Grand and Random Musings

I could see it coming down the tracks from a long way away. I’d been preparing for it. But like most of you, I’ll continue writing and thinking in a way that is SO last year. Yup, it’s 2008, though I’ll likely continue to mark ’07 on my cheques. Beyond that, though, I can muse randomly about what 2007 was and what its successor might be.

First, all the blessings and possibilities of the New Gregorian Year to you and your precious crew. (Facebook “friends” don’t count.) As a member of the Baha’i community, I have learned to get more stoked about the new year, the New Day, at the spring equinox in March. It has more sun, for one thing, and the promise of still longer and warmer days not far off. Spring has become my season of hopeful resolution, and the melting and greening give me all the symbolic reinforcement I need for my own mid-life reloading.

But I still like to do a little reflective burrowing in this season, too. Long years in school have made late December a sacred time, even apart from herald angels and good Christian news and renewals. Retreat. Restoration. Stock-taking. A tallying of accounts. What’s good? What needs bettering? Where’ve I been? Where’m I headed? (Did I ask for directions?) I break out the new planner book, and look back at the old one for clues and leftovers. I try to see my life in terms other than ‘what NOW’ and ‘what didn’t I do yesterday’, not to mention the vague and recurring suspicion that I do have other dreams beyond laundry and e-mail maintenance. And so it goes. I love the slightest hint of a fresh start.

They could sure use that in Pakistan. It seems that the Christmas break always brings tragic news from abroad, which perhaps is intensified and given a longer look because of the rampant peace and relative contentment that most people in our part of the world can appreciate, and often don’t. Kenya is now boiling over because of election strife. So while I revel in my good fortune and the chance to reflect upon my deeds, hopes and learnings, there is no shortage of reminders that I should do this with a thought for the larger world I live in. I have a lot to learn about that; a taste for Thai, Indian, Persian and east-African cooking does not, unfortunately, quite qualify me for planetary citizenship. (Gotta be a few global Brownie points in there somewhere, though, dontcha think?)

I found out on New Year’s, thanks to a favourite Web log, that January 1, 2008 also marked the bicentennial of the North American abolition in transporting slaves across the Atlantic. The “peculiar institution” persisted in the U.S. for decades more, of course, but this was a big step. So, happy that! Let’s hope, too, while on the subject of racial harmony and reconciliation, that the banks of the Grand River — where my small-town, southern Ontario roots share soil with earlier arrivals, the Iroquois peoples of the Six Nations — find a renewed sense of brother-and-sisterhood. Whether we’re thinking locally or globally, there’s one human race and one earth. We’ve all got to live together. And that includes my little family, and yours.

When we got back from our Haliburton/Haldimand holiday swing, my backyard ice rink was in sad but snow-muffled shape. On New Year’s Day, it got buried deeper, a sweet and flaky dump that went on and on. But then the scraping and pitching (and back spasms) began, followed immediately by a one-man bucket brigade from the basement. (I’d frozen the outside hose pipe, like a doofus, meaning that I had been flooding our basement bedroom while I resurfaced the rink.) More weight-lifting for the ol’ dude, and lots of repairs, but the rink is strong again. As I write this, a briefly homeward son (Dave, from studies at McGill) is playing his little brother Sam in a goofy, chatty game of 1 on 1 hockey. The sun is smiling, and so am I.

Blessings. Peace. May there be growth and contentment chez vous. Hope you’re looking forward, and smiling, too.

Women (and Women) First

First things first: I come not to bury the Canadians, but to praise them. Cindy Klassen made her fourth Turin medal a golden one in the 1500 metres and right behind her was another Canuck, Kristina Groves. I think it was Klassen that I heard interviewed – another of these wonderfully appealing, superb-role-model Canadian women – who voiced the thought that speedskating was the most beautiful sporting movement there is. And it’s true: all that power, all that glide, all that grace, all that rhythm and sway.

I can remember a small-town school gymnasium with a TV on a stand. It was September 1972, and we were watching game 8 of the series with the Soviets. I remember dancing and yelling like a fool — we all were — when Paul Henderson scored The Goal. I went on to spend thousands more hours in high school gyms as athlete and especially as coach, and the CBC television inset of Klassen’s old high school gym rocking as she rolled just about made me burst. Those kids will be walking on air for a week. Sport is good. Now, Bob Knight is no model for me as a coach, but I admire his mind and his resolve. And he said it true when he noted the value of sports in a school: “It’s pretty hard to rally around a math class.”

Yes, and the Klassens and the Groves and that sweet surprise gold in the cross-country sprint by Chandra Crawford (and silver in that crazy short-track skating relay), all these great performances by Canuck women are almost certain to be bumped aside by a rather predictable loss by the men’s hockey team. Stumbling through the round robin got them Russia, and the Russians were just better. I am an official member of the Alexander Ovechkin fan club, and not just for that enormous winner he scored. He’s electric  out on the ice, power and speed and skill. Whew! Sad to see our boys go down, but the Russians played not only a victorious but a beautiful brand of hockey.

And how’s this for analysis? Sam, my five-year-old, is learning to skate on our Tiny Perfect Backyard Rink™ and his hockey baptism is coming along nicely, but he’s never really watched a game before. He came in to watch the last few minutes of Russia-Canada, and though he had trouble finding the puck, he quickly began to be able to follow the game and knew which team was in red. He heard his old man moaning a bit, but he came up with this insight completely on his own: “Hey, don’t go in the corner, go to the net!” And on that wide Olympic surface, Ovechkin and company were regularly able to get to prime scoring territory while the Canadians spent most of their time in the offensive zone mucking in the corners. It was obvious even to a little sprout like Sam. Grinders ‘R Us, even with our best guys (?) on the ice. Sigh.