Thursday, November 30, 2006

happy feet

The holiday season has officially begun -- my Christmas socks are here. Every year since I went away to university my Mom has had a tradition involving festive socks. It's silly, I know, and that is exactly the point. Each year mid- to late-November a pair of Christmas socks arrive in the mail along with a note telling me that Christmas is coming, my parents are thinking of me and reminding me that the season is so wonderful even footwear can celebrate :)

Over the years there have been socks with Santas, sock with cats wearing holiday wreaths and one pair with bells attached that threatened to split my cat's personality in two. "Must attack bells! Must not bite Food Lady!" Ah the existential trials of fur on for legs.

It's funny how something so small -- a little pair of socks -- can be a celebration if time and attention are put into it. Funny and also wonderful. There are a certain number of major celebrations in a given year and a good many of them are beyond our control. (I cannot, for example decide to move Thanksgiving to February, or choose when it's time for a new niece or nephew or join the family) But if I'm willing to expend time and attention there is no limit to the celebrations I can create for myself and those around me. I can celebrate any time I feel like it.

If you go just outside my front door right now and stand very still you can hear a wonderful sound. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. The snow is melting. The roads are becoming passable again. Tires are finding purchase on the asphalt and white knuckles are getting their colour back. After 5 days of treacherous driving it is a beautiful sound. I think I'll go out and celebrate it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

snowman's paradise

It's snowing in White Rock and it shouldn't be. We're just outside of Vancouver, a stone's throw from the ocean. We're supposed to get two weeks of a light dusting of snow at the beginning of January. Clearly the snow had other plans.

It began last night. Kendra came in from the back room and announced "it's snowing." Like a character from a bad 80s movie I responded "no way!" and headed outside to see for myself. Sure enough it was snowing -- and not the barely frozen rain that passes for snow in these parts, but actual snow. This looked like the snow we got in Ontario as a kid. Packing snow, snowball snow. . . in those days pray-for-a-snow-day snow. It was unbelievable. I didn't expect it to last the night so I headed outside to take a few shots in the dark. Not only did the snow stick around, but it snowed straight through the night and as I am writing this, early afternoon of the following day, it has not stopped snowing.
This is what our street looked like early this morning. White Rock has a tiny, if existent, snow removal budget which makes driving in these conditions nasty. We get so little snow here that no one knows how to drive in it. Half the people drive 5 km/h and the other have drive 80. Both cause accidents. I'm already a little punchy after a recent accident on dry roads. I'm probably the only person in White Rock praying for a quick overnight thaw.

The backyard is beautiful. It's been like living inside a snowglobe today. Everything is white, the edges softened, the leaves thrown into colourful relief. In a true testament to west coast weather my Japanese maple tree still has deciduous leaves peaking out from under this new blanket of snow. Kendra and I headed out this morning to try and rescue the boxwood hedge. It was bent almost all the way to the ground under the weight. A couple of hours later and it is in the process of getting covered all over again.

These pictures are a few hours old now and the snow just keeps coming. The world gets prettier and prettier, the roads worse and worse. I'd like snow just fine if I didn't have to drive in it. I went out to frolic after saving the hedge and shoveling the driveway. It would be wrong to let the snow come and go and not throw some of it around. My aim with a snowball is still terrible, but that's rarely the point. Kendra and I thought about making a snowman, but they take a while so we opted for the miniature versions at the beginning of this post. I can see them on the picnic table out the living room window. They are half buried under new fallen snow.

After so many years in Ontario it is a little funny to think that snow in late November is newsworthy but it just doesn't happen here. It's like that year they got snow at DisneyWorld over Christmas and all the fountains froze. No one saw it coming. Every now and then a gust of wind comes through and shakes the trees and the white world gets even whiter. What a good day for a fireplace and a hot cup of tea. A snowman's paradise indeed.

UPDATE: 2:00 Sunday

This is what the tree in our front yard looks like now:

This is the same tree that's in the night time shot up above. It's completely covered in snow. The boxwood in the backyard is starting to bow again. The driveway looks less and less shoveled. And the snow just keeps on coming.

Monday, November 20, 2006

CNN gets a little closer

Every few months I run a Google search on myself to see if anyone is stealing my articles. Today there were no thefts of the list but I was very surprised to see an entry labeled " - Transcripts". Of course I followed the link and it turns out that back in October Anderson Cooper read one of my comments on air during a segment at the end of AC 360! How very cool.

The first week of October 2006 CNN sent a couple of teams to Africa to cover the situations in Darfur and the Sudan. Anderson Cooper hosted a week-long special "The Killing Fields: Africa's Misery, the World's Shame". It was, hands down, some of the most disturbing television I have ever seen. Night after night there were stories of such unbelievable suffering. It was so hard to watch but it just didn't seem right to turn away. Cooper often speaks of the importance of bearing witness and this whole week was like that.

Tuesday of that week Dr. Sanjay Gupta posted a blog entry about some of the things he had seen. Inside the camps, he wrote, "They complain bitterly of not enough food and clothing. They wish they had better roofs over their heads than sorghum branches tied together with twine." However, he went on to write, "living conditions throughout much of Chad are so terrible that many people will simply pack up their belongings and move into refugee camps, which ironically offer a better way of life than most people in Chad could ever hope to see."

I was so shocked to see that sentence, that branches and twine were more than people could hope to dream for. I submitted a comment to the AC360 blog and was thrilled to see it actually appear on the site. CNN gets hundreds, sometimes thousands of comments on the blog. They post up to a hundred of them or so per post. From time to time Anderson reads two or three on the air and October 4th he read mine live from Rutshuru.

I can't believe I missed seeing it on air -- it was a Wednesday, I'd signed-up for a class. Fortunately transcripts live forever so I know about it now. CNN does sell individual copies of past shows and I think I'm just geek enough to order one. How often do you get to hear your name on CNN? Until then, it's right there in the records. If you follow the transcript link, scroll all the way to the bottom you'll see this:

COOPER: Jeff, stay safe. Appreciate your reporting. Thank you.

Before we go, we wanted to show you what's on the radar, some of the responses to our programming on the 360 blog.

Sharla Jones from Buckeye, Arizona, writes on the blog, "Watching this series right now on 360 is really making me re-evaluate my own life and how I'm living it... Watching the pain and suffering right now... it made me cry."

This from Kelly in Marietta, Georgia, "It shames me to think that we apparently learned nothing after Rwanda. Why are we, nor the rest of the world, helping more?"

And Claire Colvin of White Rock, British Columbia, writes, "I can't wrap my head around someone fleeing to a refugee camp of their own volition because the conditions there are better. Surely we can do better than this."

I was on CNN. Well, sort of.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

stand in the wind

I have never been an adrenaline junkie. I take no pleasure in taking risks, but for some reason I cannot resist the sea when it's inflamed. The wind picks up and starts to roar and I have to go and hear the water roar back. Today the wind was up. I grabbed my Gortex and headed to the beach.

At the shoreline everything was in motion -- the water and the wood and the grasses and the trees. Only the gulls trying to fly into the wind were still, suspended in their animation. I love standing there surrounded by the wind, feeling small. I think it's good for us to feel small for time to time. It helps to remember that so many things are not under my control, so much is beyond my grasp. It reminds me not to try so hard to hang on to it.

Going down to the ocean in a storm always feels like going to church. The awesomeness of God is inescapable there. It's in front of you and behind you, in your ears, in your face, pulling tears from the corners of your eyes. Huge drifting tree logs are no match for it, this huge expanse of open water cannot resist it. I know that most people look for quiet to meditate in, but I find myself meditating in the rush and the noise and the motion of the storm.

One of the many things I love about White Rock is that every time I go to stand in the wind there are others already there. People come alone, they bring their children. Up and down the beach you can see them, brightly coloured coats bobbing right along with the drift wood. When the storm is really good every one has a camera. And you can see as you walk by, every one of us is smiling.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

baby, you can drive my car

And now, thankfully, so can I. It's been a couple of weeks since the accident and while I am still mourning the lost of my little, black Civic it does feel pretty good to have a car in the driveway again. I was really hoping that my Civic was fixable. When the insurance guy called to give me the news that it was a write-off his comment was "your car is a lot shorter than it used to be" and I knew the Civic just wasn't coming home.

I've spent the past couple of weeks doing paper work and making trips to ICBC. There is something undeniably depressing about being handed a bag with the leftovers from your car in it. But it's all done now. There will be other Civics.

In the meantime, I am now the proud owner of a 05 Nissan Sentra. So far its lived up to everyone's expectations and is a solid little car. I'm starting to warm up to it. I bought my Civic while at University so it was a base model. Standard transmission. The only "extra" I put in it were floor mats. The new car has toys. And it turns out, I kinda like toys.

By far the funniest thing that has happened was when I brought the car home and realized that it is EXACTLY the same colour as my cat. The photo to the right has not been Photoshopped in any way. I swear I didn't do that on purpose. (Although during test drive the car did feel oddly familiar...) I haven't taken it fast enough to see if it purrs yet. All in good time.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I helped edit CNN

I'm pretty sure that I helped edit today. The midterm elections are happening south of the border so I stopped by at lunch to see how things were going. Much to my surprise there was a grammatical mistake in the tag for the main article. It was front and center on the homepage of CNN International. I took a screen cap because I was planning to blog it. (Yes, I know. Still.)

Right at the beginning it says, "Republicans were facing with the possibility..." Nasty. I decided the decent thing to do would be to at least tell someone at CNN about the mistake, rather than just mock it. It's election day afterall, a busy day for the site.

CNN has a pretty good feedback system so I sent them a quick message and suggested an alternate wording. I didn't expect anything to come of it and went back to work. Imagine my surprise a while later when I actually got an email back from CNN. The nameless CNN employee said that they would pass my email on to the Webmaster. "Right," I thought, "okay."

I couldn't help checking the home page about five minutes later and lo and behold, the text had been changed.

Yeah! Good grammar triumphs again. I'm sure this is the closest I will ever get to having a hand in anything that goes on at CNN. But hey, for an editor this is kindof like catching a glimpse of the band just as they're getting on the bus. (Yes, I know. Again.)