Fishing For Friends

No matter how deplorable in life one has been, there is something sad about watching the death throes of another living thing.

In the case of the fish that continuously nips and harasses the rest of the school in the aquarium, that moment comes when one evening, it slowly starts swimming on its side. By morning, it has been transformed into a tiny floating skeleton, as the rest of the school swims around innocently.

For Uncle Scar in The Lion King, the turning point came when the bullied hyenas who had seemed such spineless followers, realized the power had shifted and there was a new King on the veldt. Scar, like the little fish, was also devoured – when the bullied mob turns, there is no mercy.

When a nasty alpha female wild dog shows the first signs of losing status, the bad bitch is quickly torn to shreds by her pack. I witnessed this once on a remote BC beach hiking the Wild Side Trail. The dogs were part of a wild pack that roamed between the Nuu-chah-nulth community of Maaqtusiis and Mount Flores. Our Ahousaht First Nations guide had told us they were the most dangerous animals on Flores Island.

Humans are no different. The bully is easily recognized by aggressive behaviour, threats, and intimidation. Donald Trump would be a classic case, following the mantra of lie, threaten, and sue until you win. It is also easy to recognize when he is floundering at the bottom of the aquarium – his Twitterstorms increase, he holds a rally of the deplorable base, and he gives himself Fake News Awards for his terrific accomplishments.

Trump tends to Twitter because of the alliteration, but others prefer Facebook for their social media rants because it is one of the easiest ways to let the dogs out and spread chaos with misinformation. It is why I generally avoid Facebook – the postings require no safeguards. Any fanatic with an axe to grind and an unshuffled deck with a few ethical cards missing can post absolute El-Toro-Pooh-Pooh online and have their adoring acolytes sharing it around the world in a matter of minutes. And as several victims of this kind of *maliteracy have discovered, the effect can be devastating, even fatal.

When I post a news article, it goes through three fact-checks and two editors before it goes to print. If we have made an error, an immediate apology and retraction are issued. I began editing and writing for professional publications in 1986. I remember it well, because as the editor of Anee,  then the official journal of the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario, I was accredited as a journalist to attend and report on an historic event. UN delegates had just completed a three-year journey around Earth to ask its inhabitants one simple question: “What is the preferred future you want for yourself, your family, and your community?”

The answers to that question were synthesized into Our Common Future, the groundbreaking United Nations publication that received its Canadian launch at Ontario Place in Toronto. This seminal work, authored by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland and her team, first introduced the term “sustainable development” to the world. I was in awe, ushered in through high security and surrounded by international dignitaries. It was my privilege that day to interview Ms. Brundtland, who I later dubbed “the most powerful woman in the world.”

I had no idea how profoundly that experience would change my life. Since that day I hold every politician to the standards she set for ethics and intelligence in governance. And Our Common Future set a blueprint for human survival into the twenty-first century and became my moral compass. Some older works might be fine for ancient goat herding Semitic nomads from the Middle East, but as an evolving human I’ll stick with Brundtland and Dawkins. I choose to write and speak truth to power, to bring light into the darkness, to .. but I digress.

Where was I? Ah, bullies who lie and intimidate  Now, every once in a while on social media, a bully starts to lose status. People stop reading the rants, begin to realize the information has been negatively skewed, and begin to delete posts and unfriend. There is nothing more terrifying to a bully on social media than to be unfriended and deleted.

In response, like the thrashing fish, or the cowering lion, or the submissive dog, the bully begins posturing for acceptance. In social media terms this is referred to as going on a “fishing for friends” expedition. It is usually signaled by a frenzy of “friend” requests to everyone under the sun in the hopes of maintaining status.

For all out there who don’t want to get hooked, line and sinker hooked, recognize the frantic last gasps of a deeply troubled being who deserves our forgiveness and empathy. Be kind but be careful when you get one of those random “friend” requests from out of the blue. It could be genuine, or it could just be a bully going through the death throes, desperately seeking solace.

* maliteracy = malicious literacy

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

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Caledon’s Hens Come Home to Roost

This afternoon, November 28, 2017, at the Town of Caledon General Committee Meeting, the rooster crowed. Well, figuratively speaking. Our Backyard Hens by-law came closer to being a reality today when the vote was carried by a majority of our elected representatives. The rooster, however, was not invited into any of our backyards – this is a quiet clucking Hens Only club.

Thanks to the excellent report done by our Town Staff, headed by Patrick Trafford, we came up with a by-law tailored specifically to the Caledon context. Drawing on the best information available from other municipalities who have similar by-laws, Patrick and his team put together an intelligent and thoroughly researched report.

Input came from local citizens, experts in other municipalities, and discussions with the Region of Peel Public Health Unit, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. All of this was hard-boiled down into 32 Regulations for Residential Backyard Hens. This alone should curb the compulsive immediate gratification enthusiasm of the “They’re so cute! Let’s get a bunny for Easter!” crowd.

These agricultural “pets with benefits”, as one long term backyard hen aficionado has described them, have better care guidelines than most of the dogs and cats living here. Their housing, health care and safety were paramount in the design of the regulations, as well as the health of their human caregivers and neighbours. As to the fears of salmonella poisoning and the spread of avian flu, those concerns were dealt with by the Centre for Disease Control with three words: Wash Your Hands.

It seems that in the three months since we first raised this simple health solution, along with not rolling in chicken feces or deep kissing your hen, some Councillors were still having trouble processing how truly safe it is to keep backyard hens.  And the new Town guidelines have set down best practices to help us do it even better. On the other hand, after your cat buries its poop in scratched up kitty litter and then walks all over your face while you’re filming its cute antics on your cell phone for an Instagram posting, do you ever worry about cat-scratch fever, Salmonellosis, roundworms or tapeworms from your cat’s stool? Or, how about man’s best friend?

Sure, after your dog has just cleaned the private parts, that same tongue gives you a big wet slobbering kiss that just might contain Leptospirosis, Canine Brucellosis, Campylobacteriosis, Capnocytophaga Canimorsus, and our old friend Salmonellosis. Yes, a dog’s tongue does have antibacterial properties – for cleaning up its own physiology!

Cats have staff, dogs have packs, and hens have eggs – organic (depending on the feed), free run (not free-range) home grown eggs. Keep in mind that if you are ordering your chickens it is best to go with a reputable hatchery like Freys in St. Jacobs, or Cirrus Farms in Meaford. They won’t usually be selling them now, but you can call in your order in February and pick up those ready-to-lay (RTL) pullets in March as we will be doing for the Albion Hills Community Farm pilot project.  We’ll be there to help educate the public on how to do it just right.

Congratulations, Caledon! Our dreams of having the opportunity to expand our local food production just got a little more sustainable.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

 

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What the heck is a SNAP Project?

Note: This SNAP West Bolton Project article was first written by Skid Crease on 17/10/25 for Patti Foley’s Just Sayin’ Caledon’s online community news!

***

ON Thursday, November 23, 2017, at the Glen Eagles Golf Club. a group of “Thought Leaders” were called together by the TRCA, the Town of Caledon, and The Region of Peel for a day of inspired community planning.

The Project is called the Sustainable Neighbourhood Retrofit Action Plan, or SNAP. Our thoughts this day were focused this day on our own community in West Bolton. SNAP has a very simple goal: to focus on working with the community to achieve measurable environmental and neighbourhood improvement. This project is one of six SNAPs happening across the GTA examining municipal priorities, neighbourhood-specific issues and a variety of watershed and regional objectives across a range of theme areas that include:

  • Long-standing drainage and erosion issues in Jaffary’s Creek and the surrounding catchment.  Historical note: this Creek used to run past a slaughterhouse, carrying the effluent downstream – the smell used to be so bad that homeowners would have to close their windows and doors!
  • Improved water balance and Low Impact Development (LID).
  • Watershed regeneration (or, How to Mitigate flooding 101).
  • Regional urban forest and public health priorities.
  • Energy consumption hot spots.
  • Increased active transportation (walk, bike, board, zipline).

The Day opened with a captivating with a musical Red Heart beat accompanying inspiring visuals of the human community enjoined sustainably with the natural environment.  From there, facilitators Hilary, sister Lesley, and _ took us on a journey through our past, present and preferred futures of Caledon and specifically the West Bolton area.

The “Past” room was set up with an informative timeline, data charts and photographs that took us from our paleo past in 7000 BCE (Before Common Era) to the present. The “Future” room had us stretch our thinking to create a wish list of projects – economic development, healthy living, re-creational playspace, and resource efficiency – that would help us develop a healthy, sustainable, environmentally responsible community into the twenty-first century.

Of course, sandwiched in between was the “Present”, and rather than enter into the usual suspects discussion, Hilary took us on a right brain storytelling curve, left brain organized by the traditional plot development sequence for a good short story. We divided into groups of five and were given character cards that outlined each of the “characters” that we were to bring into our story, including one character designed to twist the plot.

I had no idea how this related to the present day West Bolton, but I trusted Hilary’s ability to choreograph a creative design approach. It was not until after lunch that we saw how it all came together – the stories turned out to be a metaphor for the current state of our West Bolton community. I was so taken with the brilliance of the approach that I expanded my group’s story and it is now on my blog at skidcrease.com, endorsed by Hilary, titled The Gardens of a Beautiful Mind. It will appear under “Stories” to make way for this report.

The Glen Eagles provided a nourishing lunch to the participants and demonstrated their environmental responsibility by keeping the thermostat turned down to what felt like 15ºC – the chilly rooms brought everyone closer together after lunch. That was when we found out the metaphorical nature of the characters in our stories.

For example, poor down and out Raju in my story, a character who had given up hope and was about to turn in the towel, turned out to be … no, you’ll have to read the story to get it. But what a mind-shifting exercise to get the participants looking at their community in a totally new way! Suddenly, giving the real “Raju” hope and a new lease on life took on the human dimensions of community care.

In conclusion, the group discussed the need to ensure that the community of West Bolton all knew that they were part of this opportunity, and to use their expertise in establishing a baseline of existing community benefits and needs. We were reminded of the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. Like when all that the children really wanted in their playground was a swinging rope with a tire on a tree, but what the “experts” designed was a cantilevered mechanical monstrosity on which no children ever played.

These thought leaders were humble enough to know that their ideas were part of a process, evolving through 7000 years of history to the Bolton of the future. Rejuvenated parks for play and just plain relaxing in nature, safe walking/cycling paths, networking of home businesses and the “love economy” provided by volunteers, retrofitting for energy and budget efficiency, education for wiser resource use, and working with the topography of the land to connect neighbourhoods – these ideas and more were left with our facilitators and the SNAP team. Stay tuned, West Bolton, it’s only going to get better!

 

 

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The Gardens of a Beautiful Mind

by Skid Crease

Note, this story was inspired by a collaborative story writing exercise at a recent  SNAP West Bolton “Thought Leaders” workshop.

This is dedicated to the inspiration of facilitator Hilary Van  Welter, CEO of Ascentia, choreographers guiding context to create content

***

The dark grey of the morning mist had begun to lift when Raju finally got out of bed. As usual, it was almost 11:00 am before his feet touched the bare floor and he would have stayed under the covers longer except for the hunger in his belly.

He had run out of Ramen noodles two days ago, but the thought of going out shopping in public – that staring, judging, superior public – had driven him further under the covers. Now he had no choice. Reluctantly, he pulled on some jeans and a fleece hoodie from the pile of clothes on the floor. Then he went to the bathroom sink, splashed some cold water on his face, and did a quick finger comb through hair that badly needed a shampoo. He slipped into his sandals, pulled on a baseball cap, and opened the door.

The hallway was empty as he quietly slipped down the staircase of the old rooming house and into the side alley. He knew how to avoid most of the madding crowds and this route would bring him past the old park. He liked this park because no one played there anymore. It seemed the town had grown up around it and people had forgotten the park was there.

Raju did not like people, or the conversations of people, or the constant scrutiny of people. He had found himself in this small town when he moved out of his home. Moved out? That was overly polite! Driven out would be more like it. Driven out by a domineering father who kept pushing him to higher grades, better jobs, greater success – nothing he did was ever good enough. Driven out by an obsessive mother who questioned every choice he made, every place he went, everything he said and did.

Then one day he snapped. He screamed at his mother, “If I wanted to be questioned every day by the Gestapo, I’d go back in time to Nazi Germany! Tell Father I quit. He can get another lump of clay to mold into his own image!”

And with those words, Raju left, only a backpack hastily stuffed with a few clothes and his favourite childhood story, Hope for the Flowers, he left. He rode his bike to the regional bus commuter lot, ended up on a bus heading north, and got off when his fare was up. A stranger in a strange new land where no one knew him, and he wanted it that way. Raju had started on a deep spiral down, and he was nearing the bottom of the pit.

***

Rachel was on her way to save the world. Well, not all at once, but one person at a time would suit her just fine. Rachel had a gift. She was a fairy godmother. Not in a cartoon “pumpkins to carriages” kind of sense, but in a “humbug to holiday spirit” kind of sense.

Rachel was simply the kind of person who could see the best in everyone. If she had been in a Star Wars movie, she definitely would have been on the Light side of the Force, drawing on all of the creative and positive energy around her to brighten the world.

Rachel had been born this way. Nothing in her growing up should have nurtured such an optimistic force of nature. Her father, a wonderful storyteller, had died when she was quite young, and Rachel had grown up with a mother who drowned her sorrow in a variety of drugs from alcohol to heroine, finally succumbing to opiod addiction a few years ago. Throughout it all, Rachel had found the higher ground, always remembering her father’s last words to her, “Remember Rachel, on the darkest day, the sun is always shining somewhere in our universe.”

Today she was going to bring that sunshine to someone.

***

The sun finally broke out through the clearing mists and shone down on the little town. It was particularly bright on an old neglected property. Where there should have been a vacant park, there were crowds of smiling people of all ages. Where there should have been barren ground, there were rows upon rows of plants growing – sunflowers and kale and tomatoes and cucumbers- almost every garden variety you could imagine! Where there should have been no place to rest, there were benches under beautiful shade trees.

Chloe had made all of this possible. Her family had fallen upon hard times in the recent past. The trickle-down economy hadn’t trickled down to them. Between the high energy costs, and the high transportation costs, and the low minimum wage, times were tough and food was often scarce, so Chloe had promised herself that one day she would build a garden, a wonderful garden where people would come to grow food and laugh and play and never be hungry or sad again.

That dream didn’t fade when Chloe was taken away to become a ward of the Children’s Aid. And now that dream was alive today. When Chloe was very young she had seen a movie on TV called The Field of Dreams and there was a line from the movie that became her cornerstone in life: “If you build it they will come.” She had built her field of dreams, and they were coming.

***

Raju and Rachel saw the poster at the same time. The words: “Free food at Chloe’s Community Gardens” had caught Raju’s attention. The location indicated it was at the old park that was never crowded. Bonus – avoid people, save money and get fed. It was not the poster, but rather Raju’s slumped posture and shuffling gait had caught Rachel’s attention. She knew immediately which heart and spirit she was going to touch today.

As Raju turned toward the community gardens path, Rachel deliberately stepped in front of him. Taken aback, he moved to one side, but Rachel moved with him. ‘Hello,” was all she said. It wasn’t what she said, but rather the sweetness of her voice that made him look up. He found himself staring into clear blue eyes that held his attention like landing lights.

Without flinching she smiled right back into his deep brown eyes. “I’m all alone,” she said, “May I walk with you to the Gardens?”

Raju, who had not spoken to anyone besides his landlord for months, simply nodded, “Yes.”

They moved along the path in silence for a while, Rachel sensing a troubled spirit beside her. At one point, she stumbled and caught his arm for support. Instinctively, Raju reached out with his other hand to steady her. Their eyes met again. “I have been there too,” was all that Rachel said, not taking her eyes off of Raju.

He stood frozen like a deer in the headlights, and then an amazing thing happened. A single tear appeared in the corner of Raju’s left eye. “The window to the soul,” whispered Rachel. And she took his hand as they continued their walk. Raju walked beside her, as meekly as a lamb, all of his anger suddenly gone.

As they turned the final corner to the old park, they were met by an amazing sight. There were people everywhere, young and old, gardening, playing, dancing, sitting quietly – and there at the entrance stood Chloe, waving them forward.

“Welcome to my Gardens, “ said Chloe, “The Gardens of a Beautiful Mind.”

“But,” stammered Raju, “This is incredible! This place has been abandoned for years!”

“If you build it, they will come,” laughed Chloe.

“Hello,” said Rachel, introducing herself, “This is a beautiful place. I can feel the happiness everywhere.”

“Yes,” said Chloe, “We all need a space where we can be happy. And you are?” she asked turning to the wide-eyed young man beside Rachel.

Raju,” he whispered under his breath, and then more clearly, “Raju.” For the first time in years a genuine smile spread slowly across his face.

“I am so happy you are both here,” smiled Chloe, “Please visit our Community Feast of Fields table – there is always plenty of food for everyone.”

Rachel was still holding his hand. “Come on, Raju, let’s get something to eat. You look like you could use a good meal.” Without any resistance, Raju walked hand in hand with Rachel to the table that looked more like the Cornucopia of Plenty than an old park picnic table. “This is amazing,” exclaimed Raju.

“Yes indeed,” said Rachel wisely, “Isn’t it good to be back?”

Raju looked puzzled, but only for a moment, “Yes,” he smiled, “It is good to be back.”

After their feast, Rachel and Raju walked the gardens, weeding a little here, planting a little there, and sharing stories all the while. Raju was feeling the weight of the world lift from his shoulders, and Rachel was feeling she was fulfilling her life’s purpose. Raju even found himself climbing a tree again to see the whole gardens,

“Rachel,” he shouted down, “I haven’t done this since I was a little kid!” Rachel simply smiled knowingly. They stayed until the light was fading and the gardens began to dim. It was time to go.

“Come back tomorrow,” Chloe called out as all the visitors slowly left the Gardens. She hugged Rachel and Raju as if she never wanted them to leave her.

“Thank you,” spoke Raju from the bottom of his heart. Rachel smiled her sunshine smile at Chloe and took Raju’s hand as they left. “Numquam obliviscar,” whispered Rachel. “What does that mean?” asked Raju. Rachel smiled, “It’s a Latin quote from a story my father used to tell me, “I will never forget.”

***

The Supervisor appeared at the edge of the walkway, “Chloe,” she called. “It’s time to come back!”

Another Supervisor joined her. “Honestly, I don’t know what she sees in that old park! Nothing there but weeds and broken benches.”

“It makes her happy,” said the first Supervisor. “That’s enough.”

Chloe waved goodbye to her friends as her Beautiful Garden faded into mist once again. Happily, she took the Supervisor’s hand and headed back to the Adam Wallace Memorial Care Centre.

***

In a quiet corner of the old park, a butterfly was emerging from its chrysalis.

Numquam obliviscar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Caledon Budget 2018 … for Dummies

a version of this report first appeared in Patti Foley’s Just Sayin’

***

The Town of Caledon held a very well-attended Open House on Tuesday night. Besides our Town CFO, Fuwing Wong, almost the entire talented staff of our Budget Department, including Treasurer Heather Haire, were in attendance. The other members of our Town admin team with whom I spoke were CAO Mike Galloway and Clerk Carey deGorter.

As well, Mayor Thompson was there along with Area Councillors Doug Beffort, Nick DeBoer, Gord McClure and Rob Mezzapelli to assist our engaged citizens in understanding our 2018 budget. Public School Board trustee Stan Cameron was also in attendance, listening attentively to citizen’s questions. Some Regional Councillors also attended.

So, if we wanted to have an intelligent face-to-face chance to talk with the people in the know, we had plentiful opportunity. I had an acquaintance complaining to me about the budget and suggested to him that he attend the open house. He declined, preferring instead to armchair complain using various online conspiracy theories as the basis of his angst. Ah well, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

But for those of us who turned out, we had well- detailed posters to outline the budget and well-informed staff to explain it further if needed. Really, it is quite simple for most of us. It’s like the old joke about your dog when you are talking away to him and all he hears is “Blah, blah, blah, blah, REX, blah, blah, blah, SIT, blah, blah, blah, blah, GOOD DOG.” If you skipped those classes on financial literacy like I did, a deep explanation of budget and finances sounds similar.

Given the general public’s financial literacy quotient, it boils down to this for most of us. How much are our property taxes going to rise in 2018? Three sources impact that number – increases at the Town, the Region and the School Boards – and the bottom line, that Blended Rate, as currently proposed, is an increase of approximately 3.3%

That means on my humble sunny south hill home currently taxed at a rounded off $4000, I will see an increase of $132.00. On the 10 payment installment plan, that’s $13.20 a month. And that means my increase is less than one hour of work per month at the new minimum wage.

What do I get for that exorbitant amount? Gee, let me see: infrastructure repair, infrastructure replacement, eco high tech replacement of obsolete technologies, improved IT communications, talented new staff to deal with emerging issues of an aging population, demands of an increasing population for recreation, wellness and medical facilities, affordable and accessible housing for our youth, our citizens with disabilities, and our seniors, and the cost of creating a fully implemented safe pedestrian and cycling community. Add on top of that the continuing quest to bring viable public transportation to Caledon.

Specifically included in the Town’s budget for public consideration are: accessibility improvements to Town facilities, a strategic partnership with Humberview School for a new Artificial Turf Field/Track, minimum wage increases and design of an expansion to the Bolton senior’s centre. Not bad for less than $15 a month.

On the other hand, as I told my disgruntled budget-phobic acquaintance, you could choose to live in a Syrian refugee camp. They don’t pay any taxes.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon (accredited member of the Canadian Association of Journalists)

 

 

 

 

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