Minutiae #13 Rascals and Angels – When your feet tell you to jump

If my hands and feet had characters, I would say my hands are the diplomats, the breakers of bread, the lovers of love, the do-gooders, my collaborators. My feet on the other hand are unpredictable rascals. Risk takers? Yes. The occasional mad dancers and the devils in my head? Absolutely. They are the ones that make me take mad flying leaps off cliffs.

As an entirely unpractical person it’s fair to say my feet, those devil may care vehicles of madness, frequently win the argument over the more practical hands and head. So when those feet tell me to jump, I jump.

DSC_0060_2The nature of the ‘flying leap’ isn’t an every day occurrence but it can be characterized by a disposition. For example, mail box keys aren’t for me, 1) I wouldn’t be able to find the key in any event, 2) if I could find the key, the mail would remain unopened possibly for years on end.

The thing about my feet though is this. They’ve taken me places. I have never regretted seemingly thoughtless responses to my heart. By that I mean – I never regret not planning, or not over thinking. For me over thinking leads me to inaction. And inaction leads me to never taking risks. And I realize I love the risk not for the risk itself but for what it brings. I love the feeling of unexplored and un-mapped territory – a place in my heart that is waiting to be etched by the newness of it all. I know now for certain that I have nothing to lose except the freshness of life.

My rascally feet brought me as a young girl to Vancouver – halfway across the country from my family; they helped me leave my first husband and move away to a foreign Asian country – the downside perhaps being that I barely knew where Japan was and I packed for tropical weather. They led me to interesting work experiences where I had no experience except the will to do it; it lead me to going on a date on Lavalife and meeting the love of my life; it lead me to a barn one day with a pocket full of money and coming home with a gorgeous sick little pup who changed my life; it led me to waking up one night and saying to Dave – I’m going to do something. I’m going to do something which launched my rage against a world that senselessly and mercilessly slaughters animals into something that echoes a battle cry against the growing horrors of injustice. A small committed group of people can change the world. I believe that. So what is next? Who knows I never know what is next. What is next is as unplanned as the vagaries of the heart. But I have my beautiful husband, adventurous feet and increasingly braver heart. I am open to the world.

So ‘thank you’ feet, you naughty rascals. I have no regrets. I can’t wait to find out what’s next.

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Poem of the Week: Twilight – by Dan Bellm via the lovely Alison McGhee

– Dan Bellm

After the men had
eaten, as always, very
fast, and gone—I thought

of them that way, my
father and brother—the men—
not counting myself

as of their kind—the
time became our own, for talks,
for confidences—

I was one of her,
though I could never be, a
deserter in an

open field between
two camps. Even my high school
said on its billboard,

Give us a boy, and
get back a man
, a wager
that allowed for no

exceptions, like an
article of war. Gay child
years away from that

lonely evening of
coming out to her at last,
of telling her what

she knew already
and had waited for, I’d sit
in the kitchen with

her after clearing
the meal away, our hands all
but touching, letting

a little peace fall
around us for the evening,
coffee steaming in

two cups, and try at
ways of being grown, with her
as witness, telling

the truth as I could—
which is how, one night, that room
became a minor,

unrecorded battleground
of the Vietnam

War. I think she knew
before it began how she’d
be left standing in

the middle with her
improvised white flag, mother,
peacemaker, when I

said I refused to
go; never mind how, I’d thought
her very presence,

her mysterious
calm, would neutralize any
opposing force, draft

board, father—it’s not,
we know, how that war came to
pass. For years I’d still

call her at that hour,
the work done and the darkness
coming on, even

all those years when Dad
was the one who’d come to the
phone first, and then not

speak to me. Twilight
times with her, when a secret
or what I thought was

one could fall away
beneath her patient regard,
though I would never

manage to heal her
hurts the way she tended mine—
those crossings-over

to evening when the
in-between of every kind
seemed possible, and

doubt came clear, because
she heard, and understood, and
did not turn away.

Big thanks to Alison for curating these poems.
​For more information on Dan Bellm, please click here: http://www.danbellm.com/

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Station Eleven: Emily St. John Mandel – Book Review

Unknown-2I have been shaken out of my reading lull with Emily St. John Mandel’s wild, beautiful book Station Eleven. The book moves back and forth between two very different but related worlds. One world is the world today as we know it and the other is the one that exists after a pandemic kills 99% of the human race.

The book opens in a theatre in Toronto where aging and legendary film actor Arthur Leander plays King Lear for his final time. He suffers a massive heart attack on stage and dies. A member of the audience runs to help him, the same man who years earlier, had as a paparazzi, stalked Leander and his wife Miranda outside his Hollywood mansion. When the paparazzi/medic leaves the theatre he calls a friend who tells him people are dying everywhere – that he should get out as soon as he can.

This last evening marks the end of the ‘old’ world. The new world order picks up with characters whose iives at some point or another have intersected with Arthur’s’ life. By moving back and forth between the old and the new world we not only find out about Arthur’s life but also of those who survived the pandemic.

The new world picks up in year twenty with Kirsten, who is now in her twenties and a survivor of the old world.She had been a child actress in the old world and now travels with a Shakespearean Theatre caravan who roam from settlement to settlement and in between dodge the dangers of a civilization that has become entirely undone. Nothing remains of the old world except ghosts of its former structures, abandoned houses, cars, buildings and airplanes – meals left half eaten, skeletons fully dressed lying in beds, on roads and in cars reminding the survivors of another life and time.

This merry band of artists and actors called the Travelling Symphony travel under the banner “survival is not enough” a line taken directly from Star Trek.  As a part of her old world possessions Kirsten has two limited edition comic books in her possession called Station Eleven which tells the story of Dr. Eleven, a physicist who lives on a space station after escaping an alien takeover of Earth. These comics at one time belonged to Miranda Leander, Arthur’s first wife, who was their author.

So what does all this mean? This book is more than just a story of a fading actor and his empty life. It’s more than a dystopic vision of post modern collapse and the end of the world as we know it. This is a rich novel where art and life are inextricably intertwined and it’s as though the world is a stage. And indeed the novel opens with Arthur in his last moments playing one of the greatest characters in literature – King Lear.

This theme continues with Miranda’s comics. She is driven to create a world that mirrors her own strange life in many ways. And as these comics get passed on they become the lifeblood of inspiration to two characters (Kirsten and the cult leader) in the new dystopian world. And in many ways the post pandemic world resembles Station Eleven  – an outpost world created out of the ruins of the death of a civilization.

And again, there are moments in the book, for example when Arthur is dining with his old friend and he notices that Arthur is no longer himself but is acting. It could be a commentary on the shallowness of Arthur and the world he lives in but it’s also the indivisibility of life and art. Life and art flow through each other like a river. Life without art is only survival as the Travelling Symphony knows. It elevates the human condition on every level and in the end it saves us from ourselves, each other and from barbarity. It’s what makes us a mensch.

I feel that Emily St. John Mandel has written a book that lays art against a bleak hopeless world (both the new and the old) and shows us that everything from comics to film and theatre including old standards like Shakespeare make the world an infinitely better more hopeful,  and more feeling place.

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Elephant Sanctuaries by Country in Asia – Non-elephant riding, abuse free sanctuaries

Tourists often have no idea what elephants have to go through in order for them to experience them on treks, rides, see them painting, begging on beaches or any other number of things that elephants naturally would not be doing. In order for elephants to perform including being ridden they have to be ‘broken’. Elephants are wild animals. I believe that if people really understood what they were contributing to when they participated in or supported any of these activities that they would not do it.

For elephants to be ridden or used in tourism in any way they go through a process called “phajaan” meaning ‘breaking an elephant’s spirit.” Elephants after all are wild animals. The process of phajaan is when a baby elephant is taken from its family and its mother and aunties are killed. They are put in crates, starved and beaten, its legs bound closely together so it can’t move, until its spirit is broken and the elephant can be forced into a life of labour. You can find more about this here,

We know a lot about elephants. Everybody understands that they are endangered both in Asia and in Africa and more than that that they are the equivalent of humans in emotional and social sophistication. Elephants, of course, lack the malice and cruelty of people. Increasingly people are becoming aware that elephants need to be supported as much as possible in the wild or in sanctuaries that allow them to live as close to a natural existence as possible.

The tourist trade is getting better, but still has a long way to go to direct people to sanctuaries….Many operations pose as ‘sanctuaries’ but in fact are not. This list was compiled by a friend of mine Leanne Fogarty who works who works tirelessly on behalf of Asian elephant captured in the tourist trade.  Please share this list with your friends and family.

Thanks, Tessa

List of Elephant Sanctuaries by Country


Elephant Sanctuary Cambodiahttp://www.saveelephant.org/elephant-sanctuary-cambodia/

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia is located inside the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.

Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuaryhttp://www.cambodiawildlifesanctuary.com

Provinces of Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Odor Mean Chey

Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary is located inside Kulen-Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary.

Elephant Valley Projecthttp://www.elephantvalleyproject.org

Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri

Phnom Tamao Wildlife Zoological Park & Rescue Centrehttp://www.phnomtamaozoo.com

Phnom Penh, Takeo

This is a zoo but the Elephant Rescue inside it has a very good reputation.


Wildlife SOShttp://www.wildlifesos.org

Agra, Uttar Pradesh

There is a Bear Sanctuary and Elephant Conservation & Care Center and they are situated side by side.

Chandaka Elephant Sanctuary –  http://www.orissatourism.org/wildlife-in-orissa/chandaka-elephant-reserve.html

Bhubaneswar, Odisha (formerly known as Orissa)

This sanctuary is actually a wildlife reserve.

Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centrehttp://www.wrrcbangalore.org

Bangalore, Karnataka


Elephant Conservation Centrehttp://www.elephantconservationcenter.com

Sayaboury City, Sayaboury


Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp – http://www.ghvelephant.com

Kalaw, Myanmar

They do allow “short” rides on the elephant, but best camp we know of in Myanmar.


National Trust for Nature Conservation’s Biodiversity Conservation Centre – http://www.ntnc.org.np

Baharatpur, Chitwan

Sri Lanka

Elephant Transit Homehttps://www.facebook.com/ElephantTransitHomeSriLanka

Udawalawe National Park, Ratnapura, Sabaragamuwa” to front of name – my mistake.)

Millennium Elephant Foundationhttp://www.millenniumelephantfoundation.com

Kegalle, Sabaragamuwa

Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Societyhttp://www.slwcs.org

Udahamulla, Nugegoda

Elephant Freedom Project – http://www.elephantfreedomproject.com

Kegalle, Sabaragamuwa


Elephant Nature Parkhttp://www.saveelephant.org/elephant-nature-park/

Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai

The Surin Projecthttp://www.surinproject.org

Tha Tum, Surin

Erawan Elephant Retirement Parkhttp://www.saveelephant.org/erawan-elephant-retirement-park/

Kanchanaburi City, Kanchanaburi

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand’s Wildlife Rescue Centerhttp://www.wfft.org

Tha Mai Ruak, Petchaburi

Burm & Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary – http://www.bees-elesanctuary.org

Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai

Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospitalhttp://www.elephant-soraida.com

Lampang City, Lampang

Elephant’s Worldhttp://www.elephantsworld.org

Kanchanaburi City, Kanchanaburi

Elephant Hillshttp://www.elephant-hills.com

Phanom District, Surat Thani

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuaryhttp://www.blesele.org

Si Satchanalai District, Sukhothai

Usually booked out 6 months in advance and they only take 6 people per night.


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Minutiae #12 It was the best of times

The best of times really were just hanging out doing nothing. But doing nothing in the end was something if you know what I mean. Get this. My mom had this red shag rug, a zebra skin on the wall and a fake leopard bar. A bar! Can you believe it? We lived in this tiny apartment but there was a bar. And her chair, the chair that nobody sat in except her, was this leather piece. Black leather that looked like this except black. She never said nobody could sit in it. We just knew we couldn’t. And sometimes if we wanted to check it out you would for a few uncomfortable minutes and then move. It was like she was always in it even if she wasn’t.


Some days for no reason at all, I would decide to give her the performance of a lifetime. And I would stand in front of her, somewhere between the chair and the fake leopard bar and I would sing. There would be no holding back. No shyness, no thinking about the neighbours.Just pure unadulterated ‘out there-ness”.belting out Edith Piaf when I was going through my Edith phase, or Bowie or maybe a little cabaret. I liked to mix it up. I would strut and dance and sing like my life depended on it. And she would sit there in that chair, my only audience member. Afterwards I would bow and she would just look at me and say “Wow, that was so great. You are so great.” And I believed every single word and for those few short moments I would really feel super human as though I was a real star. And those words and that moment got me through some tough times later in my life. And I’ve always been thankful that I had somebody in my life who was kind enough, generous enough to say that. Because you can get a lot of mileage out of saying that kind of thing to a kid everyone once in a blue moon.


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Poem of the Week: To Certain Students by V. Penelope Pelizzon via Alison McGhee

To Certain Students
–  V. Penelope Pelizzon

On all the days I shut my door to light,
all the nights I turned my mind from sleep

while snow fell, filling the space between the trees
till dawn ran its iron needle through the east,

in order to read the scribblings of your compeers,
illiterate to what Martian sense they made

and mourning my marginalia’s failure to move them,
you were what drew me from stupor at the new day’s bell.

You with your pink hair and broken heart.
You with your knived smile. You who tried to quit

pre-law for poetry (“my parents will kill me”).
You the philosopher king. You who saw Orpheus

alone at the bar and got him to follow you home. You
green things, whose songs could move the oldest tree to tears.

For more information on V. Penelope Pelizzon, please click here.

My Facebook page.

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Zimbabwe’s wild elephants must remain wild. Stop exporting wild creatures for entertainment! Please sign and share share share

b2dc95_c5e5a5869ef1430784d8e1d9d60b2c33.jpg_srz_p_476_358_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Hi everyone,

The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos has made it easy to take the following action. Please read the instructions and sign the form letter and then copy and paste the letter to the United Arab Emirates. Then please share. Letter is here.

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