Thursday, October 21, 2010


He looks more like Al Bundy than Ted Bundy. He's a serial rapist and killer with an obsession for cataloguing his lingerie trophies. He's a terribly sick and evil person.

But he is not what disturbs me most.

This week, self-portrait photos of the man, clad in stolen women's underwear graced the front cover of our local newspaper and many other publications. These papers are delivered to schools, scanned by kids walking down the street and read by stable and unstable people alike.

Yesterday I listened to the radio discuss whether too much information about the case had been released. Caller after caller volunteered to pull the trigger on this low-life.

What is our society coming to?

I believe this case will be as much of a watershed in our country as the O.J. Simpson case was in the US. That case opened the door for the 24-hour news cycle and the need to obsessively document the behaviour of deviants and celebrities. This case marks a change to criminal justice proceedings here.

The argument has been made that this criminal may seek parole or even appeal his conviction, and that, therefore, the public needs to know and see the extent of his crimes so that he never walks the streets again. I strenuously protest this reasoning. There will not be a binding referendum about whether or not to release this person; the decision will be made by a judge and panel. God help us if public opinion plays such a major role in public policy and individual cases of law - and thank God it does not.

What the publication, in particular, of the photographs in this case serves best to do is to further victimize the victims and to victimize innocent viewers of the photos. I have a sneaking suspicion that the publication of the pictures and the lengthy victim impact statements that have been read directly to the accused are an attempt to publicly shame him, in a way that would previously have been considered unthinkable. Where is the publication ban that was instituted in the Scarborough rapist case? Where is the understanding that this crime is against society and that the judge will act on our behalf to sentence such a monster?

I am sickened by the public appetite for images and for retribution. How exactly are we different from such a monster, other than that our passions come out of a motive of revenge?

I believe in God and that God judges justly, that even secret acts of goodness and evil will be noted and judged someday with equity. This does not mean I want this person enjoying three-course meals, university courses and an accumulating pension on the public purse. However, I can't bring myself to want anyone to treat him as he has treated others. That is a perversion of the Golden Rule and a sad statement about the condition of our society if it is the way we are.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Circling the Pool

I love to swim but nearly every time I enter a pool, I have to give myself a countdown. There is something in me that resists - strongly - that initial shock from warm, dry world to cool wetness.

This fall, I have had the luxury of time to spend on my fourth novel. It's going well - within a month, I'm 20,200 words in, and I have a very good idea where it's all going to go, and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to write this tale. My goal is to be done a good draft by April, but I suspect it could happen sooner.

And yet.

Every day is the same story. It's the pool story. The countdown. The resistance. The small load of laundry that could be done. The phone call. The paid work project. Today, this blog entry. Some days I can't force myself to engage with the story until mid-afternoon. I've never been a procrastinator before, but neither have I had open time just to write a novel. When I do force myself to get wet, the words come fast and furious. I write perhaps as much as I might have if I simply shut off the Internet in the morning and opened the document or the notebook and set to work.

I'm not exactly sure which process would be better. And what I'm doing is working, I suppose.

I just thought I would note the oddity of the process.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I cry when I watch the Olympics, profoundly moved by the human spirit that makes people go beyond what they believe to be possible.

Tonight, I am hoping to cry such tears but not simply about games. Tonight 32 Chilean men and a Bolivian man will be - God willing - raised a kilometre through the rock that has entombed them since August 5.

I can think of two other stories that resonate deeply in the same way: one is the story of Ernest Shackleton whose ill-fated 1914 trek to the South Pole resulted in the most remarkable story of courage and survival I've ever heard. The bottom line with this story is that despite three years under horrifying and isolated conditions as well as a nearly-impossible rescue, every single man survived. You can read his story here:

The other story is that of the Apollo 13 space mission. You've seen the movie. You've seen how ingenuity coupled with courage and providence made all the difference in getting them home. That and hope.

I want this one to be the third. I wonder which conditions would be the least hospitable - living in pack ice in the antarctic winter, being isolated in a small capsule in space, or being deep in the bowels of the earth. I suppose space is truly the least life-sustaining but really, I don't choose any of the options.

People keep using images of birth for tonight's rescue. I think it is apt.

What moves me most here is that no one ever gave up. The miners persisted in their tasks with stoicism and deep unyielding faith. The families have camped out at the site, wives and mistresses alike. There has been a baby born - named Esperanza. No expense has been spared and people from around the world have shared their expertise. For 33 men.

It is also a picture of salvation for me. A very clear picture. A rescue of people who cannot rescue themselves, and who have to believe that rescue is coming and entrust themselves to their rescuers. How far would you go to rescue someone who could not rescue themselves, I ask. And how far did someone go to rescue me.

Tomorrow, if all goes well, hope will turn to great rejoicing.

The Apollo 13 astronauts went on to careers in business and politics. Ernest Shackleton, by contrast, had a hard time returning home after the grueling conditions he faced and died prematurely from heart conditions caused by his years on the ice. I have to wonder about the 33 men being reborn tonight - what their futures will hold. I've heard there are television and movie contracts being negotiated, visits with royalty and politicians, and financial rewards. I hope there's more for them too - not stuff and ceremony - but more.

Something that kept them hoping these 68 days,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I've been cranky lately. Not constantly and not at everyone or everything. But a few things and a few people. I describe it best as "not suffering fools gladly." Not gladly at all. What has made me particularly grouchy is that there have been several occasions when I have been very excited about something I have done, only to be blamed for it, rather than smiled at. I'm also tired. September blew by incredibly quickly, but it was only yesterday that I finally got my house in order after nearly three months of minor but time-consuming and furniture-moving and waiting-for-paint-to-dry renovations. (In case you are curious: we took out most of the walls in the basement and scraped and properly painted the basement walls and floors, then moved our laundry upstairs to the main floor by ripping out an office wall, hiring someone to do plumbing and electrical work and constructing a wall, then redoing the office, including ripping out carpet and paneling, redoing the above and painting, then swapping that room with one son's bedroom. Let's just say that A Lot of Stuff was moved about endlessly in the process.) There is something tiring about living in chaos, possibly more so as I get older.

Yesterday morning early, I sat in bed with a grievance about a few family members and aching muscles, preparing to nurse my grudge. I opened the Bible and the book of Common Prayer I use to direct my readings. It sent me to Psalm 116. Where I read "I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving."

Crap, I thought. Yeah. Thanksgiving. Like next week. Like the sign I read on a church billboard the other day that said thanksgiving is the mother of all virtues.

And sacrifice too. The easy way out really is self-pity, nurturing slights and justifying myself. It's not where I live all the time, thank goodness, but neither is thanksgiving.

Thankfulness is a radical postural change of heart. It genuinely is the difference between the perception that a glass is half-empty, and solid appreciation for the few cool, wet gulps that really are there.

My problem is an embarrassment of riches: where do I start?

How about from where I sit right this moment. I am typing on a working computer. A purple one. I have a cup of hot green tea beside me. I have a view of trees outside my window. I have time to write and think. I am fed and clothed. My husband's desk is beside mine. I am grateful perhaps most of all for him, for the fact that we have been able to bend, stretch and change over the years and still stay together. There's a picture of the St. Lawrence river above the desk - a place I love and get to visit thanks to my sister. I have a funny greedy letter to Santa on my desk, written by one of my kids. My kids are healthy and funny and kind to one another. I can't take any of those things for granted. My parents are living and so is my grandma. There are stories around me, some even written by me - this is a gift too. There is money for groceries in my wallet at my feet. I have lovely friends and neighbours. I had good paid and volunteer and creative work to do today and I did it.There's a pool pump running outside and a furnace running within.

It always feels weird when you take on a new exercise, whether physical or mental. This is no exception. Part of me says, "yeah, I know" even to this long good list. But part of me wants to open my eyes to the beauty of all that is around me.

And that is thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Our neighbours are dogsitting. The other morning,their 9 year old son came to my house as usual at 8:15 am. He had already taken their loaner dog out for three walks that morning. I heard the six a.m. walk in my dreams. I talked with his dad last night. The dad is less fond of the dog. Well, that's not exactly true. He is less fond of having his house smell like someone else's dog. He thought the dog should stay at home and be visited by his family (all of whom are at work or school all day anyway). He was outvoted and now his house smells of eau de dog.
This morning I was freezing so I put on a sweater and shirt I haven't worn since last winter. The shirt smells funny and it made me think about house and clothes smells. How everyone thinks their house smells normal and everyone else's house smells a bit funny. My shirt smelled like it was someone else's, although it probably smells like a wooden drawer.
We once bought a house largely because of its smell. I'm not kidding. The garage smelled exactly - and I mean exactly - like the cold room of my great grandparents house. I was transported back every single time I went there. The same cold room is finding a place in the novel I am working on right now.

Smells matter.