Author

Sarah Thomson

Browsing

FALL DAYS EVOKE MIXED FEELINGS

Monday

The Pope is apologizing for reading a line from ancient scriptures that described the violence of Islam. Then the late night news showed violent outbursts in the Islamic world over the Pope’s words.

Tuesday

Rumours are spreading that Belinda Stronach is “involved” with Tie Domi. Then I read that court files reveal he had an affair with her prior to his separation from his wife. I don’t know the details, but it seems like Stronach has hooked up with a retired hockey player whose efforts at love haven’t been very successful.

Love has a way of blinding one, but oh how short-lived those beautiful moments can be. I remember what it was like to be alone, to hope that I would find someone I could share my life with. I could never settle for a man who lacked integrity, because without integrity, nobody can believe in themselves, let alone believe in someone else, and without a belief in yourself, and the one you are with, love is virtually impossible.

Greg lies next to me each night, he pulls me in close and I am never alone. In the morning our eldest son toddles in to cuddle between “daddy and mummy.” I will always have these moments, always treasure them. I know that my focus on Greg, my belief in him and his belief in me is the glue that holds us together. I wonder how people could live one day without it, let alone a week or a year.

Wednesday

So many events coming up and it seems that I have so little time to attend them. Today we decided to add a society page to the paper in order to bring the spotlight to some worthy causes and worthy businesses supporting them.

Thursday

Greg and I celebrated four years of marriage tonight by attending a charity event at BMW Toronto. Their goal was to raise money for waterfront revitalization efforts. It was a great event with some pretty interesting people. At the end of the night, after a few glasses of wine, I managed to get the entire elevator full of people to sing, “I love you baby, if it’s quite alright I need you baby, to warm my lonely nights, oh baby…” I love singing.

Friday

Learned today that U.S. intelligence has a report which states the war in Iraq is not helping combat international terrorism but inflaming the Muslim world. The focus of the U.S. on Iraq is inspiring suicide bombers and fuelling terrorism. Wow, they are smart!!! Of course the war is making martyrs; of course it is inspiring extremists. Next they’ll tell us about the heroes it is creating. But will they ever realize that war is pointless, that reason over force is the only option for peace?

Saturday

It was a cold grey day at the cottage. Spent most of the day inside, playing with the kids and baking a cake — okay it was from a box, but it made the cottage smell grand. Sat on the deck listening to the wind in the trees. The leaves are changing colour — yellows, reds and oranges. I could feel fall in the air — the damp leaves, the wood smoke, the blue jays calling in the forest. Life is based on change, yet so many people resist it.

Sunday

The world is heating up and with it natural disasters will escalate. I woke early this morning to the sound of wind breaking branches and bending the trees like grass in a field. It tossed the sailboat off the dock and knocked down trees all over the island. The power was out all day and we learned that most of Bracebridge and Huntsville were out of power as well. If greenhouse gases keep up at their present rate, stronger natural disasters will occur. Can I do anything to make the world a better place for my sons?

I WILL REMEMBER YOU

Remembrance Day is the time to remember those who fought for our freedom. My father was a Second World War veteran. He served in the air force in Gander, Newfoundland until the back of his skull was smashed against the roof of his plane during an accident on a surveillance flight in 1943. He spent months in a coma and was discharged with a metal plate in his head. He could never fly again.

I asked him why he had volunteered. His answer was that Hitler represented a threat against humanity and civility and everyone faced a choice — to look the other way or to fight. And, like most young people of his time, he believed that his choice mattered more than his life. He believed that he could make a difference and that belief is what won the war.

On Remembrance Day, I try to think of the men and women who gave up their way of life, who put their dreams and hopes on hold and who died in the fight for freedom. I try to put myself in their shoes, to imagine them with human strengths and frailties.

Imagine an 18-year-old boy signing up for a war he knew nothing about, doing so out of a sense of duty and honour. Think of him the week before he left home, noticing the leaves changing colour from the cold nights of fall, or watching the wind whip across the lake, blowing the waves into whitecaps as a storm approaches.

The day his ship sails, does he stride up the gangplank with any regrets? His sister and mother wave to him from the shore, hope and fear fill their eyes. Nobody said what they were all thinking — “Will this be the last time our eyes meet?” He wouldn’t know what the next day had in store for him, let alone the coming months. His hope is his only comfort as he watches his country slip away in the distance.

Or picture a man who was too young for the First World War and older than most of the men headed into the second. He leaves the embrace of his wife and children as he boards a train heading to the coast, where he’ll meet a ship that will take him to Europe. He’s finished basic training and is on his way to the front. His chances for survival are slim but so too are his options. He goes because he couldn’t hold his head high as he watched the younger men leave for the war. He wasn’t at ease in his home thinking of what they had to endure.

The newspapers fill him with rage. He loves his life and is afraid, but he now gets a sense of strength each time he puts on his uniform. He looks down at his children waving to him from the platform of the railway station and he smiles. He wants them to remember him with a smile. His eyes meet his wife’s. They are filled with tears because she knows why he smiles.

Or think of the woman whose brothers and husband have left for a war she is barely a part of. She works in a factory making munitions while her son is in school. She wants to do more. She is alone in a world with very few men. She notices the emptiness in her world but tries to keep busy with her job and her son. She works as hard as she can and wonders if the bullets she makes will keep her husband safe. She believes that they will stop the Nazis from gaining ground, and this keeps her going. She cries every night once her son is in bed. She tries not to despise the men who have stayed behind.

She waits, writing to her husband every night. His letters come sporadically. They stop and she knows something is wrong. She gets a letter from him that was lost in the mail; it is months old, but she reads it over and over again every night.

One day, a black car with two uniformed men stops in front of the house. The tears start flowing before she has opened the door. She will go on, her life forever changed. She learns to cope with the loneliness, and her husband fills her dreams. She sleeps in his shirts until they fall apart. The war ends, her son grows up and with each passing year he becomes more like his father. When he boards the train to go off to college their eyes meet; he has his father’s eyes and she is overwhelmed with the memory of the last time she saw her husband. She will cry again that night.

And remember the man trapped in a prison camp, separated from his family in the middle of the night by authorities who don’t recognise his humanity. He remembers gunshots and screams but does not know if his wife and children are alive or dead. He works every day moving piles of sand from one side of the camp to the other. The camp is full of men, women, and children. But his world is little more than hunger and emptiness. The sun on his face has no warmth. The guards treat them like animals but he knows they must do this in order to separate themselves from their captives and live with their atrocities. He tries not to think of his life as it was, but it haunts him. He dreams of his past and is afraid to lose hope because without it he will lose his sanity. At night he works with others to dig a tunnel beneath the fence. They are caught and he takes responsibility for it. He stands in front of a firing squad on a sunny day and for a brief moment he can feel the warmth of the sun on his face.

With these thoughts I remember those that gave their lives to the war — men and women who lived and died with honour

CAN YOU HEAR IT?

Have you ever stopped and listened to the sound of an old clock ticking? The clock that sits in the corner on top of the book shelf in my office has just struck the half hour. Its sound is deep; it generates feelings of reverence and wisdom whenever I hear it. The clock was given to me by my aunt Janet. It has travelled to three different homes with me. I always place it in the room that I write in, close to my books and next to my thoughts. Its sound changes the feel of the room, slowing down time, breaking it into seconds you can almost touch. For 50 years the clock sat on a window ledge in my aunt’s farm house, observing time as each day passed. My aunt died on a cold winter day in February. The only sound in her hospital room was the hum from the fluorescent light above her bed. I wonder what sounds I’ll hear when I make my final departure?

Last night I lay with my head on Greg’s chest, listening to his heart beat. Its rhythm perfectly matched the ticking of my old clock. I thought of it pumping life into every vein and muscle in his body. And that some day this sound would end in him, and in me. Certain sounds seem to have an endless quality. Like waves breaking on a beach, or the roar of a waterfall. Even the din of traffic from a far-off highway has that ceaseless quality. As if they will continue long after I am gone. But the sound of a heart beating is so vital and intimate, it causes almost the opposite effect in me. I think mostly of its ending, a silence like no other. Like words, certain sounds bring about certain moods in me. The sound of a trickling stream causes a feeling of peace deep down. But sometimes it’s the lack of sound that creates this.

I remember walking along a city street last winter in the middle of a snow storm. The snow spread itself like a blanket over the noise of the city. As the snow fell, the blanket became thicker and heavier. The crunch of snow under my step was the only sound I could hear in the stillness of the falling snow.

Then there are sounds that, for me, signify the beginning of something. The sound of birds rising at dawn and heralding the new day. A car engine turning over, or a steam whistle in the distance. There are other sounds that signify the ending of something. Like “Taps” played on a single trumpet at a soldier’s funeral; or the squealing of brakes followed by the tearing of metal.

Sounds not only measure time but space. They seem to go along with the places I have lived. Each home has a host of distinct sounds that make it unique. The apple farm where I grew up had some sounds I’ve never heard since. A dog barking across the fields from miles away on a cold, star-filled night. Or the sound of frogs in the marsh filling the summer night with their calls. Like a thousand voices all trying to be heard. It was the first crowd I experienced. And it was there, on the farm, that I first heard the quiet rustle of poplar leaves sounding like tiny bits of tin foil tapping gently together. And cicadas buzzing on a hot August day.

There are certain sounds that I associate with living in Hamilton. A fog horn on a grey, misty day. A lawn mower cutting grass and kids playing in sprinklers. The sound of the knife sharpener ringing his bell as he drove slowly through the back alley. Then there are sounds that I associate with Greg’s cottage. They seem so far away. The loon calling for his mate to join him every evening. The lap of water against the dock and the boats jostling below us in the boathouse. The sound of Greg’s paddle dipping into a still lake. The tapping of a woodpecker echoing through the trees. All these sounds I associate with a certain time and place.

Today I can hear the sound of the streetcar as it makes its turn into the Bathurst station. It’s becoming a familiar sound. It reminds me that the world out there is turning. That life is going by. The sound gives me an anxious feeling, suggesting there is so little time and so much to do. And as I listen, I’m drawn back to the sound of my clock ticking. Each second is gone, each minute goes by. When I’m old and grey and about to take my last breath, I hope I can hear at least one sound. The sound of a heart beating.

CONFIDENCE, CULTURE, AND ENCOURAGEMENT

A friend told me about his trip to the U.S. this week. He was surprised by the change of attitude in people. From his hotel clerk to the local bartender, they seem to have lost the confidence so characteristic of Americans. The uncertainty in the markets has done more to undermine the strength of America than any terrorist threat to date. With a terrorist threat there is a foe to rally against. With an economic meltdown, there is nothing to fight but ineptitude.

If you describe countries as people, then America is a boy nearing the end of his teenage years. He has just learned that the brazenness of adolescence has consequences. He has enough intelligence to pull back and analyze what has happened, but he also needs encouragement to keep moving forward. I hope this lesson doesn’t undermine his belief in himself. Now is the time when he will need to rise up to the challenge. The grit and guts that made America strong is still in the people, they just need to remember that it is there.

The first issue of our magazine came into our office and everyone stood around looking at it, turning the pages carefully. We have gone from a newspaper six years ago, printing 50,000 copies, to a magazine with over half a million readers today. We did it. Someone started clapping and then everyone was and I looked around, trying to hold back the tears. Thing is, it wasn’t so much the fact that we now have a magazine, but that I work with such a great group of smart and talented people dedicated to making us the best we can be.

I attended a dinner the other night hosted by the Business for the Arts association. I sat next to Phillip Crawley, the publisher and CEO of The Globe and Mail. He pulled his Blackberry from his inner pocket and placed it on the table beside my water glass, then headed up to the stage to spend most of the dinner giving out the awards. A devilish voice in my head wondered what I might do with that gem just above my right hand. It would be easy to slip it into my purse, excuse myself to the ladies room, and send lecherous emails to all his columnists. Oh, the things a few well-thought-out words might do.

I look around the table. Jim Fleck, chairman of Business for the Arts, sits across from me, carefully listening to the awards ceremony. I admire his desire to inspire and recognize businesses that support the arts.

We have decided to do special editions of the Women’s Post focusing on companies that are exemplary corporate citizens, companies that are innovative in leading their industry, and companies that give back to the world around them. Our goal is to inspire industry leaders to think outside the box and make decisions that are not only good for their company, but for the communities they serve.

We are planning a charity art show and wine sampling for our Courage to Lead event on November 25, to raise funds for Nellie’s, a shelter for women and children. If you would like to join us to support a great cause, and connect with our writers, editors, and other dynamic people, please call Mikhail at 416-964-5850 for tickets.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

WHAT WE PASS ON

The lake is quiet now that all the cottagers have gone home after the summer. The morning air is warm and heavy, as if the grey clouds that cover the sky above are pushing down and closing in. Blue jays calls echo across the water. They are busy preparing for the long winter ahead. Their activity is contagious and they make me feel as if I should be preparing more for this tiny baby growing inside me. With less than five weeks until he is due, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ready for this huge change to come.

I wonder how we will teach him to be strong and good, to care about the world around him, to live every moment to the fullest? Will he pick it up from the way my husband and I behave in the world? Lately, I’m more thoughtful about the way I interact with other people, of how I am in the world and about the way I behave toward those who are close to me. I want to become more patient and less critical of others. I want to be a better person so that this boy will have a good role model. I hope he learns to see my strengths and my weaknesses and eventually grow beyond them. When I look at his father, I hope that our son inherits his patience and strength, his determination to learn and do whatever he sets his mind to, and his kindness. Perhaps that is what parenting is all about – the hope that our best parts will live on in our children.

Here, at the cottage, I try not to think of the renovations underway at our house in the city. But the wasps are buzzing around their nest under the eaves, their last flourish of activity before they die. They are hard-wired to build despite the coming winter and their most certain demise. We discovered that the male wasps die off every year, while the young fertilized females hibernate under the earth over the winter to come out in the spring with a fresh batch of young to carry on. The nest, built over the summer, is left empty and abandoned – if it survives the winter, it exists only as a monument to the work done and the lives that built it.

I want to teach our son to understand the value of good workmanship, to distinguish between things built to last and things patched together to be consumed. I’m going to try to surround him with things that are built well, but is it possible? I inherited a highchair that was my father’s when he was a boy. It is small and wooden and made to be pulled right up to the table. It doesn’t have a plush cushioned seat, or a safety harness, and I wonder if my father fell from it very many times. Even so, I want to use it. I’m pulled to the idea that what worked for my father should work for my son, that the things we surround ourselves with will have a direct impact on the way we live and the attitudes we have towards the world.

I also want to teach our son the importance of love. Of giving yourself to another person and caring for them more at times than you care about yourself. I know he may get hurt, but I also know that hurt builds strength and that without sharing himself fully with another person he won’t get the opportunity of seeing the world through her eyes. And with love he will need to learn the value of hope – I want him to face the world armed with it. I don’t know what sort of things life will throw in his path but I do know that if he has hope, the challenges he faces can be overcome. As Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote, “It is life, not death, that has no limits…”

What sort of a world are we bringing our son into? It hasn’t changed much over the past century. It is a world that is, in many ways, very much like the world of his grandfather. There are still wars tearing countries apart, invaders wanting to bring enlightenment to the backward and the deprived, rich countries overpowering poorer ones. There is still greed, hunger and misery while others live in opulence. Although history seems to repeat itself, I have hope that one day we will get it right. Morality and decency, the fundamentals that keep us civilised, seem to survive despite opulence and greed. Our son will need to learn the same skills his grandfather needed to survive and I think the most important ones will be love, hope and kindness.

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I’d like to welcome a great woman who has joined our team at The Women’s Post. Laurie Simmonds has come on as our new associate publisher. She brings a lot of knowledge, experience and many new ideas to this newspaper, which readers will see implemented over the coming months. I do believe that strong women are changing the world – and she is one of them.

A LETTER TO MYSELF IN 50 YEARS

am you, at 36 years of age. I am writing this letter to you because time seems to be passing so quickly and I want you to remember the small moments that went into making a wonderful life.

If you are reading this it means that you made it to your 86th birthday. Congratulations. I hope that our son has given this to you, as I will instruct him to do when he’s a bit older. Today, as I write this, he is six weeks old.

So far in my life I’ve experienced loss and sorrow, with big stretches of happiness and joy in between. There is a part of my life that is less without my father here and I often wish he were alive to meet my husband and son. I know he would be happy that I have so much love in my life. Even though he is gone, I still feel him around me: In the sawing and hammering I hear as my husband renovates the second floor of our house, in the crackling of the fire and the ticking of the clock as I type this letter. Words, sounds, experiences that I associate with him still exist in my daily life and they work to keep something of him alive in me. Can you remember the way he chuckled when he made a good chess move? Or the way his artist’s hands, with long graceful fingers, handled every object that he touched with gentleness and care? Do you still remember his face and his expressions as vividly as I do now?

Last night we had our staff Christmas party. Do you remember the great times we had starting The Women’s Post? I’m expecting it will be a national daily newspaper by the time you read this letter. But now, as I write, the newspaper is going into its third year. Our team is small, but efficient. Even now we have the best writers in the country and we are all very close. Last night’s party was filled with excellent conversation and much laughter.

Today I sit in our half-finished living room with our son sleeping in the bassinet beside me. I doubt very much that I’ll be living here in 50 years. Do you remember the house? It sits on a corner lot and the living room has an alcove of windows on the south wall and another row of windows on the east wall. The ceilings are high and there is dark wood panelling covering the lower half of the room. The panelling isn’t quite finished and my husband still has to build the bookshelves and the mantle for the fireplace. There is a fire burning now and an old clock ticks in the front hall. The Christmas tree sits in the window alcove.

Our mother has just left after spending the night here. I hate to imagine the future without her, but in 50 years I know she will be gone from my life and I want you to read this and remember the way she was this morning at breakfast. Her hair is cropped short and she looks as carefree as she behaves. No perhaps carefree isn’t the word, it’s more that she is filled with life and interested in each moment. She enjoys every conversation she has and seems to find something good in everyone. By the time you read this I hope I have learned to be as graceful and strong as she is.

I wonder if Greg will still be alive if I reach 86? If you are reading this letter and he isn’t, then at this point your eyes will probably fill with tears. Mine are right now just thinking about it. But try to think of all the joy-filled moments. Do you remember how he taught you to ski at Mont Tremblant? You woke up one morning to a snowstorm and decided to ski down the north side. The wind was whipping the snow up at the top of the mountain but the view was beautiful. Every tree branch was covered in snow. It was the perfect winter wonderland.

Or remember the winter holidays spent at the cottage, the stillness of the forest broken by the call of a chickadee, the crackle of the fire burning in the hearth and the smell of hot apple cider after a day of skating. Remember the way Greg used to fall asleep in his chair by the fire with a book in his hand.

Can you remember what you felt the day that your son was born? Can you picture Greg walking into the operating room? His eyes were filled with worry and when he asked how I was, I told him I was horny and the worry on his face vanished instantly as he broke into a smile. Do you remember the music they played in the operating room? It was Enya. You should get your son to play it for you. Do you remember how delicate and tiny your son looked when they placed him in your arms? And how life suddenly seemed much more dangerous than ever before?

My father used to say that there is nothing good about growing old and that the only way to handle it is to do it as gracefully as possible. At 36 I still see more ahead of me than behind. I hope that when you read this, you’ll be able to see further in both directions.

CALLING ALL ANGELS

I can’t remember when I first got the idea into my head that I was going to change the world, but I’ve always believed that by doing good things, and working hard, anything is possible. I’ve never been one to accept things as they are and I often dream of a world free of war, greed and hatred; a world where the air quality doesn’t need to be monitored, where forests are treasured, not destroyed; a world where compassion and intellectual pursuit flourish.

In my younger years I thought I could find answers in the philosophers and studied Socrates and Descartes, Nietzsche and Kant. But I learned that they too were searching for answers and hadn’t found any solutions. The world was far more complex than I’d ever imagined. I read about different societies – their histories, cultures and beliefs – and learned that in democracy, more than any other system of government, debate and discussion must prevail, otherwise corruption can and will spread like a disease. I saw how conviction could take the place of wisdom, how poverty pushed young adults directly into the hands of powerful tyrants. I cried when hatred destroyed innocent lives, when the communists destroyed the temples in Tibet. But I learned to find comfort in human emotion – in the love and compassion – that thrives despite the turmoil in our world.

I noticed that women were influencing decisions both in the home and in society more than ever before. I also noticed that men and women collected information differently; that women often wanted more context and narrative with their information than the dry facts that men seem to prefer. I began to realise that most of the news I read simply delivered facts without giving the narrative or context that I needed and used to make my judgements. I’d often read about events in the news and wonder what part of the story was missing – and what the real story was.

I decided to create a newspaper that was different, one that focused on the stories around the facts and delivered information in a narrative format that would allow readers to see clearly the position of the writer and make their own judgements about what they read. I wanted to carry columns that would make the reader think, and also make them feel. I believed that by producing a newspaper that caused debate and stimulated discussion, I could, in some small way, help reinforce democracy in this country.

Without doing any research, or creating a business plan, I set about publishing an independent newspaper in Toronto – one of the most competitive and saturated newspaper markets in the country. Despite that, I succeeded, and The Women’s Post is now going into our third year. We owe much of our success to the writers and advertisers who also share in the vision of this paper; they are all people who want to make a difference.

There were days when I felt like giving up, days when I wasn’t sure how we were going to make payroll, or if we’d even be in business the next week. I leaned on my husband a lot back then and he was always encouraging, but what carried me through the tough times were the letters and e-mail I received from readers. Like the woman who wrote me last week and told me about all the sadness she had in her life, but a column that she had read had given her hope and she knew that no matter what life threw at her, she still had more ahead to look forward to. It’s letters like hers that make me realise that The Women’s Post is making a difference.

Like a small child, this newspaper has gone from crawling to walking – and we are now ready to run. We are printing 50,000 copies in Toronto, with another 10,000 in Vancouver, and aiming to put another 25,000 into Calgary. We have acquired some of the best writers in the country and it is time for us to expand further, to reach out to more people, to create more debate and discussion.

But this will require key people to help us get to the next stage. We are forming an advisory board and are looking for people who share our vision of a world where compassion, debate, discussion and intellectual growth can flourish. If you would like to become involved with The Women’s Post please give me a call or send me an email.

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Sarah Thomson’s e-mail ispublisher@womenspost.ca

A TIME OF TRANSITION

The sunlight streams in my window, reflecting off the polished wood floor. It fills my bedroom with so much light it’s impossible to sleep. Last night’s snow storm has vanished and the morning sun twinkles on the fresh, snow-covered fields beyond my window on the second floor of an old stone farmhouse. The room is warm and I push at the old frame window, lifting it enough to shove a book under it to let in some fresh air. A crow calls and I notice birdsong for the first time in months. The air has lost the dry bite of winter. Although still cool, it smells of a warm day to come. The long icicles along the eaves that have formed over the weeks have lost their frosty surface. They shine as the sun melts them. I listen as they drip. I hear sounds of water trickling. This is March, 1979 and I am 11 years old.

I remember this day because it was the last day of my country life and the first day of my life as an urbanite. It was a day that marked a distinct change in my life.

We began it with a breakfast of cereal eaten quickly – and with a little more silence at the table than usual. My twin brother and I were excited about moving into a new home but also worried about what this change would bring to our lives. We finished breakfast and began loading the farm truck and my elder brother’s car. His car filled quickly and he was instructed to take us to the new house, drive carefully, and treat us to a special lunch on the way.

We drove down the road, looking back for a last glimpse of the house. My twin brother said what we were both thinking, “Goodbye home,” and then kept saying goodbye to everything we passed. “Goodbye pond filled with leaches where our raft sits rotting. Goodbye raft. Goodbye church camp with the prayer wagon that we flour-bombed when we were eight years old. Goodbye neighbours with the dogs that bit my brother’s butt. Goodbye pigs who chased our friend’s mother down the road. Goodbye smelly house with the old lady with too many cats. Goodbye lonely church at the top of the hill. Goodbye general store that we were not allowed to ride our bikes to, but did anyway.”

My brother’s sense of humour was always at its peak in sad times. I looked out the window and said goodbye to the trees and the fields; to the smell of damp earth in the spring; to the feel of the long field-grass on my legs; to the stillness of the forest in the winter.

We ate our first fast-food hamburger that day, pulling up to a pick-up window for the first time in our lives. My eldest brother swore that Wendy’s had the best hamburgers although my twin brother and I had heard that McDonald’s was the place to go. I remember taking my first bite into that hamburger covered with every topping they had, plus extra pickles. It was the best food I had ever tasted.

After eating our lunch in the parking lot we headed over to our new house. We left the commercial area of town and entered a very run-down neighbourhood. The houses were old brick homes and many of them were boarded up. We pulled into the driveway of one home that didn’t have boards over the windows. We looked at our older brother in horror. “You’re joking,” we both exclaimed. He shook his head and told us to be positive as our father was going to show up any minute.

The house was a small triplex in need of some major renovations. When my parents arrived they started unloading and we were told to stay out of the way. My mother suggested we walk down to the lake – which was a few blocks away – and warned us to look both ways before crossing the streets.

The wind had picked up and the warm sunny morning had changed to a blustery day with a cold wind coming off the lake. We took our time, making our way down a tree-lined street, peering into all the houses we passed. A cat meowed to us from the top step of a front porch and we wondered if we could go up and pet it – we had no idea of city etiquette. Dark clouds were rolling in over the lake. My brother became thoughtful and once again said what we were both thinking. “We’ve hit rock bottom.”

We crossed the final street and walked through a muddy field to the waterfront. Huge waves crashed against the break wall. We played “stand in one spot and see if a wave will land on you.” Many did, but the water was warm compared to the cold air. We walked along a pebble beach that seemed to stretch out for miles and skipped rocks over the surface of the water. We discovered large sand dunes that blocked out the noise of the traffic and ay in them listening to the waves and seagulls calling in the sky above us. We talked about losing our farm to the bank, about moving into such a small house. However, our talk soon turned to the possibilities this new place offered, like going to the beach every single day in the summer. And the boarded-up houses made our country tree forts seem boring in comparison. We returned home dripping wet, but happy with our discoveries.

When I think of March I think of the old winter snow melting away, of the sound of the icicles dripping, water trickling and the fresh new scent of uncovered earth.

It is a time of change and I remember that day so many years ago with my twin brother, when I learned that with every change comes a whole new set of circumstances and possibilities.

EMBRACING CHANGE

Why publish a “Women’s” newspaper? I get asked this question frequently. ^The Women’s Post~ was not created to exclude men, it wasn’t created as a political soapbox for militant feminists, and it wasn’t created to be a fluffy fashion tabloid. Our most basic ambition is to contribute to the engines of change that drive social behaviour. Recent studies have shown that on average women tend to read more than men do, that women have more spending money and control more of the large purchase decisions than ever before. ^The Women’s Post~ intends to support and encourage creativity and inclusive attitudes – the fundamentals that got women where we are today. By encouraging intelligent and interesting columnists to debate ideas and by discussing the changes occurring in the world, we intend to create an atmosphere that embraces and unites the very differences that have, for too long, divided people. Our pages promote an atmosphere that welcomes debate. I’ve always believed that social change begins with one person behaving differently. This newspaper began as a celebration of such people. We hope to continue that. The other day a woman said to me “I can’t stand Pakastanis.” She said it in anger, without thinking. She didn’t know how strongly opposed I am to racism. But the worst thing about it is that she didn’t think her words were fundamentally wrong. In her limited world, racism, when expressed in a low voice, is acceptable. Does that mean she has her own moral code that is right for her alone? Do we each have our own moral code that governs – one for cannibals, another for fascists – or should morality have a strongerconnection to truth and knowledge? I tend to believe that our morals govern us as individuals and that a larger, social morality governs society, and if our own personal moral codes aren’t in line with the governing social morality, then we’re standing on very unstable ground. Ideas that enhance knowledge, adding to our civil community, are moral and anything that detracts from the community isn’t. But is this just my set of beliefs or is there a greater judge? Does circumstance impose a set of rules on us? In this issue we have a guest columnist, C.G.Prado, discussing what morality means in our current world. One of my personal mandates is never to exclude others because of sex, race or status. I’ve always believed it important to fight against exclusion. I find it impossible to simply ignore racist or sexist people and I find it difficult to distinguish between them; both exclude because of differences and both are defended by clinging social traditions. Over the past hundred years our society has changed dramatically. People no longer have to sit at the back of the streetcar because of their skin colour; women have the right to vote and work outside of their home; and it has finally become politically incorrect to exclude people because of their colour or sex. But women are still predominantly excluded on the golf course and in many boardrooms; people are still judged because of their skin colour; and differences are still being used by the weak and narrow-minded. Exclusivity breeds like a virus. It creates a climate in which differences are shunned. Exclusion is wrong because it limits us from personal growth and social development – but this, unfortunately, is my personal belief, or could it be part of a larger, social morality? “Our success is based on inclusivity,” writes George Cohon, CEO of McDonalds Canada, in his book ^To Russia with Fries~. Is his knowledge something many choose to ignore? There will always be narrow-minded people, there will always be those that simply go along with the status quo, and I hope there will always be people who stand up and defend right from wrong. “Exclusion will get us all killed, inclusion is what will allow us to survive and flourish,” says Gale Zoe Garnett (author of ^Transient Dancing~) in an interview with this paper (to be carried in our next issue). More and more people are beginning to realize the need for an inclusive philosophy. I’ve always admired those who speak out against the norm, especially those who become social outcasts by doing so. I admire the individual and believe that individuals are the impetus of change. The future looks promising, the young adults of today give me hope. They are much more inclusive than their parents and I think that in itself will make them much more knowledgeable. The older I get, the less I want to interact with sexist or racist people. But that leaves me with the fact that I’m excluding them from my life and my own philosophy won’t allow me to do that. So I share my wine with all; at times I sit uncomfortably in a crowd of people who insist on clinging to their traditions, at other times I mix with thoughtful people struggling to change the world. What’s important is that I learn things from both and that I’m open to listening and debate.

NATURAL BEAUTY: INSIDE AND OUT

The rain patters gently on the boathouse roof. Below me I can hear the boats bumping against the dock, pulling at their ropes as the waves toss them about. From the window the lake looks grey and cold. Whitecaps form in the open water. The clouds are low in the sky, weighing down the morning like a soggy sweater.

I don’t know what to write about today. It seems like I have a hundred different ideas cluttering my head. I want to write about beauty, but where to start? I remember a philosophy course I took years ago. We discussed the idea of intrinsic beauty: Does beauty exist out in the world waiting for us to discover it? Or is it a human idea, an artefact that requires both knowledge and understanding?

I glance at a photo of my husband and son that sits on top of a pile of pictures on the table beside my laptop. Their heads touch side by side on the floor; my husband is looking directly at the camera, while my son smiles at something to the side of it. In my husband’s eyes I see so much of who he is. He’s not the type of person to rush into anything without thinking it through. It’s hard to make him angry because he prefers to be happy. He’s inquisitive, yet shy. There is confidence in his eyes, but he holds back from showing his emotions. My son, on the other hand, is about to burst into laughter. Like his father he’s happy most of the time, and he has the same blue eyes and thoughtful nature — most of the time. But, at other times I see a bit of me in him, such as when he expresses each and every emotion the instant it flies through him.

In this picture my husband and son are both beautiful. It captures what our new beauty columnist, Yanka Van der Kolk, would describe as their essence (page 18.)

When I think of natural beauty I connect it to serenity. I think of the lake at dawn, with its still, smooth surface; or at night when moonlight shines a path over the waves to my feet. Or when we lie on the dock and watch the sky for falling stars while crickets fill the night air with their calls. I don’t think you can separate the idea of serenity from beauty in the natural world.

Last weekend I was sitting with my son at the cottage under the shade of a pine tree. We were looking at the branches of the tree above us, the dark green needles contrasted against the clear blue sky. A slight breeze whispered through the pines and birdsong echoed from the forest. It was a beautiful moment and I wondered if my son felt the same sense of awe and serenity that I was feeling.

I watched him stare at the tree above, it seemed to quiet him, but just as I began to think he was sharing the beauty with me, he became fascinated with the buckle that secured him to his chair and tried to eat it. I am now of the opinion that beauty is a human construction that requires knowledge and the capacity to form and connect ideas.

I’m not sure how old I was when I first began to notice beauty in things. I think my earliest memory of beauty was when I was about five or maybe six. It was a hot summer day and my brother and I had wandered into a neighbour’s field. The tall grass came up to our waists and so naturally we were pretending to be explorers hacking through the jungle. After traveling imagined miles we stopped for a rest and lay down in the tall grass. I still remember the sweet smell of the grass and the coolness of the ground and trying to see shapes in the puffy clouds that floated above us. I remember feeling as if I never wanted to leave that moment.

The wind has changed and the rain no longer patters on the roof over my head. The clouds have lifted and the sun breaks through, promising a warm afternoon. Shafts of sunlight create patches over the steel grey lake. Here, at the cottage, beauty surrounds me, but maybe it’s simply that I have time to sit, to think, to listen and to notice what the world has to offer.