6.22.2019

"we don’t actually know what will happen, but know we may be able to write it ourselves": rebecca solnit on hope and why it matters

I missed this when it ran in 2017, but I found it when I needed it. Rebecca Solnit writes in The Guardian:
Last month, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden had a public conversation about democracy, transparency, whistleblowing and more. In the course of it, Snowden – who was of course Skyping in from Moscow – said that without Ellsberg’s example he would not have done what he did to expose the extent to which the NSA was spying on millions of ordinary people. It was an extraordinary declaration. It meant that the consequences of Ellsberg’s release of the top-secret Pentagon Papers in 1971 were not limited to the impact on a presidency and a war in the 1970s. The consequences were not limited to people alive at that moment. His act was to have an impact on people decades later – Snowden was born 12 years after Ellsberg risked his future for the sake of his principles. Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective, and remembering this is reason to live by principle and act in hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious.

The most important effects are often the most indirect. I sometimes wonder when I’m at a mass march like the Women’s March a month ago whether the reason it matters is because some unknown young person is going to find her purpose in life that will only be evident to the rest of us when she changes the world in 20 years, when she becomes a great liberator.

I began talking about hope in 2003, in the bleak days after the war in Iraq was launched. Fourteen years later, I use the term hope because it navigates a way forward between the false certainties of optimism and of pessimism, and the complacency or passivity that goes with both. Optimism assumes that all will go well without our effort; pessimism assumes it’s all irredeemable; both let us stay home and do nothing. Hope for me has meant a sense that the future is unpredictable, and that we don’t actually know what will happen, but know we may be able write it ourselves.

Hope is a belief that what we do might matter, an understanding that the future is not yet written. It’s informed, astute open-mindedness about what can happen and what role we may play in it. Hope looks forward, but it draws its energies from the past, from knowing histories, including our victories, and their complexities and imperfections. It means not being the perfect that is the enemy of the good, not snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, not assuming you know what will happen when the future is unwritten, and part of what happens is up to us.
Lately I've been struggling with hope. I'm a lifelong activist, and I don't recall ever feeling this way before. I could never have put the time and energy into activism if I felt my actions -- our collective actions -- were useless. I know that the results of our actions are cumulative -- that no one action alone creates change -- and that, as the quote on the sidebar of this blog says, we may never know what actions will eventually lead to a result. Change is created by movements, and movements may be many generations long.

I knew all that in my head, but I couldn't feel it in my heart anymore. Instead I felt despair. And despair is the enemy of change.

Despair fuels for the other side -- the people who destroy our planet for profit, who make war for profit, who make hate, who divide and oppress, and enrich themselves at our expense.

This wall is part of The Wall.
Many years ago, a comrade from the Haven Coalition, the NYC abortion-access group I worked with, interviewed me for NPR's StoryCorps project. I shared with her my mental image of activism -- something I think of as "the wall".

The wall represents all the forces of oppression. The wall is war, torture, bigotry, hatred, othering. The wall is sexism and misogyny, racism and homophobia, the oppression of workers, the disregard for human rights, the disregard for democracy, the destruction of the environment.

The wall is huge -- so tall that, standing against it, we can't see the top, and so wide that it eclipses at the horizon.

But the wall is not impregnable.

All along the wall, there are groups of people, pushing against it with both their hands. One person alone, no matter how great their strength or how just their cause, can never break even one tiny fragment of the wall. But when enough people get together, and all push in the same area and in the same direction, one day that section of wall crumbles. And we break through. And change is created.

We've seen it happen. We know it can happen.

Does the wall ever disappear completely? No, of course not. The wall is part of human civilization -- the forces that maintain the status quo, because they profit from it in some way. The hands on the wall are part of society, too.

In that StoryCorps interview, my friend asked me, "When did you first realize you wanted to be someone with both hands on the wall?"

At that moment, a light went on in my head. I hadn't seen myself that way before. Yes, I wanted to have both hands on the wall -- and I wanted to help others find their courage and hope to do so, too.

I'm realizing now that I've temporarily lost my way. Now I can return with more empathy for how people lose hope, why activists give up.

It's easy to despair. There's a lot out there pushing us in that direction. It's easy to be cynical, and cynicism is only a half-step from apathy, or at least inertia. I've never been apathetic, but if I give in to despair -- if I forget that the future is unwritten -- I might as well be.

I must refuse. Right now, my act of resistance is to resist the forces of cynicism and despair.

* * * * *

You can read more excellent articles by Rebecca Solnit here at The Guardian website. Some other highlights: "Every protest shifts the world's balance and "Thank you, climate strikers. Your actions matter and your power will be felt".

"at your library" in the north island eagle: summer reading club is back

Summer Reading Club is back! Register your child today.

Can you believe it’s June already? The days are long, the kids are restless, and summer is in the air. Whether you’re cleaning out the camper, booking a cottage down island, or just wondering how you’re going to keep your children busy all summer, the library can be part of your plans. Books, movies, music, magazines – and free programs open to all – will help you fill hours and banish boredom. Even better, you’ll be helping your children succeed in school next year – when you sign them up for Summer Reading Club, and encourage them to read every day.

Summer Reading Club is happening all over Canada, and VIRL goes all out to promote this amazing program in all of our 39 branches. The reason is simple: kids who read during the summer do better in school in September. Think of reading as exercise for the brain. We want our children’s brains to stay in shape!

Summer Reading Club is all about making reading fun, and motivating kids to read. Kids track their reading, then visit the library to show they’ve been reading every day. Each week that they read every day, they are entered in a draw for prizes. Each week, one lucky child (at each branch) can choose a book to keep. Children who complete a reading record for the entire Summer Reading Club program win a medal. Kids also receive fun freebies, like bookmarks, stickers, and a Tales the Whale “book muncher”.

We’ll have special programs at all our libraries, too, including lots of “STEAM” programs – Minecraft, virtual reality, creative building kits, and more. (STEAM it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, and it encourages us to learn by hands-on problem solving. More about STEAM in a future At Your Library column!)

For older kids, VIRL presents Teen Summer Challenge. This year, teens can join Sherlock Moose and Fox Watson as they track down solutions to mysterious tasks. A series of silly and fun activities challenge teens to collect points while learning new skills.

For every five points they earn, teens get one entry in the prize draw. Prizes include books, Chapters gift cards, and Skullcandy earbuds. Teens can team up with friends to do the challenges together. Youth ages 12-18 can pick up a Teen Summer Challenge booklet at their local branch, or find the tasks at the VIRL website.

But if your teen would rather stick with Summer Reading Club, that’s fine with us. Teens reading? Yes, please!

Summer Reading Club and Teen Summer Challenge run from July 2 to August 20. You can register at your favourite branch, or online at virl.bc.ca/kids/summer-reading-club.

It’s free, it’s easy, it’s fun – and it’s important brain exercise! I hope you’ll put Summer Reading Club Registration on the top of your summer to-do list.

6.16.2019

11 things I loved about "rolling thunder revue: a bob dylan story"

Allan and I have been greatly anticipating "Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story", the new film by Martin Scorsese released this week on Netflix.

When "The Last Waltz" opened at Radio City Music Hall in 1978, I was a senior in high school. My friends and I skipped school and snuck into the city to see it. About 10 years later, Allan and I saw it together (he for the first time) and it became a touchstone of our relationship.

These days, rearranging work schedules to watch a movie is no longer an option, but we waited until we were both available and could watch this film together.

I loved it. The film is a joy from start to finish. I'm sure I will watch it again and again, and future viewing will reveal more to delight, enlighten, obscure, befuddle, and entertain. Here are some reasons why.

1. Dylan then. His stage persona is warm, forceful, and passionate. The songs he has chosen are socially engaged. His voice has never been better. He seems relaxed, happy, and in the moment. He connects with the audience. He seems to revel in the joy of music-making. What a rare and welcome view of this artist!

2. Dylan now. Talking, smiling, storytelling -- story-making. We have never been over-exposed to Dylan talking about his music. And when we have seen him, he has been argumentative, defensive, contrary, defiant, flippant, or barely suffering the fool who asks the question. The Dylan chatting with us in "Rolling Thunder Revue" is relaxed and friendly. Even in a fake interview, this is a delight.

3. Scarlet Rivera. The legendary violinist is resplendent, her wailing notes transforming the standard (although excellent) rootsy sound of guitars and bass into an emotional wildfire. I have loved Scarlet Rivera's violin and these arrangements since first hearing this music in 1976, and through the years my appreciation has only deepened.

4. Joni Mitchell. We are treated to a glimpse of songwriting in progress (pause and check out her hand-written lyrics!), and a behind-the-scenes rehearsal. This takes place supposedly in Gordon Lightfoot's Toronto flat, and includes Joni showing Dylan the chord changes. I'll take a loop of the whole Joni segment, please.

5. The playful mix of fact and fiction. For his fans, Dylan's life has always been a mix of fact and fiction -- and this echoes the melange of fact, legend, and rumour that all rock stars' lives were to us in the pre-internet era. Martin Scorsese's profound understanding of Bob Dylan, this music, and its place in our culture make him the perfect filmmaker for this material. His choice to break the documentary format is genius, and the results are very amusing and entertaining.

6. The songs. The set list is socially and politically powerful -- some songs overtly so, and others a bit more cryptic.

7. Joan Baez. Baez' voice -- like Rivera's violin -- is a soaring, sailing, wailing counterpoint to Dylan's gruff and forceful singing. I am not a member of the Joan-and-Bob cult, but their voices are perfect together and their chemistry onstage is irresistible.

8. Allen Ginsberg. Allen Ginsberg is like a shining thread that runs through so much that has meaning for me. In this film, we hear his poetry and his observations. We see him meditating. He seems happy. This also affords us a glimpse of Peter Orlovsky. I love Allen Ginsberg. I miss him.

9. Patti Smith! Oh god the magnificent Patti Smith being magnificent in 1975.

10. Sam Shepard! Rumour has it that Shepard was the inspiration behind Joni Mitchell's song "Coyote" (alluded to above). And they were on part of this tour together. Is it hot in here?

11. The music is brilliant. The performances are riveting.

6.15.2019

spectacular photos of bald eagles in port hardy

Check out these incredible photographs of bald eagles at Storey's Beach in Port Hardy, created by my friend sM. The story is here.

I wish sM would post more photos! There must be dozens of other great shots that don't meet her standards for public viewing. But these will give you the general idea.

6.13.2019

pupdate: running on the beach, jumping over the fence, and awesomely coming back to us

Things are going really well with the new pack of five. Having three dogs isn't that big a deal! Who knew? But I should qualify: it's not that big a deal with this particular mix, in our current, specific circumstances. I don't think we'll need to have three forever -- but we are really enjoying it right now.

Cookie is so affectionate -- not just to us, but to her canine packmates, too. She likes to squeeze in on a bed (or a crate!) that one of the other dogs is already using. This never fails to melt me.






We had another trip to the beach, the second time with all three dogs. Cookie's recall was much improved! We did the same thing as last time -- gave them 5 or 10 minutes of running mayhem at the nearby ballfield before heading to the beach itself.

This time Cookie never went off on her own. She and Kai ran and ran and ran -- sometimes quite far away, chasing birds -- but we would keep calling their names, and eventually they both circled back around to us (and treats).







Remember Kai-dini, the dog that could not be contained? We've been taking her in the backyard only on-leash and clipping her to a long tether. If we think, meh, it's only for a few minutes, and another dog walks by the house during those few minutes, she pops over the fence to say hi. We hustle inside the house and out the front door -- and there she is waiting for us! How's that for awesome? We are super lucky, as any escape can be a disaster.

Not to be outdone, Cookie realized that she, too, can sail over a fence. A little terrier was streaking across several lawns. He must have slipped his lead or escaped out a door, and he was running at full tilt. So Cookie popped out to join him.

I was scared. Cookie is fast. In the time it would take me to even get on the street, who knows where she would be? I ran through the house, calling "Oh my god, Cookie jumped the fence!" I grabbed a leash, and D grabbed Kai as she was heading out the door. I ran down the driveway calling "Cookie! Cookie!" as loud as I could. I had barely turned off the driveway to the street, when who comes tearing around the corner, towards me, at top speed?? She ran right past me and into the house!

I couldn't believe it. This was days ago and I'm still amazed and thrilled.

Unfortunately this means that neither of the Littles can be outside without being tethered. In the new house, though, the yard will be much more secure -- fully fenced, a higher fence, and not visible to the street -- removed from most temptations.

6.10.2019

"at your library" in the north island eagle: jobs and careers: we've got you covered

Jobs and Careers: We’ve Got You Covered

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a career fair hosted by the Kwakiutl First Nation. I wasn’t there to convince anyone to become a librarian – although it is an awesome profession! I was telling people about the resources our library has for researching careers and looking for jobs.

Whether you’re starting your first career or looking for something new – if you’re wondering what kind of job might be a good fit for you – if you’ve got interviews coming up and you need to prepare – and so many other career and job-search needs – we’ve got you covered.

Career Cruising is my go-to app for all things job-related. With Career Cruising, you can take a self-assessment test to see what careers might be a good fit for you. Then you can find out what education you’ll need, what a typical day might be like, what kind of career path you might have, and how much money you can expect to earn – all for a huge variety of careers.

Once you have some direction, or if you already know what you want to do, Career Cruising helps you with your resume, interviewing, even what will be expected of you after you start working.

To find Career Cruising, go to virl.bc.ca > learn > business/careers, then scroll down to Career Cruising. You’ll need a library card to create a free account.

Lynda.com is another great app that can help you succeed. Lynda has a huge collection of videos that teach all kinds of skills. This isn’t YouTube – you don’t have to search through hundreds of irrelevant or silly videos to find what you need. The videos at Lynda.com are all professionally made, and they’re organized so you can follow a learning path from total beginner all the way to advanced.

Lynda teaches a huge array of topics. Job searchers can learn about creating resumes and preparing for interviews, as well as basic tech skills that many employers require, such as using Outlook, Word, and Excel.

You can find Lynda.com through the Library website: virl.bc.ca > learn > business/careers, then look for Lynda. Use your library card to create a free account, and start learning.

Kanopy is best known for indie film and documentaries, but it offers education resources, too. Look for the word browse at the top of the screen, then click the pull-down arrow. You’ll see categories such as Business, Education, and Instructional Films and Lessons, to name a few.

You can use Career Cruising, Lynda, and Kanopy from home or in the library. The only things you need are a library card, a device, and an internet connection.

You can also go to virl.bc.ca > learn > all databases to see all the free apps the Library offers. It’s a long list.

And don’t forget books! The library has a huge selection of books on all these topics, too. We can help you find and request whatever you need.

If you don’t know where to start, or you’ve started but are stuck, come see us! We’re here to help.

6.02.2019

pupdate: first run on the beach, and puppies in love

We had been waiting to take Cookie for a run at the beach -- waiting until she was more bonded with us, until she had a bit of training, until she seemed to understand that we five are a family. There are no enclosed dog parks near us -- or, to my knowledge, anywhere north of Campbell River. There's a baseball field and a schoolyard nearby, but both too near the road for comfort. We knew that at some point, we'd have to make a leap and hope for the best. Today was that day.

First we let the dogs loose on a semi-enclosed field near the beach. It was the first time the Kai and Cookie have really had room to run at full speed together. It was a sight! They were flying. We practiced some recall, trying to give Cookie the idea, then we went over to the beach itself.




Diego does not appear to feel sad or left out. He also doesn't try to run after the littles or keep up at all. The beach is still his favourite place, and he's still super excited to go. He seems to enjoy it on his terms.

It breaks my heart a little bit to see Diego so slow and mellow. It wasn't long ago (was it?) he was running like a maniac at Cherry Beach. But I remind myself that every day with him healthy and walking is a gift. He's enjoying his life, and that's all we can ask.





It was a little scary, and I wondered if we would ever see Cookie again. Both Cookie and Kai ran and ran and ran, mostly circling back to us when we called them. Then at one point Kai circled back and Cookie continued trotting away. Allan went off to follow her, so far down the beach I really couldn't see her any more.

Unfortunately I had all three leashes -- and the treats! Allan took a long walk, but eventually he shepherded Cookie in the right direction.








Here's a random heron for you.




Back at home, we are reaping the payoff of the well-exercised dog: the quiet. How quiet? They actually went into the same crate! That's Kai's empty crate beside them. We have never seen this before.



I also think that Cookie is beginning to calm down. She's a young, very active dog, no doubt. But she must have been extra hyper from the stress of abandonment and rescue. Tala was the same way -- when she was stressed, she flipped to a higher speed. I think something just clicked inside Cookie. She knows she's safe and can relax.

There's still nearly constant playing and running and crazy. But we're beginning to see moments like this, too.



5.29.2019

five rules of small-town life

There is not one traffic light
in any town north of Campbell River.
1. Don't be in a rush.

Everything takes time. Everyone has time. You have time, too. You might have to wait while people finish chatting. No matter. You have time.

2. Don't try to make plans.

People stop by. They want you to stop by. Or you can wait for them to come 'round. They will.

3. Don't be too picky.

Everything you need is here. It might not be exactly what you had in mind, but does the difference really matter? If it does, there's the internet, and you can wait. But generally you have a few choices. That's enough.

4. Don't say too much.

People will ask. They are genuinely interested. Share a story. They will genuinely appreciate it. No need to go on at length. A short story will do. Don't say more than you want to, because whatever you say, everyone will know.

5. Don't talk about other people.

Everyone knows each other.

* * * *

The small-town norm that is most divergent with big-city life, in my view, is about stopping by. In cities, you never stop by. It would be an intrusion. It's considered disrespectful of other people's time. Even trying to plan one week ahead can cause resentment.

I'm not saying that no one in our small town makes advance plans. Certainly professionals plan ahead, make appointments, have meetings. If I'm planning a visit to one of my libraries in another town, I give people a heads-up, so we can meet if they're available.

But stopping by is expected. It's welcomed. It's considered friendly.