Monday, November 16, 2009

The Children's Republic


On November 14, 2009, we went to an amazing play dedicated to Dr. Janusz Korczak “The Children’s Republic.” This play is about an orphanage in Poland during the Second World War. Dr. Korczak was a dedicated doctor, who gave his life to look after the interest of children, and then he followed his young charges into the ghetto even though he could clearly have saved himself.

What impressed me were the young actors, who are children themselves and how they were able to transport back into a very dark era in our history. The picture above is the Children's Court. They were absolutely brilliant! The play was the vision of Leon Gluzman who lived in Dr. Korczk's orphanage. In this video he speaks eloquently about Dr. Korczk and his experience in the orphanage. Mr. Gluzman, 90 lives in Ottawa, Canada.

I wish I were aware of Dr Korczk and the orphanage when I visited Warsaw in the late eights as a student. It would have been interesting to visit the orphanage, which I believe is still standing. When we went to Auschwitz, I did not have the heart to actually tour the barracks because the enormity of what happened there overwhelmed me. I waited at the gate until the other students returned, all the while trying to wrap my mind around how humanity could allow this type of injustice to get as far as it did.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Remembrance on November 11 (Guest Writer)

It is November 11, just after 11 a.m. Exactly 91 years ago today, World War I ended. We commemorate this day, of course, as a day of remembrance for fallen soldiers. We wear poppies on our lapels and pause for a minute of silence.

I have always been ambivalent about Remembrance Day. War is the supreme example of the emotional immaturity of the human race, and it embodies the very worst elements of humanity. On the other hand, the extreme conditions of war provides unique opportunities for human bravery, self-sacrifice and heroism. So how can we celebrate the one while wanting to condemn the other?

Like many of my generation, my father was damaged by World War II, in ways we can only guess at now that he is gone. My mother had to raise her first child alone for more than five years until her husband came home from a German prisoner of war camp. Six years after the end of the war I was born into a family that must have been still struggling with its aftermath, a family still trying to heal from everything that happened during those wartime years.

And so the sight of poppies on lapels has always triggered discomfort in me. I want to acknowledge all the sacrifices and acts of heroism, and even of simple endurance, but at the same time I want to shout out: “Never again!”

For the last 17 years, the sight of poppies on lapels has triggered another and much, much happier reaction. Because 17 years ago almost at this minute, I said “I will” to Angelina, the author of this blog and she became my wife. My good friend, then the Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Court, Justice Roy McMurtry, presided. Present were Roy’s brother and my dear friend, who is now gone, Bill, Roy’s wife Ria, my mother, also now gone, and my good friends Wallis and Virginia Smith.

Angelina and I had met that March, about eight months earlier, but I was not until September that we had a “date.” Within six weeks of that first date I popped the question and it was only two weeks later that we were standing in Roy’s chambers uttering the magic words of commitment to one another. Apparently I was sweating profusely, but I remember being serenely happy. We took a leap of faith in each other, but even in that short time we had decided we could utterly trust each other. I think that we knew everything that we needed to know about one another.

Seventeen years have passed, and we have made a life for ourselves that I think is unique. We have found a home in the countryside, really more of a little world of our own than a home. We work together on very important work, and it sustains us both financially and in other ways.

We have made a son, our wonderful Andrew, and as he nears his 12th birthday we see both of us reflected in him, but we see him as a person unto himself.

Most of all we have created the emotional space within which we can each be fulfilled and happy. Our life is not immune from the bumps and bruises that are inevitable in human affairs, but nothing will ever call our marriage, our bond, our friendship, our love, into question. We are going to grow old together, and I think of the myth of Philemon and Baucis. If you don’t know about it you can look it up.

Angelina, I love you from the depths of my being and any success that I have achieved in these last 17 years has been made possible by the unwavering love and friendship you have given me. You have given me courage I did not know I had and you have made it possible for me to leave my self-doubts behind at least most of the time.

I hope that this short guest essay will give the readers of your blog some small idea of the special person who writes it.

All my love, Alan

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Battle between Good and Really Good

On Friday, November 6th, I received a card in the mail informing me that a parcel had arrived. Yay! Without delay, I drove to the post office to retrieve it. Receiving packages in the mail never grows old in my opinion. Even if it is stuff I ordered, it still manages to spark that twinkle in my eye, and tease my lips into a smile. What is up with that? My parcel was a box of books I ordered on-line and another special package from an aunt in England.

Two of the books I ordered are in direct conflict with one another. Actually, more to the point, the conflict is more mine than between the books. Both are about food. “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg (orangette) I first read about this summer in a blog. (Ahhh yes, Tea, I must confess to being one of the few people living under a rock because I never heard about of this book before I read of it in your blog. After your absolutely amazing review of it how could I not order it?) The other book is “The Ultarasimple Diet” by Mark Hyman, M.D. Now, herein is the conflict, two great books about food, but one is asking me to give up the best ingredients required by the other book. When I was ordering the books it didn’t occur to me that these two books would cause a battle between my taste buds and willpower.

Before the holiday season descends upon me I decided to do a detox (cleansing) thereby avoiding the dreaded New Year’s resolution and start the season all in balance. So I found myself holding both books in my hand trying to decide which to read first, in the end, my willpower won. I started reading Hyman’s book, whilst wistfully glancing at Wizenberg’s book on the coffee table beside me. Then I got a lucky break, Hyman actually recommends you prepare for the detox at least a week prior to starting the program. Enough of an encouragement for me, and so I reached across the table and picked up Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. I am so glad I didn’t wait; it is like no other cookbook I’ve read. The stories between the recipes themselves are worth the read.

My question to myself is can I continue to do that delicate dance between good and really good. Will my willpower continue to serve me, will I complete the detox and can I pick with care those recipes that are conducive to eating healthy? Like for example, the Buckwheat Pancakes on page 68! Yummy, right?

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is it You?


As fall transforms into winter, I feel in my bones that winter is about to dress the land in a covering of beautiful but cold white stuff.

Inspiring me to reminisce about...

hot sunny days,
ocean waves lapping on the shore,
blue, blue, skies,
sand between my toes,
people laughing,
hanging in the hammock,
drinking ice tea, and people watching at a sidewalk cafe,
wearing only one layer of clothing,
and most of all I miss the heat.

Somewhere out there are people who are enjoying these things I am thinking about, Is it you?

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