Poem of the Week: Our Fathers by Joyce Sutphen via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Our Fathers
     – Joyce Sutphen

Our fathers, who lived all their lives on earth—
are going now. They have given us all
we need, and when we asked, they gave us more.

Their names are beautiful to us, holy
as the names of stars, as familiar
as the roads we traveled, falling asleep

on the way from one farm to another.
Their kingdoms were small; they were never
interested in more than one homestead,

and as for evil: although they could not
keep it from us, they tried to keep us from
temptation, though we were like all children

and wanted our own power and glory,
world without end, forever and amen.


For more information on Joyce Sutphen, please click here.

Thanks always to Alison for curating and sharing these beautiful word sculptures.Visit her web site here. https://alisonmcghee.com/

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A Woman in Berlin – by Anonymous

30851I am on a mission to learn about the Second World War. Not about generals and strategy  but about the people who lived and survived it.  Primo Levy’s book Survival in Auschwitz was a great book. An incredible story of survival that demonstrates just how damn hard it is to survive.

A Woman in Berlin is no different. It’s written by a journalist who chronicles what happens to the people in her  apartment block (including herself) over two months at the end of the war when the Russians are beating down on the city.

Through the framework of her apartment block she shows you the minutiae of war. Who are the people hiding in cellars, what are they eating, wearing, where does water come from, what is the daily, hourly, minute by minute search for food like, where is her neighbour’s husband, where is her boyfriend, what is the news from the front, where is Herr Hitler and his group of bandits now? Do Nazis walking the street, knowing that defeat is imminent, still feel comfortable declaring their party status? What is the news from the concentration camps, thousands upon thousands dead she hears. There is no news service, no electricity, no running water ,no heat. It’s cold and miserable. She’s moved in with her neighbour and sleeps with a Russian officer to keep fed, does this make her a whore? She is raped, her neighbour is raped. She is raped again and then again. And it’s vital that she find protection through an officer who sings drunken Russian songs, whispers secrets in her ear, longs for love, brings her food which she shares. This makes her of value to her neighbour. It keeps her alive.

The Russians occupy the city breaking into apartments and homes. And when nightfall they help themselves to everything. This story is no picnic. Yet what makes it compelling is its utter lack of sentimentality. The chronicler of this story doesn’t feel sorry for herself, she eyes the world around her with an intelligent, sardonic eye. She uses the Russian she sleeps with to her advantage. She’s kind and funny. But she is not sentimental. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself. Perhaps not even for others. She witnesses the ravages of war in all its  human mundanity.

I was sad when this book ended. I wanted to talk to this person all night long and drink whiskey. Undoubtedly we’d have some laughs at the folly of men, of political rogues and  at the strangeness and cruelty of the  upside down world. She is as contemporary as anyone I know. There is a universality about her writing that seems so specific to her. I’m in love.

Sometimes people ask “Who would you spend an evening with? ” I would spend an evening talking to this woman any time.

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Lucy in Captivity – The Ethics of Moving Her — elephanatics

Lucy is one of the world’s most controversial elephants. She lives alone in Edmonton’s Valley Zoo. For year’s activists have tirelessly campaigned to have her moved to a sanctuary where she can live out her life in a warmer climate with other elephants. Elephants are known to be exceptionally emotionally intelligent and social animals. On […]

via Lucy in Captivity – The Ethics of Moving Her — elephanatics

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2016 Mardi Gras for Elephants and Rhinos: A celebration 4 life

12734243_10153776260215358_6944977851216971239_n.jpgAs some of you may know I work to raise awareness of the issues facing the world’s remaining Asian and African elephants. I am part of a group based in Vancouver called Elephanatics. We are a conservation group that does educational outreach, action and advocacy in Canada on behalf of elephants.

For the last two years we have organized a event in Vancouver that is part of a global, grassroots initiative called The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. Last year over 140 cities organized worldwide. This year we hope to have even more cities participate. Our goal is put continued  pressure on governments and policy makers worldwide to end the ivory and rhino horn trade and to save many of Africa’s endangered species by moving them to Appendix 1 under the convention of the international trade in endangered wildlife and fauna known as CITES.

We are encouraging people in cities around the world to organize events large and small (last year two elderly women organized an event on their street corner which was completely inspiring!)

Without global action elephants and rhinos will be extinction with 10 to 25 years.

On September 24th events will be held worldwide for the opening day of CoP17 in Johannesburg.

Vital decisions on elephants, rhinos and lions are to be made at CoP17 by 181 members of CITES. Our objectives are to halt all trade and to get governments (who are CITES members) to change laws, have political will to stop the trade.

Last year over 50,000 people marched to raise awareness and to demand an end to the poaching crisis that is pushing them rapidly towards extinction.

The poaching of elephants and rhinos has reached unprecedented heights in recent years as the demand for ivory and rhino horn has soared in China and other mainly Asian markets.

An elephant is brutally killed every 15 minutes – 35,000 every year.

A rhino is poached every 11 hours with an estimated 24,000 left in the world. Over 1,000 rhinos were poached last year alone, compared to 13 in 2007.

Speakers at Vancouver’s events this year are:

Patricia Sims –  Co-Founder of the annual World Elephant Day, a global awareness campaign that brings attention to the critical threats facing elephants. The campaign reaches millions of individuals across the globe through events, traditional media, and social media outreach.
She produced, directed and wrote the documentary When Elephants Were Young,  narrated by William Shatner which won best documentary awards in both the Whistler Film Festival and Palm Springs FF..

Paul Blackthorne is an English Actor for film, television, and radio. He is currently a lead actor in the series “Arrow” which is filmed in Vancouver BC. Over the past three years he has collaborated with different conservation organizations to help raise awareness about the poaching crisis facing the African elephant and the rhino. He has run two successful t-shirt campaigns: One in Vietnam for the rhino with the slogan “Keep Rhinos Horny” and another for the elephant “Poach Eggs Not Elephants”.He is a committed social activist for wildlife conservation and has implemented a range of activities calling for joint global efforts to save wild animals, especially the elephant and rhino.

Mike Farnworth is the current NDP MLA for Port Coquitlam.
He serves as Opposition Spokesperson for Justice (Public Safety and Solicitor General).

Mike has been adamant in trying to fight a loophole in Canadian law that allows rhino horn to be sold if it can be proven to be obtained before 1975. Illegal horn is easily mixed with legal horn and thus forms a loophole. He recently tabled a private members bill at the legislature to outlaw the sale of ivory and rhino horn.
Join us on Twitter: @condofire @elephanaticsBC
Vancity_GlobalMarchElephants Instagram

Here is a short informational video about the ivory trade:



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Random Musing: On Cynicism

I don’t want to be cynical. I battle it but every week, every day, every hour something happens and you think, “My god. We’re monsters.” Scan the planet and its people, what they do and what they don’t do and the consequence of their actions|inaction and you slide into despair. Everyday there’s devastation to people, the planet and the incredible flora and fauna that inhabits this big beautiful planet of ours.

Right now for a project I’m reminding myself of the events of the Second World War. Racism and nationalism killed 30 million people. 6 million Jews. These are just words. When I read these words I imagine the living of it in stark human detail. These people had families, neighbours, children. They loved, went to school, had careers,love affairs, dreams, heartaches and aspirations. They lived and breathed and walked streets to cafes and restaurants. This is my era right now.

But there are others – Rwanda, Vietnam, the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls, religious wars, Syria, the mass movement of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, the murder of innocent people in Paris, Orlando, San Bernadino, Beirut, Turkey. It goes on and on and on.We haven’t even gotten to wildlife – elephants, those beautiful, soulful animals who have roamed this earth for millions of years whose existence, like so many others, is threatened by human action.

But now I’m swimming backwards aren’t I. And I feel hopeless. People sometimes ask me why I spend my time helping elephants (and other animals). Why elephants they say? The deep, cynical part of me wants to answer, “Because people aren’t worth my time. Look at what they do.” And I stop myself because it’s not entirely true. The truth is I do think that sometimes. But I work for elephants because I saw something that ate at my soul for a long time. And for a long time after  I never did anything until the day I decided to do something. And I still see this elephant. In a convention centre in Toronto. People standing around, staring and he looked lost and disconnected from anything meaningful in his life and it struck such a discordant note within me that I have never forgotten that image. It still makes me cry.

I work for elephants because that encounter moved me deeply.  And now I’m driven by it.

But I want to go back to people for a moment. I want to say this. Like every other human being on this planet I am affected by the extraordinary things that people are capable of. I am affected by art and beauty. By people reaching deep inside themselves to express the inexpressible , to outline the shadows that live beneath the every day things in life. Music, stories, art, dance, photographs, film restore my faith. They tell a collective story of our humanity. And I’m thankful to people when I feel these things.

I’m also thankful to people for their unexpected kindnesses and generosity. And I love their brilliance. My sister has been diagnosed with brain cancer. In a few weeks, an incredibly smart, gifted, dedicated and caring team of people will remove her tumour using the latest science has to offer. I am thankful to each and everyone of those people and all the people who have worked before to make all of it possible.

When I wake up and find out that more people have been senselessly lost to murder, I am going to fight hard to swim towards the sun.  I am going to remember what we have achieved and will achieve as people and individuals. I will re-commit myself to ‘doing’ things to help elephants and to making this place a better place for everyone. Because we’ve come a long way but we have much further to go. And we can only get there by leaving cynicism behind and embracing hope and the belief that we can each as individuals make a difference. I believe that.



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Poem of the Week: Aimless Love by Billy Collins via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Aimless Love
– Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.
In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.
This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.
The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.
No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.
No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then
for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.
But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.
After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,
so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.


For more information about Billy Collins, please click here.

Thanks to Alison for finding and sharing these gems. Check out Alision’s


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Primo Levi: Survival in Auschwitz

I’m working on a writing project which requires me to become more educated with the events and history of the Second World War.The life of my mother and father, teenagers during the war,  and one of my best friends, a child of the 1938  Kinder-transport to England and Ireland, have been a backdrop to my own life. As I discover more about their lives I have become deeply interested in the cultural, historic and political drivers of those times. I am also interested in the every day lives of people and how lives were shaped against the backdrop of such cataclysmic, global horror.

My husband Dave recommended Primo Levi’s book Survival in Auschwitz. It’s fair to say that many books push me towards a nice dull slumber when I read before sleep, this one, however, did not and I lay awake thinking into the dark of the night while reading it.

The story is about Primo Levi, a twenty-five year old  Italian chemist who was captured by Italian Fascists and deported from Turin to Auschwitz.  Anyone who has taken a history class or knows anything about the Second World War, of course, knows that 6 million Jews were killed in camps during the war. It’s when you read the autobiography of someone to whom this has happened that the brutality of this war drives home deeper and further into  the darker corners of your heart.

From being moved to the work camp in Northern Italy to the arrival of the cargo trains where Levi and thousands of others were transported like cattle to Auschwitz, the reader is taken step by step on Primo’s journey of dehumanization.

Upon arrival they were stripped of their clothing, their heads shaved, rags handed to them, and families forever separated. The back breaking senseless work they were forced to do, the bone chilling cold and starvation rations ended millions of people’s lives and divided the camps between those who were willing to survive at any cost.

Primo talks about the promise that many people of his city (Turin) made upon their arrival at the camp to continue to try and meet to uphold morale. This ended after only weeks as few survived the backbreaking conditions or the ‘selections’ to extermination camps.

Primo survives the war and as he points out, the mystery to his survival included a great deal of luck and the kindness of a stranger who helped to augment his rations.

This is a dark, very well written story. When I look around at these uncertain times – thousands of displaced refugees, the desire to build walls, hatred and suspicion of anyone different, deeply institutionalized racism, I think to myself, wow, let’s all read history. Let’s soak it up. Let’s never, ever forget where this leads us.


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