Category Archives: Thoughts

Winter Solstice Ottawa – Update & Appeal

My last post shared my annoyance that a sub-committee at work used “Celebrate the Winter Solstice” to advertise a film screening having nothing whatsoever to do with the solstice. I’m pleased to report that a few e-mails and a phone conversation, expressing my conviction that a true solstice celebration would focus on the seasonal event and be an actual form of celebration, have produced some positive results –

I was asked for ideas and assistance in helping the group to host a more relevant Winter Solstice Celebration in future years!

So now I need to get busy with some ideas, bearing in mind that it’s a workplace event and likely confined to the lunch hour, however, the invitation will extend to roughly 5,000 employees! I’ll let you know how things develop …

But, back to the wider Ottawa community:

Judging by my blog hits over the past few weeks, many people in Ottawa are seeking a way to celebrate the solstice but, at this time, our community offers little in providing a way for people to come together to celebrate this event.

It’s up to those of us who want a community event to make it happen in future years …

How about a lantern procession to light up the darkest night, with workshops in preceding weeks, at various public locations, so people can make a unique and colourful lantern for solstice night?

The lantern procession – maybe along Somerset West and Preston, with access from all directions – Chinatown, Wellington West, Carling Avenue and the transitway at Scott Street – and ending at Plouffe Park, adjacent to the Plant Bath, on Preston, or perhaps greenspace at Dow’s Lake?

Maybe some mummers, drummers, fire-eaters or who-knows-what to liven things up?

People could fan out afterward to continue their celebration at a wide array of nearby restaurants and bars or at private celebrations elsewhere.

A key aspect would be to keep it in the hands of the people – city involvement that of helpful assistance only – with universal determination of planners and participants that it be free, distinct from competing holiday events and devoid of commerciality.

What would you like to see as a solstice celebration in Ottawa? Or wherever you are?
Care to collaborate on a 2011 event?
Leave a comment!

A World Wide Winter Solstice Celebration – Imagine …

Recent media commemoration of the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death brought to mind the lyrics of his signature song, ‘Imagine’, and when they collided in my head with thoughts of the upcoming Winter Solstice, I did imagine …

Winter Solstice – a perfect opportunity not only to revive celebrating the return of the sun, as was once done in almost all civilizations, but to build on it and come together on that day – everywhere, everyone – in a spirit of peace, tolerance and togetherness. Where “the world will be as one”. (Southern hemisphere, see note below)

Judging from the number of hits I’ve had on a recent post about upcoming solstice events in my area, interest in solstice celebration is there; but the celebration isn’t … yet.

At a time of year that can be tough – the dark, the cold, the overblown commercialization, the pressures of the Season, the intrusiveness of it for non-celebrants – why not share in a celebration that everyone on the planet can be a part of? Imagine everyone, everywhere, pushing aside their worries, troubles and differences to celebrate the same thing, all together, at the same time!

How? IT STARTS WITH YOU.

To borrow loosely from those lyrics again, some may say I’m a dreamer but I hope I’m not the only one.
I hope you’ll join me in a sort of a grassroots movement and simply do something, anything, on that day, to observe the fact that it is the solstice. Anything, no matter how big or small – just something happy and joyful, sharing it too, if you can.

If you’re lucky enough to live where Winter Solstice celebrations already exist, join in. Most existing celebrations are centred around lighting the night and incorporate lantern processions, torch-bearing and bonfires.

If there’s nothing in your area, start something. Light a candle. Make a lantern. Have friends in. Go out for dinner. Gather at the local pub. Host a potluck. Wassail the apple trees. Have a bonfire. Make music!

The beauty is that there’s no set tradition – you’re free to create your own.

A few guidelines come to mind though:

1. Make it separate and distinctive – not just an extension of other celebrations that occur near this time.
2. Keep things easy, simple, inexpensive.
3. In the spirit of togetherness, cooperation and consideration for others, harm or offend no one as you make some noise and have some fun!

So, join me in doing something to celebrate on that day, but also:

SHARE this idea with family, friends and neighbours, so it spreads.

With enough people celebrating, starting just after sunset in their time zone, it would flow in a World-as-One wave of light, hope and peace around the globe.

Imagine …

NOTE: The December solstice is the longest day of sunlight – Summer Solstice – in the Southern hemisphere. But that’s just another great reason to celebrate – in fact, why not a World-as-One celebration of light, hope and peace twice a year, on everyone’s shortest and longest days?

One Canadian’s Wish List – My Top 10 for 2010

In no particular order, these are just a drop in the bucket of changes I’d embrace in 2010, or whenever – if ever …

1. An Electric Car – the world wants it, the world needs it; where is it?? I hear it debuted in California a few years back but GM killed it – why? Oh, wait, I think I know.

2. Global Population Reduction – want to solve global warming and just about every other environmental issue? Simple. Stop over-populating the planet. It’s irresponsible and unnecessary. Let’s have accessible birth control across the globe, along with a shift in attitude that makes more than two children per couple socially unacceptable – everywhere. No more unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. No more endless tries till it’s a boy. And, please, no more OctoMoms.

3. The Return of Good Manners – yes, manners – remember those? What’s happened to people anyway??! How is it that people rush onto an elevator before letting those leaving get out? Walk three-abreast down a sidewalk and then give the person they bumped a dirty look when that person didn’t … what? Step off into the gutter? Walk into that tree?? Squash into the wall??? When I have the right-of-way on the road and you don’t, what’s with the finger when I don’t give way? The return of good manners would be a treat on its own; paired with wish #7 (see below), improvement would be awesome!

4. Religious Evolution – more harm has been done down through the centuries in the name of religion than any good that’s come from it, as far as I can see. If God is out there, does any rational, thinking person really believe that the friction and discord between the various factions and the moral superiority claimed by each of them is in line with ‘God’s will’? It’s my firm belief that every last one of the organized religions, however well-meaning they may (or may not) be, range from misguided to downright deceitful. Distant future generations will shake their heads in wonder at our blind stupidity. We on this planet are an inter-connected, inter-dependent web of humanity and we need to move beyond our backward and archaic beliefs and behaviours that divide us and look for ways to co-exist in harmony.

5. The Demise of Consumerism – greed really is the root of all evil. Just look at last year’s economic collapse that we’re still climbing out from under – but have we learned from it? That is, anything other than that the guys at the top will always look after themselves? But our culture fosters consumption and greed. Sad, yet understandable, that so many of today’s kids work harder at attaining the newest wants and developing attitude than they do at developing a talent or skill. TV tells them, and it’s reinforced everywhere, that what really matters is the brand on a hoodie, a cool cell phone, the latest gaming technology. The only value attached to an education anymore is that it allows you to get a good job so you can make more money and buy more stuff. And the quality of much of that over-priced stuff is pathetic. So are the business practices of many of the places providing goods & services. How about a consumer revolt or boycott or coalition or lobby group – some sort of effective consumer backlash!

6. Agricultural Evolution – food shortage is set to become a global crisis of major proportions unless we resolve item #2 on this list. In the western world, we’ve become enormously disconnected from our food production. Hybridization, factory farms, Monsanto seeds, genetic modification, the rape of the oceans, pesticide / antibiotic / hormone over-use, the narrowing of bio-diversity – some of these things are just plain wrong; others are problematic in their management and application. Organic farming, backyard veggie plots and the 100-Mile Diet, admirable as they are, won’t address all problems. And some new practices, such as blanket bans on pesticides, are creating new ones too. A major shift in how we grow and access our food is imperative.

7. The Re-emergence of Common Sense – let’s start to think again, which would impact on just about every other item on this list, as well as everything else that isn’t. Things both great and small. From fashion to freedom. And I might just start with fashion – having to choose between looks or comfort, especially where shoes are concerned, is a pet peeve, but I digress … at every turn, common sense is lacking; bring it back!

8. The Death of Rap (and other crap) Music – and they thought Disco sucked in the ‘70’s. Funny thing, there’s actually a lot of good music being made, it just doesn’t seem to reach the airwaves like the bad-to-mediocre does. But maybe that’s my problem – I still want to turn on the radio instead of plugging into an I-Pod. And have a wider selection than just rap, Lady Gaga (who makes me ga-gag) or a narrow rotation of golden oldies that plays ‘Highway to Hell’ every hour.

9. Peace for Palestine (and the rest of the planet) – no, I’m not a fan of Hamas or suicide bombers, but the injustice perpetrated on the Palestinian people and their resulting desperation has led to such radical measures (I’m not justifying, just saying). I’m adamantly opposed to the Israeli stance on this issue and, no, that statement does not make me anti-Semitic though I’m sure it won’t take long for such an accusation to surface. I hear a lot of Israelis actually feel the way I do too but the tightly-controlled mainstream media, in North America at least, is very effectively muzzled from reporting such things. I am, however, a fan of J-Street, an organization whose emergence is long-overdue.

10. The Fall of Stephen Harper – can’t happen soon enough, won’t happen soon enough, however, they do say nothing lasts forever. If the masses in this country could get beyond their reverse-snobbery toward those of culture & intellect, Iggy (no, not Pop, go brush up on Canadian politics) might stand a chance. His speeches, which most people don’t get to hear but are available on the Liberal party website (where few likely read them), are rather impressive. But his Facebook bleats, reaching many more, are just wishy-washy politically-correct nothings. And no good media coverage. I’ll be waiting longer than I’d like for this one.

OK, this rant is over. Maybe I’ll balance the books soon with a posting of ten things I’m grateful for.

In the meantime, best wishes to all in 2010.
Go for the gusto and make it a great New Year!

And so this is … or is it?

So here we are, once again well into that Greatest ‘Pre-Season’ of Them All.

You know the one – it shows up earlier each year and is unavoidable in shopping malls and retail outlets everywhere. Even at home, we’re assaulted whenever we turn on the television. There’s no escaping it – Christmas is Coming … let the shopping begin!

I saw my first Christmas tree in September. By our Canadian Thanksgiving in the second week of October, more signs had surfaced. By Halloween Week, with both Halloween and Christmas stuff to choose from everywhere, I could be pagan or Christian … or better, from a commercial perspective – I could be both!

Sometime in the last ten years, the advent of the season I used to love slowly shifted to a time of resentment and malaise that hit earlier, and harder, with each successive year. The relentlessly expanding commercial crush of Christmas had me working harder and harder to play Santa while feeling increasingly more like Scrooge.

As my distaste for the season grew, my reaction during the Christmas advent was, at first, a renewed focus on the ‘Reason for the Season’ as it’s often so annoyingly labelled. But a funny thing happened – delving more into the origins of Christmas, its Christian aspects gradually ceased to hold significance for me. I was drawn instead toward its natural, pre-Christian roots …

Winter Solstice!

The shortest day of the year, which marks the return of the sun, has been celebrated through the ages by a wide variety of cultures all around the globe. Both ancient Europeans and Native Americans had winter solstice rites. So did Iran, Pakistan, Tibet and China, to name just a few. Many of these celebrations continue today.

Winter Solstice can be celebrated by anyone, regardless of religion (or lack thereof). Modern celebrations might well include familiar elements of an old-fashioned Christmas – the tree, holly and ivy, the red-and-green, a Yule log – because many of these things originated from pre-Christian celebrations. But they can be completely different too, open to individual interpretation and practice. If religious, include that element. If not, leave it out. Simple!

The only thing missing from a Winter Solstice celebration is the irksome and unrelenting commercial aspect that few would miss and whose absence most would welcome.

One of the more notable solstice celebrations is the crowds that gather each year at the Celtic site of Newgrange in Ireland to observe the sunrise between the 19th and the 23rd of December. At dawn, a shaft of sunlight shines through the roof box over the entrance, penetrates the passage and lights up the chamber, an event that lasts 17 minutes.

Festivals on the eve or night of the Winter Solstice are taking hold in many cities and they’re growing each year. Here in Canada, there are large outdoor street celebrations in Vancouver and Toronto (Kensington Market).

And when it’s Winter Solstice in one hemisphere, it’s Summer Solstice in the other – a whole other reason to celebrate!

Whether celebrated as well as, or instead of, Christmas, what a perfect opportunity for the world to put aside divisive beliefs and come together to celebrate as one.

As someone very famous once sang, Imagine!

Though you’d be hard-pressed to tell from looking at my holiday decorations, I no longer celebrate Christmas – it’s Winter Solstice for me. I haven’t yet moved completely past the commercial obligations of the season due to the expectations that our society has firmly embedded in my children (for whom it’s still Christmas) but I’m making progress. I feel much more at peace with the season since I’ve shifted to celebrating the return of the light.

And, echoing that famous song once more, I hope someday you’ll join me …

Royal Approval

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are winding down their visit to Canada. During their visit, the media have rarely passed on an opportunity to assert that the monarchy means little to many (how many is ‘many’ anyway?) Canadians and have been compelled to continuously point out that some people think the monarchy should become past history in Canada.

Regardless of which side of the coin you’re on, where are our collective manners?! I think hashing this out right under the royal noses, so to speak, is just plain rude!

It’s not surprising if the monarchy means little to a number of Canadians – singing ‘God Save the Queen’ was sidelined years ago, Quebec has always disliked and resented Canada’s British ties and nothing in the current Canadian system is designed to strengthen those ties and foster pride in our monarchy.

But I have always taken pride in those ties. Perhaps it’s the childhood influence of my grandmother, who held the queen in enormous esteem. I’ve been a royal-watcher, and supporter, all my life.

As a child, I sang ‘God Save the Queen’ each morning at school and I remember how thrilled I was to wave to the Queen from a Toronto roadside as her car passed by during a royal visit, how much I enjoyed a book about the Queen’s and Princess Margaret’s childhood and what a momentous occasion it was to watch Prince Charles’ investiture as the Prince of Wales on television.

Prince Andrew piqued my interest the year he attended Lakefield School near Peterborough, especially since the son of family friends also attended Lakefield at the time and I was privy to snippets of trivial information about his time there – none of which I remember today.

I was entranced by Princess Diana and, like millions, stunned by her death. I’ve enjoyed watching Princes William and Harry grow into young men.

Through it all, the media spotlight illuminated and magnified every royal human foible with the ever-increasing intensity of our times. There were some rocky moments and Prince Charles has been at the centre of his fair share of them. But in recent years, after taking time to learn more about him, I’ve grown to like and respect the Prince and think he will make a fine king when the time comes. He strikes me as a thoughtful and compassionate man and I find myself in agreement with many of his views.

The Prince’s interests and concerns cover a variety of fields such as architecture, inner cities, education, religion, health, farming, gardening and painting. His interests are reflected in ‘The Prince’s Charities’, a group of twenty not-for-profit organisations, most of which were founded personally by The Prince. The group is the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the United Kingdom, raising over £130 million annually.

I’m pleased the Prince and Duchess chose to visit Canada but I’m embarrassed by the reception they seemingly got while here. I’m proud of our royal ties and feel we would be all the poorer should those ties be severed.

In an odd way …

Bush

It occured to me while reading the caption that, even with Harper heading our government, while Bush was president we looked good in comparison. Now, with Obama in the White House but no change in sight on this side of the border … to answer the caption query – in an odd way … yes … I guess I do!