Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising
Silent Cove. Chance Harbour NB - My back yard.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

THE GOOD DEED




  I was a single parent of three young boys aged 5,6 and 9 when one Christmas a 'good deed' came back as a Christmas present.

  It was about two weeks before Christmas when I had some banking to do. It was that time of the month to pay the bills. Christmas was not going to be a great one far as presents for the boys went, money was tight. We'd be doing well to have a Christmas turkey dinner.

  So I did my errand to the bank and came home with my cash and sat down at my kitchen table and divided up the money with the corresponding bill statements.  Now usually when the pile of money dwindled and the last few $20's were laid on top of the last bill statement, the cash pile would become an empty space on the table. On this day there was a $100 dollar bill remaining. I immediately felt a stir of frustration, let out a big sigh, gathered all the little piles of money back up again and started over. I did this 3 times. There was no mistaking it - I had too much money.  It took only about 3 seconds to realize the bank teller had made a mistake.

  I sat and thought about what to do. Yes - I sat and debated if I should return the money. I got up and made myself a cup of coffee. I stood there looking down at the money as I sipped my coffee. The $100 bill stared back up at me. We were poor and an extra $100 would go far at Christmas. I thought of how that money could buy my little boys new boots for the winter, they needed them. I thought about how they desperately needed new socks, underwear and pajamas. I was fighting with myself about doing the right thing. That evening I called my friends and family(who are all honest people) and asked them what they would do given that they were in my situation. One threw out the idea that maybe this was God's way of helping me out, a Christmas miracle of sorts. Every single one of them said they'd keep the money.

  I thought about all the reasons of why I should keep it, and believe me when I say - I had a lot of reasons. My boys needed so much. Extra food to get through the month. Extra money paid on the bills of which I was always behind on. So many valid reasons to not return it.


  I thought about the bank teller who would have to answer for the missing money. I imagined she would have to take the heat, what it could mean for her job. She was an older woman of about 60 years of age and I was very sure she was possibly very close to retiring. The fact that the bank's books would come up short $100 did not bother me. But thinking of the teller did.

  The very next morning I bundled my boys up warm in their winter gear and off we went for a walk to the bank. We went straight to the reception area and asked the young girl behind the desk if we could speak with the manager. She complied and the manager appeared smiling and asked us to follow her as she led us to her office. Once inside I explained what had happened. I held out the $100 bill and for a moment she just stood there looking at it before she reached out and took it. Her eyes filled with tears and she said, "I wouldn't believe it if I'd not seen it for myself. I don't know of many people that would be this honest." she said. I replied, "Well this is a lesson for my boys as well. I wanted to show them to always be honest no matter what." I never mentioned how dishonesty never set well with me and I'm easily guilted about the smallest things sometimes. Sure the bank would of never known...but I would.  

  She then turned, walked across the office to a closet door, opened it, reached inside and brought out 3 very nice suede and wool baseball caps. They were very handsome hats. I thanked her and she then led us out to the teller that made the mistake.

  When we walked up to the counter the woman had her head bent involved in her work. She hadn't heard us approach the counter.  When she lifted her head the five of us were standing there grinning at her. When the manager told the teller they had found the missing $100 her look of confusion slowly changed to one of visible relief. Her jaw dropped and her mouth hung open. She raised one hand and covered her mouth.  She became very emotional, looked at me and said thank you 3 times. I knew right then in that moment that I had done the right thing. I told her not to be so thankful and said, "I had thought twice about returning it and I feel guilty about that." The bank manager spoke up and said, "It's not what you thought about that matters, it's what you did that counts."

  On the walk back home I explained to the boys that those three hats were worth almost as much as $100 and this proved that it pays to be honest. And I thought that was the end of it, until Christmas Eve.

  Christmas Eve, 8:30pm the doorbell rings. I open the door and standing there is one of the tellers from the bank. She smiles and says Merry Christmas and hands me three large gift bags. I was dumbfounded!
I could feel a lump forming in my throat. She then said,"We always sponsor families at Christmas and this year we did 3 families. We had spent all the money already and thought we were finished, but then we met you and your boys and were told of what you did and we wanted to say thank you. We'd hoped you wouldn't be offended so we did another collection of money and went shopping for the boys." Well now at this point I'm sure the tears were running down my face.

  I invited her in and we chatted for a bit and after she left, I peeked inside the large gift bags and each one had a set of pajamas, 3 pairs of socks, new packages of underwear, bags of candy, toy cars, mittens, hats and a bunch of other stuff I can't even remember.


  I placed the bags under the Christmas tree. I sat back on the chesterfield and noticed how those bags filled up the otherwise bare spots on the floor under the tree.  It made me smile.

  Later that evening I sat curled up on the chesterfield with my feet tucked under me sipping a warm cup of tea and just enjoyed the quiet of Christmas Eve, the boys were long asleep in their beds. Christmas lights twinkled from the windows and the Christmas tree. From where I sat I could also see out through the windows and smiled to myself as I took in the scene. It was snowing.  Big, fat, slow falling snowflakes. Through the snowflakes could be seen the neighbours homes all lit up with colorful lights. Beyond them, the lights of the city and further still, one little lone light caught my eye -  the Partridge Island Lighthouse that sat in the Bay of Fundy which has been guiding ships safely to harbour since the year 1791. Ships and fishing vessels put faith in her to always be there to greet them and light the way home.  She is constant. Always there. Like the Bay of Fundy -  always surrounding her, be it through the soft lapping of a slow incoming tide against the shoreline of the little island she sits upon. Or sometimes crashing high and loud against the breakwater that connects her to us.

  We all are in search of a beacon of light in our lives that will lead us in the right direction, beckoning us home where all is good and right, wherever that may be.  Truth and goodness in the world will always prevail.  Even in our darkest moments, when we feel we've given up, some small part of us, deep down inside searches for that light and sometimes we have to look through the windows in our lives, past the snowfall, past the homes and past all the lights of the city to find our one lone little light.  Look inside yourself and once you find it, follow the path the beacon has lit before you.  You'll never be lost in the dark again.

  May the Joy, Peace and Love of the Christmas season be with you dear reader. May the brilliance of a thousand beacons light up the paths that lay before you in the New Year ahead.

Until the next high tide

Natalie........................

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SCOTTIE THE CHRISTMAS TREE





My name is Scottie
and I'll need my pottie
to help me while I grow.

A little of water
and a lot of sun
will keep my healthy glow.

A few kinds words
just once a day
will keep me from the blues.

And in return
my growth will show
the love I had from you.

When spring arrives
with fresh rebirths
and newness all around.

That's when you'll pack me the truck
we'll be New River bound-
and there you'll gently take my pot
and plant me in the ground.

From there I'll grow
for years to come
a great majestic pine.

I'll feed the air
and home the squirrels
and you'll visit from time to time.

When the years have passed
and you are gone,
I'll never feel alone.

The music from your
grand-kids laughter
will make me feel at home.

My boughs will reach out for them
to wrap them in your love,
and tell them of the story
of their grand-mum up above.

They'll join their hands together
and dance their spirits free.

They'll sing the songs
of love and hope
         around Scottie the Christmas Tree.



A poem written many years ago for a dear friend at Christmas time. It was a paupers Christmas for me that year and I had wanted to give something special to my friend. So I seen this cute little potted pine tree with tiny decorations on it for sale. I purchased it but I felt that nice as it was, it was missing that special something. So I wrote this poem in scroll form, rolled it up and tied it with a red satin ribbon.

May the spirit of the Christmas Season bring you love, hope, peace and joy.

Until the next high tide

Natalie.....................


Saturday, December 24, 2011

JESUS AND SANTA, BROTHERS IN ARMS




A lone thin outline of a man sat upon a rock under a black velvet sky. He cast an even thinner shadow against  the flickering light of the campfire that burned before him. He wore a brown, cotton, loose fitting robe and old leathered sandals on his bare feet. His long hair hung loosely as he leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and his hands cupped a golden goblet of red wine. His mind had drifted deep into thought when suddenly a soft breeze lifted his hair and flames suddenly danced in the campfire. He felt him before he saw him. Without lifting his head he said, "Welcome my friend, glad you could make it". He then raised his eyes from his goblet and looked directly over the fire across from him and smiled. A deep voice spoke from the dark shadows,"Happy to be here JC! I wouldn't miss this night for all the candy canes at the North Pole!" JC's friend Nick walked out from the darkness and stepped into the light of the campfire.  JC smiled and said, " Cop-a-squat Nick, take a load off and join me old friend." "Think I will while I can! It's going to be a long night for sure." said Nick and then lowered himself onto a birch log and shifted his backside until he found just the right spot.

  Nick's hands started patting his pockets then stopped and reached into one and pulled up his trusty black pipe. From nowhere appeared a match stick. Nick held the match stick up, eyed it, blew onto the match and it caught fire. While touching the flame to the pipe's bowl he hauled long and hard and with every puff the bowl would cast a warm red glow. Nick took several quick puffs sending little clouds of smoke up into the air then blew out the match and tossed it into the fire. His eyes shifted to JC who was again looking down into his goblet of wine. He took a long draw on his pipe and blew out another puff of smoke. He watched as it floated up into the night air and disappeared. His eyes took in the star filled sky above them, he then pulled the pipe from between his teeth and said, "That's one mess of stars up there. I never tire of the view of our universe. Just beautiful!" JC looked across the fire at his friend and smiled. Nick thought to himself that his friend JC seemed unusually down. "JC my friend, I sense some melancholy from you. Would I be wrong in my assumption?" Again JC looked deep into his goblet, his brow furrowed and he let out a long sigh.

  JC looked at his old friend and asked, "How long have we known each other now Nick?" Nick's eyebrows rose, his eyes looked questioningly at JC and wondered where this was leading. He was very forthcoming with his reply and said, "In this the year of our Lord 2011, I'd say approximately 1612 years....give or take a year, but who's counting." JC took a sip of his wine and said, "Well, even though I'm not counting I do have a few years on you." "Yes you do." said Nick, he continued,"You pulling rank on me for something I'm unaware of???" JC replied, "Not at all Nick. I'm happy that you are here with me tonight."

JC turned his head and looked down through the blackness of space, past planets, moons, galaxies, nebula's and a trillion stars to the little blue and white orb suspended in amongst the constellations. Nick watched as it's reflection filled JC's eyes, and tears began to line his lower lids. And like the incoming tides of the oceans his eyes filled with tears giving the orb the appearance of a world under water. "It's my people Nick." he whispered. And like the gates of a dam opening and nothing to hold back the water his tears spilled over his lids and rolled down his cheeks.

"My heart is so full of pain...for them, for the children of God the Father. They know not what they do Nick. I work hard to remain in their hearts. I am still there, and always will be, but I'm buried so deeply under so much of the world that they are forgetting.  Not all have forgotten and it's become a battle of epic proportions for those fighting to hold onto the rest.  It's just...well, it's just that every year it gets worse. Some forbid others to publicly wish me a happy birthday. Most are not allowed to so much as utter Merry Christmas to each other."  His gaze shifted back to Nick who had been sitting quietly, puffing on his pipe, intently watching and listening to JC.

  Nick made no move to speak but continued to slowly send little white puffs of smoke up into the air. JC gazed down into his wine goblet and raised it taking another small sip. Nick quietly watched JC set his wine down and reached down next to the rock he sat on and picked up a birch log and layed it on top of the hot coals of the campfire. Tiny sprays of sparkling orange and white embers shot up, they hissed and crackled breaking the silence of the night.

  Nick shifted his position on his log and gently set his pipe down beside him. He leaned forward and picked up a long branch and thoughtfully poked at the campfire. He stirred up the embers and more flames leapt to life.  The glow from the campfire illuminated the two men, high above the earth, both very deep in thought.

  Nick contemplated JC's concerns. He mulled it over in his mind.  The fire popped and snapped as Nick shifted the log on the embers and sent up small plumes of smoke into the night air.  Nick took in a deep breath and made a smacking sound with his lips while his free hand stroked his long white beard.  His blue eyes looked at JC over the tops of the glasses perched on the end his nose.

  "What you say is true JC. I agree with you that it is indeed a painful thing. This used to be the most joyous time of the year on Earth. It was always something that almost all of humanity shared in. Rejoiced in. Celebrated together.  The whole world came together for that one day..humanity united. Do you remember JC the anticipation, the excitement of the people? How everyone was so happy, how they could barely contain their joy?  All for the love of the birth of the baby Jesus...for the love of you JC."

  "Yes this is all true Nick. But I didn't do it alone. What am I without them? What are they without me?? Remove my loving arms and I can no longer hold them in love...and I can no longer hold myself in love. We need each other.

It was through this love that you were created Nick. You were loved and wanted by me and God the father. You were blessed with an abundance of love for all living things and given the powers of miracles and the powers of healing. You touched the lives of children and sailors. Your greatest gifts were that of joy in the spirit of giving. Anytime you've touched the heart of a child you have instilled deep in them the most important and valuable gift of all and that is the gift of hope.

"You Nick, were the white shadow of my heart. To bring hope and love to everyone you touched. I was the Peace, you of the Earth, together, we were.... Peace on Earth. I have lain upon the face of every newborn babe since time began to give their souls everlasting life. Your spirit was created to renew that love and belief if just for one day of the year to re instill the belief of love and hope.  To celebrate that love and hope!  To cry out a Merry Christmas to one and to all!  To prove to the child that he has just to ask and he will receive!  And even though Nick you no longer walk the earth that the children for the most part are still asking and because you touched their parents as children they are carrying it through and their child receives!  It isn't the skates or sleds they receive but it's the love it took to create that power to fulfill those wishes.  The power of love.  The power of giving. The asking, the giving, the receiving of gifts is in a language that children understand.  They learn by example that to not only receive in love but to give in love as well, they learn that love comes in many forms.

  Nick's stare was intense as he looked at JC and noticed how the light from the campfire had illuminated him in a red-orange glow.  His face was flushed and an inner light seemed to shine from behind his eyes.  Nick watched as JC looked into the fire and took a deep breath and slowly let it out.  The flames of the campfire slowly licked softly upon itself and the silence of the night was broken by the crackle and soft hissing of the fire when Nick spoke.

 "Giving has been my lot in life.  To give in love has been the greatest of blessings bestowed upon me.  It humbles me to think of how rich my spirit is because of these blessings." Nick lay down his stick, sat back, placed both his hands on his knees and turned his head and looked down through the black vastness of space until his eyes locked in on the little blue and white orb.  He stared hard until he felt a deep ache in his heart and his blue eyes brightened with the threat of fresh tears.  Breaking his eyes away he turned his head and looked back at JC.

  " I too hear the cries of those struggling to hold on.  Those that hold tight will never let go JC." he said in a reassuring voice."  For them they will always cry out Merry Christmas!!!  They will always exclaim and celebrate how this is your birthday! As for the others, how can they ever deny Christ in Christmas!!  If they are not celebrating your birth and partaking in celebration then what are they celebrating?? Yes, yes, yes..I know what your thinking...all that pagan stuff. Well how about this...I don't believe in pagans? And while I'm on a roll what about your resurrection and the Easter Bunny?  There doesn't seem to be any problems there...so far, but if I may be frank JC, I honestly don't see what a pink bunny carrying a basket of eggs has anything to do with you coming back from the dead!"

  At that statement JC felt a smile start to spread across his face. He felt a rush of laughter pour over him. He leaned forward and grabbed his stomach and let out a long, loud laugh! Nick watched this with delight and the next thing he knew he had joined in with a loud resounding HO! HO! HO!. He grabbed his big round belly and it shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. All through space, the heavens above and below, their howls of laughter echoed, as far away as Pluto!

  It took several minutes for them both to contain the belly aching laughs.  JC leaned down and picked up the hem of his robe and brought the edge of it to his eyes and dabbed gently at the wetness he found there.  He then dragged it down his cheeks and over his beard and soaked up the tears of joy. Nick sniffled hard, removed his glasses and dragged one of his big white furry sleeves across his eyes. They then both took big deep cleansing breaths, looked at each other and smiled.

  Nick suddenly looked up over JC's head and smiled and nodded to JC to look up.  JC leaned back a bit and looked up and eight miniature angels were hovering over his head.  Their little wings fluttered softly as they smiled down at JC.  JC smiled lovingly up at them.  He then lowered his head and his eyes leveled with Nick's.  He smiled and nodded his head at Nick. Nick smiled knowingly back at JC and nodded his head in return.  Neither spoke.  They knew that it was time.

  The little angles flew over JC's head, lowered themselves before him and hovered, silently waiting.  They watched as he raised his hands to his lips and kissed the inside of each one.  When he opened his hands he layed them flat before the angels and gently blew against his palms sending out streams of colors of gold, white, yellow and green. 

  The angels opened their wings wide to receive the colors as they swirled and danced around them.  The colors stretched, twisted and twirled in the air above and around the angels. They stretched high up in the sky spinning a kaleidoscope of colors. They climbed higher and higher into space and then came to a sudden stop.  All was quiet.  All was still.

  Below, JC, Nick and the eight angels strained their necks and seemed to hold their breath in expectation.  Then silently, with no sound at all, the colors slowly started to shift and took on the shape of luminescent waves.  Ever so slowly the waves moved softly and fluidly against each other then began to blend together, no longer separate but one. They began to roll onto each other, over and over again until there were no individual trails of color, but a huge ball of gold and silver. 

  Then, it began to swell.  Silently it grew and the more it grew the more it glowed in the darkness of space among the twinkling of the stars. Then, like a balloon stretched to it's limit the ball exploded and the colors became beautiful shimmering dust of gold, silver, yellow, white and green.  It slowly floated down sprinkling everything in it's path.

   It came to cover JC, Nick and the eight angels. The angels, as if drunk on pure joy began to laugh and swoop through the air diving to and fro. They shot straight up through space leaving vapor like trails behind them. JC and Nick, their eyes skyward, stood in awe as they watched the angels write Merry Christmas among the stars. The echo of their giggles sounded like the tinkle of tiny little bells.

Then all became quiet.  Like little fireflies with their lamps turned off, one by one they lit up appearing before Nick.  Softly, slowly and silently they flapped their little white wings and with every upswing of their feathers they sent up a cloud of small fine glittering diamonds that left a halo of shimmering light around each angel.

  Nick smiled at the sight before him then bent and picked up his pipe from the log where he'd left it and slid it into a pocket and patted it there for safe keeping. He then straightened his hat. Twisted his belt into place. Dusted himself off and looked very much like a man ready for a mission.

  He looked at the angels and nodded. The angels then lined up before him, two by two behind each other with their backs to Nick. The two front angels both softly shuddered and a beautiful deep red velvet rope grew from their wings and floated back along the outer angels. The end of the rope came to rest in Nick's white gloved hands. Nick held the rope loosely in his hands and straightened himself. With the heel of one boot he nudged the birch log he had been sitting on earlier. Slowly the log began to shift and change. It seemed to be melting and wavering. Then the color changed slowly to a brilliant red trimmed in gold. It stretched long and wide. Nick bent his legs, leaned back and beneath him appeared a beautiful seat lined in white fur. He sat back and rested his feet before him. Beneath him was a sleigh of ruby red and brilliant gold and oh how it sparkled!

  Nick looked so grand in his bright red suit and snowy white beard.  All the while JC had stood and watched the transformation.  He thought to himself how Nick still had it and looked as fresh and as new as his first day on the job.  Nick held the reins in one hand  and with the other he adjusted his hat one last time.  He then smoothed down his beard and tugged up one boot.  Next he sat up straight and tall and picked up the red rope into both hands and held them straight out in front of himself.  Then he paused. 

  He turned his head and his eyes met JC's.  They looked at each other for a moment.  JC broke the spell, "Nick, go with my blessings.  Leave no heart unturned.  Jump start the broken ones.  For the lost ones, appeal to their inner child.  The heart never forgets.  Invade all hearts and leave them the greatest gift of all Nick. Fill their hearts with love, love for every living thing created under God The Father." 

  Nick felt his chest tighten and a lump form in his throat and his eyes burned bright with fresh tears.  A small smile formed on his mouth.  He looked at JC through watery blue eyes and said, "JC, I am your warrior and will fight for you for all eternity.  I will forever pierce the hearts of all with your sword of love."  It is my lot in time to give of this gift for every soul since the beginning of time."  JC smiled back at his old friend, child and brother.  He smiled and said, "My friend, you and I will always stand side by side, back to back, heart to heart and will never give up, not ever.  We will forever be, Brothers In Arms.  Godspeed to you on this nights journey.  Oh, and Nick? Merry Christmas."

Nick smiled at JC.  He then raised the red ropes up high, turned his head, looked at JC and said,"Happy Birthday JC."

JC watched as Nick and the sleigh shot off into space with 8 pinpoints of brilliant white light casting a beacon before them leading the way. JC stood there next to the campfire, a lone figure of a man and watched as Nick flew out of sight. He then turned, looked down through the black velvet of space, down past the planets, the moons, galaxies, nebula's and trillions of stars and constellations, until his eyes locked onto the little blue and white orb. A deep ache spread through his chest. Tears lined his lower lids. The planet reflected in his eyes. And like the incoming tides of the oceans his eyes filled with tears making the orb appear like a world under water.  And like a dam who's gates had been opened and with nothing to hold back the water the tears spilled over and rolled down his cheeks.  And he whispered...."Merry Christmas to all...and to all a good night."


The Kitchen Window Journalist

 As I sit and look through the window at our little cove on this Christmas Eve morning, tiny little snowflakes are floating down covering the landscape in a fine white powder. The tide is in and high. The surf is up, making it's presence known with each loud crash against the shoreline. The air today is cold and brisk and sea smoke rises from the bay lending a beautiful, soft, mystical ambiance to the surroundings. It all feels very fitting on this day of December 24th, the eve of Christmas. The decorations are hung and the baking is done and the celebrating can begin.

 At our house celebrating will not be with gift giving but with spending some rare precious time with our family. Time spent together indulging in lots of good food that we wouldn't have at any other time of the year.  We'll be watching Christmas movies and just be content to be in the moment. It will be a time of rest and reflection.

  I will also be reflecting and my thoughts will be drawn to where they always go at this special time. I give up thanks for all that I do have and not what I don't have. I'll deeply wish that for all those who have less at this time that their wants and needs are met and that their cups runneth over with joy and peace. I'll pray for the hungry to be fed and the homeless to be housed and kept warm and safe.

  I'll pray that we will all have the presence of mind to reach out to our fellow man in any way, big or small.  No matter what station you hail from on this planet, rich or poor, we are all equal in the eyes of God. We, every single one of us, need each other. We all need to believe in our own humanity, that we have the capacity to love, to believe, to give and to rejoice in these gifts.

In this cosmic world that we live in even Mother Nature takes care of her own. She'll reach out to the tall majestic pine tree and give it the sun it needs to grow tall and strong. She'll send down soft warm summer rains to quench it's thirst. She'll bring on the winds to bend it to and fro to make it strong against the storms that follow. The tree in turn will house the creatures of the forest, will feed them with her seeds and drop her needles for a bed. She will give us a place of rest, solitude and shelter. This circle of life is no mistake of nature as the laws of the universe dictate balance..and so it is. We are not just a happenstance of the 'perfect storm'. We were meticulously created with a great plan in place. From the smallest grain of sand, to the new born babe, we were brought into being by one thing. Love. The most powerful force in the universe.  

If Christmas means anything to you at all then let it be the one day of the year that you will allow love to take the reigns. For just one day allow yourself to be loved. Allow yourself to show love. Allow yourself to love yourself.  In turn, you will find the true meaning of Christmas. The meaning of life. The meaning of God.

Happy Birthday Jesus. Oh yes...and Merry Christmas Santa.

To all my extended family, relatives and friends. A very Merry Christmas to you all. Every one of you enrich my life in ways you won't ever know. Just know that I am grateful you are in my life and that I hope we will always walk this life together in love. To my readers from around the globe, thank you. We may never meet but I'd like to think that we touch each other in some special way. Thank you for the time you take to stop by.

To all of humanity.....MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Until the next high tide.....
Natalie











 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Foodies and Poverty












The following is a quote taken from google search on the definition of Foodie:

"A foodie is a person who loves or has a deep admiration for food and eating food. Does not neccesarily have to be fat, but likes eating. They might feel happy or very at peace when being around food."

Although the title sounds dark and depressive, I want to say that I will try my best, for the most part to add a dash or pinch of dark humour here and there. So starting right off with the above quote I'd like to say that I think it's funny, in a dark kind of way. I would think that we ALL have a love for food on one level or another and in that definition of what a Foodie is makes it sound like there is a group of people who are set apart from everyone else when it comes to food. To quote my husband Eric, (insert scarcasim), "I am a water connoisseur. Or, I am a fresh air connoisseur!"

Are we not all foodies? Isn't every living thing a foodie? Like bugs, they like to eat, they live to eat! Since we need food to survive and can't live without it, I'd say it's a really good thing that eating food is a pleasure and not a pain.  More than not when we have food set before us we take in a visual delight. It makes us feel good and after injesting that delight, we find ourselves feeling satisfied, happy and yes maybe peaceful, just like a Foodie.

There is also one distinctive difference between a self professed Foodies and a patron of the Food Bank and the difference is a Foodie just wants to interact with food for the fun of it. A patron of the Food Bank needs that food to semi-survive. I say semi-survive because one can't depend on the food bank to feed them more than once a month during summer months and twice a month during winter months. Each visit enough food is given to last only one week and to be clear that is not 3 squares a day for 7 days. Not meals as we would think but more like grazing and one would be lucky to have the food hold out for a whole week. Where just about anyone who wants to call themselves a foodie can do so, not everyone can say they frequent a food bank, lets face it, who would want to.

 I thought it might be interesting to take a small look into a day in the life of  what I'd like to call a Foodie Banker. Definition of Foodie Banker: 'A self professed Foodie who frequents food banks.' This is very possibly the future of Foodies if this trend of poverty continues to grow. So consider the phrase Foodie Banker coined by yours truly, you seen it hear first.  The following story is in part based on a true story. You the reader can decide what parts you think are true or not! I'm never going to tell!

THE AWAKENING


To begin, let's say a so called, self professed Foodie has a few unfortunate turns in his finances. Then, one day he finds that the cupboards and refridgerator are empty and so is his wallet. He has no choice but to go to a food bank.  He is suddenly overcome with embarrassment, humiliation, dread, hunger,..then, fear. He then feels a panic he's never known before, and it's paralyzing. He starts hyperventilating when the realization hits him, he is....poor.

IN GOD WE TRUST

Our guy finally gets in contact with the local community services and the voice on the other end gives him instructions on how to establish himself with the local food bank in his area. His first stop was the church associated with the food bank. As he enters the church through a side door he steps into what is called the hall where things like bake sales are held. The room held a lot of long tables covered with bags of day old bread, rolls and tea bisquits from a local bakery. A priest appears through another set of doors and greets him with a smile, welcomes him and tells him to help himself to as much as he wants. He first registers at another table by showing a middle aged woman his identification. She hands him back a slip of paper that he is instructed to present to the food bank. He very shyly approaches the tables of bread and helps himself to 4 loaves of flax seed bread. He keeps his head down as he leaves the church and gets to his car tossing the 4 loaves in the back seat. He then drives to the food bank several blocks away.

TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO FOODIE HAS GONE BEFORE

Our guy finds the street and then sees what must be the building of the food bank. There are a lot of people hanging around in small groups talking and waiting. Some stand alone against the wall with their heads down, seemingly deep in thought. Our guy parks his car, gets out, locks it and feeling apprehension slowly walks toward the door of the building.

He steps through the door into a dimly lit room where there are more people waiting. People turn and look and heads go up and at least a dozen pairs of eyes stare at him as he steps inside. They hold their stares with expressionless faces and he feels his face turning red and wonders why they are staring. He looks to the right and sees a small hallway with a doorway that is closed and two men leaning on either side of it.

In front of him is a staircase with about half dozen people sitting on the stairs. He looks to the left where he sees a long counter where several women are packing up bags of food. Behind the women is a large room that hold many shelves lined with canned and boxed food. Our guy approaches the counter and hands his paper to one of the women. She takes it without so much as a glance at him and quickly places it with a bunch of other similar looking papers.

"Bags." she says, "Excuse me?" he says, She raises her head and gives him a deadpan stare and again in a flat voice says, "Bags, where are your grocery bags?" Our guy stammers and feels a panic rising as he realizes he has no 'bags'. "Umm I guess I didn't think to bring any, I..I...I didn't know.", She plants both her hands on the counter, leans forward ,and looks at him over the top of her glasses and in a flat voice says,"Next time bring your own bags." "Yes Mame...sorry bout that." he mumbled. Her eyes, never leaving his face, hands him a tickett and then turns and walks away. He looks down at the tickett and sees written in black marker #49. Keeping his head down and trying to not make eye contact with anyone he shoves his hands in the front pockets of his jeans and slowly starts to wander around the room.

He is feeling awkward and self conscious when he sees two wooden tables holding cans and boxes of food. A small sign taped to the edge of the table read,"Help yourself", He approaches the table and sees a lot of canned beans, olives and chick peas. He ponders the cans in front of him and the foodie in him decides he may find some use for some beans and olives, especially the olives, he has a recipie he could use them in.

Suddenly just knowing he can use those olives made everything seem a bit easier, kinda gave him hope. So he scoops up 2 cans of beans and 2 cans of olives and cradles them in one arm. He then steps over to the next table. It holds several bottles of generic shampoo, two tubes of toothpaste, one bar of cashmere face soap and several paper back novels. He eyes the shampoo and toothpaste and thinks to himself that he won't be needy long enough to run out of his own shampoo and toothpaste and in his belief he won't be returning a second time to the food bank and that this nightmare will be over before that happens. He finds an empty spot on the wall at the end of the room devoid of people and leans against it holding his cans of beans and olives against his chest and begins waiting.

He stares at the floor not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. After a mintue or so without lifting his head he slowly raises his eyes and takes in the scene before him. Other than himself there are about 12 other people waiting for their orders and another 20 or so outside. He looks at the people sitting on the stairs that lead to somewhere else, most are not engaging in any conversation but, staring off into space, apparently bored and tired. He thinks to himself how everyone here looks tired. It was as if something had snuffed all the life out of them. One 50ish slightly balding man sits on the second stair from the bottom. He has both feet planted squarely on the floor,  he leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees, clasps his hands together, drops his head down and stares into the floor. Our guy stares intently at the man, watching his face and wonders how long he has been frequenting the food bank and of where the man's thoughts are and what his story is. Nobody was noticing our guy any longer which made him feel more comfortable somehow and he found himself relaxing a little.

                                                STANDOFF AT THE FOOD  BANK

About 25 minutes into his wait our guy finds himself staring into the floor and his thoughts drifting to what he would prepare for supper, using those olives. He just needed a few things and he hoped that he would find them in his food bank order. He began day dreaming of green and red peppers, baby carrots and mushrooms. 'Yes', he thought to himself 'A nice stir fry and cream sauce poured over a bed of savory rice. And the 'pop' of the ingrediants would be those olives.' 

Lost in his delectable day dream, a soft smile forms on his face when several more people came through the door breaking his trance, causing him to jump, which then caused 3 of the four cans that he held against his chest to slide out from under his arm. One can landed on it's end. The other two rolled off in different directions. He found one resting against the leg of a table. He then turned to see where the other can had rolled off to when he spyed a little girl of about 3 years of age running and giggling across the room. She came to stop in front of an elderly woman sitting in a straight back chair. The can of olives lay besides the woman's feet. With her big blue eyes the little girl looked up into the face of the old woman. The woman looked down at the child. A huge smile started to spread across the little girls face and a slow small smile started to grow on the face of the old woman. "Sweet little angel" said the woman, and then leaned  forward, reached down and picked up the can and held it out to the child.

Our guy is still taking in the scene from across the room watching the interchange with his can of olives. Then the little girl's chubby little hands reach out and take the can from the old woman. The child then giggles and turns and again runs back across the room with her hands out stretched in front of her, holding his olives. The child reaches the other side of the room and throws herself at another woman's knees. The can lands in the woman's lap. "Mommy!!" squeals the child. "What's this you've got?" asks the Mother. The Mother picks up the can, holds it up in front of her eyes and reads, "Olives". She looks back down at her daughter and says,"Good girl!" and hands the can back to the little girl. The little girl takes the can and turns to rest her back against her Mother's knees and proceeds to rock back and forth.

Our guy's eyes are on the can of olives when he looks to the child's face. She is looking straight at him. She is holding her tongue on one corner of her mouth and from beneath her brows watches him, expectantly, and all the while the can of olives rests in the crook of her arm.

Without thinking anything through our guy walks across the room and squats down in front of the child. He reaches for the can of olives, flashes a huge grin and says "Thank you for finding my olives!" His fingers pull on the can and the little girl tightens her arm, holding the can against her chest. "NO!!" she squeals, "But these are my olives" he says, "I dropped them over there", he half turns and points to where he'd been waiting. While still half turned his swings his head back around at the little girl. "Soooooo...can I have the can back??? Pul-eeease???", he asks. He once again flashes a cheesy grin and raises his eyebrows giving a hopeful expression. Her little mouth begins to form a pout and her big blue eyes bore into his face. Again he slowly raises his hand toward the can when it suddenly freezes midair when the child takes a deep breath filling the room with an ear piercing "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

All conversation in the room suddenly trailed off. An oppressive silence fills the room and our guy can feel all eyes boring into his back. The little girl's Mother quickly leans down and scoops her up in her arms and slowly backs away. Then a voice from behind him says,"What is your problem dude??? You trying to steal a can of food from a baby at the food bank??? Our guy brings himself to a standing position and slowly turns to face the voice behind him and finds himself staring into two faded denim breast pockets. He swallows hard as he raises his face to the angry voice. What stands before him is a wall of muscle. A very large man whose chest stood a mere 2 inches from his nose. He wore denim overhauls and a kerchief covered his bald head....and he wasn't smiling. "I will ask you one more time boy, what is your problem",

Our guy suddenly realizes what he's done or better yet, what he shouldn't of done. His mind is suddenly scrambling for his senses and his mouth goes dry and he can't speak. He trys to lick his lips and stammers "It was uh...just uh...well you see....the can of olives were...ummm...", a breathy half hearted laugh escapes him,"Not important! I don't need them!", The large man glares down at our guy and says, "Straight up you don't need them. Man what is wrong with your sorry ass?? I've heard of stealing candy from a baby, but a can of food??? Don't know what side of town ya'll are from but it isn't this side boy, I got a good mind to open a can on yo ass, a can of good old fashioned whoop-ass 'n' sees to it that ya'll be crawling back from where ya came from!", Before our guy can respond to save his life a booming voice from the back of the room yells, "Number 49!!", It is music to his ears. He looks at his near death experience standing in front of him and says, "I'm sorry, I am really sorry and I'm taking my sorry ass out of here right now." He quickly turns on one heel and makes a bee line for the counter. Every pair of eyes is still watching him. Some are glaring at him, some are laughing and some look entertained. And they were for the most part entertained making our guy become a household story that would be talked about around the dinner tables for a long time to come. The stories would all go something like..."There was this guy once down at the food bank and he tried to steal a can of food from a baby!" I find it ironic that despite our guy's intent on keeping a low profile that he in fact became the main attraction. For whatever it was worth, he left a lasting impression.

THE BRUTAL REALITY

Sadly for our guy he never did get to make his stir fry. Upon arriving home with his groceries he unpacked all three bags one at a time, and the more items he pulled from the bags the more dismayed he became. He stood back and eyed what was to be his sustenance for the next week.

There was two boxes of noname macaroni and cheese dinner where one was 9 years past it's expiry date, the other 4. Two loaves of half frozen enriched white bread. Half a dozen of partialy frozen cracked eggs. A small bread bag with a handful or so of frozen french fries and another used bread bag with half a dozen small potatoes. There was several small sandwich baggies that held powdered milk, sugar and instant coffee. There was a whole bag of elbow macaroni and one can of noname pasta sauce along with a can of stewed tomatoes, a small jar of noname peanut butter, a small tub of noname margarine, two cans of heinz tomato soup and one can of campbell's vegetable soup, a can of corn nibblits, a can of peas, 3 cans of beans, a bag of noname brown rice, one pound of frozen hamburger and a badly dented can of fat free coconut milk. Oh, and the 4 loaves of bread from the church? 3 of the 4 ended up in the garbage due to blue mold.

Our guy sat back in his chair and eyed his ware. Dread started to fill him when he realized if his financial situation didn't change soon that his days of calling himself a Foodie would come to an end. Suddenly he felt an overwhelming sense of hoplessness and he felt something else too....he felt tired, very tired. He stood up from his chair and speaking aloud to noone but himself he said. " I'm just going to take my sorry ass to bed." And he did.



Unless our guy's situation changes he is only weeks away from becoming a client of the Social Services Department or as the slang term that still gets tossed around...."a welfare recipient." He would be joining another approximately 43,000 other households on income assistance in the Province of New Brunswick which has a population of approximately 750,000 people. Upon reading these numbers I couldn't help but want the percentage. It works out to 5.7%. Now this number of the population only covers households on income assistance. It doesn't include the elderly living on small pensions in poverty or the working poor or the disabled nor students attending university and lets not forget the homeless. If the math continued to include all people living in poverty I don't think I want to know the true numbers because at 5.7  in itself is bad enough.

To be fair to the food banks, they exsist strictly on donations to run the buildings and keep food in stock. There are no donations from the Provincial nor Federal Governments. Even the people that run the food banks are strictly volunteers. They don't have much to work with and do the best they can. For the patrons that recieve food from the food banks, at times the pickings are lean and basic necessity is barely covered...... makes one wonder what would happen to those people if not for the food banks. Now that is indeed a dark thought.


THE KITCHEN WINDOW JOURNALIST

As I sit at my kitchen table wrapping up the closing of this writing I pause from time to time by turning my head to the right and gaze out through the window. At first,my eyes take in our little cove. And sitting just on the outer edge of the cove is Crow Island, and beyond that the wonderful Bay of Fundy. The bay holds the highest tides in the world and is a natural wonder of nature's force and beauty. The phrase 'Bounty From The Sea' comes to mind as the bay and the ocean certainly hold a bounty of food for many living things on this planet, including us. There are still many people who still fish the bay to make their living. Many live right here in my community. They've had coffee at my kitchen table and yarned tails of the sea. They work hard and play hard. They are a happy lot. Salt of the earth kind of people.Through them, the true masters of the sea, we are slowly learning how to care for her.

Just today they announced in the news that the numbers for the Right Whale are skyrocketing, right here in our own backyard in a manner of speaking. Making a few adjustments to the locations of shipping lanes has meant their survival from extinction. It's a celebration of life! We humans need something to celebrate, maybe something not found in an ideal world but in the real world, ending poverty and hunger in this, the 21st century. As a child we were told to believe that when we became adults that there would be flying cars, people would work less having more days off than on and that we would be so far advanced than our ancestors that not one person would ever want for anything. They were wrong.

Until the next high tide..........Natalie.



















Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This City's Dirty Little Secrets


Reversing Falls Bridge



Inspirations come from any given source, and for me when it comes to writing, a lot of mine are conversations. Having a conversation forces me to live in the now. It holds me to a place in time with another human being. Of course not every conversation we have in the run of the day has all that much importance or even matters. It’s when we’ve  moved onto something else and the previous moment is lingering on, stirring feelings in me while I stir my cake batter and even while I measure out a cup of milk to add to that batter and my thoughts are on deciding if I want to make chocolate or vanilla icing, my mind is drifting backwards and my feelings are being stirred more than the batter before me over the subject of that conversation. It knaws at me and I can’t focus 100% on the task at hand because of it. For me this is the birth of inspiration. I must add that I do not act on every single inspiration I have either. Some float to the back of my mind where I keep a vault. Stories that have promise that someday might be written. When the time is right. The following is one of those stories. The time is right…..if not overdue.

The city itself is really of no importance in this writing except to paint the picture of where the story takes place that would otherwise be unknown to those who are not from here.

So, a little background for my readers from away whom I’ve never met but take the time to stop by and read.  Denmark, South Korea, Italy, U.S.A, U.K., Canada, Sweden, Slovenia, The Netherlands, France and Russia. A big hello to you all and heartfelt thanks for your interest!

This story is about some happenings in my home town, the city of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada. Saint John is a port city that is located on the Bay of Fundy in Atlantic Canada.  It isn’t my place of birth but it is what I have called home for 49 years.

Saint John is Canada’s oldest incorporated city. It is a port city where the population runs approximately at 70,000 people. Saint John also made the list in Time Magazine once as one of the largest cities in the world, in size of land mass. Just to note the population has been dropping significantly. The unemployment rate is high and unless you have a high paying job, life here is hard for most. Some call it ‘a rich man’s town,’ because you have to be rich to make it here.
Depending on the eye of the beholder some would describe Saint John as either pretty and quaint or gritty and depressing. If you love history, you’d love Saint John with all the old historical buildings it has to offer.





This story is about the people. In my humble opinion it is the people that make a city or town what it is. The people give it heart and soul and God knows Saint Johners’ have heart and soul….for the most part. There is and always will be a certain percent of the population that do not fit into that category. These would be the fat cats that hold the keys to the city. I’m not talking exclusively City Hall either. I’m talking those in any position of money or power. To have either means you CAN make a difference. There are those that do have the means and they do help others. These are a special breed of humans. If only we could clone them!


 Sadly there are also many that have no vested interest in making change. Not the kind of change I’m talking about here.


So back to the conversation that kick started this  inspiration. A friend stated that her husband and daughter were on their way to New York City and I responded by saying that we all know that New York City is known to be one of the most diverse cities in the world where anything goes, can be found or seen. My youngest son has been to the big apple more than twice in less than a year and I’ve known other people who’ve been there and none of them ever came back with any stories about the ‘craziness’ of the place or the people.

What is  strange is that I can take one trip into our great city of Saint John and see things that one would think could only be found in the twilight zone, if it existed, but it doesn’t. This is the real world. And in this world are many streets with twists and turns that lead to very unpleasant dark corners that we all would rather pretend don’t really exist. The fat cats are good at this avoidance of the obvious.

One only has to walk or drive on any uptown street to come across someone standing on a street corner smoking a cigarette and having a full blown conversation all by themselves. Or see a man wearing a purple snow suit complete with a black touque pulled down hard over his ears, on an 80 degree summers day,trying to nail chocolate cup cakes to a telephone pole.


I’m talking about mental illness. While writing this I’ve had an enlightening discovery that there are two kinds of mental illness going on here.

One is depression which forces people to lunge to their deaths into the cold watery rapids of the Reversing Falls.
The other? Some would call  “Clear cut crazy.” The following is an example of “clear cut crazy,” in our fair city.



 It’s a sunny, warm autumn afternoon in uptown Saint John. Charlotte Street is one of many streets found in the uptown where one can find shops, boutiques and caf├ęs. It is always very heavy with foot traffic, people shopping, coming and going in the run of their day. On the shady side of the street is one man walking down the inside of the sidewalk. He walks with purpose, blending in with the mix of pedestrians. He is wearing a fresh three piece suit, donning a fresh haircut and wearing  freshly polished shoes. He passes by a bookstore, his head turns to his left and looks through the window at the display of books, his walk slows. On his last three steps his body turns and faces the window before him. His reflection stares back at him and he fills with sudden anger. A scowl spreads over his face, he starts to shake. His coloring takes on a reddish hue and a lock of hair falls over his forehead. He slides his feet slightly apart and holds his arms out from his sides and with one hand makes a fist. He raises that fist to the window and begins to spew a list of profanities at his own reflection. His fist is red, the knuckles white, and it shakes. Through clenched teeth, his mouth in a sneer, he says, “I’m going to kill you, you mother-fucking piece of shit.” His spittle hits the glass. “One day soon, I will kill you.” His fist slowly unclenches and starts to lower and comes to relax at his side. His color starts to return to normal. His breathing slows. He runs one hand through his hair brushing the lock of hair back into place.  He slowly raises his head, turns and resumes his walk and disappears into the crowd of people. This is a true story. What is stranger still is no passersby’s even noticed. All those people walking by either looked straight ahead or looked the other way.


Spectacles like this have become normal to us and that is not only not normal, it’s not right.


 To add to the surreal ness  of witnessing all of that we save the best for last. The freshly  abandoned cars and trucks found on the Reversing Falls Bridge. Sometimes found  with the drivers door left wide open with the driver having just jumped off the bridge to their death to the rapids below. To those who are witness to such sights they have now become victims to the tragedy. Innocent bystanders that certainly hadn’t planned on having to deal with such a thing in the run of their day.


I’ve been one of those bystanders. And if once wasn’t bad enough it’s happened to me several times in the past 6 months alone. Two months ago I had to take a trip into the city two times in a span of a week and a half. On both occasions while crossing that bridge some soul had parked their vehicle, got out, walked to the railing of the bridge, climbed over and let go. I didn’t see the jumper but their drivers door was open and people could be seen running toward the bridge. The other was a Jeep. Parked perfectly in the center of the bridge. A police cruiser parked behind it. A police officer climbs out of the cruiser and slowly approaches the empty Jeep. I could sense his apprehension and his sense of knowing. His slow approach to the Jeep gave one the sense that to hurry was pointless. His head tilts into his shoulder and he speaks into his radio.


Taken from a reliable source the Reversing Falls Bridge had taken 4 lives that week and another 4 from the Harbour Bridge. Both are within walking distance of each other. To the best of my knowledge none were reported through the medias. The reliable source states that there are on average 4 jumpers a week off the falls bridge. I don't have to be a physicist or do the math to seriously wonder that if our population hovers around 68-70,000 souls and in one month alone the average numbers of bridge jumpers was 4 a week that in that one month we lost approximately 16 souls. 16 people that were tired of living or afraid or heartbroken or were desperately lonely. It’s never reported. It’s never talked about. It’s never acknowledged. Shame on this city. Indeed a dirty, hidden secret.


Where it is never publicly acknowledged, I feel as though I’m alone in my thoughts. I think of how someone won't be returning home that night. Never to walk through the door of their own home and life ever again. I find myself having mental images of the police pulling up in their cruisers in front of someone’s home. Of them approaching someone’s front door. Of them knocking on that door and waiting for a response from the inhabitants inside the home. I have images of the family member walking to their door to greet whoever is on the other side. Of them not knowing that their world is about to be rocked to the very core of their own existence and that their lives are never going to be the same.


 I think of the victim and wonder about them. I wonder about their lives and what their world was like. Did they have a significant other? Did they have a Mom or Dad or sisters and brothers? Did they have children or best friends? Did they try to ask for help and if they did was anyone really listening to their cries for help? Were there signs? Did they quietly withdraw and shut out the world around them and did anyone notice they were even being shut out?

This is how it affects me, the unintended victim. Being witness to such things is like being hit by a stray bullet. It wasn’t intended for me yet I took a bullet anyways. I feel the shock, I feel the pain. I go through the healing process while trying to act like everyone else. Like it didn’t affect me, like it’s made no difference in my life. I keep my head down so others won’t see the scar that the bullet has left in my heart and upon my soul.

When are we as a collective people, a true community, a village of family going to get it? Suicidal people are ‘sick people’. These souls are ill. A healthy mind does not entertain ideas of bringing on it’s own demise.

 Every living organism right down to bacteria is born with the will to ‘survive’, not self destruct. If we so much as get a hint of our own destruction be it through cancer or a car accident or anything that threatens our existence we go into survival mode. Our natural response is to fight to survive. When the ‘mind’ thinks, ‘ok I’m done now and don’t want to be part of life anymore, this hurts too much and my urge is I want to die,’ then that person’s MIND IS SICK. They are seriously ill and in need of immediate medical attention. The sick mind is just another part of the human anatomy that is in distress. If one breaks their arm it is immediately given medical attention. But can you imagine if everyone in that person's life, the family Doctor included, just turned the other way and left that person to 'just live it' and pretend they just never noticed? A broken heart is the same, another part of the anatomy that is in distress. This kind of pain is very physical and needs tender loving care as much as a broken arm.

They are in need of family attention, of their friends attention, of their employers attention, of co-workers attention, of OUR attention. Here in the Province of New Brunswick getting professional attention is difficult at best. The wait time for one to recieve that help is about 8 months.There are emergency teams in place that will go where they are needed in a heartbeat. Sadly, they may be front line but quickly hand the patient over to the medical professionals such as the family doctor and then the doctor hands them a bottle of pills, adds them to the wait list at some mental health clinic and sends them home, to wait, for 8 months, with the bottle of pills. Nice.

The most painful symptom of mental illness is that of loneliness. Ones’ feelings of being all alone in the world is debilitating enough to render some people immobile. They can’t move to take care of themselves. They need us to take care of them. They need to know they are not alone. Suicidal people have one thing in common that they have all somehow lost. Hope. There is no optimism that it will get better. Those feelings of hope do not exist anymore. In my opinion losing hope is the first stage of death. Every waking moment for them is life in a gray landscape. There are no colors, no sunny days, no happy songs and no feelings of hope.

 It’s no small wonder they feel this way. We just turn and look the other way or become apparently busy or conveniently distracted. All so we can pretend to not notice because if we are caught noticing it somehow holds us responsible and obligated to help.    

What does this say about us as a people? What kind of city, town or community can rally around a citizen that needs expensive treatment for cancer to save their lives, yet if someone is suffering with depression or mental illness we turn away. We feel embarrassment, shame, or even worse, indifference and  feel nothing at all.

Lots of people talk about the ‘crazy people’ in Saint John. People from Saint John move away and come back to visit and I can’t count the times I’ve heard them say how Saint John has so many ‘crazy people’ on the loose and walking the streets. A lot of them also say that you just don’t see it anywhere but here. People laugh. I’ve been guilty of it myself and shame on me for that.

The most natural question that comes to mind that if that is all true, then why? Why does Saint John have so many mentally ill people just walking the streets? Do we have an abnormally high percentage of mentally ill in comparison to other cities? Or is it that we don’t have the means or maybe the want-to to help these people so we just leave them to their own devices?

What causes this kind of mental illness? If you were to ask this question in reference to the say the man in the purple snow suit most would be very quick to say, poverty. Poverty, that long black gnarly hand that grabs hold of it’s victims and squeezes out all joy and hope and never seems to want to let go no matter how bad it gets. Even when there is nothing left to take it is then that it squeezes even harder. A  wise mind knows that money does not bring real joy. Joy is a very personal perspective of each individual. But when a human being is suffering from hunger pangs it becomes easy to be blinded by that kind of pain and there is no joy to be had, there is only desperation and fear. The poor live in a perpetual state of fear.  


Here’s a recent true story. A gentleman knocks on the door of a local church. Someone opens the door and the man explains that he has no food for his wife or children. He explains he is a poor working man and has already been to the food bank this month and is unable to get any more help until the following month. He asks if the church has any way of helping him obtain some food . He is told they have no food but will spare him a baggie of coffee and a baggie of sugar. He was sent on his way and the door closed.

This story made the local news and when hearing it my heart felt sickened. Sickened for the man and his family and sickened for the people on the other side of those church walls. The quote from Jesus came into my mind,” Forgive them Father for they know not what they do” . My second thought was of anger and my own words of ‘be damned!’. Oh yes they do know what they are doing…they don’t care. These people don’t even practice what they preach. It’s THAT attitude I’m talking about here. That hateful indifference. No one can convince me that the administration of that church couldn’t dig up any food or even money to buy some??

 This is the kind of garbage that we the people have to fight against. If there is a God may he have mercy on THEIR souls for committing such an act of coldness and greed. What they needed to happen is for their Jesus or God to appear before them in that doorway, look them straight in the eye and say “ Whatsoever ye do unto the least of my brethren you do unto me”. Is this how they would treat their Jesus? Their King of all men. Their King of Kings? (And no, I am not a religious person but some of the stuff out of the good book comes in handy at a time like this!)

While some will talk about it in hushed tones or hidden giggles, talk is cheap. Action needs to be taken. While there is nothing much I can do other than writing in this blog or showing someone some kindness, if nothing else I hope I’ve raised some level of awareness and exposed a few dirty little secrets on our so called civilized society.

I’ve asked a few people why they think that the Reversing Falls jumpers never get covered by the media and why is this issue being kept buried. All responses to that question were the same. ‘Because it puts ideas into the heads of people that would be inclined to do the same thing.’ Without trying to sound offensive...that reason is a cop-out. Everyone knows the Reversing Falls is there. Everyone knows about the reputation of the bridge and how it's been used for years as a place of self destruction. Acknowledging the jumpers, talking about the jumpers doesn't encourage anyone to do such a thing.  What I do know is that we can't just stand by knowing what we know and do nothing about it. We can't keep turning our heads pretending we don't see the elephant in the room.

Something needs to be done to protect these people as much as we are able to and starting with the Reversing Falls Bridge is a great place to start. Maybe a deterrent of some kind. A cage over the top and sides of the bridge such as the one that runs over the highway that runs parallel to City Road. Maybe security placed on either end of the bridge in mobile units with cameras placed on the bridge. They had security on the Harbour Bridge to catch toll crashers and speeders. The money was there for that. The money could be found for this cause as well.

These people need to be protected from themselves. They are ill and cannot be expected to be responsible for their own well being. Sometimes a small gesture such as a hand on someone's shoulder, a sincere smile, even direct eye contact can save a person's life. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves at how much of a difference we can make in someone elses life, even a strangers life.

I have several times in my life. Once stumbling across a young woman who'd taken a broken bottle and sliced up the inside of both arms from wrist to the inside of her elbows.I did a little first aid and made two tourniquetes while the person with me ran to call an ambulance. The young lady became hysterical screaming that they would put her in the crazy house and that to just let her die. I convinced her to go and she did. She would of bled to death had we not come along when we did. I seen her a few years later, alive and well.

Another time I talked a jumper down from a 5 story ledge. All the usual lines weren't working with him and he wouldn't come down. So, I pissed him off. So much so that for a moment he forgot what he was upset about and started to climb back down to get at me. Happily for me, 4 very large police officers got to him before he got to me and took him for a ride to the hospital. Last I heard he was alive and well, married with kids.

And once a good friend had sat at my kitchen table every night  until the wee hours of the mornings for a good week crying over the breakup of his marriage. His wife had done him very wrong. He couldn't get past what had happened. He was suicidal. I could see that. In the end he managed to pull himself together and get on with his life. He later on had delivered to my door some beautiful red roses and a thank you card. It read, "Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for saving my life. Forever Grateful, Don."  In truth I'd not said or done anything. I sat there night after night and shut my mouth and let him vent, cry and talk. We drank tons of coffee and smoked a lot of cigarettes. And there were moments we said nothing, and that was ok too. Sometimes people don't want or need our advice or opinions. Sometimes they just want to be heard and for us to just listen.

The last experience I had with the Reversing Falls Bridge and jumpers was back around the end of May into early June of this year. The weather had been doing nothing but fog and rain for 6 weeks. It left a lot of people feeling blue and dreary because of it. I'd had at that time had a conversation with my reliable source about the jumpers and the bridge. "It's the weather," they said. "Some people just can't handle the constant gloom.", I didn't know it at the time but their statement about the constant gloom would later on come back to haunt me.

During my last experience my husband Eric and I had been running errands in the city. The fog that day was thick and heavy and I remember the windshield wipers had to be kept on to keep the windsheild clear. After running errands we were driving up Chesley Drive heading westbound to go home. The truck climbed the hill up to the end of the drive which lead to the Reversing Falls Bridge. As soon as we crested the hill the sun started to break through the clouds and fog. My attention was drawn to the small park just before you drove onto the bridge. A white sedan type car was parked askew, half up on the sidewalk just before the bridge. The drivers door was open and noone was inside the car. Everything in my memory after that was like slow motion. There were people running onto the bridge. There were people running to the end of the park that over looked the rapids. They were all staring down into the rapids. There were police cars everywhere, 5 in total I think. Red and blue lights flashing. One officer trotting across the bridge while looking down over the side at the water below. A young Asian couple standing in the middle of the bridge leaning against the railing looking down to the water below, their bodies close and one arm wrapped around each others backs. A young man holding large binnoculars against his face, leaning into the railing on the bridge, looking down into the water, searching, all of them searching. And the sun shone. By the time we reached the other side of the bridge the fog was quickly lifting and I could see blue sky. I wondered if the person that  had jumped had gotten one more red light or had stopped to let someone cross the street and had lived just a few more seconds to see the sun shine......Well, we won't ever know that. They called out the Coast Guard that day and they did a water search and after 3 hours called it off. The person had jumped during an outgoing tide. Whether they ever found this lost soul is anyones guess as I've already stated, these things are not reported.

On the rest of the drive home the dialogue was at a minimum. Both Eric and I deep in our own thoughts. Solemn would best describe it. And painful. Logically I had no right to feel pain, did I? I had no business wondering about how that person's family would deal with such a tradgedy, right? I didn't know that person from Adam so what was this craziness, this overwhelming saddness inside of me. I choked back a lump or two deep in my throat.

We leave the highway and drive down into Chance Harbour where the sun was shinning and the sky was blue. Everywhere I looked trees and grass of emerald green. Eric slows the truck down and it rolls to a putt. Like a faithful horse it seems to know the way home. We both roll our windows down to let the salt air in. I lay my head back against the head rest and close my eyes and breathe deep to take in the cleansing air of the breeze from the bay. I let the wind rushing in through the window pick up my hair and whip it around and it falls over my closed eyes. I make no move to brush it away. Flashes of sunlight are dancing between the trees and I feel the strobe like shadows play against my eyelids. I feel the vibration of the truck under me and take comfort in knowing it is taking me home. I feel the truck slowing down and take a soft left turn. The truck stops and the engine becomes quiet. I remain as I am. I feel Eric's warm hand on my forearm and he softly states that we are home. I don't so much as stir. I hear him, but I hear something else too. The waves crashing on the shore. The seagulls crying their call over the cove. The soft ticking of the engine as it cools. The beating of my own heart. I hear life. I'm surrounded by it. Everything to remind me that I am alive and well. And in that moment I feel gratitude, for everything. I give up thanks for just being in that moment, or more importantly being made aware of  that moment. I feel thanks for being loved and wanted and for being home, for having a home.
Most importantly for knowing that we live and we die and that regardless of that, Mother Nature still has some living to do. The ocean, the bay and the surf will continue to arrive and leave us twice a day as she has since the beginning of time. Many forms of life will be born and die and yet she never misses a beat. Even she will take life should we test her. And some will give their lives to her. And she doesn't discriminate against anyone who throws themselves at her. Some can't help themselves and will dive into her cold waiting arms. It's our job to look after them.

Until the next high tide.............................

Natalie