Monday, March 29, 2010

Buccolic Landscape

Spring tends to introduce itself in stages up here in Northern New York. We've had a few very nice seasonable days however it does not mean that we are done with old man winter. There are remote areas where the dense trees do not allow for the sunlight to sneak its way in to the shadows of the dark forest and stubborn patches of snow remain resolute to the last vestiges of winter.

The stark trees still naked of spring buds. The tree bark evident of the deep color charcoal. The deer still display their winter colored coats with no sign yet of a lighter hue of golden brown. The robins are persistent in their daily cheer leading of coaxing spring. The soft muck in the driveway threatening to suck up one's impractical high heel shoe. The nearby brook running rough from the thaw of winter, hearing its clamorous cachophony.

The raw wind still capable of leaving a cold bite to the face. Collars turned up especially in the early morning. The damp feeling of rain that could easily turn to snow if the temperature allows to dip below freezing. Not yet time or practical to switch to lighter gear but soon the shedding of layers will hopefully be opportune.

Maple sugar season. The maple trees donating their sap for the cause of gathering syrup by the farmer entrepreneur. Cold nights and warm days needed to encourage the giving of amber. Dented buckets with lids perched precariously from the tap waiting to be emptied. Long nights of boiling in the sugar shack. Boilers heated by natural wood.

Time to take a promenade through the neighborhood and survey the early signs of spring!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Value of Friendship

Growing apart from a friendship can be inordinately painful. Don't ever take a close friend for granted because if you do you or the other person may end feeling disappointed or experience hurt feelings. During my life time I have felt very fortunate to have maintained a few very close relationships with people whom I have known since early childhood. It isn't the quantity of friends, it is really all about the quality of the friendship. The commonality of experiences growing up with a best friend can cement that closeness over time even when people take different paths in life.

A very old dear friend of mine that I have known since infancy who knows nearly everything personal about me and has seen and heard it all may no longer value our friendship as much as I have. Naturally people grow apart especially when geography becomes a factor. Attempts to keep in touch over the years sometimes have occurred during holidays or birthdays but now that seems to be happening less often too. Telephone chats seem to resort back to talking about things we did and said when we were kids and often sharing a memory of a humorous incident. E- mails often an attempt to stay connected yet long palpable lapses involving lost connectedness.

We both had our share of challenges growing up in dysfunctional families and part of the reason we were able to get through some of it is because we had each other to turn to during some of the difficult times, not feeling so alone. We used to be able to finish each other's sentences now we have difficulty knowing what the other person is saying or what they really mean.
Misunderstanding and perhaps hurt feelings have fallen into an abyss of lack of communication.

Perhaps I have made a fatal misassumption about realistic expectations on what friendship should mean. Once or twice a year I am able to return home to visit family and I truly make an effort to connect with close friends. I know they have busy lives and for them it might mean trying to fit in some time but I do so appreciate it when they make that effort. I guess maybe I miss some of them more than they miss me because I was the one who moved away. So naturally my feelings end up being hurt when it appears they seem to lack any sense of enthusiasm or excitement towards planning to get together socially. I really don't know how to interpret this other than to take it a bit personal since the last two times I have made it home for a visit my efforts to get together were thwarted.

Maybe I need to be less sentimental about friendship and just accept that growing apart is no one's fault and despite years of growing up together sometimes you try to hang on and it just becomes increasingly difficult to maintain for one person or one reason or another.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nationalism ?

There were times in the not too distant past that I was reticent about disclosing my country of origin while travelling. I think it may have been shortly after the 911 terrorist attack that Americans did not always feel safe or welcome in some foreign lands. I warned my family as we travelled to "act like you are Canadian". I realized it is probably rather difficult to hide the fact that you are an American because apparently we are easy to spot, sometimes not for the right reasons either.

While watching the Olympics on television over the past week or so I began to reach the conclusion that besides it being about sports and athletic achievement it appeared to reflect a nationalistic appetite which was sometimes bloated and gluttonous. ( I've heard that said about us Americans.) I think athletes have a right to rejoice and celebrate when they have won their event but as a country should we really take collective credit for their achievements. This sense of nationalism has grown exaggerated, misplaced and tiresome.

The amount of money dedicated to supporting the various teams, coaches, equipment and travel is obscene. Why is it so very important for Russia to prove they are a great country by winning a medal in figure skating or for South Korea or China to prove they are superior by winning or going fast around an ice track or bobsled down a dangerous course? That does not necessarily prove they are a great country ( especially when it comes to their record on human rights).Don't misunderstand the point of my message. I am not suggesting we abolish the Olympics. I just think it needs to be put in the correct context. The competition should be about who is the best athlete not necessarily the best country. However, I think it is rather embarrassing trying to justify the amount of money spent on all of this when you consider the economic climate around the world and the existence of poverty, war, terrorism and the recovery from the disaster in Haiti.

I found myself glued to the TV set on Sunday afternoon watching the USA vs Canada hockey game. It was an exciting hockey game and Canada seemed to need to prove they are superior to the US in hockey and the bragging rights associated with it. It was just a hockey game folks. I think some of us are a little bit mixed up about expressing our nationalism through the athletic activities associated with the Olympics.

I am not a flag waving anthem singing resident of the United States and thankfully, I no longer feel I have to hide the fact I am an American while travelling.