Bravery

Good morning everyone. A bright Monday morning, the beginning of another week and also Remembrance Day here in Canada.

Folks who are planning outdoor celebrations this morning will have to be brave to face the chill that’s settled across the prairies. We had a fair bit of snow Saturday, and now it’s seriously cold. At 7 am it was -22̊ C. Add wind gusts up to 28 km/h for a wind-chill factor of -31̊ C.
For our American friends that’s -7̊ F and with wind gusts up to 17 mph, which gives the feel of -24̊ F if you’re outside for very long. I let our cats outside first thing and they were ready to come in about three minutes later.

So it’s the perfect day to stay indoors and work on my sewing projects, but I will be cooking at the Villa today, both meals. Thankfully I can slide my car into the heated garage there. Dear hubby will have to get up and help me open the door of our unheated garage because at this temperature, the mechanism doesn’t want to work.

Like most people who are classed as “brave”, I’m not particularly courageous or eager to face the elements, but I have a job to do and will do it regardless of the externals. I don’t think any soldiers were enthused about facing enemy guns, but they were given the job, the goal was held forth, and they gritted their teeth and complied, hoping to make it out alive.

Ragtag Community’s word prompt for today is BRAVERY, quite understandable considering this special day. At the 11th hour dedicated folks all over the world will pause for a few moments of silence, remembering those lost in war and wishing, praying, violent conflicts will cease forever.

I hopped over to Pixabay and checked out images of ‘Bravery’; it’s very interesting what they all show. From a dandelion daring to bloom in parched clay to bungee jumping to Rosie the Riveter to Super heroes. Here are a few illustrations of bravery:

Fire.skeeze
Skeeze.Pixabay
Soliers.johnrocks888
johnrocks888.Pixabay
Rocket.WikiImages
WikiImages.Pixabay
surgery-1807541_640
Sasin Tipchai.Pixabay

But some things that people think are brave, like death-defying stunts, I’d class in the realm of… well…a lack of good sense. All in one’s perspective of bravery, I suppose? Like, why on earth would you play with a snake or fling yourself off a cliff if you don’t have to? Different strokes for different folks?

Matador.memyselfaneye
memyselfaneye.Pixabay
bungee-jumping-3164249_640
wfff.Pixabay

Anyway, wherever you are today, I hope you can have a day of relative peace and safety. Let’s all take time to appreciate all the folks who have sacrificed—and are working today—to give us security and a better quality of life.

 

The Life Cycle of Water

It’s been a long time since I thought of Dutch puck disease, but I read a news article this morning that jogged my memory, so I’ll tell you about it.

Dutch Puck Disease: From Beetle to Humbug

Back in the early 70s most Canadians had heard of the invasion of an elm bark beetle and the fungal infection, Dutch Elm disease, that was devastating our elm population. Cities were doing what they could to protect their beautiful shade trees, sadly, without much success.

Around 1972 some wit at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation got the idea to do a send-up on the story and the idea went over. So they made a mini documentary about the dreaded “Dutch puck disease” destroying Canada’s hockey-puck producing trees.

A narrator warned that this posed a dire threat to Canada’s favorite sport. Cameras showed scenes of devastation: shriveled and deformed hockey pucks hanging from the branches of wasted-looking trees. They even persuaded hockey great, Bobby Orr, to give an interview about the scourge. He almost managed a straight face as he said, “This is terrible! I can’t score goals if there are no pucks.”

They filmed a few man-on-the-street interviews, including one of an incredulous young lady exclaiming, “They do?! Hockey pucks grow on trees?”

From Spring to Bottle:
Big companies process for profit.

Apparently conservationists are trying to stop the Swiss company, Nestlé, from draining some California streams to bottle water. Protesters claim the giant Swiss corporation is actually drying up creeks by taking so much water out and making huge profits selling it back as bottled water.

There’s likely reason for concern, but one needs to exercise care to get the whole picture, not just the attention-grabbing headline. A person could make the same case against farmers irrigating crops. All summer long, “big corporate farms” draw water from the underground supply, pay next-to-nothing for it, irrigate their crops, sell their produce “pre-packaged” to consumers in the form of veggies, and pocket the profits. All the while, you could argue, depleting the nation’s underground water supply. Nestlé is accused of taking water from the streams, paying nothing for it, bottling and selling it as “safe pure water,” and pocketing the profits. The question is being asked: “Is this a crime, or is it business?”

As with Dutch Puck Disease, headlines, news stories, and especially documentaries can be manipulated to sound sensationally dire and point fingers. And people can be gullible: “If it’s on the news it must be true.” However, readers need to examine the facts carefully and ponder the validity of statements like the following:
“At its current pace, the world will run out of freshwater before oil,” Brabeck said. Apparently Brabeck is suggesting “privatization” as a possible answer.

Private companies — or the government? What blessings or woes would privatization bring? Communism was supposed to be wonderful, too.

People here in North America are very concerned about the environment and it’s so easy to raise a scare story. But let’s consider the logistics behind our water supply (the sky) and the possibility of drying up springs, streams and rivers.

We can’t squeeze more prehistoric animals to produce more oil, but water’s a different kettle of fish. I’m thinking the world will “run out” of fresh water when the clouds stop dumping it on us.

You can syphon off water at its source so the folks downstream get almost none. You can dam a flowing water source and even change its course so one area gets a stream and another area gets none. But mankind has not yet been able to dry up the clouds.

From Gush to Flush: The Life Cycle of Water

Every day the sun draws zillions of tons of water vapor from the ocean, lakes, rivers, etc. If we could shut off the sun we could prevent all this water vapor loss. But…

By some miraculous process, this vapor gathers into clouds that drift across the earth’s surface and, at a given signal, pour their contents wherever they happen to be. Drizzle, rain, hail, spit or snow it down on us. Topography, like mountain ranges, and a cooler land mass (as in hurricanes) influence where the clouds will empty out. However, in the past human attempts to redirect rainfall to dry areas (cloud seeding) have often met with grief.

A free gift from heaven, precipitation falls where it wills. It fills mountain streams, rivers, lakes, soaks into the land, replenishes underground springs. Water is absorbed by tree roots and drawn up into leaves that give off water vapor. Farmers draw from underground aquifers to irrigate their land. Cities draw water from said sources and people use it.

We water our gardens and lawns and the water is drawn up through plant roots and later evaporated by the wind. Thus it finds its way back into the cycle. As we hoe the garden or mow the lawn we sweat, and the breeze dries us off, whisking the moisture into the atmosphere to rejoin some cloud somewhere. Just think where all your sweat may travel.

People drink the water, replenish their cells, and urinate the excess. Our bodies are an amazing filtration system. Whether bottled water, tap water, or beverage, we drink it, filter it, and flush it. Really, we should should all do our part and drink lots so we can put more water back into the recycling system. 🙂

Conserve Water: Don’t Bathe

Just think. Every morning all across the continent people use zillions of tons of water to shower and bathe. My washing machine is chugging away as I write this. If we’d stop all this bathing and laundry we’d waste so much less water.

Thankfully, water is never used up. Household water runs down the drain, into the city’s waste disposal system, and — hopefully filtered — back into the rivers and reservoirs. Directly or indirectly it finds its way back into the ocean to begin another cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

We need to treat all natural systems with care, including our water sources, but conservationists shouldn’t resort to fear tactics. Big corporations may well be greedy; it kind-of goes with the territory. Bottling companies make a mega-buck profit selling their goods, and some may be diverting some streams, but they don’t actually destroy the water.

The company can’t keep taking water that isn’t there. If there’s no water in said streams, it’s more likely because there hasn’t been sufficient rainfall in that area to replenish them. At this time the folks in southern Quebec would gladly share theirs, but alas! We’ve not yet found a way to redirect clouds.

In my understanding, the system of evaporation and precipitation was in place when man arrived and will continue to replenish the springs, streams, lakes, and rivers until the end of time. We can dam it, redirect it, and pollute the “container,” but we can’t use it up.

Hockey pucks don’t grow on trees, either. The game goes on.

Book: Love of Finished Years

When I read a good book, I like to tell people about it. This story reminds me of something British writer D E Stevenson, another excellent author, would write.

Love of Finished Years
by Gregory Erich Phillips

This moving debut novel by Gregory Erich Phillips won the Grand Prize for best book of the year in the Chanticleer Reviews International writing Competition.

From the first paragraph to the last, this compelling story illustrates the desperate poverty of one immigrant family from Germany who landed at Ellis Island in 1905. After struggling to earn a living for several years, their dejected father abandons the family, so the mother and two daughters work in sweatshops, determined to survive.

The heroine of our story, Elsa, finds a friend at work who teaches her English. Later she manages to find work as a secretary, ostensibly a German-English translator for an American businessman, but Esla basically becomes the companion of his daughter Dafne and is introduced to the world of the privileged.

This story is so realistic it could have been a biography. I felt along with Elsa and her family as they faced a new life in an alien world. I believe this reflects the lot of many immigrants. Slowly the three immigrant women manage to pull their way out of desperate poverty, maintaining close ties. Then comes World War I and they must cope with anti-German hostilities and the tragedy that results.

While she is companion to Dafne, the debutante is engaged to Glenn and when war comes he’s eager to go and serve his country, do his part to deliver the world from the evil aggressor. Glenn’s war experience and his enlightenment was very realistic. I have to agree with the writer’s take on the idea of a “just” war: all the “save the world” idealism is a thin veneer covering various hidden agenda.

I thought the writer portrayed Dafne with fairness, too. An immature, spoiled debutante carried away by adult dreams too big for her to really comprehend, she really needed more parental guidance than she got. Thankfully, through their years together Elsa filled the place of a big sister and guided her in many ways.

It really is an engaging, well written tale.

Great Opening Lines

Great Opening Lines

The Word of the Day prompt this morning was DESPERATE, so let’s take a look at a few desperate situations main characters have come face-to-face with in some popular novels.

I read an article not long ago saying how important it is for writers to start off with an enticing hook, preferably in the first paragraph. Best-selling author and writing instructor Jerry Jenkins gives wannabe novelists this advice: “Plunge your character in terrible trouble as soon as possible, definitely in the first chapter and preferably on the first page.”

If you can do this well, your readers will start rooting for your hero or heroine right off the bat.

Lewis Carroll wasted no time in his classic, Alice in Wonderland. The story opens with a sleepy, bored Alice, noticing, then following, a talking rabbit. By the fifth paragraph she’s plunging down the rabbit hole into another world.

Jane Austin succeeds admirably, opening Pride & Prejudice with an unknown young man about to enter a tiger’s den of local mothers desperate to gain a rich son-in-law. You know his goose is cooked when you read the first lines.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

In the first lines of Agnes Sligh Turnbull’s 1948 classic, The Bishop’s Mantle, we get the picture of another desperate soul:
The young man in the taxi leaned forward. “Can you go faster?” he said to the driver. “It’s a matter of life and death.”
The reason for his urgency is soon clear, as we see him arrive at his destination and softly enter the bedroom of his dying grandfather.

Dan Walsh starts out his terrific historical novel, The Deepest Waters — © 2011 — with the main characters in desperate straits indeed, about to be plunged into the Atlantic:
Yesterday, when it had become a certainty their ship would sink, Laura and John Foster held hands, as they had on their wedding day three weeks ago, and made a vow: when that moment finally came, they would leap into the sea together and slip beneath the waves….
But that’s not what happened.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, CS Lewis introduced his character in a delightfully terse, yet revealing way, guaranteed to spark the reader’s curiosity about this belligerent boy and the troubles that await him:
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can’t tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none.

I don’t think anyone can beat Canada’s best loved humorist, Stephen Leacock, though, when it comes to painting scenes of desperation and dismay in the opening lines of his short stories. Here are a few from A Treasury of Stephen Leacock, ©1999 by Key Porter Books:

My Financial Career
When I go into a bank I get rattled. The clerks rattle me; the wickets rattle me; the sight of the money rattles me; everything rattles me.

Lord Oxhead’s Secret
It was finished. Ruin had come. Lord Oxford sat gazing fixedly at the library fire.

A Christmas Letter
Mademoiselle,
Allow me very gratefully but firmly to refuse your kind invitation. You doubtless mean well; but your ideas are unhappily mistaken.

How to Avoid Getting Married
Some year ago, when I was the Editor of a correspondence column, I used to receive heart-broken letters from young men asking for advice and sympathy. They found themselves the object of marked attentions from girls which they scarcely knew how to deal with.

Too bad he wasn’t around to give advice to the single young man Jane Austin was about to plunge into terrible trouble in my first example. Oh, well. He came out okay in the end.