Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Unappreciated Beauty

Today, my mother and myself drove to a small town about 150km away in order to pick up the beef that we ordered from my cousin, who happens to raise grass-fed, organic beef, and fairly close to home. I consider myself fortunate.

Now, before I go on, I will say, yes. I eat meat. I get that question a lot, actually. Apparently, if I am a natural health practitioner, there is some sort of prerequisite that I must be a vegetarian. That is not the case. Honestly, my health and personality go south when I don't eat meat, and while I do believe that many people can subsist on a vegetarian diet, I am not one of them. I don't believe a person has to be meat-free in order to be living ethically anyhow. With the availability of local farmers raising grass-fed, humanely raised meat, I think there is hope for those of us out there who simply can't thrive on an exclusively plant-based diet. On a spiritual note, I am usually conscious to thank the spirit of the animal that sacrificed it's life for my food. Yes, life is a circle, but I still thank it for its place in that circle. More on that another time, though.

So, my Mother and I were driving to go and pick up the beef, and I began to pepper her with many questions. Information about her childhood, her and my Dad's early courtship, their early years of marriage, anything she knew about my Dad's childhood, and pretty much any other interesting facts that I happened to be curious about. In our conversational travels, we meandered around the topic of the farmland that my Dad's family had owned in southeastern Alberta years ago.

I loved that land. I spent a lot of my childhood out there. We had a horse named 'Fancy' (don't blame me, I didn't name her), and there were dogs, cows, chickens, pigs, and sometimes turkeys (maybe the dumbest creatures EVER...). There were two farmhouses on the land, the very small 2 bedroom house that my grandparents lived in and the larger 3 bedroom farmhouse that my Uncle, Aunt Sue and two cousins lived in. I was born many years after my older siblings, and in their youth, my uncle actually was married to a different woman (Barbara) and had three other children, all of whom were grown when I came along. Really, it's not as complicated as it seems. Sue was his second wife, and he had two boys with her.

When my dad was growing up, my grandparents lived in the larger farmhouse (with 5 kids! Probably not large enough!), and later built the small house for my uncle and his new bride Barbara to live in.

Well, my grandparents have both passed on now, as has my uncle. My dad is the only brother left in his family. My grandmother passed away when I was six, and for years after, my uncle and grandfather continued to farm the land until the nineties when Big Oil wanted theirs.

There was oil on that land, and an oil company came in to make my grandfather an offer. By this point, my grandfather's health was fading (he was 85), and he was thinking of selling, but he never wanted to sell to THEM. He knew what that meant for the land. The land he had put so much into. It meant it would be destroyed. The derricks would go in, and not only would it be the end of the land, but it would likely never recover. You see, when oil is drilled, the land loses all of it's water and minerals at the same time. The land becomes virtual desert. Trees are the only hope of keeping any topsoil or moisture, but the soil is so depleted that even hardy, indigenous trees can't survive.

My grandfather gave a firm 'no', which is when the oil companies began to play hardball. They brought in arbitrators, made threats, harassed, superceded and stonewalled any other offers, and there was even some questionable property damage that occured during that time, leading my grandfather to believe he was being bullied.

Grandpa began to lose steam, and my uncle wasn't of much help, mainly because the land wasn't in his name, making him rather powerless in the face of these companies. In the end, my grandfather sold, moved into a senior citizen's lodge in Castor, Alberta, while my uncle moved his family to a small farm outside of Brooks.

My grandfather died four years later, still regretting the sale, and finding it too painful to look at pictures of the homestead he had built and raised 5 children on with his wife.

My uncle passed away in 2004 (his funeral was on my birthday) after complications with his lungs. My uncle, an avid smoker, had developed emphysema, and when he was out in the field one day, he collapsed, and by the time the ambulance arrived, he was gone. His sons were 18 and 16.

We drove past the turnoff to the farm on the way to Forestburg, and my mother and I had a little moment of silence. So many memories on that land, that now is nothing but turned up gravel and sand.

We drove through southeastern Alberta, which ultimately, as a result of extensive oil-drilling, has become Canadian desert. According to my mother, many farmers in the area are going under because their crops simply cannot survive the hot, dry summers and cold, dry winters. My cousins, now grown, are farming free-range beef, and are fortunate to have wonderful friends, family and neighbours who buy from them, partly because they are reasonably priced and do a great job, and partly as a little memorial to their father and their grandfather who taught them everything they know.

As we drove through that Canadian desert, dirt kicking up behind us in the middle of October, I realized something.

There is beauty even here.

Thank you for the memories, Ivan, Sue, Grandma and Grandpa. I love you.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I haven't been writing, I know...I bet you thought I forgot? Well, I never forget, but sometimes I find that I go through times when I really can't write another word. I'm not one who writes prolifically...I'm much more of a sporadic writer.

Anyhow, I was finally inspired to write something when sitting in a massive traffic jam on my way to my job today. I had a sort of "stream-of-conciousness" thought that lasted a while. I thought it best to get it down on "paper".

Balance is a funny thing. Like anything, what goes up must come down, and if there is something taken too far in one direction, it will soon begin to creep in the OPPOSITE direction.

I know it sounds like I'm speaking Kling-On right now, but allow me to provide some examples.

In my chosen profession, I am a health practitioner. I work with people to restore balance to their minds and bodies by way of diet (a word that I hate, but am forced to use at the moment for lack of a better one...), and sometimes supplements and lifestyle adjustments.

Much of what I do, I do using the concept of "constitutional typing". That is, I take into consideration all of the things that make them an individual. Blood type, Dosha (Ayurveda), Traditional Chinese Medicine, Body/Metabolic type and lifestyle are all things that are carefully considered for each individual I work with.

The principles of most of these systems work on the premise that the body is "Type X", for example. With this type, they possess inherant characteristics that ultimately are played out day by day, either through symptoms if over-aggravated, or through markers of good health when in balance.

Still follow? Cool.

For example, say "Type X" is aggravated by more of the same characteristics...let's say some of "Type X"'s characteristics include dryness (of the skin, hair, etc.), and coldness (low body temperature, low blood pressure), and we put "Type X" outside on a cold, windy day. Theoretically, this would aggravate "Type X"'s already cold and dry tendencies, making their symptoms more apparent. But perhaps, by putting them in front of a warm fire, with a warming glass of red wine or a cup of hot tea, their symptoms would be diminished.

Balance. I realize the simplicity of that comment, but it's merely to make a point. That too much of anything is unhealthy, and maybe everything, good or bad, should be counterbalanced to form a healthy situation.

Let's also take Feminism as an example. Feminism, at it's root, started for exactly the right reasons. Women were at a social disadvantage, and the disparity was evident in everything from the workplace to personal relationships to child-rearing. Domestic abuse was rampant, more often than not, unreported, and women were, generally speaking, not permitted to make unorthodox decisions regarding their own lives, such as the pursuit of a career, travel, or the choice to not get married and/or reproduce.

Things are different now. I won't say they're perfect. We still have a long way to go. I can see that some disparity still exists. It is my belief, however, that we, as in WOMEN, are aggravating and exacerbating the situation by becoming overly-vigilant with one another, and removing the element of choice from our "sisters".

I have another example. Surprised?

When I was 21, I began treatment for a long-term health issue. I insisted at the time that I wanted a female Ob-Gyn, believing with naivete and absolute abandon that surely she would be more compassionate than her male counterparts, and perhaps would be more understanding of my situation.

My first appointment began by her reviewing bloodwork requisitioned by my referring GP. She was dismissive, and appearing utterly bored, sarcastically chuckled and told me that I would never have children.

My first reaction was to cry. Listen, don't judge me, I was 21, and had received some pretty devastating news pretty early in adulthood. When I began to cry, she began to write me a prescription for an anti-depressant. I explained that I was just sad, and didn't need the pills. She scoffed, and began to explain to me that women don't need children to be fulfilled. She then embarked on a 15 minute diatribe about how women are "programmed", and how our personalities and thought patterns are just taught to us by the "patriarchy".

Not only was this NOT what I needed to hear at this moment, it was categorically untrue. I was not raised in a patriarchal household. My mother was very much in charge, and would have been absolutely supportive had I decided of my own volition that I didn't want children. I always knew that getting married and having a family were CHOICES, and that I would have a safe place to land, regardless of which direction my path took me.

Dr. T attempted to TAKE AWAY my choices. What she did, was, in my opinion, completely ANTI-feminist. To attempt to shame me for wanting something that she didn't want is no different from the times when families would shame women INTO having children. The end is different, the means the same.

We must watch how the pendulum swings, and follow our integrity, not the momentum.