Tuesday, March 29, 2011


It was a week or so ago that I wrote about the experience of feeling "diminished" by all the "editing" we are doing in our lives, and our life together. All because we are moving into an apartment which has about half the size of our house, and has little storage space.

A lot of things are going to Village Green (our Mennonite-operated thrift or "goodwill" shop). A lot of paper is being recycled. All of this is good. 

It also means I'm engaged in a process of sorting out what is important.

What do I really want to do in this last stage of my life (my "psychosocial development"), where the virtue is wisdom, and the options are integrity (i.e., wholeness) or despair? (This, according to psychologist Erik Erikson.)

In addition to my personal introspection, I'll continue to work (in one way or another) on ethical projects. Those include health care and animal welfare. But they will also include a closer involvement in issues of poverty, hunger, and homelessness. I may not be able to walk as much at rallies, but my fingers move quickly, and my thoughts can be sharp. (Such things happen when you combine a journalist and an ethicist.)

I'm not changing my commitment to life, and to others around me. To change would mean betraying who and what I have been, and am. What is changing is the manner in which I live out my commitment. But I'm not changing that commitment.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SOME MEETINGS ACTUALLY MATTER! (And they even feel good!)

I realize that, from some peoples' perspectives, I'm about to commit the ultimate heresy.

However, there are some meetings which I go to that are actually worthwhile, and even fun. (I warned you about heresy — I know most meeting are pretty yucky, even at the best of times.)

I'm referring to the Executive of UCACS (The University Committee on Animal Care and Supply). This is the committee which is responsible for the welfare of virtually all the "critters" who "crit" (live) on campus, particularly those involved in research and teaching. (At a University like ours, with multiple biosciences, a lot of animals are involved in a lot of research and teaching.)

Over the last several years, I've gotten to know the people on the committee in a variety of contexts that are all related to our main responsibilities. Some are teachers and researchers, some are administrators, some are technicians. They are all very good at what they do, and they all think creatively. People like Ali, Amanda, Brenda, Colette, Diane, Jane, Ramji (our chair), and others. We all have a high degree of respect for each other, and a very strong sense of collegiality. And these folks are interesting to talk to, in their own right. 

Yesterday morning, we had to meet and deal with a significant problem. (Details aren't important.) We started, as usual, with some pretty light visiting, and a few "bad" jokes from the Bear. (I'm the community representative and formally-trained ethicist in the group, and sometimes the class clown). When we get down to business, we're darned serious, but don't lose our senses of humour or irony. And believe me, there are some strongly ironic moments.

In trying to conclude the matter, I put a motion forward. Long and short of the situation is that my colleagues didn't agree with me. Which is OK. We come from a wide background of experience, which is important, because it really does help us achieve important consensus. And since we see the problem from different perspectives, we can make different comments.

Eventually we arrived at a better solution than I had proposed, and we all apparently felt good about that. A tricky problem solved in roughly three-quarters of an hour.

I cannot speak for the others, but I came away from the meeting feeling good, feeling that we had resolved something in a way that was ultimately in the best interests of individuals and the University.

Not too bad for a meeting that started at 9:00 a.m., when I'm Bearly awake. (I'm retired; gimmie a break, already!)

Yes, it was a good meeting, heresy notwithstanding.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I've been feeling particularly sad for some time now. And it's not just my depression, as far as I can tell.

There is something else.

What I'm feeling is diminished. That there is less of me.

One of the realities of moving from a large house to a medium-sized apartment is the need to get rid of things. Particularly things for which we do not expect we will have any space.

It's not so much that I'm tied to my possessions. I'm not.

What I'm missing is file upon file of my work which has to be trashed. Things into which I have put my heart and thought. Which, I think, is appropriate for a writer, and a minister. News articles. Newspaper columns. Special reports on radio. Sermons and other meditations. Bible study material. Unused research notes, waiting for a chance to see the light of day.

All gone.

I'm not just throwing out papers. I'm throwing out part of myself.

And, of course, Sadie's gone now, too, after I spent a lot of time training her, and befriending her.

That's why I feel diminished. So much of me is gone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I'll start with the simple.

I decided, at the end of my last post, to "try to get myself looking presentable." As if such a thing were possible.

But, by pre-arrangement, I am using a picture of me snapped by Genie's daughter, Holly, at Paris and Beyond. Now this is a good picture!

But there are bigger things than me. Much bigger.

One of my first discoveries, upon waking, was that Japan had experienced of a massive earthquake and tidal wave (tsunami).  I saw the pictures of the tsunami hitting village and city alike, rolling over and sweeping away everything that stood before it.

I remember a reporter picking a porcelain doll out of the detritus at the Sendai airport. There was wreckage from  all over — construction materials to cars. And I wondered. Was this doll owned by some little girl? Is she alive or dead? Did she treasure this doll? Will it ever get back to her?

Perhaps the most frightening thing for me was the ongoing story of nuclear reactor failures, and the threat those failures pose — for Japan, and the rest of us. How big is the radioactive plume? How far will it spread? What will be the consequences of Japan's electrical industry? How will this affect other nuclear installations? (I've seen a story that Germany is shutting down any pre-1980 nuclear plants for inspection; there is question of whether any of these will reopen.) And what lies ahead for children, even un-born children, who were caught in the wrong place during this nuclear disaster?

It is said the Japanese people are both stoic and resilient. They will rebuild. At the cost of a few trillion dollars, perhaps.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Couldn't sleep much longer. Too bright; too warm. Winter is waning.

Had to give my head a shake several times, and try to figure things out. And make sure I don't open my eyes too wide, too quickly.

OK. First things first.

No Sadie. That's a bit of a shock. She's got a new home, and she's happy there. The first night, she waited for me to come pick her up, and bring her here. But she was finally coaxed indoors, where she found her old bed, climbed in, and slept soundly. Very soundly. All downhill from here, as she frolics with her sister, Willow. (Unless the coyotes get her.) Banish that thought.

Also walked right into the middle of a moving process. As in decamping here, and moving to a spot with a clear overview of our city's downtown area. Strange; what's the difference among overlook, oversight, and overview? Can any of you literate bloggers provide some differentiation about the meanings of words which seem so similar.

Speaking of which, a word of appreciation to the Editorial Committee, which looked after things between Sadie's departure and my return.

Now that I'm up, I should try to get myself looking presentable; please Bear with me in that.

Friday, March 11, 2011


On Bear's behalf, the Editorial Committee for this blog is relaying news of a major development.

It concerns Her Ladyship, Miss Sadie, Duchess of St. Swythun's Punt-on-Thames, Duchess of Cardigan and Wooly Boots, and (by Royal Appointment) Guardian of Offa's Dyke. Miss Sadie, Bear's long-time and faithful companion, is parting company with Bear. This decision has been initiated by Bear.

Her Ladyship has released the following statement (which is also to be found on her blog).

By time you read this, I will have moved to a new home and new family!

I have a big brother, who is a Malamute, and who is twice my size. His name is Dugan. I've also got a sister — a black Standard Poodle just like me, but about six years older than me. Her name is Willow. My new master is a veterinarian, who really loves Poodles. So this is going to be a very good thing. At least I think. I hope.

"But where is Bear?" you ask. Bear and J are "moving house." They're leaving their house a block from the river, and moving into an apartment in a building on the opposite river bank. It's a mile or so downriver from where they have been living, and right across from downtown. But one of the rules is that people cannot bring animals with them. I cannot come.

I realize all of this is peculiar, so I'll explain.

At least some of you, maybe all of you, realize that Bear has been getting sicker since last fall. Last weekend, he spent some time in hospital.

For many years Bear has suffered quite a bit of pain, from several "misadventures." Since last fall, the chronic physical pain has has been getting worse, which simply added to the emotional pain of his chronic depression. 

So when he was briefly out of hibernation a while ago, he explained things to me, and we had a good cry together. Just taking me for a walk, on my lead, hurts his neck, and shoulder, and back so badly that he has to take strong medications and lie down when we're finished. And when we play fetch in the back yard, he hurts so badly that he has to lean on his grandchildren's play house in order to stand up.

I had no idea that looking after me, and doing things with me, was hurting Bear so badly!

And that's when he said he had found a new home for me. And that's why he and J are moving. They'll be in an apartment, so he doesn't have to look after the yard, and trees, and gardens, and so he doesn't have to keep up with the house repairs.

I really don't want to leave Bear. I don't want him to leave me.  And I'm sure he doesn't want us to part. But I guess neither of us can help that. As Bear would say, "You win some, and you lose some, and some get rained out."

Good-bye, friends.

Good-bye, Bear! Gonna miss you!

Two members of the Editorial Committee, Frank Serif and Mary Italic, accompanied Miss Sadie to her new home. They are happy to report that Miss Sadie received a warm and enthusiastic greeting from all but Dugan, who growled at her when they first met, and paid little attention to her after that. We trust Miss Sadie will be a long and happy relationship with her new family (despite Dugan's initial response). Indeed, Sadie was so busy playing with Willow she did not see the Editorial Committee members leave.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FOLLOW UP ON * * * (cannot be translated)

Bear has retuned to his den. He and I both agreed that weather in the -20°C range, with lots of snow, is just not warm enough to end hibernating. (By time he and I had convinced him of the wisdom in that plan, he looked very relieved!)

Besides, there's nothing out here for him to eat. Except me, perhaps.

Moving on.

Before he left, Bear and I had a "heart to heart" conversation about Some Really Very Important Things. I'll share some of that with you, presently.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

* * * (cannot be translated)

Grontf . . . snork . . . shuffle, yawn . . . streeeeeeeeeetch.

OK; who turned on the light in my den?
Oh, wait. That's not a light; that's the sun! 
It's glistening on the snow.
Ooooohh! Bright! I need sun glasses.

Maybe I should find Sadie and figure out that's happening here. I'll have to turn around and look the other way.

Ah; that's better! Things seem to be about right.
Sadie! Hmmmm. Saaaaaaaaadie!

Ah, here she comes. I can hear her coming. Now I'll find out what's happening.

Ooooohh, have I ever got a headache! Maybe I overslept.