Algonquin Highlands Writers
Baby Owls (Linda Reid)
The Baby Owls and their Loving Parents
For several winters, I spent my time on Fripp Island, South Carolina. Fripp is a barrier island some five islands
out from Beaufort. It’s three miles long and one mile wide – too cold for southerners, but just right for the 400 or so winter residents who come mainly from the north.
Migrant birds come through in March heading northward. Owls and hawks,
however, like to raise their young there.
One morning, a friend, Debbie phoned to say that the long-eared baby owls had hatched and both babies were now sitting in the nest looking out. Tom, the owner of the house where the nest was located, said we
could come up on the deck for a better view.
Several weeks passed and those of us who were following the progress of the owlets watched quietly with great expectation.
One morning Debbie phoned to say that a catastrophe had happened; the female,
the larger of the two, had fallen out of the nest and landed on the palm tree below. The smaller male was out some three feet on a branch on the other side of the nest. Both birds looked completely stunned.
In the meantime, Tom had swung into
action and was getting ready to go over to the Fripp Island Volunteer Fire Brigade. The plan was to bring the engine over and put the female back in the nest.
I couldn’t believe my ears, so I quickly got dressed and headed to Tom’s
house, hopefully before the Fire Brigade.
Tom was inside pacing up and down the living room with Betsy his wife in the corner with her coffee, rolling her eyes as only wives can do.
If those birds are put back into the nest, I told Tom, speaking
with all the authority I could muster, they will surely die. These owlets have to strengthen their wings and learn to fly and then they have to learn to hunt before their parents leave them to fend for themselves.
Most likely, I continued, those
loving and attentive parents had pushed the larger female out of the nest. This is part of the fledgling process. Perhaps they had even built the nest, so that the palm tree was directly underneath. Could we just wait for four or five days and see what
The parents continued to feed both birds, especially the male who needed fattening up. Several days later the female was gone leaving the small male alone on the branch. We could hear the parents in the forest encouraging and prodding
the stronger female to fly. Some days later the smaller male also left.
This same kind of situation can sometimes happen to us spiritually. We get cozy in the nest that we have made for ourselves. We do all the right things mind you– attend
services, read our Bible, do our part in outreach activities and pray as best we can at home. And some of us actually live under A Rule of Life.
But God, our loving parent, may have different plans for us. In the middle of the night when all is
dark, we too can be plucked from our cozy nest, taken to the edge of a precipice and gently tossed into the dark abyss. Down, down, down we go -feeling that death is not far off.
Just as the owlet landed on the palm tree, we too land with
a thud at the bottom, the bottom of what we are not sure – at the bottom of our souls, at the bottom of our consciousness; we simply do not know.
At least Alice when she went down the rabbit hole got to experience Wonderland.
like those owlets, we too are stunned and quite shaken. It’s dark in there and in moving about we stir up old memories, old situations, unresolved grief and emotional childhood traumas -things that are not in our conscious thoughts, not in our conscious
minds. Many things we thought we had resolved years ago come to the surface again.
I found myself in such a situation several months ago. It had been building up for several years. I was bombarded -almost overwhelmed - by things coming from very deep
within me - from a part of me I had not known before. Those old childhood traumas, old memories and things that I had not known about myself came to the surface. But what are we to do with all this garbage?
Let’s go back to birds for a minute.
They can teach us a whole lot. I thought about those two owlets. Young birds in the nest defecate in small white bags which are called “fecal sacks”. The parent then takes these sacks and throws them out of the nest keeping the nest clean
and free from parasites.
I decided to take some of these new revelations, examine them and put them in imaginary “fecal sacks” and let them float to the top of this long dark hole.
How long will I have to do this? I don’t
know. Will I ever get out of this hole? Will I ever get out of this darkness? I think so. Patience and prayer will help.
“O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”
There seems to be only two
paths. The first is - figuratively speaking – to get the Fire Brigade to put me back into my comfortable nest, for I say that I am too old for this; it’s too hard on me. But this will surely mean a kind of spiritual death –just as the baby
owls would have died if they had been put back into their nest.
The second path is to just hang in there, waiting and trusting that this is God’s way, trusting it will lead to a deeper conversion in Christ – to a self that is more whole
- free from the many conflicting voices within, free from all obstacles that prevent me from resting in the Lord, from abiding in him and serving him with a quiet mind and loving heart.
Is there really any choice?
Mukin Mutaal's poem 2
with the Coronavirus
- Hey dude, what are you up to?
- What am I up to? What are you up to?
- I am up to nothing. I am just doing my stuff. My work, my job, taking care of myself, and others.
- Hey, I am not talking
about you as one person. I am talking about you as human beings. You are all spread out on the earth, taking over everything,
- Oh, I see, you mean, we human beings as a species.
- Yes, you got that right. You human beings as a species, what you are up to?
- O God! I don’t know. It is a hard question. As human species, I don’t know what we are doing, what we are up to.
- So go figure that out before you ask me what I am up to.
- Hmmm (long silence) … what we are up to? We are up to – creating wealth, making things, making money, just
doing, doing, doing …
- go on, go on …
- We have all these countries, these states, these boundaries, these odd singularities, archaic divisions, and everyone
is looking after themselves, individuals or states and societies. Common humanity is nowhere to be seen. We have created a lot, we have amassed a lot and then there are people who are dying because of lack of food or because of wars
- Was it for this you were made. Was it for this that the creator created you?
- No, of course, not …. (long silence) …. You are really
making me defensive
- No I am not trying to make you defensive. I am just asking these questions for your contemplation. So keep going.
- Yes, we are doing terrible things.
We are killing each other; we are destroying habitats for other life forms. We are spending a lot to make bombs, missiles, and other weapons of destruction, for waging wars with each other, and maybe even you too are that weapon.
- Don’t go there .. just keep going on what you are doing to this earth, this planet, your home, your mother … (whispers imperceptibly – mother fucker) … This home is as much as yours as it is mine. So what you are doing does
not stop with you. So continue with your contemplation.
- (silence ..) Yes, we are creating havoc doing all this what we think are very smart things … what fools we are … we are thinking we can conquer
nature, we extract from it everything to make things for our luxury and enjoyment. Our motto is keep the economies growing; produce, consume, more and more, and more … and in this unbridled cycle of produce and consume, we are just worried and concerned
about ourselves. Not with humanity, not with nature, with other life forms, not with the mother earth … But wait a minutes, what all this is to do with you Mr. Wiseacre Corona,
- (Deep Sigh) Look inside yourself;
look deep and you may find the answer.
- But I asked you first what you are up to? And you put it back on me, what you are up to, what we are up to. You multiply like crazy when you get the host. And you chose
us as our host. We did not invite you.
- Aha … You did not invite me. Think about that a little. Have you heard about the chain reaction? Have you heard about the cause and effect principle. Do you know about
Karma. Do you know the inter-dependence of things? How things are created from one to another. The chain of dependent origination. Do you know Buddha? Go read something.
- Oh God. Why don't you give me a straight
- (Laughs) Do you think there are straight answers to convoluted questions.
- Silence) OK, so this dependent origination has to do with your becoming our guest
– uninvited guest – Mr.
- One way or other you did invite me. If you were taking care of the way you inherited this place, this earth and maybe the creator made you responsible to take care of that and
you never realized that.
- Yes I know.
- When you do all those thing is there not a humongous an imbalance. So what happens with an imabalance - an illness, a disease.
So you see where the invitation lies and you are my host. My dear host. You invited me. So I am here. And let me enjoy your hospitality.
- (Long silence) Yes, I see all that. But what you are up to.
- I am up to enjoying your invitation. That is all.
- Yes, I am speechless. I don’t know … don’t know what are the answers to our dilemma. Our existential
angst. As far as I am concerned I try to live my life as much as in balance I can. And I wish that we all wake up and heed to that call to wake up and straighten our act before it is too late, unless it is already. God, I want no poverty, I want no wars, I
want no illness. I want no ignorance. I want well being of all sentient beings and their freedom of suffering and their freedom from causes of suffering. I pray for enlightenment and empowerment so we can walk on the divine path and may we co-create again
the kingdom of heaven on earth, our paradise lost Amen
- Amen, may you be safe from the harm of things that get created for a reason. Good bye.
Doug Aldworth "If You Think It Will Help"
If You Think It Will Help
If you think it will help
Without so much as a whimper or a yelp
If you think it will help
However, I am a man
A plain seeker of wisdom
Coming from wild places
wild spaces where nature holds counsel
Adorned in all her beauty
Smelling of life, with dark fecund soils
Weaving the intricate tapestry of interdependent
Yes, I have succumbed to her beckoning beauty and belonging
This same weaver, our Great Mother
Has woven into this tapestry a vast array of viruses
Agents of genetic upgrade
To whose ranks belongs the infamous Covidia
Covidia, she has been here all along
Covidia is the mistress of shape shifting
She is SARS Cov-2 one year, Covid 19 the next, B117, B1351….
You get the gist
She is here to
bust the ramparts
Of oppression and control
Annihilate the commodification
Of what is sacred and lacks integrity
But don’t take my word for it
Look at the stats, perverse profits
Over-the-top galactic Sunshine Lists
Of those leaking the poison
And then ask yourself
Preferably, before you take
Is Covidia all we are making
Her out to be?
Is She spraying the pesticides
That are killing our soils
Killing our pollinators
our gut linings?
Is She the one responsible
For the almost exponential growth
Rates of Autism, Auto Immune
Cancer and Cardio Pulmonary dis- ease?
Let’s not forget
The absolute mind blowing
Rates of opioid overdose
And mood-altering drug use
Oh-yeah, but who really cares
Who really wants to dig deeper and meet the blank stares
Of a million junkies; after all these are the flunkies
The one’s who “don’t belong” – am I summing-up
the collective response?
Look at us, tearing ourselves apart
Fighting over diminishing bread crumbs
It can be another way
We can go forward another way
“Hi, my name is Covidia and I am here to stay
If you think I have not been here all along
Or somehow, you can hunt me down
Extirpate me like some unwanted vermin
But seriously, let’s get real
Isolate, populate, dominate
Do what you need to do,
Numb-out the feel, take the jab
If you think it will help.
Mukin's Poem: Is it I or Is it Thou?
Is it I or Is it Thou?
Call: How do you live your Life?
Response: I do not live my life...
no, no, I don't ... it is not I
It is, it is Life that lives me
It lives like a flowing stream
over pebbles, stones,soft sands
meandering through stumbles,
straight through the open lands
it persists on its path and carve its ways
it shapes the rocks, the shores, the mud, the clay
sometimes it is quiet like the falling snowflakes
sometimes it sings the rapids and the waterfalls
it echos in hills,valleys and upon fields of grass
sometimes it does not have a song and murmurs some talk
no one can know what it is up to, where it will go, how it will run
stream is a stream, made up by thousand drops that are spun
are brought together by thousands invisible hands
what a bliss to host the pains and pleasure of this magic band
the roller coasters, the orbiters, the spins, the trains
the pavilions, the treehouses, the boats, the islands, the trails
lives through me; I am just a kid in a candy store
With yearnings, with heartbreaks, with awe and joys untold
Writing for the Self
Mindfulness Way to Wellness
Connie Neil's reflection on these times
YEAR ONE OF 50 (by Connie Neil)
North America was only two weeks into the CoVid19 pandemic when governments bowed to the CDC guidelines and emptied the streets of all
but masked persons.
A woman was charged a $100 fine for simply being in a public park that police said was closed. I found it hard to believe and
thought where do the homeless go? Our local library ran a book chat group that was voluntarily cancelled. I complained that we could still meet but sit apart. But, no. Then they closed all the libraries.
It happened so quickly, so completely, nobody was sure they were doing the correct thing, but in the main people cooperated and stayed home. Although the school teacher strike in Ontario
was active CoVid19 made no difference to the students learning online and finally home-school activities took over and all levels of education closed. Would they have complied so willingly had they realized the closure was permanent?
I was alarmed staying home, pleased the TV cable added free channels of no-ad movies to entertain the populace. Was this the leading edge of the fifty dark years that spelled finish to
the most future-looking civilization this world had ever seen? Or would ever see again?
The books by Hank Wesselman tell the story of his sudden meeting
5000 years into the future with his descendent, a servant to a Chief then located on the western shore of what was a California inland sea –a newly-formed sea.
Descendent Nainoa has a height near seven feet like the ruling class but has no royal family connection. On their first meeting Hank sees the Hawaiian scatterlings, (who canoed in 130 years previous, forming land divisions ruled by chiefs), are vacating the
land to avoid invasion by a threatening neighbour: they prefer to leave rather than battle. Nainoa is ordered to travel inland to see if there are any horses on the other side of the barrier mountain.
This is a highly disciplined culture: men and women eat separately, live separately. Women make all ruling decisions: men increase status through marriage to high-born women. Women inherit and carry all
lineages. That's the society from Hawaii that settled on the coast – took them several voyages to make it to the mainland. And Nainoa's chief hopes he will bring back news of more civilization, not only the needed horses.
As we join Nainoa on his explorations we learn what our world became 5000 years hence. No metals survived—all rusted away. Nothing is manufactured. Although he is well-suited to
the land, a roving long-horn bull attacked and tossed the wounded man through the air and, fortunately, raced away leaving Nainoa to tend his wounded thigh. And in that wounded condition he is approached by several dogs, or perhaps prairie wolves.
Ready to defend himself he hears a whistle that the animals alert to and turn away. It is a woman with skin paler than his, minimally dressed in an apron-like leather
skirt. Lurching up to stand Nainoa said his name and placed his hand on his chest and smiled. So fascinated by this tall wild-looking woman he failed to notice an older man seated under a tree who rose, with his hand on his own chest and announced, "Gwil-yom",
so like the English William, a hint to the tribe's source. He pointed to the woman and said "Ken-o-je-lak", the mistress of the pack. They prepared a branch sling to drag him back to their family encampment for healing and much more. These nomad people
are made up of Ennu combined with French Canadian stock living in tents, moving on when food runs out.
To learn the story of these three future personalities
from two separate cultures, read the Hank Wesselman trilogy that is available on the internet. I find it hopeful that there is a viable planet, animals, people and culture that places women in leading roles and that meditation and harmony are valuable practices
of that future world.
As these three books chronicle life 5000 years hence we see that the hunter-gatherers on the prairies and the one-time Hawaiians
on the west coast are all who are left on the North American continent –and although Hawaii was declared part of the USA—there are no Americans. What happened to them in the fifty dark years that these two historians try to discover? Visiting back
and forth in each other's body they are curious as to what happened to completely wipe out that population. Mind you, all they can experience is North America. It is probable that small groups of people, like the original Hawaiians on their home islands, have
survived and form communities in other continents.
I too am most curious about what happened.
It isn't just that CoVid19 shut all socializing down: there were already problems with the environment, the rising sea levels, and refugees streamed from incompatible land and violence for a number
of years. In the United States the antagonistic President damaged the spirit of his people and enraged international leaders with broken agreements and rude behavior. Race riots and protests by abused females further brought chaos into their beloved marketplace.
Wars everywhere blossomed anew. Psychiatry orchestrated a flurry of ad campaigns over all media urging upset people to accept mental health problems as stigma-free, and to come in and be treated, and always to donate. Police and other militaristic forces,
who previously refused any therapy for the horrors of their work because they were bullied and lost jobs for seeking help of any kind, over-reacted: suicide numbers for this group soared, and were ignored again.
Transportation of every kind on all levels was reduced to essential travel. Borders closed to all but imperative use, usually market-driven need. Churches close. Ditto entertainment. No lounging over restaurant
meals and drinks. The bulk of business operations are run from private homes for those who have the equipment and the drive.
And another winter brought
vaccine hope: spring greens the fields.
Mukin Mutaal: Last Sunset of 2020
Last Sunset of 2020
I was young, very young in the 60s, I recall how I wondered if I will be alive to see 2000. And how it will feel about writing the year that does not have 19 in it.
it has been 20 years since 2000 has passed. And one-fifth of 21st century is ending by the end of this day
Now I am thinking about how it will feel to see 2050. What
Who knows what is possible and what is not. And in what way?
we just our bodies? Or there is more?
The depth of the mystery of life is way beyond the numbers conjured by the shrewdness of the human brain.
The calendars, the clocks, the time captured in the frames created by mind.
Is there really
a thing called time?
What is time anyways when the mathematics of Einstein shows that it can be turned backward.
But we all know it does not turn back the way things move.
The same water does not run under the bridge twice.
So either the math of relativity theory is wrong, or it just shows that time is an invention of human ingenuity to organize itself in the societal fabric.
If we had no civilization, will we need time? We will not have crops to sow and harvest. We will not have to keep track of seasons. If we had no commerce and ships to sail, who will need to keep track of
That is how human consciousness works.
Once our forefather and
foremother, Adam and Eve, ate the apple from the tree of knowledge, we became the tools of consciousness that creates all kinds of webs, and they are only like cobwebs in the bigger scheme of things. That is why they were warned to not eat from the tree of
The heaven of natural living was sacrificed at the altar of the consciousness, which had rebelled as it wanted to manifest itself.
So here we are. Our eternal dilemma that stares straight into our eyes is how after foraging the pasture of consciousness for millions of years, we can bring back a balance to our
existence. A balance where the consciousness grows beyond the mechanics of existence and move into the biology of living.
The 2020 of the Gregorian calendar
is only a small mark on a long unmeasurable path that we are traversing.
And so are the other calendars that various civilizations have developed, forgotten or layered
over by the calendar of the dominant culture in this world of infinite diversity.
By Mukin Mutaal
December 31, 2020
Creative Writers Write!
Welcome all who send me their writings from our Algonquin Highlands Writers Circle. During this time when we cannot meet, especially, you are welcome to post your writings here by sending them to me first; then other circle members can offer comments.
Jane Braithwaite's Speech
Our Changing World - Education is the Key
Children are our most precious gifts!
Like seeds BURSTING with potential,
born to grow, to flourish, to blossom.
Children require nurturing caregivers, like gardeners, who passionately tend their gardens daily.
Children are inquisitive, full of questions,
no preconceived ideas.They like who they are and feel good about themselves.
Until their roots are damaged by outside forces.
I left occasional teaching in an ethnically diverse city in the late 90s to
teach occasionally in an ethnically starved City.
Shortly after my move I had a kindergarten assignment. I met the kinders at the outside door and took the leader’s hand. I
led the class
down the hall to their room. We were nearing the classroom when I heard a little voice ask me “Are you dirty? Why are you that colour?” I looked down. The child who’s hand I was holding was carefully studying the back of my hand. “No”,
I replied, unabashed, “I am not dirty and if you wait ,I will tell the whole class why I am this colour.”
Can you walk in the shoes of a 4 or 5 year old Black
child? Could you imagine how they would feel fending those questions?
After we had finished morning classroom routines I gathered the students on the carpet in front of me and
proceeded to give them an age appropriate African history lesson.
I am happy when students ask me questions about my
race. Those are the
teachable moments I relish.
Education has changed. Diversity is included in the curriculum.. (Whiteway)
remember my grade 7 social studies teacher in the 60s, during the civil rights days in the U.S. He thought the world would be better if everyone was beige. Hmmm?
Thank goodness times have changed. Celebrating diversity builds strong self confidence roots. Diversity makes a beautiful garden!
I live in
Canada’s most diverse province. In 2009 the Ministry of Education launched an Equity and Inclusive Education Plan..
Equity recognizes we all don’t
start from the same place and acknowledges fairness as treating people differently according to their needs.
The plan created an education system, fairer and more inclusive
for all students, educators and staff, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other factor related to individual identity.”
Today’s curriculum is more
inclusive than it has ever been as a result of that plan.
I clearly remember teaching a grade 6 math class. I asked the students to take out their math textbooks and turn to the lesson their teacher had left for
All of a sudden I heard a student shout “Look! He’s wearing a turban” That was the first time I had seen a South Asian person in a textbook.. The student who yelled out BTW was the only South Asian student in the class.
I GOT IT! I empathized with that student. I knew exactly why they couldn’t contain themself. I attended school in the 50s and 60s. I never saw anyone looking like me in a textbook.
There is more to this story. WHO DO YOU THINK THE MATH TEACHER LOOKED LIKE?
WAITED 60 PLUS YEARS TO SEE MYSELF IN A TEXTBOOK.!
IMAGINE! A BLACK MATH TEACHER WITH AN AFROAND she waswearing glasses. It was surreal! When I said I had never seen myself in a textbook I meant a Black person.. Never in my wildest dreams would I have
considered seeing my real
self as a teacher
in a text book.
There was a student in a wheelchair in that same math lesson. THAT’S WHAT INCLUSIVE EDUCATION LOOKS LIKE AND FEELS LIKE.
February is Black History Month in Canada. It’s the celebration of the achievements, accomplishments and contributions to the world made by people of African descent .
Schools now celebrate it. A warm feeling floods through me when I walk into schools with visual signs
of Black History Month. I
see Black students stand a little taller and bloom brighter when they learn about the achievements of their people.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL FEB to Attend a Black
event, watch a Black documentary, read a black author, or do anything to learn more about Black people. Some day there will be no need for a Black History Month.
world IS changing. People who were never
seen years ago are now becoming part of the mainstream. There is still room for more inclusion. I have faith in this generation, ROOTED in inclusive education, to make space for everyone.
Nobel Peace prize winner Nelson Mandela said “Education
is the greatest weapon we have to change the world’