A Remembrance Day Poem 2012

Remembrance Day 2012

by Maggie Turner

The only war I know
is where I live and my children grow
is in my house
and down the street
in office buildings
where the powerful meet.

This war ‘s not fought with guns per se
it’s invisible in the day-to-day
the bruises hidden
the despair masked
from professional predators
with careers made fast.

This war’s on integrity
honesty, truth,
the bullying school yard
the media proof,
the smirking sly smiles,
of ambition’s glass roof.

This is the only war I know,
what weapons will win it
what vision will show
that the war in our midst
is the one that will grow

It spreads from the hearts
of the greedy and small
engulfs the stout hearted
fells those who stand tall.

Look to your small life
keep kindness in sight
recognize your compatriots
and target the fight
on the heights of rapacity
and the glamour of might.

[a work in progress, wrote it this morning, good to be writing poetry again]

Progress All Around

It is a lovely morning out there this morning. Sunshine. Birds singing. Dump trucks dumping gravel next door, ah the sounds of progress.

Attila has been busy moving his mountain, he works till dark every night after dinner.

Attila versus the Big Wood, after one week.

Attila versus the Big Wood, after one week.

This past week I’ve been busy updating web sites and tackling my own mountains, mountains of telephone calls and faxed documents. Sometimes, bureaucratically, everything seems to go haywire. A government agency lost a cheque I’d sent; they cashed it but didn’t record that process properly and were after me for another cheque. So, many telephone calls later they acknowledged the cheque they cashed and things have been set right. I knew it would work out, however, it was a very time consuming issue. This past week has seen other issues arise that were equally time consuming and even less important in the general scheme of things. Still, the issues had to be dealt with, which is what I’ve been doing every evening for the last week.

Attila and I have also needed to consider an invitation to a hearing by the Township Committee of Adjustment to grant right-of-way over an existing private lane way (not ours but very close to our property). This is at our country house. What this actually means is that someone is planning a big building project near us and want a guarantee that they will have road access before they make this huge investment. It means, for us, more traffic, another new neighbour and we are not going to oppose it. In the long term it will enhance the value of our property, or so we think.

There is some development activity going on around us, most of it by speculators buying up tracts of land they feel will become more valuable over time, mostly waterfront. Who knows what the future will bring. We are grateful we own enough property, which is not waterfront, to maintain a small bit of forest that will not be developed. It won’t save the world, but it will keep our home surrounded by trees and wildlife.

The process of displacement of the local population in cottage country is as effective as the Scottish Clearances, although much slower, almost invisible and not as brutal. As the demand for waterfront property increased, the prices rose as did the taxes. Eventually, families with property on the more popular lakes were forced to sell because they simply could not pay the taxes on such valuable property. They did gain financially, but their ties to the community were lost. Slowly, since the end of WWII there has been a shift in ownership of waterfront properties in these townships; from local families who had been in the area since the first land grants were made available, to urban based families seeking a vacation property.

What exists now are increasingly distinct segments of population. On the one hand, there are the locals, who consist of entrepreneurs owning businesses that serve the seasonal and affluent summer population and the locals who work for the entrepreneurs, usually at very low rates of pay and for only the summer season. There is a lot of poverty in the area, which is almost invisible as it exists well away from the waterfront properties. On the other hand, there are the seasonal residents, who either vacation in their seasonal homes or spend only the summers here and are usually but not always retired and winter in warmer climates. Occasionally people reside year round in their cottages, this seldom last more than a season or two, the winters are harsh and bear no resemblance to the holiday atmosphere of the summer months.

The prices at the local shops are meant for those who can afford to buy the best, and who don’t worry about the price. The vast majority of the local population does not need the best, nor can they afford it. So, the local working population has to leave the area to find food and other goods and services that they can afford. I think you get the drift here, slowly but surely this area is losing its vibrancy and ability to support a working population of families. The solution to this social issue has been to bring in large numbers of seasonal workers from the third world to work here, as they can live in residences and go home at the end of the holiday season. They are wonderful people, for the most part, but have no long-term commitment to the community, as their real lives take place far, far away.

When Annie and Frank came to visit us some years ago, from England, they were shocked at the price of fresh fruit; as compared to London, Ontario. They had stopped at a local shop to buy us a basket of fresh fruit, as a treat. Even they, with two urban jobs, could not afford to buy fruit at this shop, so they settled for one plum each for the four of us.

The grocery store here is kept open during the winter as a courtesy to the local population. Their sales for the winter are less than the sales made on one long weekend in the summer. They are making a real contribution to the community by staying open, and there are a few local business owners who really make an effort to keep the community viable.

This juxtaposition of privilege and want make for strange politics and unbalanced communities, in my opinion.

Of course, visitors to the area see none of this, and if I were a visitor I would not see it either. I am certain that the visitors at the G8 meetings were totally unaware of the poverty that exists in the area, and I’m not convinced they would care if they did know. Their world “ain’t broke” so their not fixing it, again in my opinion.

Worldly Distractions


18 °C
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 18.0°C
Dewpoint: 9.7°C
Humidity: 58 %
Wind: NNE 11 km/h


“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950


George Bernard Shaw

“…an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his writings address prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy which makes their stark themes more palatable. Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege.

Shaw's Corner residence of George Bernard Shaw

Shaw's Corner residence of George Bernard Shaw

He was most angered by what he perceived as the exploitation of the working class. An ardent socialist, Shaw wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society. He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles. For a short time he was active in local politics, serving on the London County Council…

Influenced by his reading, he became a dedicated Socialist and a charter member of the Fabian Society, a middle class organization established in 1884 to promote the gradual spread of socialism by peaceful means. In the course of his political activities he met Charlotte Payne-Townshend, an Irish heiress and fellow Fabian; they married in 1898. The marriage was never consummated, at Charlotte’s insistence, though he had had a number of affairs with married women; Peters posits that Shaw was a repressed homosexual. Shaw declined to stand as an MP, but in 1897 he was elected as a local councillor to the London County Council as a Progressive.
In 1906 the Shaws moved into a house, now called Shaw’s Corner, in Ayot St. Lawrence, a small village in Hertfordshire, England; it was to be their home for the remainder of their lives, although they also maintained a residence at 29 Fitzroy Square in London…

intolerable sense of disgrace

Kermit the Frog used to say “it isn’t easy being green”. Some environments are more tolerant of green folk than others, some paths more attuned to the land they traverse. There are times, in this life we lead in the bush, that I feel imprisoned by the tight social fabric around us; so much space, so much beauty, so much self interest, so much denial…

For instance, the politics here are just too rich for me!

We have this:

“Senior Conservative officials broke federal rules to shower $50-million on the riding of the minister now overseeing Ottawa’s austerity plan, according to the final audit of a G8 program that fuelled opposition charges of pork-barrel politics….
Mr. Clement insisted that not a penny went missing and that the projects were all completed to the benefit of the Muskoka region, although he acknowledged the paperwork “could have been better.”
G8 spending in Clement’s riding left ‘no paper trail’ DANIEL LEBLANC AND BILL CURRY.

At the same time we have this:

“Having a job does not necessarily mean that income earned will cover the cost
of basic needs. When full-time minimum wage employment ($8.75 per hour) is
a Muskoka family’s income source, 67 per cent of this income would be needed
just to pay for food and rent.”
Source: http://www.omssa.com/lib/db2file.asp?fileid=35924

“…residents of Simcoe and Muskoka receiving social assistance, pension income or
a minimum wage would need to use much more of their limited incomes to cover basic food and
housing costs, as can be seen from the 2010 income/expense scenarios on the back of this page.
For example, based on NFB survey results and CMHC rental rates for Simcoe and Muskoka, a family of four receiving
Ontario Works would have to spend 90.5 per cent of their income for food and rent alone!
Unfortunately having a job does not necessarily mean that income earned will cover the cost of
basic needs. When full time minimum wage employment ($10.25 per hour) is the income source
for a Simcoe Muskoka family of four, 68.7 per cent of this income would be needed just to pay
for food and rent combined.”
Source: Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit

The world around us is as green as I’ve ever seen it in my life. We have had lots and lots of rain.

Around the Bend

And we had a tornado touch down nearby this past week. It missed our neighbourhood and my workplace. The storm was spectacular. Many of the roads were blocked by fallen trees and the power was out for quite a while, I think it is still out in a few areas around here. Two tall trees in our back acreage were toppled by the winds, their roots torn out of the ground as they fell; more firewood. I was asked by a customer from Toronto if I had been scared. It never occurred to me to feel scared. I was alone at work when the worst of the storm hit. The building lost power, which was when I decided which interior steel desk I would shelter under if conditions deteriorated. Then I calmly watched the magnificent storm, a nice break. Within twenty minutes the power came back on, I started up the computer systems and went back to work.

Attila and I are just plain tired. With both of us working full time there are only a few hours left in the day to follow any pursuits of choice. This is easier for me of course, than it was when I was working part-time, going to school full-time and raising two children by myself. How did I do that? I don’t know, I was younger, driven to do the best I could for my kids and there wasn’t anyone else to shoulder any of the responsibilities. There are just us two adults now, the responsibilities are fewer by far, and yet I am very tired. Age may have something to do with this.

Our firewood delivery is scheduled for this week. This means lots of work, in particular for Attila. All that wood needs to be moved and piled in the woodshed and lean-to, a very very big job.

We are hoping to get down to our little house in the city again soon, the grass needs cutting. We are looking forward to seeing how the garden is doing. Terra and Lares watered the vegetables for us this week, then it rained. I am hoping that the flowers in the front yard are doing well. It seems to me our plantings should do well, if the flourishing grass and weeds on the property are any indication.

I haven’t managed to get back at scraping the flaking paint off the exterior siding, the yard work is all we’ve managed to tackle this spring. On our next trip down to our little house we are transporting the new window for the basement. Attila picked up this used window for $20. It is in excellent condition, is double glazed and even has a screen. Local cast-offs tend to be of very high quality. It will be a huge improvement, visually and environmentally as it will help prevent heat loss during the winter.

So the days go by, up early for work six days a week, one day of rest per week, four days of rest per month. These are my golden retirement years!

The way I see it, if I am healthy enough to work, and lucky enough to have work, then our life is as good as it can get for an ordinary Canadian; never mind the media portrayal of carefree recreation and travel for seniors, that is not for most of us, it is for the relatively few seniors with pensions high enough to afford purchasing power. On an even grander scale, our life here is stupendously fortunate compared to most of the population on planet earth!

Still, watching material wealth daily does wear on one’s sensibilities.

Worldly Distractions


17 °C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 17.0°C
Dewpoint: 9.0°C
Humidity: 59 %


“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.”

When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul. De Profundis”
Oscar Wilde


Oscar Wilde
“In London, he had been introduced to Constance Lloyd in 1881, daughter of Horace Lloyd, a wealthy Queen’s Counsel. She happened to be visiting Dublin in 1884, when Wilde was lecturing at the Gaiety Theatre (W. B. Yeats, then aged eighteen, was also among the audience). He proposed to her, and they married on the 29 May 1884 at the Anglican St. James Church in Paddington in London.[49] Constance’s annual allowance of £250 was generous for a young woman (it would be equivalent to about £19,300 in current value), but the Wildes’ tastes were relatively luxurious and, after preaching to others for so long, their home was expected to set new standards of design. No. 16, Tite Street was duly renovated in seven months at considerable expense. The couple had two sons, Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886). Wilde was the sole literary signatory of George Bernard Shaw’s petition for a pardon of the anarchists arrested (and later executed) after the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886.

Robert Ross had read Wilde’s poems before they met, and he was unrestrained by the Victorian prohibition against homosexuality, even to the extent of estranging himself from his family. A precocious seventeen year old, by Richard Ellmann’s account, he was “…so young and yet so knowing, was determined to seduce Wilde”. Wilde, who had long alluded to Greek love, and – though an adoring father – was put off by the carnality of his wife’s second pregnancy, succumbed to Ross in Oxford in 1886…

After Wilde left the court, a warrant for his arrest was applied for on charges of sodomy and gross indecency. Robbie Ross found Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel, Knightsbridge with Reginald Turner; both men advised Wilde to go at once to Dover and try to get a boat to France; his mother advised him to stay and fight like a man. Wilde, lapsing into inaction, could only say, “The train has gone. It’s too late.” Wilde was arrested for “gross indecency” under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, a term meaning homosexual acts not amounting to buggery (an offence under a separate statute)… 

The final trial was presided over by Mr Justice Wills. On 25 May 1895 Wilde and Alfred Taylor were convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labour. The judge described the sentence, the maximum allowed, as “totally inadequate for a case such as this,” and that the case was “the worst case I have ever tried”. Wilde’s response “And I? May I say nothing, my Lord?” was drowned out in cries of “Shame” in the courtroom…

Wilde was imprisoned first in Pentonville and then Wandsworth prisons in London. The regime at the time was tough; “hard labour, hard fare and a hard bed” was the guiding philosophy. It wore particularly harshly on Wilde as a gentleman and his status provided him no special privileges.[129] In November he was forced to attend Chapel, and there he was so weak from illness and hunger that he collapsed, bursting his right ear drum, an injury that would later contribute to his death.[130] He spent two months in the infirmary…”
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Wilde