply the paint but there are many younger people who have steadier hands and stronger backs.

And I have grandchildren now. I am so lucky to get to see them as they grow into this world. I think now I need to spend my time doing what I can to see they continue to have one.

Clownlaughing

It’s been fun.

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Random Acts of Apples!

I was riding my bike to Value Village (okay how GREEN is that?) and I saw a man picking apples from a tree with one of those long pole apple picker things and he gave me a bag! Not Far From the Tree doesn’t pick fruit in Scarborough, one of the many ways Scarborough is shunned by the Smoke, (note to self: get over it), but this guy told me he drove to their office and donated a bunch of apples anyway! I am making a savoury pie of ground turkey and green apples this morning before it gets too hot!

freeapples

little green apples make great apple sauce and are tart enough to compliment a savoury pie.

Going to the Riverdale Art Walk!

I was once a member of the Artist’s Network of Riverdale back before the area was gentrified and you could find studio space for cheap. It was an exciting time in my life, I was emboldened by my recent brush with death (non-hodgkins lymphoma) and liberation from fear (went on a trip with my teacher as her soto deshi).

The Riverdale Art Walk has survived for twenty years now as an initiative of The Artist’s Network. It has artists showing in the Jimmie Simpson Park and building along with some of the businesses on Queen Street. It is respected as a great venue for Fine Artist’s, from emerging to mid-career artists of all visual media.

For some time I found it very painful to visit as I grieved that that part of my life because the demands of my personal life had made it impossible to actively pursue a career. Now that I am older I have come to terms with the fact that I can not physically paint any longer (and I have found other expressions for creativity) I am just happy to see old friends and be amazed by the work. It is a great way to spend a day!

 

Winter Woes and Wonder

I was lucky to grow up where I could see the sunset across fields in winter, to see where weather came from, to see people skating on ice toy-sized. Winter arrived exactly where I was and it could swallow me. In my slightly distorted reckoning of things, it was a kind of freedom. Winter let me see horizons.

Sigrun’s latest post includes two paintings of winter got me thinking about my childhood impressions of winter. Bruegel always makes me think about childhood, why would require some thought, hmmm, another day perhaps.

The atmospheric changes for a child go way beyond temperature (despite the fact that in most places in Canada winter temperatures are something worth mentioning) but all the changes: the way the house smells and creaks; how adults behave, necks shorter, shoulders higher, (they make huffs and puffs when leaving and they return home louder, stamping and banging); bedtime and breakfast both arrive in darkness; boxes of tissue are everywhere and you have to wash your face and hands even when you aren’t dirty; you get hot chocolate or hot cider, and you don’t have to scream for it; going pee when you come inside becomes the most wonderful sensation: All these things are like being in a new world.

As inside the house gets louder and more claustrophobic “outside” becomes quiet and larger. Things take their place on a canvas with lots of spaces, minus the sound and garish colour of summer. Wintertime if there is green it is the sky.

For children who are naturally egocentric, and they all are, it is as if they have been thrown untethered in space and time into the cosmos. How big BIG is is quite awesome when you suddenly know how small you are.

Can Poverty be Re-branded?

“Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart it’s just things falling into place”.

This inspirational saying brought to mind the Monty Python skit of “Catch that prize!” where if a contestant could catch, say a refrigerator, dropped from a fourth story window he could keep it. It is annoying how many pithy sayings there are for things falling apart.

I went to a lecture titled, “Is poverty a disease? Could treating poverty work like medicine?” Dr. Gary Bloch, a nice young  doctor who works out of a hospital in T.O. in an area with a lot of homeless people using the ER. *

I am biased, three times around the big C has introduced me to lots of doctors, I have found many doctors, young white males in particular but not exclusively, to possess large egos if not pugnacious attitudes of entitlement. I have read a bit about what internships are like, so I add exhaustion as an excuse for some of them, and then there are the ones who really want to do good… and this guy is one of them. But he is still coming from a culture (medical professionals) that looks at everyone as a set of symptoms.  It is also a culture that is very difficult to enter because of the costs of medical school. Why money should be allowed to be a deciding factor in who might want to be, or might be able to be, a doctor is another question. Most doctors tell me that I can discuss only two things per visit. However, if one of them is about O.H.I.P. the clock seems to fly out the window. Sorry I am griping. 😛

At the very end of the lecture I got to say my two cents worth. My heart was pounding so hard once I decided to try to speak that I might have not heard all of his lecture.  I brought up the Harris government, 25 years ago in Ontario targeting single mothers, reducing their family benefits by 1/3 OVER NIGHT and then standing back to watch the fallout. All the tax payers who could accept the cost of constant road repairs before they accepted the cost of social repairs? Well, if driving over the bodies of welfare mom’s had caused a bumpy ride to work they still might have supported this bludeoning of Family Benefits. I’m not sure but the effects were not as immediate as a bitter cold winter on ashphalt so they weren’t too bothersome. But a large number of women and children fell through the cracks. “Falling through the cracks” meant they went missing in the minds and hearts of the society that they belonged to. And many ended up in peril.

Harris’ cuts weren’t even cost effective, they shifted the expenses to totally ineffective services and removed large numbers from the data for political purposes only.  Add mismanagement of support payments, often those coming after a forced combative situation, a stipulation of receiving benefits was legal action against the absent partner, and voila, many families found themselves unable to pay rent. Their next step was into homelessness. There were piles of cheques for support that were months late and yet they sat unprocessed. Miscommunication, hostility and ineptitude turned up the heat on fathers who were labeled and threatened for being “dead-beat dads” which did not help moms and kids either. Many of my peers who didn’t have any other support network to help them were lost as the stress of jumping through hoops and sorting through requirements turned them back either to abusive situations or bad choices or emotional collapse and mental breakdown. The resulting years have led to the cost to taxpayers in law enforcement, incarceration, emergency services and health costs all skyrocketing and all caused by the repercussions of what were applauded as reforms twenty-five years ago.

I ended my diatribe with “Poverty is not a disease, it is a crime.” and I got applause.  (That was a bit frightening actually).

However quietly, fearfully we do it, we need to speak up about the things that maintain poverty so we can talk about the things that can alleviate it. Poverty is a crime being committed against the most vulnerable, and it is global. It is endorsed by the most wealthy and most priviledged. Poverty makes possible all sorts of abuses of human rights and so often leads to violence and even war. But I worry about calling it a disease. People living with poverty are already in isolation.

*I wrote this draft perhaps five years ago never publishing it.  If you go to the link for Dr. Gary Bloch you will see he is doing many positive and constructive things and lecturing other doctors. Maybe he is changing the culture from within? As I said, he is one of the good ones.

Dora the Explorer

We didn’t have a map but if we had a map it would have said, “Follow the path along the fence, cross a sea of wood chips in a boat, take the path through the forest, come to a big red number two.” (I didn’t get a picture of it but it was big and red, two things that are very significant to an almost two year old it would seem.)