Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dona Nobis Pacem

a fallen angel in the Marais

Last night, a song that we have sung for the last few weeks at church, kept playing in my head. Do you know Dona Nobis Pacem? It means "give us peace." Right now, it seems to me that peace is the most important thing that we can pray/wish/ work for. Personal peace or world all has to start somewhere. I feel a "better and more peaceful me" when I go to church to sing, pray and think about how I can make a difference in the world.

My favourite children's book is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. As a young girl, Alice is advised by her grandfather to travel the world and meet its people, to come home to live by the sea, and to find a way to make the world more beautiful. Good advice for those of us in our older years.

on the road to Compostella
I usually feel peaceful when I travel. It is more difficult to find peace at home and like Alice, I'm not sure how I can make the world a more beautiful place. I have been looking for volunteer opportunities to help with the refugees who will be coming and I may become a community mentor.
I really enjoy exposure to different cultures and I miss teaching so, hopefully, it will be a win/win.

My grandfather grew up near the church on Whalsay.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Muralist, a Meeting, and Some Observations

So timely!
I  recently purchased  The Muralist,  a novel by B.A. Shapiro. Murals interest me. The global community murals in Brooklyn, the historical or political art in Oaxaca or the street art in Paris...I always stop to admire the skill and to ponder the significance.

The opening quotation in The Muralist is
Eleanor's failure to force her husband to admit more refugees remained her deepest regret at the end of her life.
-Doris Kearns Goodwin

The historical novel deals with the unwillingness of the world to accept Jewish refugees from Europe.
"Not enough jobs", "might be spies or communists", "it's not our problem" were commonly voiced
sentiments at the time.  As we face another era of mass human displacement, these same words are being repeated.
Rue des Rosiers, in the Jewish quarter of Paris, displays another piece of "wall art."  French Jews were deported from this neighbourhood during WW2 and the street was the site of a terrorist bombing in 1982.
Refugees and their resettlement seem to be an almost insurmountable problem. Canada has promised to accept 25,000 and already some provincial and municipal leaders are shaking their heads. We live in one of the most prosperous and underpopulated countries in the world. We gladly open our doors to wealthy immigrants and then complain about their relative affluence. On Sunday, I listened to a speaker from the United Church of Canada explain the selection and sponsorship process for refugees. Members of our community will be helping a Syrian family to live in our neighbourhood.

Last night, my small reading/discussion group talked about "little acts of welcome and assistance."
None of us has the power to end a civil war on the other side of the world nor to eliminate terrorism but we each have some small skill that might be of use in the resettlement process.
The Mexican artists are some of the most skilled muralists.
I am still reading The Muralist but I suspect that the ending will be a sad one as there was no country willing to accept the Jewish refugees. Hopefully, seventy years later, we have learned to look beyond our own interests, suspicions and fears and to open our country to those who need a safe place to live.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Autumn Days

scarecrows in the streets
This is the longest stretch that I have spent at home since I retired four years ago. As cooler, shorter days draw near, I find myself spending a lot more time reading and sorting through cupboards and drawers. I have resisted buying much this year and there is another blue bag in the trunk of the car. The charity shop will benefit from my clearouts.

I love literary festivals!
This is my second year as a volunteer at the Writers' Festival. I really enjoy learning about books and authors. This year, I volunteered at some French-Canadian writers' presentations to school groups and  at a panel discussion about the Italian author, Elena Ferrante. I just started MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, the first book in the Neapolitan series.

So far the description of the childhood relationship of two girls growing up in 1950's Naples is fascinating. Ferrante captures the rivalries, ambivalence and love of the two girls as they grow from preschoolers to young adults. I'm looking forward to the next book.

We've had a lot of lovely autumn days.
I attended another book discussion group in my neighbourhood. It was my first time so I had not read the book ahead of time. THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature last year and is now on my "to-read" list. It sounds a little "gritty" but I will borrow it from the library and make the effort to read it.

autumn colours 
A few weeks ago, La Duchesse wrote about her friends' methods of weight maintenance. I have not been very careful since returning from Mexico and have found myself rather curvier than I wish to be. I tracked using My Fitness Pal for a week and found that I was eating about 500 calories too many a day. It is not magic but once I am aware weight management becomes easier. But the very wise Duchesse also wrote a blog about "Dressing a Weight Gain." It is so important to dress well and to love ourselves as we are at this moment rather than to wait until we reach the "magical size."

at home with us
Our summer/autumn project has been our puppy. I have never chosen a puppy and raised it. Monsieur does not really want to travel much but my daughter has assured me that she will be a willing foster parent should M. and I travel together sometime. We live on the third floor of an apartment building so housetraining is crucial. Our puppy is now 5 months old and is learning to live with us. She is fearful and barks when she meets strangers outside of the apartment but she is starting classes this month and I am sure that she will become more sociable. 

Daylight Savings ends next weekend and  Los Muertos and Hallowe'en mark the steady progress towards the long days of winter. The leaves are almost gone and the skies are grey but my pile of books is growing.