Tag Archives: Canada

The day I learned I loved Lucien Bouchard, or love thine enemies

Do you hate your enemies? Are you sure?

Photo from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

In 1994, I learned I loved an enemy.

In 1989, the Progressive Conservative majority government in Canada appointed Lucien Bouchard Minister of the Environment. But in May 1990, Bouchard resigned abruptly from his Progressive Conservation party. A few months later he and a group of colleagues formed the Bloc Québécois, a political party with the mandate of promoting Québec sovereignty.

To me, and to much of Canada, Bouchard’s actions were a shocking betrayal and an alarming threat to our country. I cherish the rich Francophone culture here, and I love Québec as part of us. Here in the National Capital Region, Québec is just a short canoe ride away. I don’t want to have to take my passport to enjoy Winterlude activities.

I seethed with anger at Bouchard. I wished him all kinds of ills.

Then, in the early morning hours of November 30, 1994, I opened my front door and retrieved my newspaper. The headlined declared the sudden, severe illness of Bouchard, in a Montreal hospital suffering from necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating disease. The disease can kill a person very quickly.

The news shook me. Sure, I was angry at him, but I didn’t want that to happen. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

The next day, doctors amputated Lucien Bouchard’s leg.

When I read the newspaper headline that day, I found compassion for Bouchard as a fellow human being. I didn’t like his actions (still don’t) and he held opinions different from mine, but we shared common ground as people just trying our best to make it through life following our convictions.

Since then, when I find myself seething with anger at someone’s actions, I try to remember Bouchard. I ask myself, “Would I wish flesh-eating disease on this person?” The answer is always no.

Years later, my husband and I went to an Ottawa Lynx baseball game. We sat in the sun in the high bleachers listening for the crack of the bat. A man with a cane slowly climbed the steps toward us. I smiled and nodded at him. He smiled and nodded at me. Lucien Bouchard sat right across the aisle from me, and we watched the baseball game together.

And, oh yes, we cheered for the same team.

In-AccuWeather and “Be Here Now”

Lake-LouiseWhen you can’t plan, you must accept.

This is the lesson from our week in the Rocky Mountains.

Weather forecasting here, we have to assume, comes with challenges. We’ve never experienced such changeable and unpredictable weather forecasts. We live in Ontario, Canada where we see weather systems moving in from a long way off, undisturbed by geological formations or mountain ranges. Here? Every weather forecast should read: “Honestly, we have no idea what’s going to happen.”

More than once we checked the weather in the evenings and made plans for the next day. The next morning, we awoke to a completely different forecast, exactly the opposite of what was said only 12 hours before. In the evenings, as gentle snow fell outside our window, we visited AccuWeather sites that told us it was currently sunny. We started called them In-AccuWeather sites.

We had to give up planning our outings and just wake up in the mornings and accept.

It returned us all to the ancient meditative practice of living in the present moment, which just might be the most valuable gift we received out of our vacation time.


Laughter: the language we all speak


Laughter… (Photo credit: leodelrosa…)

When you meet someone new, do you try to find something in common with that person? There is one thing we share with everyone: laughter.

I usually work from home, but in February I started a two-month contract at an office in downtown Ottawa. On my lunch hour every day, I go for a walk around the streets of Canada’s capital. As I walk, I entertain myself by guessing what language the groups of people I meet will be speaking. English and French reflect the bilingual nature of Canada. I hear them both often. But on Parliament Hill, anything goes. Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Italian . . .. Tourists come from around the world to visit our beautiful city.

One afternoon I approached a group of people in animated conversation. I ventured a guess—French? Just when I got close enough to hear, the group burst into loud laughter. They laughed heartily until I was well past. I never did hear what language they were speaking.

I smiled as I walked on, because I realized it didn’t matter. They were speaking a universal language.

Photo by tsaiproject Creative Commons Attribution

Parliament Hill – Ottawa, Canada
Photo by tsaiproject Creative Commons Attribution

Our thoughts are now free: no more pennies

canadian-penny“Penny for your thoughts?”

Rounded down, our thoughts are now free, so Canada is a country of free thinkers for certain.

For the non-Canadians in my audience, Canada discontinued distribution of the penny, a coin that cost more to make than it was worth, so retailers now round cash transactions up or down to the nearest five cents. An item that costs $1.01 or $1.02 costs $1.00, while an item of $1.03 or $1.04 costs $1.05. (Electronic transactions remain calculated to the penny.)

This affects Canadians at their heart centre—our famous Tim Horton’s doughnuts franchise. Tim Horton’s made a practice of pricing their food items out to the most inconvenient total possible. I don’t have scientific proof to back this up, but I suspect Tim Horton’s franchises kept more pennies rolling than any other business in this country. But now—the mind boggles—a coffee could be $1.50, not $1.51. Oh, praises be!

And rounded down, our thoughts are now free, so choose good ones and share them freely.

From bikinis to burqas

I went to the bank to make a deposit last week. Ahead of me in line was a young women wearing a bikini top and shorts that were about as short as they could be and still qualify as shorts. If I had seen her at a beach, I would not have given her a thought. But in front of me in line at an ATM, there was just way too much skin way too close to me. I thought, “Why couldn’t she cover up just a little to come and do her banking?”

About three minutes later, as I walked out of the building,  I met a woman going in who wore a burqa. The sight of a woman covered head to toe on a sweltering humid Ottawa summer day startled me. I thought, “Why couldn’t she uncover just a little to come and do her banking?”

I laughed at myself. Upon coming face to face with two extremes in a short time, I wanted one woman to wear more, and then I wanted another woman to wear less. I wanted them to be more, well, more like me.

Then another thought crossed my mind. What a society we live in. We live in a country where all three of us can wear what we feel comfortable in, and it’s okay.

What a gift that is.