Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The television antenna

We do not have television. We have a television set, but we have no channels. The last time we had channels was in 2002 for a few months. Dave's brother decided that we needed an antenna, since we had a TV, so he bought us one. We hooked it up for a while. I watched Survivor and Friends every Thursday. Before that we had never had television since we got married in 1993.

Yesterday, we were bored. We didn't want to rent a movie, since there wasn't anything exciting in the video store. We couldn't go anywhere because our son was sleeping. We had done next to nothing all day on Dave's day off. So we decided to try to get a channel on our TV. I went to the basement and dug out the antenna. We set it on top of the TV and plugged it in.

We spent about 10 min. Figuring out that we had to turn off the cable function on our television before we could get it to work. Then we spent another 10 min. twiddling with the antenna while switching channels, trying to find a channel with a signal. Finally, we found it! Channel 11 had wavy lines, not just static! I left Dave to fiddle with the antenna and when I came back we had vague images moving across the screen. Yes, they were black and white, yes they were blurry, but you could see that there was something happening there!

What we couldn't figure out was why there was no sound. Usually with such a tantalizing picture you would get a pretty good sound quality, but there was nothing. Not a peep. So, we unplugged all the DVD cables, hoping that would result in a sound. Nothing. We twiddled with the different things on the antenna -- still no sound. So I decided to check if the sound cable was properly screwed into the plug at the back.

I took the antenna plug out of the TV. I checked it. It was fine. I put it back into the television. The picture was gone. Even the hint of a picture was gone. We turned the antenna every which way. We twiddled with the dial. We tried all kinds of settings on the TV menu. Nothing worked. Our hope of being reintroduced into the exciting world of moving pictures was over. Dave went to play on the internet. I washed the dishes. I decided it must the the antenna.

The Birds

We had some crazy bird action going on here on Sun. morning. I felt like I was watching the inspiration for Hitchcock's classsic. We have an apple tree in the back yard, and all the apples that we didn't get off the tree are now becoming bird food. Which is cool, because usually there will be lots of birds standing in our yard munching on apples.

Sunday morning was a whole other ballgame. There were robins everywhere. These were not the happy little robins you sing about in Kindergarten. These robins were swooping around our back yard in and out of trees,. They were standing facing each other and butting chests and flapping wings at each other. They were making formations and careening wildly around my yard and the neighbourhood. It was crazy.

I wonder, is it mating time? Doesn't that happen in the spring? Was it some sort of teenage pre-migration bird party? Were they deciding who gets the best condos when they arrive down south? Are my apples turning into bird alcohol? Was there a special south-northern wind blowing through the yard?

I showed this display of crazy robin behavior to my one year old son. He said "oh."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Missing a Multiplicity of Cultures

One of the things I have noticed about living in a small town is the lack of cultures. It is not that there is no culture in a smaller town. It is simply that there are only one or two cultures instead of many.

Let me give you an example. I used to live in Thunder Bay, a city of 117 000 people. There was an Italian hall, an Italian cappuccino bar (before they were cool), and several Italian Resteraunts. There was a Finnish Resteraunt, a Finnish community center, and several shops that imported goods from Finland. The same could be said for the Portugeese, the Ukranians, the Hungarians . . . you get the picture. Aside from this there was a Christian community that was small enough so that I could recognize almost all of the Christian teenagers in town, because our paths had crossed at various events. We had our own culture, our own community. But I was also part of a group of Catholic friends at school, who showed me how to pray the rosary and had me over for Easter dinner. I was also friends with a bunch of other people who were interested in music, and introduced me to jazz. I knew a lot about Finnish culture because I grew up in a Finn area of town . . . again, you get the picture.

The same was true, only more so, on the West Coast. When I taught at big highschools in Surrey there would be kids who were seperated by interests and general social status, just like anywhere else. But there were also kids who were friends because they were Phillipino, or Indo-Canadian, or Korean, or Iraqi. These kids rubbed elbows with each other and with the run of the mill "Canadian" kids, and voila, a cornucopia of intersecting cultures was born! It was wonderful to watch them learn to swear in other languages, listen and dance to music from other cultures, eat food they would have never otherwise sampled, and generally be exposed to ideas and experiences of people from all around the world. There is a certain depth that comes from the intersection of so many cultures. You see people differently. You learn that your perspective is not the only one. If you are open to it, you can learn to see the world through the eyes of a different culture, and understand why they act as they do. "They" becomes blurred with "us".

The strange, wonderful thing about Canada is that we, ideally, maintain both the "we" and the "us - them" simultaneously. I strive to maintain my own cultural / religious / personal identity while also being enriched by the cultures and religions of those around me. I become broadened and deepened by all this exposure and knowledge. Is it perfect? No. Does it always work this way? No. But if you allow yourself to be welcomed in, if you listen and watch and taste and ask questions, it is amazing what you can find out.

And that is one of the things I miss after my move to a 3 Horse town in Saskatchewan. I miss gyoza and curry and home made salad rolls dipped in peanut sauce. More, I miss my friends who have bravely married into multiculturalism. I miss soy-sauce basted turkey for Thanksgiving and my Japaneese friend learning to sing R&B and Italian arias. I miss my Malay friend teaching me how to make Yorkshire pudding correctly. I miss mis-understanding my American friend because we use the same word in such a slightly different way that we get half way through a conversation without realizing why we are both so confused. I miss all the differences I had learned to take for granted.

But yet, there is a subtle trap here. The trap is to think that I should instantly understand the culture here becuase everyone is white and mostly Christian. It is to think that I can walk in and not use those cross-cultural sensors here because everything looks familliar. The longer I stay here, the more I realize that things are not always so familliar. Now I am in a culture where the differences are more subtle. Where the great depression and World War II and the original homesteaders have left as indellible a mark as the Hong Kong Reappropriation has left of Vancouver. A strong sense of community and volunteerism, strangely paired with the notion that one should be independent and be able to provide for oneself -- and your neighbours to boot -- pervades the culture. This province of people whose ancestors dared to take ships across the ocean to start new lives in parts unknown. This province of people whose parents fed peniless, jobless drifters at their back door. This province of people who sent throngs of young men to fight for Queen and country.

This province tells its own story. It is not a story with a long history. It is often not even a flashy or exciting story. But it is a story the newcomer needs to listen to. For it is the story of these people with whom I live. And in order to understand them, I need to hear it. And so I listen. And slowly I understand. And one day I will take these stories with me, just as I take the stories of new immigrants just arrived full of hopes and dreams, longings for home and familliar sights and sounds and foods. And I will absorb them into myself as I have taken those other stories. And they will make me stronger and wiser, richer, and deeper.

Monday, September 19, 2005

When will he ever sleep?

After the bath where you stood up and peed into the bathtub and then splashed water all over my jeans
After we counted to 10 with Olivia more times than I can count
After the rocking chair and the soothing music
After you climbed all over my like a jungle gym and nursed simultaneously
After the saline drops and the nasal aspirator and the little rolls of kleenex to extricate the solidified snot
After we found out what Brown Bear saw . . several times
After you settled down and cuddled in and closed your eyes
After the cat jumped up on the bed and you sat up to see who was purring and to pull her ears
After you climbed around on the bed and I had to catch you before you got down on the floor and ran away
After I gathered you into my arms and settled you in for a serious nurse
After the lullabies and the prayer time
After you sat up and cried and burped and cried and burped
After I walked you around the house
After we rocked in the chair, cuddled up in our nursing shawl
After you climbed out of the rocking chair to investigate the stero and turned the soothing music up to a volume where it was no longer soothing
After I gathered you up and you screamed and we went for a walk to settle you down and I gave you tylenol in case it was your teeth
After we went back to bed and you nursed and nursed and nursed
After you pinched me and bit me and pulled my hair and laughed when I said ow
After you sat up and burped some more, so I gave you gripe water in case it was your tummy
After you settled down to nurse and then sat up again when the phone rang
After more saline drops in case the first hadn't taken
After you settled down and lay across my tummy and stared at the fan
After you crawled up and nursed and fell asleep on my arm
After you woke up and fussed when I tried to move you
After I settled you back down to sleep and snuck away
You went to sleep. For a while.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Feminism: The next generation?

I have been thinking a lot lately about wether I am a feminist or not. I am a stay at home mom. I plan to continue to be one, at least part time, for the near future. When I tell women of a certain age this (the ones who burned their bras in the 70's and wore power suits in the 80's), they seem somewhat dissapointed. It is as if I am letting them down; failing to reach for all the opportunities they have opened up to me. And so I ask myself, am I a feminist?

I like to think of myself as part of a new generation of feminists. I am like a lot of women I know. I vote. I went to university and outsmarted many of the men. I had a profession where I was paid the same salary as my male counterparts. I wear pants more often than skirts. I have opinions and ideas of my own, and I expect men to listen to them. But I am a devoted wife. I have grown my hair long again, because my husband thinks it is nice that way. I consider it important to stay at home with my children until they are in school. I am learning to clean house, and keep a well organized home. I am learning to decorate. I even, when I remember, wear mascara every day. I am rediscovering femininity of a kind that has not been popular in the last few decades, but that seems to be reemerging.

I am glad that I have the rights that I have. I use those rights when I need them. But I don't want to take a man's place in the world. I don't want to be a man; I want to be a woman.

I want to bear children and breastfeed them. I want to be the person that anchors their small, impressionable lives in these early years, not a babysitter or a daycare worker. I want to be able to be proud of my house, and be able to run it well. I want to learn to bake bread, and cook home made soup and can the apples on my tree. Essentially, I want to regain all the babies that were thrown out in the bathwater of early, militant feminism. And then, once I've done that, I want to have the right to go back to work and be a nurturing and wise highschool teacher, and a caring mother and wife.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I honour what past generations of women have given to me -- and that is the freedom to choose to marry or not, to have children or not, to work or not. Does this make me a feminist? I'm still not sure, but I'm working on it.

My squirrel

There is a squirrel in my back yard. He lives in the neighbour's tree, but at present he is busy collecting food for the winter. This includes the apples on our crab apple tree. The funny thing is, thought, that this is a little prarie squirrel, not a giant grey southern Ontario squirrel, so the apples are bigger than his head. He can't even fit his arms all the way around them. And yet he somehow manages to get enough in his mouth to carry the thing, and then he climbs up the side of the fence and carries it. As if this were not an onerous enough task, the board he walks along to get to his tree is interrupted ever 3 feet by fence posts. So he walks, walks, walks, jumps up, jumps down, walks, walks, walks, jumps up, jumps down all the way along the back of my yard. It is very amusing. I really want to show my baby, but I know he will just go "ooh" and point at the wind blowing in the branches of the apple tree, and completely miss the squirrel. I'm sure there's a metaphor about parents and children in there somewhere . . .

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blogs and Ender's Game

Has anyone else noticed this? In Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card predicted blogging, and predicted that it would become a major force in politics and society. Valentine and Peter, Ender's siblings, create blog personas that comment on important world events. Eventually they become so influential that Peter can be voted president of the Hegemony at the age of 15 or something. I find it so interesting that irl blogs are just beginning to influence world opinion, journalism, elections, etc.

One Year Old

How did one year go by so quickly? Just over a year ago this small, screaming creature arrived, taking all my time, my energy, my body and claiming them for his own. Aside from screaming, his only form of communication was to bang on my chest, demanding more, more, more. He was insatiable. This was not what I was expecting when I wanted to make my life more interesting.

Now a year later there is a small person who lives with me. He wanders around my house, tearing apart the cupboards and shelves. He seriously examines and investigates all possible uses of every item he finds. He points at the cat and says "cat" as he chases the poor animal around the house. He smiles and laughs and cries and chatters all day long. He adores his dad and can't wait to see him at night. He clings on to our legs and says "up". He charms complete strangers with a smile and a wave.

Even though I have been there every day to watch him grow, it is hard to think of these two creatures as one person. I am sure I will say the same thing at two, and five, and fifteen, and thirty. I will say, "Is this the same child I gave birth to so many years ago? How much he has changed. How much he has remained the same."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wapati Regional Park

Last night we went to Wapati Regional Park for a Picnic. It is also a Four Seasons Resort and Ski Hill. Ski hill, you ask? In Saskatchewan? Well, this is the way it goes. Hills don't go up from the prarie. They dip down into the prarie. So, you can not see them -- you have to know they are there. Small dips are created by creeks and are surrounded by little groves of trees and shrubs. Larger dips are things like the Wapati Ski Hill, where there is a large river surrounded by trees and shrubs. So, you are driving along and all of a sudden you drop into this valley and there it is. By B.C. standards, it would not be considered a hill, nevermind a ski hill. But since it has all the requisite features of a ski hill -- an incline, snow, runs and a chair lift -- it is a ski hill.

In front of the ski hill there is a nice little penninsula that has been grassed over so that it is a park. There is a corner store, washrooms, hookups for campers, a set of monkey bars, a few picnic tables, and the stage. Yes, I did say the stage. Apparently sometime in the not-so-distant past the Wapati Walleye Competition took place in the lake and they left their mark on the park. They built a small plywood stage, about 10' X 5' with a back wall about 8' tall. On the side you see when you enter the park there are charts posted with the results of said fishing competition. But what is really spectacular is what is on the other side of the wall.

The entire stage and walls are painted yeloow. That's right, bright yellow. And on the back there is the name of the competition, along with what I would describe as the insignia of the Death of Walleye. It is a stylized fish skeleton, complete with wide open mouth, gaping eyes, rib and tail bones.

Just beyond the stage, there is one picnic table on the very edge of the penninsula, looking out on the lake. The lake is very pretty, with trees all around it and of course the famous, luminous Saskatchewan sky. So, the picnic was lovely, from Hubby and Baby's point of view. But I really enjoyed my view of the Death of Walleye. It gave me something to reflect upon -- life cycles, chatch and release vs just catch fishing, if a fish's eye sockets really look like that -- you get the idea.

Well, I had best go tidy up the books my 1 yr old has strewn all over the floor before he trips on them and experiences a minor calamity. TTFN

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hello World!

Okay, so I finally caved and decided to start blogging. You all knew I would do it eventually. What else is a girl whose stuck in the middle of Saskatchewan with a 1 yr old maniac to do during nap time? House work? Ha! Fortunately for y'all I'm actually busy today, so this is it for now.