Friday, November 5, 2010


Just surfacing from an afternoon nap, a little disoriented from deep intense sleeping. What a treat, that kind of sleep!

I just spent three hours at the Royal Winter Fair, partly checking out the cattle and goats and pigs etc with a friend and her wonderful four year old, and partly attending a couple of Cuisine Canada events: the annual cookbook awards (top English cookbook the elegant latest by Laura Calder; top french language a great looking book on Desserts out of Montreal); and also a young-chef cooking event.

They'll be doing this young-chef thing all day tomorrow and Sunday: a team of two makes two dishes from a Canadian-published cookbook (they made Pakistani spicy beef patties and Potatoes with Greens from Mangoes and Curry Leaves this afternoon) and their work gets tasted and awarded marks by a panel of three judges. The teams with the top marks get prizes, awarded on Sunday. It all takes place in front of an audience at the Home Stage in Hall A at the Ex grounds.

I was impressed with how well the two young guys, Michael and Luis, worked today, seemingly unfussed by the short time they had, and by our questions to them as they worked. If you get a chance, do go have a look this weekend. At each session there's a book given out to someone in the audience, and three audience members get to taste the chefs' food too. And also check out the beef cattle (dairy is later next week and weekend) in all their groomed sleekness, Charolais, Simmenthal, Shorthorns, several kinds of Hereford, Galloways, Angus, and more.

It's chilly to downright cold outside now. I ran this morning in a light rain, the leaves going sloosh sloosh underfoot, rather than scattering with a light crisp crackle as they were doing before the rain started. Colours popped in the dull overcast, rich and glowing, but still at this time of year I'd rather have warming golden sunshine, thank-you!

Silky the cat, to follow up on my last post, now has a shaved neck and foreleg on the left, and a neat row of seven stitches where her lumpy chin growth used to be. She's on a pain med that tranquilizes her slightly, so that so far she hasn't clawed out the stitches. I'm not big on spending lots of money or effort on pets' health. I mean, yes, feed them right, give them access to the outdoors, and let them stay healthy. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't plan to be back at the vet's anytime soon with Silky (except that she needs to go in to have the stitches out in ten days or so). The only excuse I have for even this vet intervention is that Silky is also a worker: she is a mouser and has been very effective. So I did feel that we owed her the vet visit and the subsequent surgery.

I saw a disturbing and important film this week, about Omar Khadr. If I had had any doubts before (I didn't), this film provided convincing evidence, as it showed a declassified video of his interrogation at Guantanamo by CSIS and another Canadian agent, that Harper's government (our government!) has behaved disgracefully, and that he is innocent in every possible way. I mean, yes, he was only fifteen, a child. But apart from that, he could NOT possibly have thrown the grenade that killed the US soldier (since he had bullet wounds in his chest and elsewhere and shrapnel all over and was flat on his chest when they found him. Even if he had done, it was not murder, since the soldier was not there as a medic but as a killing machine, part of an elite crew called Delta Force, that attacked the house Omar Khadr was in. It's so disgraceful that he's now been cornered into pleading guilty, just in order to get clear, at the cost of his name being permanently blackened and of many more years of jail.

In the film it's pathetic to see how pleased Khadr is on day one to have Canadians talking to him. Then as he realises they don't have his interests at heart, he breaks down and cries for his mother... He tells his questioners that they don't want to hear the truth from him, that they don't like the truth.

If the government can pick and choose which Canadians it provides protection to and which it leaves to hang out to dry, then next time it could be you or me, or anyone, who is left to rot in a jail or be tortured or vilified. The film is called You Don't Like the Truth and is by Cote and Henriquez, from Montreal.

Now it's later Friday evening. The new moon brings Diwali, the Festival of lights, the start of a new year in the Hindu calendar. All over south Asia and elsewhere, houses are swept clean, lamps are lit, prayers are said... a focussed effort to lift everyone to new heights of clarity and in-tuneness for the passage into the new year.

A long time ago, thirty-four years ago, at this time of year, my mother was lying in her bed in the Gatineau outside Ottawa dying of cancer. She was lucid, just tired, as the breast cancer sat in her lungs, encumbering them and making breathing an effort. She had the energy and curiosity to have visitors, to take pleasure in the fading autumn colours, in the cat and the dogs and horses that lived on her farm. It was such an intense time, that slow passage of the days as she faded into leaving. It was a privilege to be able to live through that with her.

And now every year at this time the slanting shadows and fading colours and chill winds and patchy rain showers, and the scent of wet leaves, all of these things remind me of that intensely lived time of her dying. And that's good. it keeps me grounded and appreciative.

We're all going to end there eventually, on a deathbed of some kind. So let's live fully in the meantime, and hope that we're lucky enough to have clear heads and loving company for our full span.

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