Tuesday 26 March 2019

Environmental Friendliness is Easier Than You Think...Come See My New Blog!

Hi there,

One last post to welcome back any stragglers from this, my last blog who might have missed the link to my new blogsite on Wix.

Thanks again so very much for your readership and no worries if you no longer wish to subscribe.

Please visit the new Prattle and Ponder on Wix for improved feed and engaging lyrical environmental content.


In warmth,

Friday 22 March 2019

Thank you for Reading--Please subscribe to my new site--Prattle and Ponder on Wix!

I would like to take a moment to thank you for reading Prattle and Ponder all these years and welcome you to subscribe to my new Prattle and Ponder site on Wix, a more reader friendly blogging platform. 

Visit my new blog here: https://jillmarie8.wixsite.com/prattle-and-ponder/home

Comments on my old blog are suspended despite looking live while my new blog is alive and well. Check out my new posts at the above link and if you like what you see please scroll down on my home page, subscribe and share! 

With a grateful heart,

Thursday 28 February 2019

Surface Diving

What were you thinking during that last dive of summer
When your fingers, poised to slice the surface, led the way,
Breath held, back arched, eyes closed, toes pointed, 
the warmth of summer's sun upon your shoulders.
Did the water altered world sound more persuasive of peace
or did you think that underwater you would remember a time before climate change,
Before your own brokenness rushed your chest at every chance;
A smokeless burn your lungs could almost thank you for?
Aren’t you holding your breath still
and your lungs, are they
still burning like California except that you at first intentionally chose this burn?
You knew your silent scream could travel faster in water than air
and wondered could you somehow let it out without it drowning you,
But it would drown you anyways you look at it.
Besides, beneath the surface of it all
The waters soothe-- a womb like grave-- enveloping every nuance of flesh
And making secrets out of you, secrets you didn't mean to keep, I think.
As a child you shared the bathtub with your siblings,
And they would count as you ducked beneath the bubbles
And cheer as you felt the pressure for escape rising 
until in an explosion of bare chested victory  you emerged 
and they announced that you had reached the  minute mark!
What is a minute now—stretched out, wiry grey—
an ocean of tears streaked with remembrances,
salt lines on bare skin,
an arbitration between desire and duty?
And how have they stacked up;
In favour or against? Who knows?
And did you ever, for a minute, think
That dive would be your last?
That the currents would test you in a holding pattern of saline buoyancy but no escape?
The ripples of your kindness still lap upon my shore.
Gasp—but isn’t that a life lived well as any other in the end?

Jill  M. MacCormack

Friday 15 February 2019

"If You're Offended, I'm Sorry"--Dennis King, Twitter Talk and Transforming Hatred into Love

Dear person's upset by Dennis King's misogynistic, homophobic, ignorant twitter comments, or those who might be offended by what he said online,

I am writing a letter to ask you to set aside your initial reactions of disgust, disbelief, and soul/psyche woundedness and I invite you to consider offering yourself and the man some genuine Love and Kindness.

King, as someone who has just been elected to lead one of the largest political parties on PEI, (PC) has made it clear that although what he wrote on his twitter feed a number of years ago is representative of a side of him--"Joe Citizen who's trying to make his buddy laugh"-- (comedian, and general guy's guy?) he would not publicly share such commentary while he is holding political office.

When I read the online article regarding King's offensive tweets/hashtags my initial reaction was horror and disgust. Is this guy for real? But as my day progressed and after spending some time meditating on the power of seeing the goodness in others I felt just plain sad for Mr. King and the culture we live in which both creates and reinforces such narrow mindedness and hatred as his comments suggest.

Following my meditation, I came to the realization that in ranting about King's tweets as too disrespectful to lead a political party in a province of a progressive nation in 2019, I was not creating any space in my own heart for Mr. King to redeem himself.

By remaining in anger, I was quickly dismissing King as other, and thereby effectively following the suit of his twitter posts.

There I was falling into the murky waters of the very disrespectful and demeaning mindset that I was angry at Mr. King for taking part in. By entering those waters myself I would be allowing my rising distaste for Mr. King as a person to justify the act of willingly diminishing another human by my words. Essentially, this is the cultural justification we participate in when we demean and objectify someone either individually or as representing a group or faction of society. In doing so we re-create a culture in which harm becomes normalized, even expected as part of ridicule or comedy and all too oft under the slippery guise of “it’s just a joke for my buddies and no one is getting hurt in the process.”

Demeaning comments hurt everyone who partakes of them.

But hatred in return hurts even more.

As I further reflected upon this I suddenly felt that it is urgently paramount that there be space 
 in my own heart for people who ignorantly spew hateful comments to be transformed by Love.

Transformed by my Love and yours

How could hating make anything better? And what do we desperately need more of in the hearts of this precious, divided world, but Love and Kindness?
And so, instead of finishing this day with the dismal sense of dismay I began it with as I explained to my three teens what the word misogyny means, and tried to answer their questions as to how someone choosing such a public profile role as leader of a political party could have behaved so distastefully I chose to end it by practicing an extended loving kindness meditation for Mr. King, his family and for all those who felt as hurt and confused by his twitter comments as I did.

Let us recognize that we all make mistakes. And some, like Mr. King's twitter talk, are more public and hurtful than others. Let's hope Mr. King has learned that how we speak of people, hashtag or in person, matters. Maybe, in time he will understand why saying "if you're offended, I'm sorry..." isn't enough.

May we all be filled with loving kindness, may we be happy, healthy and peaceful and at the end of this day, may all hearts, mine, yours and Dennis King’s, be at peace.

Jill MacCormack

Saturday 9 February 2019

The Time for Action is Now! The Leap Manifesto, Green New Deal and Maurice Strong's Words of Warning Twenty Years Ago

A prescient quote from a book I am reading which was written nineteen years ago by a powerful, sometimes controversial, business/ environmental leader who has since died.

"The tendency to ignore a gathering storm is especially apparent in the response to the threat to the global environment, climate change perhaps being the prime example. Evidence that we are permanently damaging our environment is dismissed as a non-issue, the latest scare tactic of "extreme environmentalists, " in spite of the considered view of a majority of scientists that early action is imperative to limit the controllable buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that permanently affect climate. People in government and business in both their work and personal lives routinely make decisions on matters of much less importance on the basis of evidence far less persuasive, but on this issue, which could affect our very survival, many argue that we should wait for scientific certainty. Business, in short, as usual--until business is no longer possible."

Maurice Strong    Where on Earth Are We Going?

Wow--how difficult it is to read these words and know that so much water has gone under the bridge in the twenty years hence. Strong understood the forces we are up against when he said business as usual until no longer possible. It makes me ask  the question once again--why do so many humans find it impossible to see beyond their own personal needs and desires to the needs and limitations of the greater whole? And yet I know that if persuaded to take action out of a place of deep caring I do believe that many people would choose to do the honourable thing and modify personal lifestyle behaviours accordingly. What then does it take to persuade the average person of the desperate urgency of climate change? And how not to become discouraged by the sheer scale and immensity of the problem?

Strong mentions in his intro that he is often asked if he is a pessimist or an optimist to which he authored this response: "Simply put, I guess I am both. I am an optimist in the sense that I believe it is feasible--indeed more so than ever before--to shape a peaceful, secure and equitable future for all humankind; pessimistic in the sense that I believe that we have not yet made the fundamental shift in priorities and behaviours that will enable us to achieve this."

I want to feel as cautiously optimistic as Strong did when he thought about the fate of the world almost twenty years ago but I am not there yet. Indeed I am fully capable of recognizing that there are countless examples of amazing people engaging in wonderful, desperately urgent work towards protection of air, waters and soils but cultural change is slow and the clock is ticking.

Nevertheless, because I love Earth  and my children with an equal ferocity and tenderness both, I forge onward. I am holding fast to my hope in Naomi Klein's Leap Manifesto and the forward thinkers there are welcoming and encouraging us to embrace a new movement out of the US called the Green New Deal. Take a moment to learn a bit more about it by watching the two minute video in the hyperlink and see how you and your family and friends can help to ensure the world is a more livable one for all species in the near future and for generations to come. 

Thanks for reading!

Interestingly, as a personal aside, while reading Strong's book and realizing the author's involvement in the UN I am mentally revisiting the occasion in university when one of my professors told me he thought I should pursue a career with the UN. I am imagining how different my life would have been...Pondering this, I am sitting here grateful for my quiet Island and busy family life, the swirl of which is enough for me any day.

In warmth,

Saturday 12 January 2019

A timely essay from 2013 on the Landscape of Home and Gretel Ehrlich

For love of Earth

Last night I couldn't get to sleep and so picked up a book of essays in an attempt to bring sleep to me. In doing so I read something I was so moved and unsettled by (an essay on climate change and spirituality) that there was no hope of sleep after reading it. So much for sleep besides, what does one person's sleep one night matter anyway? More importantly the questions that remain with me are what does Gretel Ehrlich's essay from her book entitled The Future of Ice mean for me, for my little Island in the Gulf, and for the floating sphere we all call home?

Born and raised on a small Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I am an Islander through and through. Like many other young people I left in my twenties  to attempt to expand my universe. Although I did my best while away to try to find landscapes in the interior of Ontario that I could fall in love with, I was constantly heartsick for my Prince Edward Island home. I recall  driving one bleak November day in Ontario and coming unexpectedly upon a lake and almost driving into it I was so happy to see a relatively large body of water. I didn’t realize how desperately I was missing the landscape of home; as much as I was missing the people and familiar routines.

But my little Island home, although wonderful and where we have chosen to raise our own growing up family, doesn't feel so comfortable anymore. The ease of childhood's ignorance has long since worn of and I am left with a grating feeling in my throat when I speak certain words, an inability to get a full breath when certain words are uttered by others. The words I speak about are all related to development and environmental protection, and to the ways we use our land and waters here.

We, as a small Island community, have a responsibility towards the land and air and waters of our home and I do not think we are taking this responsibility seriously enough. As environmentalist David Suzuki says people who live on islands know there are limits to things. He is right in that many of us here have a lived sense of those limits and what we need for our survival. Yet why are we  continuing to allow government to be swayed by investors promising to bring jobs in genetically modified fisheries to our waters, why are we still considering hydraulic fracturing off our coastlines, and why are we not an entirely organic Island when far sighted and reasonable people believe it is a possibility that could become a reality if only the government and people of our land were to speak out, and let their voices be heard?

The essay I read last night was written by Gretel Ehrlich and is entitled The Future of Ice. It is a gorgeous piece of lyrical writing about spirit, place and the role our behaviours play in affecting the landscapes we live in. It was a read that made me want to get up out of my bed late on a wet, cold night and go outside to touch the earth at my own doorstep just so I could remember that I am alive; a living member of the world right now. Ehrlich's writing provides a glimpse into the fragile, changing nature of the North, somewhere we oft think of as the last true frontier, strong and wild and free. The witness she bears to the vulnerabilities the north is facing is startling and sadly too easily translatable to our planet as a whole. The words she uses, poetic. This woman truly loves  Earth and writes about her love in a way that makes you feel as though you've somehow entered into the love as well.

As I age, I am realizing that many of greatest truths I have known in my life I knew intimately as a young child still awed by the sensuousness of the world. Truths which for too many years since I have largley forgotten. Ehrlich's words shook those forgotten truths from me much the way a good hug reminds you that you need to hug people more often. Yet her words rang hauntingly as well, like a rattlesnake's ominous warning entering spaces you'd rather pretend do not exist, rattled and shaken just before it's too late.

     "How fragile we are.’We' being the humans and this mountain. My Inuit friends in Greenland use the word sila to describe weather: the power of nature, landscape, and human consciousness as one and the same. Every scar on the landscape is also a perturbation of the mind." 
Gretel Ehrlich

I have felt the desecration of our sacred lands and waters too oft as a perturbation of my own mind, and more times than I care to recall have felt the scorn of others for being too deep a feeler, too much a fool for the voiceless. Yet still I must ask: what are we doing to this wondrous world, to all its living creatures, to ourselves? Is it still possible for us to take pause, look deeply into the eyes of the world, and fall in love again? 

Over the last few years I have been drawn to writers whose use of language explores both the internal and external lived worlds. A good friend of mine, poet John MacKenzie , does this brilliantly. His imagery pulled from the natural world reminds us that we are passionate, breathing creatures of bone and flesh whose bodies are not separate from the landscapes and mindscapes we inhabit. 
A wonderful example of the intimate precision of his writing is exhibited here in a recent sestina he wrote:
The Winter Wings of Gulls

Perhaps, the greatest thing we could do in terms of slowing the progression of climate change is to slow ourselves, our frantic pace, our shallow breathing, and once again be mindful of our connection to the Earth. We then could be reminded of the wonders of the natural world, of the ways that place infuses spirit. Perhaps if we all recalled  the forgotten truths of our childhood, the long, slow creak of years when we drank time like warm milk and squeezed the breath into and out of our days. Those truths we knew in our bones back then, those truths that I knew so well and let retreat to the shadows for too many years of my own life. Thankfully I have been reminded that we are inextricably a part of a great and wonderful unfolding; a mystery of nature and of spirit that encompasses the whole. 

In a particular wintertime childhood memory of mine, I am lying in a snowbank outside of my house, alone on a blustery, snowy day. I was outside by myself as I was oft given to, but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t really alone, that in the great loneliness there was room for all.  I knew all of this and more at age five, lying well bundled in snow deep enough to mold around my little form, the wind blowing, lifting eddies and currents of crystalline snowflakes all around me. My breath, soft little exhales, made clouds above my face which disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared, The sharp catch of cold in my little chest as I breathed the air back in reminded me to breath slowly, gently. I can still recall that feeling of being tucked in by the snow. The cold assurance that this was winter I was lying in, but the secure feeling that there was room for me in it. 

Ehrlich in her essay on The Future of Ice says:
“The sky borrows its radiance from ice, its adamantine clarity, and we spend lifetimes tracking down those elements within ourselves.”

Her essay speaks volumes about our need to make tracking down those elements that re-connect us with the living earth, with the spark of life inherent in all, a more urgent necessity in our lives. Her words an almost silent plea for us to care for each other and this planet with the same loving attention and awe with which we care for those we call our lovers. After all, the separateness we presume to be reality is only an illusion and the cost of being fooled by this is far, far too great. There is, after all, room for the whole of it.
Jill MacCormack

I am re-posting this essay from 2013 as it seems as timely now as it was then--perhaps more so. 
May love be your guidepost, and kindness, always kindness.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Naming, Blaming and the Smallness of Such Politicing--Maybe 2019 Could be Different

I am writing in response to Alan Holman’s Dec first, 2018 Guardian opinion piece questioning David Weale’s supposed naming and blaming over land ownership on PEI.

Mr Holman is trodding into naming and blaming territory himself when he says that most Islanders in his personal opinion are either content or disinterested in who owns the land. I am not sure what he bases this opinion on but it certainly is not a reliable refute to the passivity he accuses David of accusing Islander's of.
Rather, it is perhaps the perfect definition of passivity.

As per the Oxford dictionary, passivity is defined as: 
Acceptance of what happens, without active response or resistance.

And although David is a personal friend of mine, I feel no need to defend David Weale, the person. I know David can handle an unpleasant review or opinion on him or his personal choices. He is fully able to turn the other cheek or speak up for himself, need be. Or reflect, perhaps, on whether he might need to reconsider things. He is a grown up after all.

But the land and the waters of which we have a shared love and deep concern for; they need us to speak up for them.  I do not believe that Mr. Holman did a good job recognizing that the intent behind David's waxing poetic about 'them times" is to urgently call to attention how far we have strayed from the ideals of stewardship of the land our ancestors and the Mi'kmaq people's lived. After all they were the first to recognize and honour the land and waters which bestowed them with the basic necessities of life, nourishing their spirits as well as their bodies.

The land today bears silent witness to the unwholesome desires of large land holders and must be spoken for by those who love it deeply and see it being shown such little regard. I am speaking up not in defense of David, rather in defense of David’s defense of the land and waters here on PEI.

And while David might pine for a simpler time when seemingly those who farmed did so for the love of the occupation, he is not off the mark when he “rhapsodizes” for an era which saw a multitude of small sized, self sustainable rural land holdings doing well for themselves and their families while respecting the limits nature imposes.This is of course rather than the forced “go big or go home” mentality that capitalism's green revolution wrought on  small scale farmers and agriculture in the 1960’s and hence fore ward.

I hazard a guess that David harbour's no ill will toward either Mr. Irving or any of the orange robed GEBIS monks. I believe instead that he is deeply concerned about the larger forces at work behind  the Irving's and potentially GEBIS' land interests as well.
The PEI Lands Protection Act has been discussed at length regarding the spirit of the act and its intention towards discouraging the amassing of large tracts of land by any one land holder. Somehow the spirit of the act is being disregarded by these groups.  So too with the Irving’s imposition on the Water Act and implicit desire to see the moratorium on deep water wells lifted.

I agree with Mr Weale that the Irving’s don’t like potato farmers, they use them. The agricultural monopoly that the Irving’s have on rural PEI in their pursuit of what Holman describes as "long, flavorful french fries" for a North American fast food market is real and it falls under the term predatory capitalism (loosely defined as capitalism ignoring social and environmental concerns to attain its primary goals).

Even Holman admits that the Irving's, like an ill tempered child,  will take their ball and bat and go home if Island farmers and the governing elite do not want to play ball according to their rules. Capitalism, especially predatory capitalism, is not based on liking and being liked. It is based on winning at all costs. Profits are the measure of the win for the corporations and jobs (and therefore votes) are the measure in local politics. Hence the pandering by our gov't.

It is difficult for any thoughtful Islander to take a look at the soils and waters of this Island and not bear witness to what they are enduring in the name of corporate profits. Fish kills, topsoil degradation, and the increasing ownership of the land by off island enterprises such as the Irving’s and GEBIS (even if GEBIS is at least locally kind and better stewards of the land than the Irving's) are all troubling progressions.

I find no fault in David asking us to consider our role in the destruction of rural life on PEI and in the destruction of Island soils and waters too. We have become so accustomed to seeking comfort and avoiding discomfort that even when the evidence is clear we still want to avoid implicating ourselves in the equation.

Our collective failure to acknowledge ourselves as accomplices allows us to sit back and finger point rather than take the necessary, wise and compassionate action required to address the situation. If we fail to acknowledge what is going on then our passivity could be wrongfully perceived as contentment or disinterest by someone such as Alan Holman.

And so I am speaking out.

David knows Islanders well. We are a passive lot by and large. We don’t want to rock the boat because we know what sinking, even drowning feels like. And that sinking, drowning feeling began with the green revolution and the perception so many Islanders bought into that our rural way of life was not good enough. Big and shiny and new is better was the mentality underpinning it all.
The same mentality drives so much of  modern excessive consumption— that and the belief that there is something inherently wrong with how we are and that goods can make us better, even normal if we consume enough of them. These are widely shared and faulty beliefs but these beliefs are not our birthright; being an Islander is.

And so there is all the more reason for average Islanders to speak up about what is happening to the land and waters here in the name of progress, and profit. For not being willing to wade into the waters when they are becoming increasingly murky and abused is foolhardy.

In fact, we all need to be less afraid to wade out and let our voices and opinions be heard.  We were not always trapped in a culture of dependency. Our very survival in an era of climate change, increasingly right wing governing ideologies and the infringement on local culture by neo-liberal economics will depend on our ability to stand on our own two feet and create an economy based on scale like in Schumacher's Small is Beautiful rather than dependency on the export of mono culture agriculture or questionable farmed sea products. Or the export of young Islanders too for that matter. For the PNP immigration scandal here is tied in with this all as well.

Our parents generation taught us to "vote with our feet" when they saw how hard it was to raise us on two incomes in the suburbs.  Head for Ontario or the tar sands to feed your families they told a generation of Island youth. But you can only deal in rubber or tar or chemical pesticides for so long before it begins to eat at you.   

The refrain is all too common.
So who then is to blame for the mess we have found ourselves in?

In short, we all are.

But in reality it is all far more complicated than either David or Mr. Holman or myself have space or time to explicate. 
But the one thing I do know deep in my heart is that the blame game gets us no where fast and so I am betting hard on a future which can see beyond the smallness of such politicing. 
Personal or otherwise.

Jill M. MacCormack 
devoted lover of Island soils and waters and kindness (let us not forget kindness)
A short list of Island Organizations run by very active amazing Islanders devoted to protecting Island soils and waters :