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Saturday, February 28, 2009

on religion

Our Lady of Peace. Carved from marble brought from some far off land, she stands @ the site of the Dunvegan Trading Post on the banks of the Peace River in northern Alberta. i love statuary, and marble is beautiful all on its own, without human intervention. so last spring i asked her to pose for me, and she graciously consented.

i'm not a particularly religious person. spiritual, i think, but organized religions have had their way with me and left me a skeptic. as a single mum i was frequently 'taken on' in the way well-meaning Christians 'take on' a fundraiser for the hungry or a mitten knitting blitz for the homeless. people become projects, and it's impersonal, demeaning and humiliating. there were some who sincerely cared about my kids and me; those few i still count among my dearest friends, but most were more religious than caring, and we didn't find much common ground.

so, though i believe with all my heart in the mission of Habitat For Humanity, the fact that it's essentially a faith based organization was cause for some apprehension. there is, indeed, some of that 'people as projects' orientation there, by affluent Christians who have ulterior motives for being connected, but i find it far less rampant in HFH than in the general churchy population. and the ReStore folks are even less so. they're with the ReStore because they genuinely endeavor to live in a way that reflects a faith and a lifestyle that respect all human beings and the planet we inhabit together. my kind of folks.

in the pre-move prep phase, as word gets round that i'm leaving, things i've loaned out (and forgotten about) are returning. one is a book by Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams, that i'd loaned to a very special teen student when he mentioned his interest in the author and his works. it's called, Last Chance to See - about endangered species, written about this very serious issue in Adams' quirky, self-deprecating, thoughtful style. i highly recommend it. ...and a bit from it prompted this post. he and his accompanying expert, Mark, find themselves on a plane to Zaire with a flock of missionaries. here's what he says about them, and about religion in general. as their plane takes off:

".... i then became rather tense myself as the plane started to taxi out to the runway, because the preflight talk from our pilot included a description of our route, an explanation of the safety features of the aircraft, and also a short prayer. i wasn't so much disturbed by the 'O Lord we thank thee for the blessing of this day', but 'We commend our lives into Thy hands, O Lord' is frankly not the thing you want to hear from a pilot as his hand is reaching for the throttle.

..... i don't like the idea of missionaries. in fact the whole business fills me with fear and alarm. i don't believe in God, or at least not in the one we've invented for ourselves in England to fulfill our peculiarly English needs, and certainly not in the ones they've invented in America who supply their servants with toupees, television stations and, most importantly, toll-free telephone numbers."

i haven't quite sorted out what i do believe yet, but i'm very sure of what i don't. every time i see a magnificent church building, i'm, i confess, impressed, because i do appreciate architecture and beauty, but my next thought is often, "the cost of that could have fed, clothed, and housed a lot of deserving kids." and, like Albert Schweitzer, i believe we are our brothers' keepers. the affluence and decadence we're surrounded by, when there are hungry and homeless people who have done harm to no one, is a blot on our society, and on our humanity.

the argument that one person can't make a difference is a self deceiving lie. everything we do, no matter how small, has an impact, and makes ripples that have impact. we need to give careful thought to every facet of our lives - what we model for and teach our children; the kinds of homes we choose to live in; the kinds of foods we choose to eat, and where they come from; consumer choices about who we buy from, what we buy, and why we buy it; the way we treat our neighbors and our communities, near and far. each facet has an impact. our circle of influence may appear to us to be small. we may never see the cumulative effects our small acts of responsible stewardship and kindness have. this doesn't mitigate the importance of doing them.

Friday, February 27, 2009

home cookin'

while he was here helping prep the house for sale, eldest son asked for a lesson in bread making. his first batch of 3 loaves of whole wheat bread was perfect. and he was justifiably proud of his accomplishment.

Monday, February 23, 2009

still dreaming

i got this picture of the Saskatoon ReStore posted, then got interrupted before i managed to say anything about it. i wish this was my store, but no such luck. our first store will most likely be much smaller and less impressive. i've been working with my son, who's been visiting from the Yukon for 2 weeks helping with finishing the house and getting it ready for sale. when it's cleaned up and de-constructioned, i'll post some pictures. but not much has been happening on the ReStore front as a result. i wish there were 3 more of me.

the Saskatoon ReStore is a renovated curling rink. back where the kitchen and viewing areas were, there are now 9000 sq Ft of offices for Habitat and other not for profit groups.... not accessible from the ReStore, and treated as a separate building, with separate entrances, etc, for fire code reasons. the building is super insulated, and has a floor that's perfectly level & smooth. without a crack or a bump throughout.... you could... well, you could curl on it! all very well organized and busy. very impressive.

on a different track, the visiting lad has confessed to an interest in domestic things while here, so he's taking the pressure canner and a few useful things back with him when he goes home on Thursday. and, in the process of packing up books, we came across an old journal from the time when he (age 6 months), his dad and i left alberta for the yukon. stories of his dad taking 20 shots to shoot a squirrel (we ate a lot of squirrel for a while) and notes about brining and drying salmon, finding a cabin to winter in, etc. it's the closest he'll ever have to the 'baby book' many parents keep of their child's first years. i think i'll post some of the stories from it here, when there's time.

Friday, February 6, 2009

7 sleeps

this is the finished side of our current Habitat for Humanity duplex, and the family who now own it. taken the day of their home dedication cerimony. a certain grannyfiddler/harpist we know provided the music.

today, a team of 9 of us from the evil oil company i work for spent the day on the other side, painting, installing light fixtures and emptying the basement of unneeded construction materials. so, obviously, the people working for the evil oil company aren't evil. they're actually mostly a really terrific bunch of people, and there are very few of them that i'm not going to miss, when, in 7 sleeps, i'm finished there. but i won't miss the corporation. and here's why.... after months of hearing boasts from the bigwigs in the headshed about what a phenomenal year the company has had, (record breaking profits) and how well positioned it is relative to others in the industry, first, annual employee bonuses were cut, then the BIG CRUNCH was announced. this is an old field. it's expected to produce well for another 15 years even without major new exploration. we're very far from the centre of the universe, where the head office, and all the 'important' people are, so, by oil compay standards, we run pretty lean. oil exploration has been cut everywhere in alberta.... mostly a political response by the big corporations to drive home the point that they are very unhappy about the new royalty regulations initiated by the current government. so even without new wells to develop known reserves in the area, this field pours money into their coffers faster than they can count it. for those who aren't in on oilco jargon, reserves are those quantities of oil and gas that are known to exist in land the company in question has the mineral rights for. it's like money buried in the back yard, left to you by very rich, Great Uncle Fred who thought of you as the child he never had. you know it's there. you know it's a LOT. all you have to do is go get it.

so, when i handed in my resignation, my area superintendent was astonished to be told that they couldn't afford to replace me. they could have afforded to keep me, but they can't afford to hire someone else to do the same job. now i'm not young enough, or pretty enough that they just kept me around because i was so ornamental, and there's no slack in the department where i work that can be taken up to make sure the work i do gets done when i'm gone. and if it doesn't get done, the maintenance department in a field where most of the work done IS maintenance, will have some serious trouble getting its bills paid (cuz i'm the one who paid those bills for them) ...and if the bills don't get paid, people sending those bills are going to make damned sure no more bills are run up. and i'm not the only one this whole chain of events has occurred to.... no one's very happy with me in that office right now. i really am counting the sleeps till i leave. trying not to feel guilty, but of course i do anyway, because the mess is left in the laps of people who, for the most part, i've enjoyed working with.

so, after spending a day painting doors and playing gopher to a crew of 20 volunteers who're all there to help a single mum with 4 kids have her own home.... after explaining the philosophy of Habitat For Humanity to those who came, who'd never heard it before, seeing the delight in their faces when they heard it.... after a day of hard work, watching them all trudge through the snow to their vehicles, tired and dirty and smiling, some asking when they could come back..... i came back to my daughter's place, where i'm staying the weekend, had a long, hot, delicious bath, and checked the email and the blog. Lindsay Lobe had posted about Albert Schweitzer and his philosophy "Reverence for Life"..... and i thought, "how appropriate; the perfect ending to the perfect day." and i knew i was doing exactly the right thing trading the oilpatch for the 'philosophy of the hammer' as HFH's principles have been called.

and i'm happier than i've been in many years.