Monthly Archives: September 2016

A daisy chain for Anna

annaMy grandmother passed away a few days ago, and I will be at her funeral tomorrow morning.

She’s been unwell for a while so her passing was not unexpected. In fact, I have been thinking about writing this blog about her for over a year without having found the strength to string any words together until now.

I’m not a sentimental person. I spend very little time thinking about what is done except when a memory can help me move forward. Even in mourning I find myself thinking about today.

The picture below is of four generations. The woman at the centre is my great grandmother, Ada. On the left is her daughter, my grandmother Anna. On the right is my mother and Anna’s daughter, Margaret. The babe in arms is me.


In the past week I have thought fondly of moments, items and traditions that link me to these women, and my grandmother in particular.

I remember spraining an ankle because I jumped on Grandma’s couch even after she told me not to. I have a photo of me taking my first steps in an emerald green velvet dress she sewed for me, and I have the pattern she used to make it. I remember sitting at her old sewing machine while she helped my sew clothes for my baby on the way. I remember when she helped me give him his first bath. I use her pastry recipe when I make my Christmas butter tarts.

I cherish these little memories of her, but what I value most is the differences between our lives. The gulf of experience between the babe in arms and the woman who holds her is immense.

nowthatwearepersonsAda was born before women could vote. My grandmother Anna was born seven months before women were recognized as persons under Canadian law. My mother Margaret was born seven years before Canada passed The Female Employees Equal Pay Act. I was born the year after Prime Minister Lester Pearson established a Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

The world – my world – is a better place for each step forward taken by generations before me. My life is better for what each generation of women have passed on to me.

I recently read an article about the ‘mother wound’: the pain of being a woman passed down through generations of women in patriarchal cultures.

grandmahillI feel this wound as part of mourning. I feel not only the loss of my grandmother, but the final and irrevocable loss of what she wanted to be, could have been, and would have been had she been born when I was. I feel guilty that I have achieved that was out of her reach.

How do I reconcile that with my continuing pursuit of happiness? How do I avoid carrying the guilt of continuing my journey, knowing hers is at an end? I do that by keeping her in the present. Ada, Anna, Margaret and Darcy are tied together.

No matter how far I go in life, how many more choices I have available, how much more freedom I enjoy, and how much more dignity of person I win, my life is tied to her life, and my life will be tied going forward in an endless daisy chain of of women’s experiences and dreams.

Anything I have, it belongs to my Grandmother too. She earned it with me.

I don’t have to say goodbye to her because I’m not leaving her behind. I’m keeping her in my heart, tied to me with everything I do.



Oil or Nothing: Alberta’s false dichotomy

Leduc1_WesternExaminerImage_GlenbowAs long as I can remember in Alberta our defining narrative has been oil or nothing. Which, given that I was born in Alberta in 1968 and came of age in Alberta in the 1980s, rather coincided with how the rest of the world saw the story of modern human prosperity.

Fossil fuels, the industrial revolution, automation. We used to think of it as an uphill journey we had come to the end of. But it wasn’t an uphill climb, it dipped and soared. And the journey isn’t coming to an end, the resource is.

These booms and busts became the Alberta story. In the boom everyone celebrated oil, in the busts everyone became nostalgic for oil. Getting stuck in today’s self congratulation is not future forward. Nostalgia is not future forward. Oil is not future forward.

As decades have rolled by the global mindset has shifted, and there are significant swaths of the global physical and ideological landscape that have begun to look past oil (past fossil fuels in general) and toward a future we need to prepare for.

We lag behind in Alberta. We still tell ourselves that our future is oil or nothing. Sadly our stubborn refusal to lift our heads and look down the road has meant that we have not adequately prepared for our future on the immediate horizon.

This is why I am less concerned with Alberta’s current deficit than some are. I’m not happy about it. I think it absolutely could have been avoided, but that avoidance horizon was 20 years ago. It can’t be avoided now if we want our province to be prosperous into the real and looming future.

windturbinecropWe need to bring our infrastructure up to a level that makes us competitive. We need to educate our youth to a level that makes them competitive. We need to build an economy that is competitive.

Yes, we are creating a debt that will be handed down to our children, but at least this time the debt we are creating will be offset by their prosperity gain. Debts past were handed to next generations who had less to pay the debt off with.

Our young people, and our own generation, can and should invest now in alternatives to oil. For reasons of economic stability. For reasons of environmental preservation. For reasons of lofty ambition and creativity and what makes the humans unique as a species.

Close up of a graduation cap and a certificate with a ribbon --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

So, thank you Alberta NDP for reinvesting in education. Our kids will have the means to pay back the debt because we borrowed to give them the skills for future jobs.

No more boom and bust. No more oil or nothing.