Dawud Wharnsby ~ Poet, Musician & Artist
My "career" is to keep life’s balance ~ educate myself at being as self-subsisting as possible, provide for myself and my family through honest manual and mental labour, avoid wastefulness, remain gracious to others and humble before a higher power.
Inspired by all that, I write poetry and songs ~ then sometimes travel to share them with welcoming audiences around the planet.
Trying to better the world, one song at a time
…and always singin’ for my supper,
Over the past many years, my family and I have seasonally divided our time between dens in three different countries: Pakistan, Canada and the United States.
Our nomadic lifestyle began two years after marriage when my wife and I packed up our newlywed nest in scenic Boulder Colorado, put our minimal belongings (primarily books) into storage at my in-law’s house in Denver, stuffed a couple of suitcases, grabbed a guitar and set out to make The World our home. A year in Damascus, a year in Cairo and suddenly we were en route back to North America for the birth of our first daughter. With each journey we made, souvenirs increased and eventually the basement at my in-law’s in Colorado was filling up with our trinkets of travel ~ rugs, lamps, furniture and fascinating musical instruments.
Embarking upon a proper move to Pakistan in 2009, we divided our accumulated household items in half: a portion for use at our home in Pakistan and a portion to be stored for a future home in North America. Four years later (following multiple trips between Pakistan, Colorado and my parent’s home in Canada…as well as the birth of a second daughter) ~ with new purchases, gifts and nostalgic keepsakes making their way with us from country to country ~ the seasonal landing pads were all filling up with more and more and more…to the point that we would forget what we had stored in each location and often had duplicate items in each place.
Anyone who has heard George Carlin’s “Stuff” routine, is a sucker for check-out-line sale items, has been baptized at the doorway of an Ikea store or signed a lease for a storage locker at some point in their lives will recognize all too well how easy it is to collect seemingly important junk.
The more I have accumulated at various times in my life, the more I have inevitably felt burdened…weighed down…responsible for things that I knew I usually did not really need…or, in many cases, things I did not even really want.
When I do the money-math to determine costs of things I have purchased over the years ~ the nickel-and-diming, dollar store spending really adds up. Even items of little monetary cost have become financial drains when shipped internationally by boat, plane or truck. Factor such costs against the struggles faced by many of my friends living in rural Pakistan ~ with everything from rent and medical care to the basic acquiring of wheat or sugar ~ suddenly, my spending habits are an embarrassment and blatant contradiction to the road map of my spiritual journey, which teaches ~ “want for your brother or sister in humanity what you want for your self.”
When I do the calendar-math, I am awakened even further to other more frightening truths. For example, at 40+ years old, even if I were to live another 40 years and push myself to read one book by-weekly, there is no way I would be able to read all the books in my personal library. And what of my film collection? My music collection? The stamp, rock, coin and tea-cup collections? Clothing? Oh ~ the clothing! For a man with only two feet, two hands and one body ~ how could I have acquired so much clothing spread out over three countries? “Sipping at Simplcitea” ~ indeed! “Slipping at integritea” would be a more fitting title for this blog if I were being totally honest with myself and all of you kind readers.
Last year on my birthday, I devised a personal ten year plan for trying to de-clutter of my life. Almost one year in play, I have been feeling lighter and brighter by the day.
The initiative is multidimensional. Though it came about as a means to basically create more space around me (ease my load during moves and ease my sensory over-load during day-to-day life) my ten year experiment contains restrictions I have imposed upon myself to decrease my belongings and spending habits, while simultaneously helping me to increase my environmental consciousness, humanitarian contributions and spiritual awareness.
Last January, when we took possession of our new house, we consolidated all of our belongings from the USA and Canada ~ meticulously sifting through everything to donate or sell all but the most important treasures or useful items. Any funds raised from what we sell in an upcoming yard sale will be allotted to our ongoing work with the Al Imtiaz Academy in Pakistan. This summer I also hope to launch a Simplictea Sale here on this website, where I will auction off many of my accumulated musical instruments and studio paraphernalia, with proceeds to Al Imtiaz as well. At my live shows I have begun the process already with the sale of an unused nylon guitar case a few weeks ago.
The ongoing sorting has also inspired an effort to remove as much plastic as possible from our house ~ opting to utilize wood, metal, glass, clay, cloth and leather over anything plastic or nylon. We have found that minimizing plastics in our home creates a lovely ambiance and earthy aesthetic, while also reducing the “Walmart” smell that so often lingers with many molded household items. Wooden spatulas, clay dishes, cotton shower curtains and pine book shelves have all replaced piles of plastic which have gone out the door for recycling.
The next phase of de-cluttering will carry on in Pakistan, as my family and I prepare to fly out later today for our overseas home ~ hoping to begin sorting our belongings there the day after we land. There is no doubt that we wish to maintain dwellings in both Canada and Pakistan over the next decade or more ~ but our aim is to keep both abodes as simple and uncluttered as possible.
More on the 10 year plan soon from our home in Abbottabad.
A warm spring greeting to my kind subscribers and new visitors who may have arrived here with the intent of visiting wharnsby.com for updates on my musical projects or tours. Please do not be confused ~ this is indeed the web-site of Dawud Wharnsby, only somewhat more “stripped down” than in the past. New pages about my CDs, books and performance whereabouts have been added for those of you more interested in my songs and poetic outpourings, but after many years I felt it was time to have my on-line home be more of a personal blog from me, than just a Flash animated PR site about me. There is no doubt that the old site was graphically stunning. Built by my good friend and talented artist Qutaiba Mahawili, we worked very closely to ensure that it was an accurately represented of my life ~ at the time. We gave it a “cabin in the woods” theme, kept the cheesy PR photos to a minimum, filled the pages with images of my doodles and even pictures of items that graced my studio walls. But over the past few years, my furthering experiments in trying to simplify my life have taken me down some interesting roads, to a place where even the old site seemed like the brochure for someone else.
So, as of April 11th the old “promotional” website was laid to rest, making this blog my official on-line home ~ working in conjunction with a Facebook Page and Youtube channel. Thank you to the many friends who supported my decision…including those who respected my passion even though they did not quite believe my decision to retire the old site was a very wise professional one. Time will tell. Though this site is admittedly very plain, I believe it truly reflects where I am at at this point in my life ~ sipping at simplicitea.
Speaking of “homes”, what an adventure my family and I have had in recent months with a move out of the little condo I often wrote about last year.
Skipping through past blog posts, you will read how my family and I made an abrupt move back to my hometown (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) upon news of my mother’s poor health in October of 2011.
The blog entry “Pakistan to Canada, Canada to Israel…It’s A Wonderful Life” detailed the incredible story of how we came upon an ideal condo to inhabit and virtually exchanged lives with a young family who wanted to leave Canada for their own peace of mind as badly as my family and I needed to re-settle in Canada for ours.
With my mother’s passing in 2012 and the reality of my aging father’s circumstance, my wife Ayesha and I knew it would be important to remain in Canada for the majority of each year, spending only about 4 months annually back at our home in Pakistan. The dream of trying to live “off the grid” and as “simply” as possible became even more of a focus for me, with the looming fear that a full-on relocation to North America would place me in an environment where my susceptibility to “consume” would be greatly tested, as would my ability to confidently discern “needs” from wants”.
After a year of being back in Canada, Ayesha and I agreed that we were paying way too much rent for our small condo. Beyond that, we were unhappy with the pre-fab nature of the condo’s construction (as detailed in “New Hobby”) and the cold, unfriendly nature of many nearby neighbours ~ primarily wealthy, young, single folks with obviously high amounts of disposable income and little interest in slowing down their BMWs for a toddler on a tricycle or lifting their heads from their iPhone twittering long enough to acknowledge a tweet of “hi” from a friendly young two-year-old. Our neighbour Jason was my only partner in ecological passion. He was an environmental studies student at the local university, worked part-time on an organic farm, grew oodles of veggies on his back terrace and was often seen shirtless in the woods beyond our housing complex, scouting for fallen trees he’d later fashion into tables or shelves with his ingenuity and wide assortment of power tools. I’ll miss Jason.
Last October, with winter approaching (and risking a second year of tight quarters during cold months) we began house-hunting for a new rental abode.
During my autumn music tour, Ayesha made call after call and stayed ever vigilant on-line for new rental house postings in our area. Between my travels and shows I’d return to Kitchener where we would do marathon house viewings of prospective homes, but after several weeks, we had still not found a place that seemed fitting to our family needs. Weary and emotionally worn out, we decided to quit the hunt and hold tight in our condo until spring.
One weekend back in November, while away on tour, Ayesha spotted a house ad as it was posted: A cute bungalow with large detached garage and pleasing back garden, for $100 per month less than our condo. Arriving home tattered and tuckered from my travels, Ayesha explained that she’d set up one last viewing for a perspective place. Initially uninterested I looked at the ad and was struck by the hobbet-hole-esque house, which happened to be in a neighbourhood only a few blocks from where I lived as a young boy, and only 2 minutes drive to my father’s door. My interest was ignited.
The situation was to become even more intriguing. When Ayesha called about the house she was met with an answering machine, to which she gave our contact details and also a bit of background on our little family. “My husband is from Kitchener…we moved back to be closer to his father as his mother recently passed away…we have two young daughters…we are looking to care for a home as if it were our own…”
The owners called us back and immediately set up a viewing for the following day. One step through the door and we all felt “home”.
We learned that our new landlords were very surprised by Ayesha’s message and had quite a parallel story of their own to tell. A young couple (with two children almost the same ages as ours), they too were originally from the area but had moved out of country to study. In 2011 the gentleman’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, spurring the small family’s immediate move back to Canada around the exact same time as our little tribe relocated. The couple and their extended family acquired two houses in the neighbourhood, with the intention of living in one and renting out the other, as they decided to stay near his dad ~ widowed at approximately the same time as my own father.
Two different families in two almost identical circumstances. Absolute serendipity.
We took possession of the new home January 6th of this year and since that day we have been tremendously happy. Our daughters have a delightful playroom in the basement (fully devoted to their learning and enjoyment), my home studio has been set up downstairs as well (with a delightful nook for my desk under the stairs, which I simply love) and on that same lower level we have also designated a small area for my sewing supplies. The added bonus of an old-school fruit cellar is also most exciting, as I hope to putter with preserves and some canning this coming autumn.
On the bungalow’s main level we have our bedrooms, a bright solarium with sky-lights, a welcoming kitchen and a front living room we have designated as “The Masjid” ~ a sparse environment for personal reflection, adorned with only rugs, plants and books shelves.
The extremely large detached garage is gradually evolving into a studio/recording space and general “workshop” for my tools. The back yard, (boasting a gate that leads to a park beyond our back fence) has been adopted by our daughters as their “secret garden”, with abundant rose, clematis and creeping ivy plants soon to thicken with beauty and mystery as summer approaches.
So, what is my favourite part of the new home? Being 120 seconds away from my father’s front door by car to help him with yard work? (…haven’t clocked the biking time yet, but I estimate about 5 minutes) Having delightful new neighbours with dignified handshakes who enjoy stopping to chat? Being walking distance to my bank or the grocery store where I shopped with my father when I was 5 years old? Having a yard, vegetable garden space, studio space, wooden floors, a proper compost pile and a clothesline? Indeed, all of these factors are to be celebrated. However, there is one odd thing that tops the list.
What enchants me most about the new place is the old wooden power post out back, standing near our fence line. When I sit at the window and look out at it’s shape against the sky, fond memories of my childhood, growing up in this same old neighbourhood, begin to replay in my mind. Oh, how many times I sat at my bedroom window as a kid and looked outside at the neighbourhood, wondering about life beyond my yard ~ where I would travel, what I would see, who I would meet and who I would end up becoming in life! In those days, I never took conscious note of the old power posts ~ their grey, tired characters…their slender lamps and drooping wires. But as I have traveled and grown, I have found a world that is often so ridged, cold and concrete. Suburbs with cut curbs and cardboard constructed dwellings next to building box DIY stores and SuperMart eye sores. Moving back here, to the streets of my childhood, it as if the clock has turned it’s face back to me and is waving its hands in welcome to a sweeter time. The old wooden power posts and street lamps that were once my 8 pm nemesis ~ chasing me indoors for bed and bath time ~ now seem so much more like sturdy old friends ~ wise, elderly watchmen ~ their dim light warming the tar and pebble roads between earthen, curb less boulevards.
As a boy I imagined I was superman, able to fly up over the rickety posts and out into the world ~ now, as a man (often tired of flying around the world seeking peace), I imagine I am a boy, looking up at the sagging hydro wires amid the tree-limbs and wanting nothing more than to name the neighbourhood squirrels running along them. On a Saturday afternoon like that, it seems that rich “peace” can indeed be found in one’s own back yard.
It is my opinion that the popular catch phrase “Simple Living” should never be taken as synonymous with “Easy Living”. In fact, since more seriously trying to embrace “simplicity” in recent years, I have been so actively absorbed in tasks that setting aside time for writing about the experience has been nearly impossible! Over the weeks that have passed between my last post and now, my family and I have spent time in Colorado, returned to Canada, moved out of our little condo to a cute bungalow, been busy with family priorities, home-schooling, Spring Cleaning and too much snow shovelling to dwell on. Alongside all that, I have been trying to keep up with computer crashes, musical projects and weekend tours ~ juggling the life of a sleep-deprived, stay-at-home dad with the life of a tired, travelling minstrel. Often, I believe, it would be easier to juggle flaming bowling pins in the nude, while riding a uni-cycle on a tight-rope above thorn trees, whistling Dixie with a mouth full of crackers.
Our recent move, spring cleaning and home-schooling adventures will all deserve blog posts of their own in coming weeks, but until then, I feel it important to share a decision I have made with those of you who have been awaiting a new post since December.
Last weekend, while visiting Boston, MA to share some songs with a delightful group of university students, I had the pleasure of meeting a young lady who expressed her sweet support of this blog with me. It was not the first such humbling circumstance I had encountered in recent times, but for some reason, her passion about my little posts seemed to provide me with more inspiration for reflection than usual and the motivation needed to present a new offering.
Over the past many months of touring in the guise of a travelling troubadour, it has been consistently heartwarming to have individuals in several countries approach me after events to voice their support of this blog, encourage further articles and lovingly demand updates on my daughters, DYI activities, composting and gardening. It seems that increasing numbers of folks ~ especially young people and fledgeling families ~ are eager to embrace more meaningful lives, simple surroundings, earth- conscious choices and perennial philosophy. Naturally, such endeavours feel easier when embarked upon with friends ~ hence the camaraderie fostered through a somewhat interactive blog as this.
Spun-off of my “Wharnsby.Com” music-site, this blog began as nothing more than a personal outlet for my thoughts ~ a means of documenting my ongoing experiments in living simply while bouncing seasonally between homes in Pakistan, Canada and Colorado, USA. It was unceremoniously launched with no cross-references to my music related activities and was initially not publicized in any way to supporters of my poetry or CDs. Yet within weeks ~ and much to my surprise ~ the subscriptions began to pile up! When I did begin to gradually merge the blog articles with my music focused Facebook page and website, I worried that perhaps combining the “two worlds” would cause problems.
What if music lovers came to my website looking for flashy music videos, MP3 downloads, snazzy PR pictures or links to my hip performance clothing sponsors…and were confused to find only articles on “Rain Harvesting” or “5 Creative Uses For Wooden Clementine Crates”? Would they think I was some has-been, middle aged singer/songwriter too proud to sign with a music label providing him with professional distance between fans behind a glossy website and a producer to auto-tune his aging voice… an “Anti-Diva Diva” so disgruntled with the music biz that he’d gone cuckoo and started recording songs in his home-studio between tea parties with his daughters and house-plant waterings? (Alas, their assumptions would be correct I confess.)
What if Global Green Granola Eaters wanting to keep up with my escapades on minimizing plastics in my home were constantly being “updated” with posts about my latest tour venues, home-studio outpourings or recently published poetry anthologies? Would they feel I was using my “Simple Living” platform to promote my artistic “products” wrapped in recycled cardboard with 100% vegetable dye inks? Packaging my home-made cookies, as it were, in brown paper bags then selling them for double the price of Mr. Christie, like so many specialty “Organic Food” shops do?
Thinking upon all these things, reflecting upon the support I have had for this blog and the years of support I have had for my music…and dwelling for days upon my true passions, I have come to a conclusion:
In an effort to streamline my time spent on the internet, while also presenting my work, my ideas and my passions as simply and honestly as possible ~ the old Wharnsby.Com will go off-line shortly, with it’s URL being directed here to this blog hence forth.
It was never my intention to be a “professional” musician ~ use music as a means of securing financial income, distribute it in a competitive way within an arena of other musicians, or commercially target-market what I record to any specific niche community or music-loving audiences. Here I find myself a professional musician, and though I am grateful for the good that livelihood has brought my way ~ there are aspects of The Life that I struggle with painfully. Aspects I wish to change for my own peace of mind.
Music is, and always has been, a means of artistic expression for me. Those who know me or have been to some of my shows will have perhaps heard me say many times: the true reason I write is because I can’t afford a therapist. In my early days of releasing music publicly, I was always a dedicated “Do It Yourselfer”, handling all aspects of my expression independently, from writing and production, to graphic design, layout and distribution ~ hoping that such a hands-on approach would help me to keep a focus on the music itself. It was always my desire to avoid PR photo shoots and avoid having my face grace album covers. Things changed in about 2003 when I attempted to re-adjust my music distribution to the rapidly twisting industry, shifting uncomfortably in those days from CD/live-venue based marketing to digital sales and web-based PR. Suddenly there was “Wharnsby.com” cluttering the internet and imposing upon me expectations for annual make-overs to both the brochure-style site and my own personal appearance atop its pages.
Another aspect of the music-biz experience that has been a nagging thorn under my guitar strap, relates to the often egocentric nature of “selling one’s art”. Perhaps others can balance believing their own bios with being down-to-earth better than I am able to ~ and more power to them ~ but I find the threat of losing one’s self in marketing what is sacred to one’s self very troublesome. Since I began writing at the age of 17, quests for simplicity, spiritual growth and sincere expression have been the foundations of my writing. Trying to maintain those quests sincerely while simultaneously selling the musical musings they inspire has been a very tough road. Now, after two decades of stumbling along ~ quite honestly ~ I am just tired of selling myself, my faith and my music.
Turning off the promotional “Wharnsby.com” website and having this blog be my primary platform for expression feels much more genuine to me and may hopefully be one small step in trying to simplify my life further. It also means less time updating a website (on-top of this blog and a Facebook Page) and less money on web-hosting annually. Another step I am taking involves the revamping of my professional music company (publishing and distribution wings) into a non-profit entity more heavily supporting educational programs for children overseas. A few hundred dollars a year in saved web-hosting fees equates to two years tuition for a child in rural Pakistan.
It seems, based on feedback I receive to my music sites and this blog that, just as my passions for trying to live simply and honestly have been primary inspirations for my poetry and music over the years ~ in like fashion, many supporters of my writing and music have also been individuals sharing desires for the more “organic” aspects of life.
So ~ I hope those of you who have been sharing these posts with me here over the past year or so will bear with me in coming days/weeks as I add a few new sections to this site, consolidating some of the music/poetry related pages from the other Wharnsby.Com site with this blog. I have tried to see if I can keep those additions from being sent out to all of you as “updates” but do not think I can disable that function. Thus, if you get an update listing my CDs/books etc, please don’t think I am advertising ~ I assure you, my intention is to simply merge my worlds together ~ leaving me more time to write articles for this blog about my plans for building my daughters a soap-box car and why exactly I won’t be buying any new books, CDs or clothing for the next 9 years….
For those of you who may have seen the photograph above and raised an eyebrow in wonder at the paraphernalia therein ~ no, I have not started distilling my own moonshine in the back woods of Waterloo County.
It seems, when the condo my family and I have been renting over the past year was designed, it’s owners were given a selection of “upgrades” to the basic construction by the developers. It is my observation that the building of new homes in most North American suburbs these days is very much akin to the assembly of fast-food combos ~ and probably made with similar amounts of chipboard, glue and vinyl.
Consumers get their basic McNutrition in Combo 1, 2 or 3 ~ but for a few cents more they can Supersize their meal-deal with Biggie Fries and an extra Large Coke. In similar fashion, one’s $X hundred-thousand dollar plus, primarily plastic dwelling can be upgraded further with various additional perks ~ wood laminate (that is….melamine resin derived from formaldehyde…ie plastic!!) flooring, poly fiber wall to wall carpet (more plastic!), or synthetic country kitchen cupboards (more plastic!). In the end, it hurts me to think of consumers paying so much money for plastic, prefab homes.
In any event ~ our very sweet condo owners opted for a selection of lovely aesthetic up-grades but did not choose a hard water faucet for the kitchen sink as one of them. In our area of South Western Ontario, water is very hard. Though hard water is not harmful to the health, left untreated, it leaves very heavy and corrosive mineral deposits in piping and sinks. Most homes in our area are outfitted with a water softening unit, frequently filled with rock salt that dissolves into the water, gradually breaking down the minerals. “Back in the day”, homes with water-softeners also had a separate faucet for hard water, intended for use in drinking, cooking or plant watering. Seems now that such a faucet is a luxury one must pay extra for when having their house built and thus, it was one “up-grade” our land lords did not think was very necessary to select for their rental property.
My family and I were initially neither here-nor-there about the faucet either, until last autumn when I inherited all of my mothers house plants after her passing. Many of the little leafy friends were very old ~ some having been inherited by my own mum from her mother (who died back in 1998) or my paternal grandmother who passed way in 1994. Initial watering with soft, salt-laden tap water quickly began to discolour many of the plants leaves, wilting the shoots of others and worrying me tremendously.
Immediately, I switched to using hard water from the only source available to us through an obscure outdoor water facet located under our back deck. Somewhat inconvenient to reach with watering cans, it was still worth the uncomfortable crouching to secure water our plants favoured better that provided by our indoor tap. Soon, a few feet of hose stretching up onto our deck near the kitchen doors made the indoor plant watering task even easier….until winter arrived.
Forced to winterize in mid-November and drain the out-door pipes to keep them from freezing, I was left without a hard water source and wondered what was to become of my beloved houseplants with only a diet of soft water during the long, frigid season that loomed.
Reflecting upon my rain harvesting in Pakistan, I quickly gathered up as many buckets, pails and containers as I could to begin collecting the last of the season’s rainfall. Reused 1 gallon glass apple cider bottles worked as great storage for the precipitation and once again, we had a pantry of palatable water for our thirsty plants.
As rain turned to snow in early December, I began shoveling the back deck into buckets then allowing the slush to melt in our kitchen before straining it into the cider jugs (with a tin funnel intended for automotive use) for future watering.
So, what may seem like a hobby in the making of good ol’ white lightening from the photo above is, in fact, only an innocent, suburban effort at rain harvesting for the sake of saving several small houseplants, and the sentimental affection I have for them. Well, at least that’s my story…and I’m sticking to it officer.
As evenings cool down, afternoon shadows gradually grow longer and my glance out the back window is met with newly coloured leaves along the walking path ~ autumn is making her way toward us.
Today a brave squirrel even ventured up on our back deck’s potted-garden to more closely inspect the fading tomato, pea and bean plants for remnants of something to snatch for himself…before a forthcoming frost steals his last hopes before hibernation. Timing decreed that I was able to photograph the cute little thief, who seemed to even actually strike a cheeky pose for me. Unfortunately for the furry fellow, my youngest daughter had already raided the plants of their daily offerings. We planted the vegetables (alongside some mint and coriander) last spring, more as a way of just helping our daughters treasure the experiences of planting, nurturing, picking and eating than to really substantially sustain ourselves for a season with home-grown veggies. In the end, out little terrace garden yielded a few green peppers, some raw peas and beans (to snack on while playing out in the sand-box), endless cups of delightful mint tea and the priceless joy of seeing our little daughter tell her friends one sunny summer afternoon (with all the pomp and posh pride of a botany professor ), “…and these leaves are cilantro…you can eat them!” There were “oooos” and “ahhhs” from the neighbouring children as they all started munching like bunnies on the fragrant leaves, as if they’d discovered some free, magical foliage that would neither poison them or get them in trouble with a dentist.
As the last post naturally explains my absence from this blog during the past many months, I will not go into details at this time about my spring and summer any more than to say a heartfelt and very gracious “thank you” to all of you who have been flooding me with your condolences, prayers and support. Following my public blog posting here in March, I continued writing extensively ~ though exclusively out of a need for private personal expression. It has been my habit since 1988 to keep a journal. Normally the process of filling one such book with poetry ideas, sketches and daily thoughts takes me about twelve months. During my mother’s last days, however, I filled a journal in just five weeks ~ giving an indication of just how necessary and important that time away from public writing was for me.
There is no doubt that much of what I learned during those days will find its way into my future posts, poems and songs ~ but for now (as I process those words, emotions and experiences) let me breathe in the new night air of autumn and exhale this short post to let you all know I am well and still sipping at simplicitea….as the new name of this blog ~ and my forthcoming album ~ suggest.
Mary Janet Wharnsby
October 2, 1938 ~ August 17, 2012
Flowers, house plants and I – you helped us grow,
now as I hold your cup – how were you and I to know,
I’d care for you and look for hints of paradise as I bend to wash your feet?
Our minutes fade like photographs or crowds from an evening street.
For all the wisdom and tea you gave to me,
let me offer something now, so warm and meaningful and sweet.
La ilaha ilallah.
With odd and inordinately high temperatures here in Southern Ontario for mid March, my family and I spent most of the past weekend outdoors. It was delightful to be tromping through trees in our shirt-sleeves, but I could not shake the creepy feelings that tingled my beard as I reflected upon how topsy-turvy our world’s environment must be, when July humidity and highs of 25 Celsius descend upon a region four months earlier than expected.
My sister (who lives near farm-land only a short drive from me) spent the last two weeks helping her neighbours harvest Maple tree sap ~ boiling it down into deep, dark syrup ~ wading to their knees in mud while collecting buckets from each tapped tree ~ a task which is usually carried out with the help of horse drawn cutters through snow.
May God forbid July droughts from destroying summer crops ~ dampening people’s spirits and springy steps while devastating the fragile businesses of small family farms!
This weekend brought people out of their houses like well rested bears and it was a pleasure for me to meet some of my own neighbours who had been in hibernation these past few months. Directly to the left of my family and I are Jason and Sarah ~ delightful young folks studying at the local university.
We met as I was out on my back-deck with my daughters when Jason suddenly emerged from the tress beyond the trail that passes behind our houses. Shirtless and bearded, he came from the pines like a poetic pioneer, carrying a strange collection of wood scraps and discarded planters.
Just a day earlier, my daughter Maryam, my dear friend Imran and I had been hiking among the same trees and were saddened to come upon several clearings where people had discarded rubbish of all sorts ~ sofas, mattress springs, water bottles, tires etc. The effort needed to haul such large and random items to the middle of a forest surely could not have been less than simply hauling them to a local dump or putting them in a rubbish bin ~ but alas, sometimes humans do the strangest things.
“Perhaps we should spend a weekend cleaning up these woods.” I suggested to my fellow hikers, making a mental note to myself of the idea so I would not forget to schedule a weekend for the activity and take it beyond the realm of being just another ghostly “good intention”.
The next morning, there was Jason, back from his hunt, laden with loot ~ treasures to him and trash to others. Immediately he explained, through a sheepish smile, that he had found “some items to help him with a terrace garden” he was planning. “Wonderful!” I exclaimed, partially in an attempt to ease what I felt was a slight embarrassment on his part ~ but mostly to ease my own feeling of sadness that I had not been inspired with the same sense of creative initiative as my new neighbour!
Within seconds of shaking hands Jason inquired about my odd deck contraption and we launched into a brief discussion on composting. Seems, while I was constructing my terrace air-stack device these past few weeks, he was monitoring his own indoor compost using worms to break down table scraps.
Later during the weekend Jason and his buddies climbed a dead tree near the trail and knocked down a limb ~ which was soon being dragged back to his deck, sawed and fashioned into a table.
How exciting it is to realize I am not alone in my quest for some degree of suburban self-subsitance!
Here is a cute little story my mother-in-law sent me. Some of you may have already seen it floating around on the world-wide web, but perhaps a second read would still be useful. Enjoy!
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”
The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right.
We didn’t have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right.
We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right.
We didn’t have the green thing back then.
We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad.
But we didn’t have the green thing back then.