I awoke this morning to find a White Christmas had arrived, despite the weatherperson’s prediction. The view focused my thoughts on the holiday season. Just last week I was asked what holiday I celebrated, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, Diwali? It was a perfectly legitimate question. The person asking, who did not know me well, was negotiating her way around the enforced political correctness of the second decade of the 21st century. I found myself dodging the question, answering with “I’m an equal opportunity celebrant.”
Truth be told, I celebrate Christmas. I have come to resent Happy Holidays and any other generic, greeting designed not to offend. I am offended. I’m offended that my Jewish friends can’t wish me Happy Hanukkah or Hindi friends can’t wish me best wishes for Diwali. To my mind it is especially rude if the wishes delivered as they were meant – a blessing on my head – are found offensive by someone who doesn’t believe as the wisher does.
I am female. I have lived the marginalization of language: Using the masculine pronoun only when speaking of doctors for example. Life has improved for all women by making language inclusive. But not allowing people of different faiths and beliefs to wish their friends and neighbours the best in the language that reflects their beliefs – that is wrong. Just plain wrong.
My Christmas wish this year, is that you can wish whomever you want the blessings of your faith without anyone taking offense. I wish that the kindness in your heart is embraced gladly in the manner in which it was intended – not to convert, but to wish you the best of who we are.
When I was a young girl sitting on the living room floor in front of our black and white television, I marvelled at Spock and his Tricorder… or Bones and his device. They were possibilities. I never imagined that in my lifetime, rudimentary Tricorders would be everyday tools. I write this on a ‘droid tablet, a “real” handheld device capable of analysing data, storing information and scanning.
June 2 would have been my maternal grandfather’s 130th birthday. Victoria was Queen. The Wright Brothers had not yet flown. Transcontinental trains in North America were new-fangled and the epitome of high speed transportation. A mere three generations after his birth, we’ve been to the moon, transplanted hearts, and nearly annihilated ourselves, twice!
Sadly, for all our advances, poverty, prejudice and fear continue to exist. There is no Tricorder yet capable of eradicating ignorance.
The Descendants (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Three subjects of particular interest to me came together in The Descendants:
- Family History
Family History: My Perspective
If family history is viewed as an exploration of those who came before – ancestors, the weight of obligation is less than if one views family history from a descendant’s perspective. That is illustrated brilliantly in the film, as Matt King struggles with the responsibility of stewardship of land he and other descendants inherited. Matt King is a man who can recite his pedigree, passes it to his children and shares it with a gaggle of cousins. The past is present in their lives.
A Cinematic Perspective
This film is rife with cinematic cliches. Hawaii as paradise. Workaholic father and distant husband. Dysfunctional family. Disloyal wife. Matrimonial implosion. Precocious tween. Teenage daughter acting out. Dull-witted teen beau. Eccentric supporting characters.
Every time I became impatient with the cliche, there was a situational twist; or a piece of dialogue that belied the cliche; or an unexpected insight into a character. That’s a really big but. The Descendants is a much, much better film than it appears in promos, reviews or on the DVD cover. There are human truths brilliantly depicted. I’ll let you pick the ones that resonate with you. My moments were the hospital scenes when the characters spoke to the comatose Elizabeth as if she could hear. Been there, done that.
My dream as a marketer of polar product was to see the Arctic and Antarctica become ubiquitous. Like Walmart – even if you never shopped there – you know the name. The Descendants confirmed that that dream of mine is now a reality. I won’t spoil how the film set in Hawaii manages to do that. Just watch it.
As a matter of fact that is the best piece of advice I can give you about this film – just watch it.
Writer Chris Epting uses the haiku format to express his polar experiences. I can understand why. Gushing to anyone who will listen – and those who do not want to – about Antarctica or the Arctic is a first response inevitability. But there comes a time, when a visitor to the polar regions searches for the essence of the emotion of the experience. That is the moment when less becomes more.
I have been writing about the polar regions for more than seven years. In a year when centenaries are the norm, seven years is insignificant. I expect I’ll be writing about the north and south polar regions for the rest of my life. I have yet to express my deepest feelings with the precision they demand.
My quest to uncover polar poetry has led to the following links:
I was flabbergasted to discover that Emily Dickinson wrote something with an arctic aspect. I should not have been. Dickinson lived during that period of Arctic history when the Royal Navy searched for Sir John Franklin and his lost expedition. That event permeated English society like the aroma of roses on a summer’s evening.
If you want a sneak peek at Chris Epting’s polar haiku, you’ll have to join Facebook. You’ll have to scroll some, but you’ll find bite size pieces of his heart’s polar song.
Tragedy has been the theme this week. An inevitability when writing about Robert Falcon Scott‘s expedition to the South Pole, the centenary of which we will mark on January 17, 2012. I had planned to write something lighter today as much for my mental health as anything else. But I awoke to read that a cruise ship ran aground in Italy, with a loss of eight lives. Tragedy continues to be the theme this week.
Travel is not without risk. Travel has never been risk free. The consequences of risk, however, happen to someone else. If we didn’t believe that we would not travel, and there would be no travel industry.
In my circle of acquaintances there are many for whom travel must include risk. They choose the risky route, the dodgy destination, the adrenaline inducing activity. Most travelers choose the option with the least risk – the perception of smallest risk. May they continue to be deluded.
When I am faced with the uncomfortable, I turn to poetry. Today was no exception. Walt Whitman comforted me, as I mourned the loss of lives in Italy. He comforted and surprised me. As I thumbed through Leaves of Grass, I came across a poem he wrote about a Greely expedition: Of That Blithe Throat of Thine.
Whitman wrote of his inspiration: “(More than eighty-three degrees north – about a good day’s steaming distance to the Pole by one of our fast oceaners in clear water-Greely the explorer heard the song of a single snow-bird merrily sounding over the desolation.)”
I am familiar with polar prose. Polar poetry is a new concept. One I will pursue for the next three days: My tribute to those who risked all and lost.