Author

Sarah Thomson

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DESTRUCTION OR DESIGN OF THE ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

It’s late. Large snowflakes softly fall. I can see them as they pass under the streetlights. A thick layer of snow has formed on the street below my window. The house seems so quiet now with the boys asleep.

This will be my last journal entry for 2006 and when I think of the year that has passed it seems to have stormed in and left without even stopping for a drink. Our younger was born in February and the newspaper moved from printing once a month to twice a month in April. The number of staff in our office has doubled, we’ve got even more great writers and our readership has skyrocketed. So the year has been one of birth, growth, and propulsion.

Not much has changed on the international front. War still goes on in Iraq and Canada is still trying to bring peace to Afghanistan, but the longer it lasts the less likely it seems. Nobody truly believes that civility is possible in such a tribal culture, but the ethical sense of duty to help and protect the people in their war-torn country still goes on.

I met with a great Canadian architect today. We spoke about cities, about the importance of designing buildings that enhance the streets they are on. His philosophy reminds me so much of my fathers. My father was also a great architect who believed that good architecture must fit within a social structure. It should always take into account the rest of the community and work to complement the landscape around it. Architecture is about creating a civilization.

I drove past the Royal Ontario Museum. Construction continues. At this point the heavy-hanging metal beams looming over the sidewalk remind me of the scenes of destruction left by the twin towers — it seems barren and empty, the cold steel and glass a reflection of the new immediacy that seems to be taking over life in today’s “got to have it now” world. The old solid stone building behind this mess seems to be cringing at the horrible partner that is now being fused to it. The design is an exhibitionist statement made to attract attention. It was created to fix the immediate problem of lack of attendance. It is like an immature child screaming “look at me, look at me.” While at first it will turn heads, it will require an endless succession of bells and whistles to get people back time and again.

It didn’t need to be this way. Unfortunately the design is not a solution to the problem of attendance, but merely a quick fix attempt — like a bandage one hopes will be ripped off quickly but may stick on, growing more and more ugly as the years pass. The architecture feeds the vulgar elements within society and will ultimately hinder the natural development of the area that surrounds it.

Tonight I watch the news as Canadian forces meet up with yet another suicide bomber in Afghanistan. His body lies in pieces on the road. Tanks and armoured vehicles are everywhere. The buildings in the background are bland square boxes. I click from channel to channel.

How much does Canada shape my value system? I have a garden to sit in. There are clean parks and safe streets that my children can play in. I’m not living hand to mouth, with little time to think. I have the time to contemplate, to create, to build. I have reason to value the civil society I live in. But the people in Afghanistan don’t have these luxuries. Life isn’t about working together to make a better community but about personal survival.

I think of my boys quietly sleeping, I watch the snow steadily falling. I am safe, there is peace all around me. The television brings images of people struggling in Afghanistan; people with different beliefs so strong they are willing to die for them. I see the shards of glass from a suicide bomber’s car glitter on a road halfway around the world and I remember my grandfather’s words: “There but for the grace of God
go I.”

THE VALUE OF VISION

My two-year-old son woke me early this morning. He placed his hand on my cheek and, when I opened my eyes, his nose was almost touching mine. When our eyes met he whispered “hi mummy,” softly with a tenderness that melted away any thoughts of sending him back to his bed. He is learning the value of tenderness, learning that the way he speaks and what he says has a direct effect on how others treat him. He is learning the art of manipulation.

I’ve just finished taking the MBA Essentials for Managers course at Rotman Business School. The course fired up my desire to learn and grow, particularly the class on negotiation taught by Glen Whyte. What I came away with was the idea that good negotiation isn’t about winning or losing, but about creating a contract that allows both sides to benefit from the relationship like a good marriage.

Jim Fisher also gave a great lecture on leadership, using a speech from Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth. The speech demonstrates how Henry is able to convince his men to fight although all the odds are against them, how he motivates and manipulates them using everything from honour to promises of infamy. A good leader must be good at managing, motivating and leading. They must carry out a plan, but be able to maneuver in a consistently changing environment. What is important is not sticking to the plan but sticking to the vision. A leader must live up to their value system in order to inspire those who follow them. It was interesting to learn that ethical values can have much more influence over people than money.

And today I think about the vision for the Women’s Post. Our vision is to inspire as many women as we can to be all they can be. Our strategy reflects this vision and so too do the people I work with. Now as a leader I must stick to my values. I must motivate the people I work with and adapt plans easily to the changes we encounter, and at all times I must stick to our vision.
Vision without a task is only a dream. A task without a vision is but drudgery. But vision with a task is a dream fulfilled.

Recommended Reading:

Willie Stone Sixtyfive Roses, a Sister’s Memoir by Heather Summerhayes Cariou had me in tears by the second page. The story is about how and why her parents founded the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. But it is also about the bond between two sisters, and how illness changes the way a family lives and magnifies each moment.

Welcome

We welcome Sandra Martin, Heather Mallick and Elizabeth Nickson to our roster of columnists. They are three very intelligent women who say what they think with eloquence and style. I’m looking forward to some very interesting discussion and debate in the coming months.

THOUGHTS AND IDEAS

Monday

My office is filled with sunlight. I came in early today to get a head start on answering email and returning messages. Nobody is in yet and it seems so [quite] QUIET. I love the fast pace of the office when things get hectic on deadline day, but I also love moments like this. I wander around and notice that someone has hung a new map on the wall for the salespeople to use. I see that my great assistant has organized all the back issues of the paper onto shelves and labeled them. Someone else has a picture of their wife on his screensaver. I notice that every desk has something personal on it that distinguishes them. Someone has taken the little toy animals that sit on my book shelf and put them in a compromising position. There are some things people do simply to cause a smile ― I’m glad I work with people who do those sorts of things.

Tuesday

Went to my first MBA Essentials for Managers course tonight at Rotman Business School. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy school. Tonight the focus was on design thinking. Heather Fraser took the class through a crash course on the value of design as a means to “unlocking breakthrough strategies and ideas…” We covered some of the design tools that can be used to set up, grow and analyse a company. Fraser demonstrated how to create a strategic business design in order to understand the key elements that drive a company to success. As we spoke I doodled out a strategic business design for this newspaper and the act of simply writing down all the important elements that go into the end product made me focus on how important our distribution is to our brand identification as well as our advertising revenue stream. I must broaden our reach and get the street boxes out as soon as possible.

We’ve had success with every major city but Toronto. We have waited more than 2 years to get licences for newspaper boxes from the city of Toronto but have had nothing but roadblocks put up. At this point I’m wondering if we should take legal action. I can’t understand why the Toronto Sun can have a box on all four corners of an intersection but the Women’s Post is not allowed to have even one box.

Wednesday

I’m feeling guilty today. Guilty for driving to work when I could have easily walked; guilty for turning on the lights, for buying my latte, for consuming like most other North Americans. Global warming is real and yet I continue to go about my life, giving little thought to finding the answer to the energy crisis. If not me then who?

Thursday

We had our first advisory board meeting for the Women’s Post today and I was awed by the number of great ideas that were discussed. Having the time to think, talk and strategize with a number of very intelligent people felt like a great luxury. Each one of them gave their best ideas and their time and for that I will always be thankful. Time is something one can never get back, but I must say that those first few hours spent strategizing on the direction of this newspaper were some of the most productive hours I have had in a long time.

I had another MBA Essentials for Managers course at Rotman Business School tonight and this time the focus was on negotiation. The instructor was thorough and interesting. He had us break into pairs and role play while negotiating an employment contract. It is something I do frequently and the structure emphasized creating a winning situation for both parties so that the actual outcome would create the best situation possible. I didn’t realize that the things I do by gut instinct can be abstracted into a theory.

Friday

One of my favourite journalists, Heather Mallick, has joined the Women’s Post. I find both her intellect and comical outlook inspiring. Last summer, she wrote a short sentence in an email that filled me with awe. While commenting on the heat she wrote, “the spiders are dripping from my windows.” Lines like that are few and far between and when you come across them they stick with you.

MIDSUMMER THOUGHTS

Sunday

The boys are having their afternoon nap and the lake is calm and quiet. A canoe wanders along the distant shoreline and a slight breeze ripples the water below. I’m back again in the boathouse; looking out over the water always makes me a little more reflective. I picture all the life living beneath the surface of the water and above it, from the dragonflies to the spiders that are building webs in the window. My life seems so small in this circumstantial world and yet I strive to make the world better, word after word, idea after idea, page after page…

Monday

The newspaper is growing day by day. We’re getting more support from advertisers and I think that even the larger companies are starting to understand the value of reaching our professional female readers. I’d like to add an electronics page. I’m getting too busy to search and compare products the way I once did, so perhaps it is time to hire a writer to compare and evaluate all the different gadgets that a busy professional woman like me needs to make her life easier.

Tuesday

I’m working on a bunch of new ventures that tie into the newspaper. Two of these are a women’s economy summit for CEOs to meet, discuss, and learn about the women’s market, and an awards event for business women. We are planning both events for the spring of 2007 and I spend a lot of my days meeting CEOs and discussing what their needs are. I’m enjoying every minute. Most of them are quite intelligent and they have a desire to learn that is just as strong as mine.

Wednesday

The world is changing so quickly. I went into a high-end retail store today and wandered from aisle to aisle, aghast at the prices. I thought about buying a skirt. It was beautiful but the price tag read $1200. I knew I could find something similar at a small boutique around the corner for $100 and I’d feel better about giving the difference to a charity. The store was filled with things so expensive only an idiot would buy them. Am I being too harsh on the people who shop there? Is there a reason they need to spend so much on themselves? At least the store wasn’t full; there actually seemed to be more salespeople than shoppers. The people buying things seemed to look at themselves in the mirrors a little too much.

Thursday

Got a call from a large client telling me that his company will be adding us to their media buy next year and I felt like dancing around the office… so I did.

Received a few complaints about the lead news articles on the cover of the last issue. The writers were pretty hard on Bush, and I didn’t necessarily agree with them, but I have to stand by the fact that we do not censor our writers. Interestingly though, the three complaints we received were from men. I wonder if women are, in general, more left-leaning than men.

Friday

Came to the cottage late last night and the boys are still sleeping. A storm woke me early this morning. I listened to the sound of the rain falling on the boathouse roof. There is something about the cottage that is hard to describe…being here feels like coming home.

Saturday

We went to see some very old boats today. They were built in 1921 and are quite beautiful. You can almost feel the craftsmanship put into them — from the shape of the hull to the elegance of every little detail. I kept thinking of how much my father would have loved those boats, not only because he was a naval architect, but also because the boats had aged so well. That they still have value in this world of newer, better, louder, and faster gives me hope.

WONDER AND MEMORIES

Saturday

Went to the zoo with the kids today and then back to Dason and Jodi’s house in Brooklyn for dinner. Our friends made a great meal of glazed salmon, rice and salad. We sat for hours, sipping our wine and catching up. They are teachers and have three young children, but what I admire most about them is their ability to enjoy every little moment. They have a curiosity about life — a desire to experience life in all its richness.

This desire seems to wither away in so many people, yet for them it seems to grow stronger.

Sunday

We had the whole family (24 of them) over for our eldest son’s birthday. I can’t believe he is already two years old. Everyone sang his favourite song (Happy Birthday) while he sat as the cake was put in front of him. He wanted to grab at the flame, hold it the palm of his hand, but I pulled it from his reach just in time. He constantly pushes his boundaries and we keep loosening them week by week.

This was the first ritual he’s actively taken part in and the wonder on his face and acceptance of our irrational behaviour — singing around him with the lights dimmed and candles burning — makes me hope that he will be just as open and full of wonder in his forties as he is today on his second birthday.

Monday

We picked up the car from the repair shop (Autotrend) and I got to know the owner, Don. He’s a well-trained mechanic and my hero of the week. He’s someone who has found his spot in the world. You can tell that he enjoys what he does and the people he works with. Don repaired the stiff steering, but warned us that the clutch needed repairing and suggested we could save $50 by taking it to the dealer instead of having him do the work. Don is one of the many good business people that I’ve come across. I truly believe that there are more good and honest entrepreneurs than there are crooks. The problem is that it is so very rare to read about them.

Tuesday

Went to a great debate at the Fraser Institute about liberalism and how the position of most journalists is a liberal one, and this in turn influences how the media covers election campaigns. I believe this without a doubt. It’s almost impossible to find a good “conservative” writer in the sea of liberal-minded journalists that exist in this country.

Wednesday

Had interviews all day with potential employees and learned how many romantics there are in the world — so few people seem to want to do the hard work it takes to be successful. How do I teach my sons that hard work will give them the most fulfilling journey?

Thursday

Got a call from the president of a company that advertises with us to see what I thought of their advertisement. We spoke about women and how they interpret ideas and the conversation turned to politics and the ridiculous way that Belinda Stronach is acting. This country needs strong intellectual women in the political arena. Women sho aren’t so obviously glory seeking. Stronach is angry that her former lover (Peter Mackay — whom she publicly humiliated when she left him and the Conservatives) insinuated that she was a dog, but her claim that his remark reflects the attitude of Conservatives toward women is so obviously self-serving that it borders on vulgarity. Implying that Stronach is a dog (although it was a quick and witty response) was obviously not a true description of her because dogs are known for their loyalty.

We went to a “Grand Cru” dinner and wine event, hosted by Halpern Wines, to raise funds for Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospital and bumped into an old friend, Todd Halpern. I haven’t seen him in over six years and he’s gained a few pounds (he is, after all, one of Canada’s biggest wine importers), but not as much as I have. I introduced my husband to him and Todd told us that he had bought the Bowmanville Zoo, which explained where the elephants in the front driveway came from. He went on to tell us of the small vineyard in France that he owned and how much he’s enjoying life. The glint in his eye, combined with the glee he takes in his conquests, makes him seem like a young boy. His joy in living is infectious and it isn’t surprising that he organized such a grand event in order to raise funds for a very worthy cause. And the wines were superb. Oh for another beautiful evening like tonight.

Friday

We just got to our place in Florida and the weather is beautiful. The waves are huge breakers, rolling in and pounding the shore endlessly. Our elder son is learning to swim and I’ll always remember the smile and pride on his face when he kicked his way across the pool. The boys are pushing me to experience things I might never have done. Tomorrow it is Sea World, the next day I’m not sure, nor am I sure of the next or the one following. What I do know is that I find joy in each moment and with every one of them, a memory is made.

THOUGHTS FROM COTTAGE COUNTRY

Monday

We began our week off last Thursday. A storm damaged the power lines and we still haven’t got the power restored. Friends on another island have loaned us their fridge and I’m getting into shape lugging buckets of water from the lake to the cottage. For some strange reason I’m feeling a little more at ease. It may be the exercise and routine or that without the extra sounds — music, the dishwasher, the hum of the fridge — I can hear where my “allmos-two” son is. He chatters to himself as he investigates everything he picks up and I can track his progress through the cottage by the objects he names as he wanders.

Went night swimming. It was quiet and the water felt warmer than the air. Only the stars looked down on us.

Tuesday

I woke this morning to a quiet lake. We made coffee on the barbeque and decided to go into town for a generator, but arrived back at the cottage to find the power on. I read an article in The Guardian about the fact that the world’s uranium deposits are running out. The writer pointed out that spending billions on building Nuclear power plants when there clearly won’t be uranium to run them in 20 years’ time might not be a wise thing to do. I wonder what the world will be like then… I’ve always believed that education will solve most problems in the world. But is enough funding being given to researchers to allow the innovation to occur, or is it all being put into repairing and upgrading nuclear plants that may be obsolete in 20 years?

Wednesday

I’ve almost finished reading a great book, Consumption by Kevin Patterson (a specialist in internal medicine, who has worked in the Arctic). It’s an excellent novel based on the history of the Inuit in Canada and the effect that Tuberculosis had on them. The story tells how a foreign disease — and a different way of life — can consume a culture. At one point the narrator talks about the Inuit dog sleds and the teams of dogs that pulled them. He explains how dogs that are not worked wither and become sick. The book ends with notes from the doctor — one of the central characters. In the notes, the doctor concludes that there is a new plague that may kill more people than any other in history. The fast food, coma-inducing North American way of life is seeping into developing countries, changing the daily lives of millions of people and causing an epidemic that is bigger than any humanity has seen.

I looked up the number of people with diabetes. It affects more than 230 million people worldwide. In 2005, 40.3 million people were infected with HIV, which pales in comparison to the number with diabetes. The complications from diabetes — heart problems, stroke, liver and kidney problems etc. are just now coming to light and the actual number of deaths caused by this disease is hard to determine. But it isn’t just the fast food; it’s the boredom and the lack of physical activity and challenge that also weakens people: The spirit gets sick.

Thursday

The weather turned cool and it rained most of the morning, but cleared to a bright sunny day. Got an email from my mother telling me not to use suntan lotion because now it too is supposed to cause cancer.

Watched the full moon rise tonight and thought of all the evenings my husband and I have had together under the moonlight, our two shadows becoming one.

Friday

Discussed the crisis in the Afghanistan with family and friends over dinner. One opinion is that we should just back out and stop meddling in their wars. After all, the United States had its civil war and Canada had its war with the U. S. All societies go through a struggle. A civil society needs to develop on its own and to do so may indeed involve war. What about the fact that we have already messed up the natural progression of their development with our televisions, fast food, and atomic bombs? Would it be right to back out now, knowing that these people are armed with powerful weapons? Is it right to stay in and continue to back one side over the other when at the end of the day there is no right side and no wrong side, just two sides who need to learn how to work things out?

Saturday

Another beautiful day. Greg refinished his kayak this week, sanding it down and resealing it. I went for a long paddle with the boy around the island and into the little bay that always has lily pads growing. He wanted to touch everything. He is now talking in full sentences. His memory for words and phrases humbles me. I think about what the world will be like when he is my age and wonder if there will be an alternative form of energy, if diabetes and the culture that allows it to flourish will have spread wiping out a large portion of the population? I must teach the boys to eat right, to be physically and emotionally active every day, to make each moment count.

Sunday

Packed up to go home today and wished we could stay here another week. Dreamed of living up here, of being a recluse writer in the woods, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I need activity, challenge, and diversity. I’ve got some pretty big goals to fulfill before my soul will settle down enough to write more creatively.

IN DEFENSE OF CLIVE BEDDOE

Dear Mr. Beddoe,

On behalf of the professional journalists in this country, I’d like to apologize for the behaviour that some of my misguided colleagues in the media have displayed lately. I don’t know every detail of the events between WestJet and Air Canada, but the aggressive attack on your character demonstrated both their lack of good judgment and a self-righteousness that was below professional standards. When the power of the pen falls into the hands of fools, I try to wrestle it back.

Journalism courses today teach students to report the facts and only the facts, and thus the context surrounding the facts doesn’t always reach the light of day. Often the true story and the author’s personal judgments remain hidden behind the dry facts they present. This style of “facts-based” journalism sets the writer up with a level of authority and authenticity that isn’t warranted, but few readers actually question it. Reporters are pressured to come up with interesting copy, to cause controversy. They create “filler” on very bland news days, and what gets presented as factual is often merely a disguised opinion.

There is a difference between opinion and good judgment. Opinion can exist without fact, or with very little fact. It can be good or bad, but good judgment requires the facts to be placed in context.

Fact-based reporting should not create a bias one way or the other — but it always does. That is why I believe journalism today needs to focus on telling the full story, with all the facts, or state clearly that it is opinion.

In your case, the reporters decided to extract your statements from the context in which they were made. When I read about you in the Globe and Mail, I realized that the article only presented one side of the story (a hand-picked selection of facts), with very little mention of Air Canada’s role in this whole fiasco.

For example a writer could point out that the biased articles written in The Globe (Oct. 3, 2006) were published on the same day that Air Canada had a front page advertisement with them. They might also point out that Air Canada has been advertising quite heavily in The Globe ever since. But that would not be responsible journalism. There is no evidence that The Globe is supporting Air Canada with their editorial, just a bunch of facts that could just as easily be mere coincidence. Thus this is an assumption based on facts taken out of context. It isn’t the truth, it isn’t the full story and it certainly shouldn’t be made into an article.

The sort of reporters that dragged you through the mud are what I call “witch hunters.” They want to stand out, they want to be recognized, and they preach from very high pulpits. You were tried, sentenced, and burned and I am truly sorry you had to go through that.

One of the mandates we have at the Women’s Post is to be honest. To write what we believe and why we believe it. The columnists give their judgments without hiding them behind a creative manipulation of the facts. My judgement may not be right, but by stating what I think is right I may indeed come closer to the truth than anyone. I ran for city-council once, a long time ago, and experienced the same sort of mud-slinging that you have just experienced. One of the reasons I started the Women’s Post was to keep the dailies honest. Let’s hope this helps.

After meeting you a few years ago, I came away with the belief that you were a hard-working gentleman with a company that would go places. If I hadn’t invested every penny I have into this newspaper I would have placed my bets on WestJet. And over the years you have done it. You’ve taken on Canada’s national airline, built a company from one plane to a company that now employs close to 5000 people. That takes guts, it takes brains, determination and a lot of hard work — all the qualities required for the leader of a successful business. You have demonstrated that you stand behind your company and take responsibility for all your actions. I, for one, tip my hat to you.

THE SADNESS OF SEPTEMBER

This morning the lake is calm and still; there isn’t a boat in sight. The sun seems to be melting away the mist. It rises up in wisps where the bays and inlets are still in shadows. A loon in the distance has a lonely call that seems to echo over the lake.

The summer is over, gone before I had a chance to truly settle into it. September has arrived in the quiet way it usually does, its long shadows creeping over the afternoons and cool nights filling the morning air with dampness.

I had a dream last night that I was visiting September as if it were a neighbour that I’d lost touch with. We went through some old memories, the ending of summer vacation and beginning of school. Days when I’d sit in the classroom beside an open window and listen to the geese flying high above, honking as they left for the south.

I remembered the day in September that my father died. It was a warm sunny day. I woke up just before the sun rose. My father’s hospital room looked out over Lake Ontario. I watched the wisps of clouds high in the sky change from grey to pink followed by the flash of light as the first ray of sun broke the horizon. I remember when he lost consciousness a few hours later, and feeling that he was suddenly gone from the room. I remember the nurse calling “code blue” and the doctors running into his room. I remember leaving the hospital with all the weight of worry gone, feeling light but horribly empty as well. I remember the sunshine, warm on my face, and the butterflies that seemed to fill my mother’s garden that day. I remember my tears stinging like never before.

I remembered another day in September when the twin towers fell. Again it was a warm sunny day. A day that seemed to exude life although it would soon reek with death. I remember driving over to drop the newspaper pages to our copy editor and hearing the news on the radio. We turned on his television and watched the horror on CNN. I remember the awful scenes and the terrible feeling that nothing would ever be the same again.

In my dream I grew angry at September for taking life away, but then it encouraged me to remember the day in September that I was married. The day started out cool and overcast. The lake was cold and the power was out all over Muskoka. Greg and I jumped in the frigid lake to wash and bath before getting dressed for our wedding. It was cool, but by noon the sun was shining. The clouds had blown away and the power was finally working. I remember sitting on the dock with Greg and watching a butterfly flutter about looking for the last flowers of summer. I remember the boat ride to our ceremony, and trying to contain my joy at seeing everyone I loved gathered there to celebrate with us. That day in September was one of the best days of my life.

I woke up from my dream to the sound of my six-month-old son crying from his crib. I picked him up and the two of us looked out over the still lake, watching the mist rise in the bay on the far shore. The clouds turned pink and sunlight touched the tips of the trees across from us, tingeing their dark green branches with a touch of gold.

September marks the end of summer. It is a month that reminds me of endings, but it also reminds me that with every end there is a beginning.

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

Grant Whatmough: May 24, 1921 – Sept. 14, 1999

It has been seven years since my father died and as I look at his picture beside my desk I think of all he gave me — the innocence of childhood, the safety of it, and the desire to live life as fully as possible.

When I was a girl I would run through the fields with my arms outstretched like wings. The tall grass scratched at my bare legs, almost reaching my arms, but it offered a soft cushion with every fall and a great place to hide from my twin brother. I used to dream of flying. Of swooping over the fields like the barn swallows. I used to climb trees and watch the tall grass roll like waves in the wind.

One of my favourite songs is Home by Nathan Wiley. The first line goes “When I was a boy I had everything, I had silver and gold.” The song evokes images of his past, falling asleep in the back seat of the car, dreaming of ships he will sail. It reminds me of what home felt like to me as a child — a safe place to think, dream, learn, and set out from. That childhood innocence I once had is something I can only go back to in my dreams, a place where responsibility and worry don’t enter.

Tonight, as I type away at my desk I remember the evenings I had as a child. There were times when my parents had company and I would sneak out of my bed to listen to them talk. They spoke about philosophy, art, politics, love, and life. I remember wishing I would grow up faster so that I could understand more about what they discussed. Life seemed to be just out of reach.

Many of my childhood memories are beautiful and sometimes I wonder if my senses were more finely tuned then. I remember being in bed with my window open and trying to pick out a single voice in a chorus of 1000 frogs (spring peepers) that filled the night air. Their voices seemed to create a magical symphony.

I remember running along paths in the dark with nothing but a sparkler to light our way and reaching the crest of a hill to turn and see the sparks from a huge bonfire we had spent months preparing rise until they merged with the stars in the sky above.

I remember evenings when my parents sat out on the lawn to watch the sun set and I, in turn, watched them from my bedroom window. They held hands and sat out there well after the light faded and darkness filled the night with stars.

I still recall my first skate on a cold winter’s night, the smoothness of the ice and the stillness of the night broken only by a dog’s bark from miles away. The star-filled sky stretched over the fields, enveloping them in its silence. I glided over the ice, floating, flying above and amid the night, part of it and grounded completely in it. The beauty in that moment struck me like never before, but as soon as I took notice it was gone.

My twin brother and I swam in a neighbour’s pond. We explored the nearby swamp and choked on cigarettes made from dried leaves and weeds. We rode horses from the neighbouring church camp, sneaked into their gospel hall and sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight over their public address system. We flour-bombed their prayer wagon. We grew. I remember the fear and exhilaration that came from swaying in the upper branches of a tall tree on the crest of a hill, as an August thunderstorm rolled, clashing and bursting over the fields, toward us.

The innocence of my childhood left long ago. I know about loss and the feeling of emptiness in the pit of your stomach that has a way of growing into you, and becoming part of you. I know that happiness can come and go. This knowledge is something I’d never experienced as a child; its price was my innocence. I remember how much I craved being older, I wanted to be free to do anything and to learn as much as I could. And you know, I still crave learning despite the cost.

My childhood home was my Eden. I will never go back because I would never voluntarily give up the knowledge I have gained. But, if I live long enough, my knowledge and my memories might slowly begin to melt away and someday I may indeed regain the innocence I’ve lost. Life is, if you live long enough, one big circle.

UNDER THE COVER

The snowflakes are falling, large and round outside my window. It looks like one of those small, encapsulated winter scenes with fake snow swirling around the landscape. I’m sitting in a large office on the third floor of the old Royal Bank building at the corner of King and Yonge in Toronto. I can hear the bell from the streetcar ringing as it passes below my window. A fire truck races down King Street; its siren echoes between the tall buildings. On Friday evenings the bells from St. James Cathedral chime for hours and it seems to spread a calmness over the city and into our offices.

My office door is kept open; people run in and out all day long. Our publisher just walked in and asked if I think we should get a wine reviewer. “It’s already done. Her name is Ruth Ryan and she’s reviewing four bottle for this issue,” I say without looking up from my computer screen. Our publisher is quiet and shy, but from time to time I see strands of genius. He’s full of ideas of how to make the paper grow and prosper. This issue of Women’s News goes to press in two days. I have six columns to edit, a profile to write and my own column to finish. But all I can think about is my husband working on our house. He’s taking down the plaster in our dining room and his hands are getting calloused. He’s never had calloused hands before. I love calloused hands.

We’ve spent the past three weeks trying to get pregnant. It’s an odd feeling because I’ve spent most of my adult life trying not to. But in the last three weeks I’ve learned that there is nothing as sexy as trying to create a life. Not whipped cream, not chocolate body paint or edible undies. If I had known this when I was younger, I’d probably have a herd of kids by now. But I’m 35 and I’ve still got at least five good egg-producing years left. I’m hoping for twins.

Being a twin myself I know what a wonderful experience it is. As a twin you don’t suffer from older, middle or youngest child syndrome. You learn early how to share, how to work with a partner to build and shape the world around you. Being the runt of the litter, I may have developed a bit of a Napoleon complex, but it hasn’t harmed me terribly although it may have affected others a bit.

Ah, but back to my office, where our sales manager has just poked her head in the door to ask if she can give a ridiculous advertising deal to an advertiser. “You want to give them an ad that we won’t make anything on?” I ask. “Yes.” “Is the advertiser a nice person?” I ask. “Of course, but he’s broke” she replies. “Then we must” I respond and she smiles and rushes out to call him. Our recipe columnist Sherri Cohen, comes in and pulls a chair up to my desk. “What do you think about a recipe for soup?” she asks. It’s three in the afternoon; I missed breakfast and am on my second cup of coffee. As she goes into an elaborate description of her recipe, my mouth begins to water. Her excitement is nearly uncontainable. Her words bring the food to my taste buds and I’m ready to sit down and eat anything she puts before me.

Her description reminds me of evenings at home, making dinner with Greg. I’ve been working so late that we don’t get around to dinner until eight or nine, but we always light a fire to eat by and we make the most out of the few hours we do spend together. Sherri leaves and I look at the work load for the rest of the day. It’ll be another late night and I may have to skip dinner. I wonder why I do this? Why do I continue to work such long hours? What’s it all for?

I check my e-mail and notice a letter from a reader. Her words are kind, she compliments our content and mentions Kent Peacock’s article Looking for Ludwig in our last issue. She’s never read anything like our newspaper before and notices how intimate and well written our articles are. She thanks me for allowing her to escape for a few minutes out of her hectic day. I wonder who she is and what she does. I wonder if she knows how much her words mean to me? It’s words like hers that remind me what it’s all for.