Wild Geese: A poem by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Thank you Mary Oliver.

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Poem of the Week: The Laughing Heart via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Laughing Heart
– Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.


For more information on Charles Bukowski, please click here.

This poem found it’s way to me via Alison McGhee – poetry mistress.

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Minutiae #18 Heroes

When I was a kid/young adult I felt weird. I have no idea if I was weird but I felt weird. A square peg in a round hole, me on one side of the world, the world on the other side as though there was a piece of glass between us. I guess this is just being an awkward teen and not having any idea what your place in the world is.

Then one day Ziggy Stardust blew into town and changed everything. Over the years he brought Diamond Dogs, Scary Monsters, Aladdin Sane , and Let’s Dance. That fresh breeze of overt differentness of David Bowie became a lightning rod of approval for my own feeling of not belonging. I loved him, I loved him, I loved him. I overcame my insane shyness and danced and pranced in our living room to an audience of one (my adoring mother) while I sang so the world could hear.

“In the year of the scavenger, the season of the bitch
Sashay on the boardwalk, scurry to the Ditch
Just another future song, lonely little kitsch
(There’s gonna be sorrow) try and wake up tomorrowIn the year of the scavenger, the season of the bitch
Sashay on the boardwalk, scurry to the Ditch
Just another future song, lonely little kitsch
(There’s gonna be sorrow) try and wake up tomorrow”

Sing some more, she’d say and I would. Quite improbably I felt unabashedly most like me when I would get all dolled up and lay out my best Bowie performances for my mother.

The heart is such a crazy thing. It seems miraculous to me that a complete stranger can come along and make a girls’ life better. Make her place firmer in this world by showing that weird was just a better part of the world we live in. If he could join the human race, I could too. If he could dance, so could I.

I read a piece the other day by an ardent, life long Bowie fan who exclaimed that he wasn’t one of those fly by night fans like so many are. He’s bought every album, watched every interview, understood Bowie’s art from beginning to end. He never got off the train.

I don’t think I got off the train but I was not that person who remained an overt fan for the rest of my life. When I heard that he had died I felt sad. But as the week progressed I found myself thinking about him, his art, his music, his family, and what a profound loss it must be to have this super nova be fallable, to have to face leaving much too early and how hard that must have been for him and for those who truly knew him and loved him.

I loved David Bowie the artist. His art changed my life, touched me, twisted my heart, shaped me, made me stronger, made me better.
My mantra to this day when I have to speak in public is “If David Bowie can do it, so can I.” and I step forward on to life’s stage and try and give the performance of my life. Like he did.

Now that he is gone you find out other things about him that I didn’t know. That he is aquiet supporter of animal rights, that he licensed his song Heroes to the producers of The Cove for very little, that he was an early advocate against the senseless slaughter of dolphins in Taji. In the end David (Bowie) Jones was a human being like the rest of us. He was mortal, but he represents to me the best part of being human…the amazing beauty, art, that connects us even if we don’t know each other, have never met.

I went for a walk this week and found myself crying. I had no idea why. Then I realized it was grief. Saying goodbye to someone who gave me strength through his art and helped a young kid join the human race (with occasional confidence). Thanks David.

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Gito and Asoka Meet for the First Time

I have fallen in love with orangutans. The  International Animal Rescue first brought young Gito to my attention with a horrific picture of an almost dead baby organgutan who had been left to die in a box. He could barely move, was undernourished and suffered from severe mange. Not only are orang-utans threatened because their home in Indonesia is being deforested and sold to big companies to grow palm oil (products we buy and support) but they are also captured and traded as pets. This puts orang-utans on the path of extinction.

Anyways, I fell in love with Gito and wanted to learn a bit more. Videos are posted regularly of Gito and other rescues progress as the make their way through their new lives.

In this video, Gito meets Asoka for the first time. Since his capture from his family he has not seen another organgutan. This video is truly touching.  If you want to help, please share and start to tell the stories of these animals. It’s the only way organizations like The International Animal Rescue can get support for their work and people around the world can find out what is happening to one of the world’s most iconic and truly wonderful species.

My Christmas present this year was Gito. My husband adopted him for me. He is now on my list to go and visit.



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All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Toews Book Review

I read Miriam Toews A Complicated Kindness a few years ago and loved her wry humoured approach to a 16 year old’s rebellion against her strict Mennonite upbringing. I laughed. It was a poignant and very funny coming of age story.

In All My Puny Sorrows she draws on that same wry but very humane humour to show two sisters working through life’s deep sorrows including depression, mental illness and suicide.

That Toews draws heavily on her own family history in which both her father and her sister commit suicide lends the novel an even greater poignancy. This is real life. This happens to real people.

And that is one of the outstanding elements of this novel. It’s messy. The siblings (there are no other brothers or sisters) love each other. They’re complete opposites, one a happily married and accomplished world class pianist who suffers from deep depression. The other a divorced mother who drinks too much, sleeps around a lot and raises her two kids when she’s not saving her sister.

The ‘sister relationship’ is a curious thing. Having several sisters myself I know how I feel. I’ve seen what each of us has done when one of us is down. We are different from each other, we quarrel very occasionally, sometimes we poke fun and push buttons (because we know how better than anyone else) but wow, watch out if one of us goes down. It’s fierce love. I’ve witnessed it and lived it first hand.

It’s that relationship that this book explores so well. That fierce unconditional love that shakes your life upside down and forces you to consider in the name of love what you would do for this person. I cried when Yoli’s son says to her – “Mom you’re a good sister.” Elf has asked Yoli to take her to “Switzerland” – a euphemism for doctor assisted suicide. As much as she wants her sister to live, watching her suffer is worse. And love means allowing her to die a peaceful death.

I don’t want to spoil the plot so I’ll stop here. Read the book to find out what happens. But I thought that this book raises a vital point that deserves a robust and rigorous discussion – doctor assisted suicide not just for terminally ill patients but for patients who suffer from mental illness. As a Canadian there is a lot of discussion of doctor assisted suicide which appears to be interminably ‘before the courts’.

By the time I finished the book I had decided what side of the divide I stood on this contentious but important issue.  So I raised this question with my husband. What would you do? I said.  My husband’s first wife commit suicide as a result of depression. When I read everything that Yoli did for her sister I thought of him non-stop realizing he faced a similar situation. His best friend also commit suicide as a result of mental illness.

He was very clear in his thoughts. He would never assist someone who suffered from depression in ending their own life. He would fight tirelessly to find a solution. Even when working with a psychiatric community that seems incredibly lacking in compassion and seems often incompetent. There are moments in the book when you almost feel that if they could just get the right support, the right combination of drugs, the right psychiatrist, the right something that things could turn around. But the community that Toews shows seem heartless at best, incompetent at worst. My husband feels the same way.

I still don’t know what I would do. I’ve never had to face this situation but reading All My Puny Sorrows (a line from a Coleridge poem)  has made me think and discuss this issue again and again and again.

While this is a dark and difficult topic, Toews’ writing, humanity and humour shine through, just as it often does in real life, even in the toughest of situations.


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2015 A Year in Highlights for Elephants

Hi everyone,

As 2015 has drawn to a close we wanted to take a look at some of the victories for elephants around the world. While elephants continue to face numerous challenges there are some things to celebrate.  Let’s take a look:


US China Deal to Ban Ivory Trade is Good News for Elephants  Read more here.

New York, New Jersey, and California all have passed laws banning the sale of ivory, with fifteen other states expected to introduce similar legislation in the coming years. Read more here  and here.

Obama proposes sweeping ban on U.S. Ivory Sales Read more here.

California passed AB96, banning the sale of ivory and rhino horn.

Voters in Washington state sent a strong message to the world on November 3 when they passed the country’s first ever comprehensive state ban on commerce in endangered animal species. Read more here.

Tanzania Confident it Can Eradicate Poaching Within 4 Years. Read more here.

A woman dubbed the ‘ivory kingpin’ for her alleged leadership of one of Africa’s biggest ivory smuggling operations has been charged. Read more here.

Namibia’s elephant population grew by more than 70% between 2002 and 2013 from 9,600 to 16,000. Across Northern Kenya there has been a 43% decline in elephant poaching between 2012 and 2014. Read more here.

Community led approach to elephant conservation has a positive impact. Read more here.

Elephants in Circuses

Richmond, VA and Austin, TX banned the use of the bullhook. effectively making it impossible for circuses to force elephants to perform within city limits. Read more here.

Holland bans the use of wildlife from performing in circuses. Read more here.

Trophy Hunting Expo was shut down in Orlando Florida and in Toronto, Ontario

Last but not least over 130 cities all around the world marched for elephants in 2015 – with over 3,000 attending the march in Nairobi and approximately 40,000 people marching worldwide. Read more here.

Elephant Nature Park, Wildlife SOS both continue to do amazing work through education and awareness and the rescue of  elephants and other animals in distress.

This list is by no means complete and is intended simply as a highlight. If we’ve missed something, drop us a line and we’ll add it.

Together we’re making a difference. Let’s keep doing it.

Visit elephanatics.org

This is a repost from here.


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The Sweetness of 2015

I’m a “taking stock” kind of person. The last two weeks of the year I’m asking questions, poking around here and there and wanting to know how people feel about their lives, what they’ve done, what they’ve regretted, achieved, loved, heart breaks, heart aches, successes, failures, what they hope for in the coming year. You can ask Dave, I kill him with questions but I think it’s important so the reflection is worth it:)

So these are some of things I hold dear to my heart lest I forget:

  1. Being shortlisted for an international award for my sustainability program. Working with businesses both large and small is both the most thankless and most gratifying work you can imagine.There are some many companies rocking this space – they’re taking it on because they have passion, drive and ingenuity and those people give me hope.
  2. Losing in Italy at a palace whilst drinking prosecco and wearing a party dress. There is truly no better place to lose.
  3. Coming home.
  4. Talking to my brother on the phone every morning except when he’s too busy and hangs up on me to go eat a shwarma.
  5. Having Savannah (my lovely niece), my sisters and my brother on speed dial and phoning one after the other if they don’t answer quickly enough.
  6. Seeing my niece (Savannah) thinking and feeling her way to growing up.
  7. Watching my sister Jokelee taking on the insurance world. She’s fierce and lovely and we all know it.
  8. Reconnecting with my brother Chris and getting sweet texts from him.  Because life really is too short.
  9. Doing nothing. I think I perfected it this year. Doing nothing in Kelowna with Dave and Bean. Doing more of nothing at our house.
  10. Doing nothing. When I do nothing I seem to be able to think and feel better.
  11. Joining my sister Mia’s Mudderella team and having good old fashioned fun with a bunch of ladies.
  12. Post Mudderella party animal time. Yes, that’s right. I said ‘party animal’ because we were and who does that any more? But we did and I loved it.
  13. Reading books.
  14. Making time to read books.
  15. Finding breathtaking lines and images in books.
  16. Thinking about what people wrote.
  17. Dave’s art show.
  18. Dave’s art.
  19. Dave growing as an artist.
  20. Joffre Lake hike.
  21. Guilting my brother into stopping here before he and his wife go to Asia. I’ll use that more often.
  22. Elephants elephants elephants elephants. I love them. It makes no sense. But I love them. I’ll fight until it’s done. They’ve opened up my eyes to so much of the world. I love them.
  23. Animals.
  24. Gito my beautiful new adoptee.
  25. People who inspire me are the doers. My animal advocate community. What an amazing and brave group of people.
  26. Writers.I had so little time to read for awhile this year and all of a sudden I realized I was DYING and that I needed them.
  27. The amazing people whom I never expected to come to the march but did. And I was undone by it.
  28. Overcoming my fear of public speaking.
  29. Overcoming many fears.
  30. Feeling more strongly than ever the desire to get things done.
  31. Writing.
  32. Dave.
  33. My dog Bean.
  34. Olive? :)
  35. My friends. My family.
  36. Finding a hairdresser I can have a fun and sensible relationship with.
  37. Meeting new people.
  38. Dave.
  39. Life. I’m grateful.

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