View From The Glen

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

As Others See Us

A scouting colleague of Andrew's, whenever he has popped by, has found us playing host to the five thousand. He never comes to the house but we have 15 people, half of them kids, running around, we've usually just finished dinner and there is a table full of detritus and crumbs, a kitchen full of cups and dessert plates, and a multi-coloured throng of children racing in and out, slamming the screen door and laughing and shouting. There was even a couple of dueling fiddles last time he was here.

It's not usually this chaotic, I want to shout over the din. But it's not true. Not to him, anyway.

Another friend once said to me that our evenings must be so relaxed and peaceful. I think I'd mentioned how we all like to read, and in his mind's eye I am certain he saw us spending many long evenings curled up on the big comfy couches in the living room, the light subdued, the music playing, and the only sound that of a turning page, or a muffled chuckle.

Not quite. There are often people talking about their book, fighting over a book, discussing their book, reading from their book...and that's doesn't even cover the nights when reading time is five minutes squeezed in between karate and bedtime.

Last weekend, I was saying my house was cluttered (which, truly, it is) and that I'd like it to be organized and elegant. Another friend (obviously a good one) disagreed with me. She said she always thought of our home as cosy, warm, friendly, whereas elegant homes often seem distant, cool, as if nobody really lives there.

It seems all my acquaintances have their own ideas of what my life is like. I say I live on 50 acres in the country in an ancient farmhouse...and it conjurs up a picture that, depending on the person, seems idyllic or the very definition of insanity. I once mentioned the philosophical dinner parties we occassionally host and years later was told by a woman how she had been intimidated by what she assumed was our collective brilliance.

She knows me better now and is aware that any erudition is fleeting at best. But it's funny how others see us. Not always as we see ourselves, and perhaps not always the reality, but somewhere in the middle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


It's no secret that Fall is my favourite time of year. I drive home the long way just to travel the winding country roads in their mantle of vibrant oranges and dusky reds; I take the dog for long walks just to kick up the coppery leaves on the road; I rake the gold and crimson and brown into piles just to watch the kids dive into them and throw them up into the air again.

But today...ah, today...

I walked out the door at 7am this morning into a perfect world. The sky to the south was layered - dark clouds the colour of granite over silver clouds with peeks of bright blue beneath. To the east, the sun, low in the sky, beamed brightness over the corn fields, just tipping the golden sheaths in the fields and highlighting a broad swath of metallic colour across the fall forest.

It was like being hit by a flash of something so grand that words, pictures, even thoughts could not do it justice. I felt like I'd been consumed by the moment and all I could do - all I even wanted to do - was stand there and be part of it.

Just me...and the sublime.

It's happened before. Many times, but more often as a child. I used to call it the "flash" because that's how it seemed to me. A moment of intense beauty and the feeling that all's right with the world. It's there and gone in a heartbeat sometimes, and other times - like this morning - lingering, slowly fading away, but leaving me with an overwhelming sense of goodwill. Today, I might describe it like a veil being lifted to reveal a world more gorgeous, more breathtaking than I had previously imagined. If I were religious, I might call it divine. Certainly, Gerard Manley Hopkins - poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest - springs immediately to mind:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Voter Undecided

I voted. Of course I did. But it was not easy. I am feeling jaded and cynical these days about politicians and voting and governement, and there were days leading up to this Ontario election when, frankly, I really felt I couldn't be bothered to vote. Apathy and futility raised their ugly heads.

I had the discussion with some of my critical thinking students way back at the start of the semester. One particularly bright student made an articulate and impassioned argument for not voting at all, and that got me thinking. I vote because I feel it's my duty, but really it's just my right. Just as it's my right to reject voting. For lots and lots of reasons I do vote, and I encourage my kids to follow election issues and discuss politics as well. I put on a good face. But underneath I am tired.

Tired of voting not for the person who inspires me, but for the person who least offends me. Tired of voting not for the party who represents the interests of my family best, but for the party who appears to have done the least damage recently. Tired of voting for all the wrong reasons.

Saturday, October 1, 2011