In the Beginning …

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Shab-e Yalda from Persia, Dong Zhi from China, Saturnalia from the Roman Empire, Toji from Japan, Yule from Scandinavia, along with the Anasazi’s Shalako from the Zuni and Soyal from the Hopi all have one thing in common. These sacred events all mark the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of a New Year. South of the equator where their winter falls in June, the shortest day of the year was celebrated as Inti Raymi by the Inca in Peru. These sacred days are  embedded in our reptilian brain stems and preserved in the collective consciousness of humankind.

These festivals all mark the seasonal tilt of Earth towards and away from the sun bringing the end to one season and the beginning of another. These are not to be confused with the artificial religious holidays that replaced them when the cult of Judeo-Christianity swept across the Roman Empire in 300 BCE, courtesy of Emperor Constantine’s mother. Nor should they be confused with culturally created holidays like the recent addition of Kwanzaa to the Winter Solstice wannabe list.

The scientific tilt of Earth does not care if you are black, brown, white, yellow, red, green or blue; it does not care if you are from the North, South, East or West. Every octant of Earth in this epoch is guaranteed the same regular passage of the sun’s energy over its lands and waters. It is the human storytellers who imbue these seasonal changes with ritual and myth.

All of the sacred days mentioned in the introduction have one thing in common. They all mark the solar journey from Shortest Day and Longest Night into a New Year. They are not dependent for their existence on the dedication of a temple or the birth of a godson or cultural neediness. Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa are to the Winter Solstice what The Church of Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ is to Christianity. Bridesmaids who came late to the party all acting like they are the bride.

Still, even if you are late to the party, you can have a lot of fun – tell stories, sing songs, dance, drink and feast. There are a thousand different ways to celebrate our origins born of Fire, Earth, Water, and Air as we honour The Great Mystery That Loves Life. The arts mythologize what science knows. It’s in our nature. Happy New Year!

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

On Being Pagan

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I often get asked why I celebrate the Winter Solstice as a natural sacred day rather than the artificial holyday known as Christmas. I was raised in the cult of Christianity for many years, submerged as an infant, believing all the stories with the innocence of childhood. Gradually life experiences and meticulous research into the birth of religious beliefs pulled the holey wool from my eyes.  I threw off the cloak of liturgical oppression and returned to nature.

To quote Uhtred Ragnarson, “Destiny is all!” In this case, geography is all. What I discovered is that in the beginning, based on where the storytellers evolved, humans created gods. If your clan lived in a temperate climate with four seasons, there tended to be a cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth in the god myths. If your clan was in an equatorial community, your god myths tended to a two season mythology of wet and dry.

Early storytelling humans created “god” myths for almost every wonder of nature that we needed to explain. Thunder and lightning, rainbows, fire and ice, flood and drought, the powers of animals, the cycles of plant growth, and the great mysteries of the universe from creation to storytelling humans. Why we went from the spectacular diversity of this sacred pantheon to a single god created by a desert wandering, camel herding, goat breeding tribe from the middle east is probably one of the greatest mysteries of all.

And not just any god, but a spiteful, vengeful, sexist male patriarch who personifies Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump more than Albert Schweitzer or Herbert Hoover. The kind of god that exercises the horrific power of a King/god’s right to the First Night. That’s where a king gets to take a newly betrothed virgin bride and have his way with her, usually facilitated by a trusted general.

So when Michael visited Mary and told her she had a date with “god” she really didn’t have much of a choice. And Joseph had to suck it up, later arrange a trip to the stables, and accept a life raising the god’s bastard child. Mary’s only comment was to look skyward and say, “You did this to me!” The first #MeToo act of defiance. The “king” ordered the scribes to remove that incident from his tribe’s version of middle eastern history in those great anthologies known as the Tanakh and the New Testament.

What madness possessed us to allow Baal and Astarte to be replaced by celibate priests and cloistered virgins? The answer is simple. Party pooping, power hungry,  anally retentive, far right, ultra orthodox male conservatives and their zealous female acolytes!

That’s a long way of explaining why I went back to Earth’s natural cycles as my unwavering sacred days. Today, December 21, 2021, as the sun begins to set at 4:30 I will light the sacred solstice fire and keep it burning until sunrise and the return of The Sun King for a New Year. There will be a pot of wassail on the fire, and Loreena McKennitt in my ear, and like minded friends sharing stories about Dagda and Danu and the Great Mystery That Loves Life. 

Wishing a Wonderful Winter Solstice (and a Merry Christmas to all) until the next sacred day, The Vernal Equinox, brings balance back to the universe. That’s my story. 

And that’s the way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, also known as Harry son of Harry, First Born of First Born!

Geography is all!

Ignoring the Warnings, Part 2

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Omicron, the new Covid-19 variant virus known as B,1.1.529 has arrived just as predicted by the World Health Organization (WHO). Another clear case of politicians and populations ignoring the warnings of science.

On November 26, 2021 as reported in Al Jazerra English, Oksana Pyzik, a teaching fellow at University College London’s School of Pharmacy, said the new variant “shouldn’t come as a surprise” amid warnings from the WHO that global vaccine inequity could lead to the emergence of new strains of the virus.

 “The World Health Organization has been warning us repeatedly … since the beginning of the pandemic that if vaccine inequity continue[s] … that inevitably will lead towards a more fit virus, a potentially vaccine-resistant virus,” Pyzik told Al Jazeera from Geneva.

“So, if we look across the entire African continent, there’s less than 3.5 percent uptake of vaccines at the moment and that has been due to a supply issue,” she added.

And that is due to the wealthiest countries in the world failing to deliver the goods. From Canada’s COVAX hold-back to Israel’s rush to give third booster shots to their entire population (except for Palestinians) vaccine inequity remains one of the biggest problems in getting this global pandemic under control. Politics and science.

Normally the new variant would have been given the next letter in the Greek alphabet as the Xi variant. Political correctness intervened since Xi JInping is the President of China and it is not a good idea to irritate a country that operates with absolute power, hostage diplomacy, and such little regard for human rights. So the WHO picked Omicron.

Omicron, unfortunately, also happens to be the name of a Canadian development, design, and construction company in British Colombia. That could make it the first casualty in Canada of the new variant. The two Michaels, Spavor and Kovrig, know just how you feel.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

Going for the Green … Licence Plate

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I beheld it reverently, almost with the awe of an innocent child on a mythical Christmas morning. Yes, Virginia, there is a green licence plate in Ontario. And it was attached, front and rear bumpers, to our new “zero emissions” Plug-in Hybrid vehicle. It was just in time to help Canada honour its lofty promises made at the recent COP26 Environment Conference.

Not only does the green Ontario licence plate indicate that your vehicle is clean and quiet, it also entitles you to drive solo in the designated HOV lanes. It also allows you to take advantage of the many green designated parking spaces and charging stations installed and expanding around Ontario. In my community, Katelyn Tozer with the Town of Caledon has been working on creating the infrastructure and resources needed to encourage and expand the use of electric and electric-hybrid vehicles. The planet loves a family with low emissions!

Canada’s lofty goals aside, it was really my neighbours who inspired me to get a “zero emissions” vehicle, Imagine in your neighbourhood, just upwind, is a family of four with six vehicles – four individual use cars and extra “pet” sports cars. One of the sports cars might be a work in progress, kept in their attached garage/mechanics shop where it would be frequently tuned, loudly belching clouds of petrochemical effluent into our  collective airspace.

Even more inspiring would be their habit of clearing their four cars of frost, ice and snow in the winter by leaving them idling for 20 minutes or so until everything melted off. Of course in the summer, the idling would be used to run the air conditioner to cool the cars down, You would try to set a good example by using a new emissions free invention called the combo snow brush and ice scraper on your family’s one vehicle. Or you would demonstrate the benefits of parking in the shade and leaving the windows open a crack in the summer, You would even put up a sign saying “No Idling Zone” to remind them of Caledon’s two minute limit on idling, but it would all be to no avail.

I slowly came to the realization that Canada could never meet our targets with that level of pollution right next door, so my family decided that the only thing we could do to compensate was to reduce our emissions to zero. Thus our decision to purchase the new Plug-in Hybrid vehicle. We had already signed up with Bullfrog Power when we first bought our home, so we knew we had green electricity going into the grid for every kilowatt hour of juice we used when we “filled the tank” so to speak.

We also considered, with gratitude, the roll of the dice that had placed us in a country with the resources and personal circumstances that allow us to make such a choice. Even in Canada, a majority of our population trying to survive under pandemic pressures have to meet other basic needs first before considering the luxury of a green vehicle choice. Perhaps our politicians should make it a priority to create a clean, green public transportation network to benefit all Canadians. How shortsighted it was for the Ontario government and Metrolinx to cancel the planned GO system expansion to Bolton, let alone all of the green programs and vehicle rebates. Bad Dougie!

Here is the challenge for Canada, for the globe. We tend to blame the large corporate fossil fuel industry for our accelerating climate change woes. We also need to address individual citizens and politicians who continue to engage in fossil fool behaviour. Idling your car for twenty minutes to melt off the snow is like a person infected with the coronavirus walking maskless  through a crowded supermarket screaming “FREEDOM” with spittle filled passion. William Wallace would not be impressed.

Educating the corporation, the politician and the individual as to the seriousness of the accelerating climate change emergency is a survival curriculum for the twenty-first century and beyond. Moving through awareness and knowledge to action is the challenge. In order to get people to change their behaviours, my mom used to advise me, “Sometimes you get more with the honey dipper than the fly swatter.”

More recently one of my mentors, Dr. William Fyfe, bemoaning the lack of progress on dealing with the planet’s most serious environmental issues, passionately told me: “Skid, it’s time to stop being polite to stupid people.” Yes indeed, it’s time for both the honey dipper and a really big fly swatter.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

 

 

Fireworks in Caledon

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How Do Fireworks Work - Inside Pictures How Fireworks WorkAll was quiet in the evening darkness as a neighbour and I walked our dogs, on leash, through Fountainbridge Park to Allen Drive. Suddenly the sky was filled with a series of startling bursts of colour accompanied by  thunderous booms. My companion’s dog was so terrified, he broke his leash and took off through the park. Mine nearly pulled my arm out of its socket as he bolted frantically to get away from the explosions that continued non-stop. He tugged me all the way down Highmore towards our street as the barrage amplified.. There on the corner of our intersection a man was lighting off his fireworks right on the public boulevard beside his house. These were not minor fireworks, these were major light shows – the kind that make crowds “OH” and “AH” on Victoria Day and Canada Day.

The problem was that it was neither of these two days when fireworks can legally be set off in Ontario and Caledon. On these days, people with pets, the elderly in home hospice, the recently arrived from war torn countries, families with very young children, and persons recovering from PTSD can close their doors and windows and keep a modicum of quiet inside their homes until the assault is over. The adult offender in this case  had picked July 4 to celebrate, forgetting perhaps that he lives in Canada.

He was either ignorant of Ontario law and Caledon’s by-laws regarding fireworks, or stupidly selfish.  I suspected the latter as he became aggressively defensive when we exchanged words about stopping the display. He quieted down shortly thereafter when he received a letter I sent him copied to the Town, the Caledon OPP, and the Caledon Fire Department who actually enforce the by-law.  He no longer set off displays after that day.

But the barrages continued over the next two weeks of July, with large displays coming from the North Hill section of Bolton, and the occasional local small burst from a variety of young teens in Fountainbridge Park and the Allan Drive Middle School parking lot. When I informed one of the  teens about the laws of the land, he replied, “But we didn’t get to light them all on Canada Day.” “Gee,” I replied, “I guess you’ll have to keep them dry until July 1st next year.”  

And during the recent  Diwali festival, came another fireworks incident with my wife walking our dog. She quickly brought the terrified dog home and went back to speak with the youths. It soon became apparent that they were not celebrating Diwali when one of them told her that he was lighting fireworks because it was his birthday, She informed them about Ontario law and the Town’s by-laws, but instead of apologizing for setting off an illegal fireworks display, the two young boys proceeded  to tell her to do obscene things to herself, and then quickly scuttled off into the darkness. 

To accommodate diversity, the Town of Caledon is amending its Fireworks By-law to include cultural celebrations that traditionally include fireworks, like the Chinese Lunar New Year and Diwali. However, that By-law, like many things delayed by pandemic priorities, has not come before Council for approval. Unless the organization or person is a licensed pyrotechnic engineer with a permit, like say at Canada’s Wonderland, there are only two days a year that the general public can legally set off fireworks.

Those two days are Victoria Day and Canada Day. Period. You must be eighteen (18) years of age to purchase fireworks.  If you notice any illegal fireworks displays that are disturbing the peace in your neighbourhood, get the location and inform Caledon Fire at this email address: Fire@caledon.ca. Similarly, if you notice vendors selling to underage youth, notify the Caledon OPP and Caledon Fire. And if you are a parent setting off illegal displays, or providing fireworks illegally to youth, learn the laws or face the consequences. Ignorance is not knowing what the offending behaviour is; stupidity is knowing but continuing the offending behaviour anyway. It’s time for some of our neighbours to smarten up.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

*image from popularmechanics.com