I am sick of cancer. I am so damned sick of cancer I want to kick it in the face and punch it in the throat and toss it to the ground and stomp it to death once and for all. I hate it. I hate that it keeps sticking its hateful pointless sharp nose into the lives of people I love. It’s a brute of a sickness, an evil and unwelcome liar. It is a killer tarted up and whorish. There’s hope and optimism… bam. There’s confidence and faith and staying strong… smash. And there’s fear and anxiety and hopelessness and grief… yes, there are all of those things.
I don’t have cancer (though who the hell knows, everybody will sooner or later right?). People I have loved have battled cancer… and yes,in my mind it’s always a foe, an enemy. Some have beaten it, for now at least. Some haven’t. Some people I care about have just had it come back and kick them in the ass again. Some for a second time, a third time…
Why? How? What is in our world, this world, this water, this food, this air… these walls, this furniture, this carpet, this computer screen or phone that is KILLING US? What are we ingesting, digesting, resting on that is invading our bodies and turning our own cells against us?
I want this to stop. I don’t want it to catch anyone else that I love. I don’t. I’m tired of crying.
This lovely trumpeter swan has arrived in Yukon, landing at Swan Haven on Marsh Lake for a rest. The return of the swans means spring has arrived at last and we Yukoners get a bit giddy when we hear their cries overhead.
This piece forms part of my new spring line; I’ve stepped a bit away from jewelry to make these whimsical pieces of driftwood, wire and paper. I think I will call the line Twisted Whimsy, but if you have a better idea please… comment! If you’re interested in buying a piece, please email me at email@example.com
I am seriously a fool at this time of year. I am giddy and giggly and smile at random people all the time. The sun is up from before I wake up until almost 10 o’clock at night now, and that leaves LOTS of hours of time to create and be active. I can’t STOP making these little sculptures… they just make me happy.
Spring is here and I can’t stop creating! I love that the big dull place where ideas and inspiration had gone to hide has been blown clear by sun and wind and longer Yukon days. My kitchen….well, it’s a bit less tidy than it usually is but my spirit is light.
As a Northerner, I am rarely surprised by any of the things that might surprise southerners, but I was with my mother last weekend in Fairbanks Alaska… and she’s from “outside”. We watched the GCI Open North American Championship Dog Sled Races… my mom was so excited, snapping picture after picture. I live in the Yukon, so dogsled races are an annual event. The Yukon Quest is our annual event…a 1,000 mile sled dog race run each February between Fairbanks and Whitehorse. Dog teams are really cool, but not once-in-a-lifetime cool.
What really captured my attention was the Alaska Trappers Association’s outdoor Fur Auction. Wow. Row after row of pelts, some tanned and some ready to be tanned. I found it fascinating; exciting. My mother found it repulsive, upsetting, anachronistic. There were wolf, Arctic fox, red fox, wolverine, ermine, weasel, coyote, lynx, beaver, squirrel, caribou, even a few bear. Although the sale of bear skins is illegal in Alaska, bears killed by conservation officers are skinned and their pelts are sold each year at this event. The Trappers Association acts as a wholesaler working on behalf of Alaskans with traplines up and down the state, offering hundreds of furs to people like me as well as artists and those bidding on contract for retail, for designers, etc. I have never seen anything like it.
The furs were beautiful. Stunning. Heartbreaking, yes, but the sight of them reinforced a connection to the land that’s rapidly disappearing from our modern culture. It was amazing to watch the auctioneer and bidders carrying on much as I imagine they did 50 or 75 years ago, making good on a season of effort and keeping traditional trade relationships going. As a society, we don’t hold much stock in fur these days. In the North, that’s not really true. In the North we respect fur; we know it can keep us alive in winter, it can keep us warm and we know the fur trapping and trading industry can sustain families and communities.
Before you get outraged I want you to consider a few things. I won’t go all “circle of life” on you, but I have spent a fair bit of time the last few days thinking this through in my own head. I know that fur is no longer necessary for us to stay warm or to survive winter. I know we can buy Goretex, we can wear down, we can use other, more modern technologies.
But think about this; down comes from animals. The down industry is a bit cowboy; some countries have good, ethical harvesting practices while others don’t. Some of the down sold in Canada “is a by-product of the waterfowl meat industry.” But 80% of the world’s down comes from China, where rules are … well, you know, not really rules at all. Live plucking, an abhorrent practice does take place in many producing countries including China and some European suppliers of down. A Swedish news program called “Kalla Fakta” (“Cold Facts”) claimed in 2009 that between 50% and 80% of the world’s down came from live plucked birds; that’s a shameful and deeply upsetting statistic. While many countries have scrambled to refute those statistics, the numbers certainly remain higher than most of us could comfortably live with.
Artificial down (poly this or that) comes from a complex manufacturing process that sucks up resources and spits out chemicals and effluent; petroleum based down alternatives are really just another big fat question mark environmentally. How about shearling? Well, you know no sheep is going to survive very long without its skin and wool, so that’s just fur; the ubiquitous uggs are just fur too, for that matter.
The thing is this; you’ve got to stay warm. This is Canada, and it’s winter, and it’s damned cold. You have a myriad of options that cover the gamut from oil by-product down alternatives inside of a nylon shell to wild trapped fur. You can come down on the side of anti-cruelty and choose either polar opposite of the equation; is harvesting an animal after a life lived fully in nature less humane than wearing a nylon parka stuffed with petroleum based down alternative? What is the larger impact? Proper animal husbandry and humane harvesting practices allow the responsible use of a renewable resource. If we want to be honest with ourselves, we’ll consider that commercial meat production in Canada is unspeakably cruel to the animals harvested; pigs held in pens with no room to turn around, chickens are kept eternally in the dark and in tiny cages. You can’t argue that trapping is inhumane while you eat a burger with a clean conscience. If you buy your meat neatly wrapped in plastic at Loblaw or Walmart or Superstore – or any other major food chain, you are part of the consumptive cycle – you are part of the industry raising animals for human slaughter and use. For the record, so am I. I am a meat eater and am equally a part of the problem.
I don’t agree with inhumane trapping methods, and by that I refer to leg hold traps. I don’t know enough about how traplines are run to suggest I have any real idea of the process and methods but I believe this with all my heart; it must be a better life for an animal to run, free and wild until death than to be held captive until an appropriately marketable weight is achieved before slaughter. Responsible harvest of wild animals for use in the creation of garments designed to keep us safe and warm in extreme weather…that I can live with. Not without second thought, but I can accept it.
I don’t think I could make this argument if I lived in Los Angeles or Vancouver, but in the north… the REAL north, yes. Fur makes sense to me. What do you think?
Today I heard a writer being interviewed on the radio. He said that what makes his life perfect is his little family, that sharing stories around the dinner table are the moments of perfection in his life, of pure happiness. He also said he has no regrets. He listed all the things that could have been regrets for him had he not anticipated and corrected them before they had the chance to become tiny stones in his shoe to worry him forever. I googled “no regrets” and there are so many famous quotes, so many people who claim to have lived a life without regret. Imagine that.
I think that’s an interesting idea, living a life without regret. I understand the sentiment, or at least the desire. Who wouldn’t want a life where nothing from the past ever popped up holding a question mark aloft like a birthday balloon? No regrets. It’s a great anthemic sort of sentiment… a tune I could hum or a chorus I could holler with a crowd at a concert, but how real can it possibly be? In a life lived fully and imperfectly how can anyone truly get from one end of living to the other end without any collateral damage, with nothing you wish you could take back or do over?
If I run at life with my eyes and arms wide open, full of any sort of passion inside of me, how can I hope to regret nothing? I will hurt people, say things I wish I hadn’t, make decisions that were absolutely wrong when they seemed absolutely right. There will certainly be, at the end of my life, a long list of atonements I must make before any pearly gates will open. So what does “no regrets” mean, besides being a really cool tattoo?
Does living without regret mean doing whatever you want and not taking responsibility? Does it mean filing for moral bankruptcy and walking away from debts of the heart or spirit? Is it a kind of YOLO for the enlightened ? I genuinely don’t understand it. Is it about self forgiveness, maybe? About acknowledging past errors or lapses and setting them down? I don’t know how to do that either. I have a nicely packed little basket full of “what I did, what I said, what I should have said, what I shouldn’t have imagined, what I should never have tried, who I should have been kinder to” and there’s no convenient place to put it down. It isn’t the kind of load someone else can carry for a spell, and let me off the hook either. And yes, I’ve had it suggested to me by the no-regret campers, that “should” is a word best left along with the basket of regrets.
Perhaps the people who have no regrets have lived kinder lives than I have, or maybe they have managed to make peace already with the sins of their past selves. I have a soul unwilling to let go of those sins and in a way I am glad. I don’t dwell, I don’t mope or spend nights staring at the ceiling feeling dreadful, but I do carry that little basket. It’s a reminder to me of who I have been and who I wish to be. A reminder of where I have gone and where I hope not to go again.
I think we need to feel regret. I think regret informs our decisions, informs who we become and how we behave. It’s a guide through the dark and rocky patches, where the easy path seems so tempting. Regret is the burn that reminds you the stove is hot.
At the end of it all, I won’t be able to say I have nothing to regret and that’s okay with me. Instead I’ll keep working to make sure I have nothing NEW to regret… that’s all I think I can honestly hope to achieve.
If you want my respect, say you’ll do something then do it. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do. Don’t say you’ll do something then forget, or blow it off. All we have to go on in this life are our instincts and our faith in good people. We have to trust that people will do what they say they will; what else do we really have?
I think we have to remember that we are what we say, we are what we do. When we follow through on what we promise, we are saying that we’re worth trusting, worth believing in. When we think we can decide what is and isn’t important to others and fail to do what we’ve said, we let ourselves and those counting on us down. Saying you will do something you have no intention of doing is a lie. Saying you’ll do something you make no effort to do is disingenuous. The good feeling you get from pleasing the person you’ve promised evaporates pretty quickly once you know you’ve disappointed them.
You don’t have to pinky swear, cross your heart and hope to die for your word to be considered a promise. The simple act of saying you WILL is a promise. When you say you will, and you can or could and don’t, you’ve broken your promise. Not fulfilling is a choice… conscious or otherwise. Sometimes there is a really good reason, sometimes not. Circumstances may prevent you from accomplishing what you intended, but if the effort is genuine, honour is maintained.
Men used to be judged on their word; in my world, they still are. What’s your handshake worth?