Sunday, March 30, 2008

turning out the lights

Last night people around the world powered down in a symbolic gesture of support for the environment.

WWF claims that Canada had one of the highest participation rates in the world - 150 cities - an estimated 55,000 people - participated in Earth Hour by turning off the lights between 8 and 9 p.m.

Ottawa symbolically got on board, with the Parliament Hill turning off all exterior lights (except a spotlight on the flag) - although Prime Minister Harper kept his lights burning at 24 Sussex (how surprising). At least our Governor General had Rideau Hall in darkness, as did Stéphane Dion at Stornoway.

Ottawa Hydro noted a 4% drop in energy consumption, compared with the same period last week. So while that's not huge, it is notable.

What has surprised me with Earth Hour is the backlash. A Facebook group calling themselves 'Waste electricity for Earth Hour' were just some of the reactionaries. Critics accuse Earth Hour of being a gimmick with no significant impact. ("Go to the bathroom with the lights on, bike to work" read one comment on an Earth Hour news story).

But Earth Hour organizers don't deny that this is symbolic. It is a gimmick, but market analysts agree that gimmicks are often effective to raise awareness. If anything, all the debate that Earth Hour has raised is a sign of it's success.

For my part, I don't think that our lights out for the night is enough to make us green - I'm more proud of our carbon-free Bullfrog powered home, our daily efforts to consciously tread softly on this earth. But I can thank the Earth Hour organizers for an excuse to have a cozy night in with my sweetie. I filled the living room with candles, cushions and flowers; V made a tasty dinner. We lounged in warm candlelight, talking and sipping wine long after the hour was up.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

stuck in bed

As of today, I've been three weeks in this bed. I can walk and stand for short periods, but am still unable to sit for more than a few minutes - although I think I managed about 20 on Saturday. I spend my days, evenings and nights on the bed, mostly lying on my belly since this relieves pressure on the herniated disc in my lower spine.

My world seems different when observed from bed. My possibilities for action are diminished - and yet I find myself plagued by the questions like, what kind of person am I? how will I be remembered? will I be remembered? am I contributing anything of significance to this world?

I'd prefer if the questions my mind came up with were more along the lines of - should I read another chapter or play a game of sudoko? I already have 5 books on the go, should I start a 6th? These are queries I can answer, or at least act upon.

To pass the time, I've been reading about Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Satre. V gave me a book of Beauvoir's letter's to Satre; from the library I borrowed Lettres au castor - his letters to her. To fill in the gaps in their correspondence, I'm reading Tête-à-tête, a biography of their relationship. Then I have Beauvoir's The Second Sex, which I've always meant to read and now have the time.

Perhaps it is reading about these two ambitious, driven individuals who were absolutely devoted to their careers as writers that has me wondering about my own posterity - although their relationship to each other and those around them is, while fascinating, is not exactly inspiring.

I like to read biographies and auto-biographies of people I respect - often writers and artists. What troubles me is that few of them have balanced or 'normal' lives. I used to want to be the troubled artist, writing in an attic hovel while smoking French cigarettes, chasing wine with strong, dark coffee. I flirted with that life for a few years, even realizing my dream of renting a room in Paris from which I huddled and wrote.

But that life never really worked for me. I was lonely. I was unpublished. I felt selfish and self-absorbed. And yet when I read about the lives of writers I feel that longing. When I am stuck in bed, that longing is compounded by a desire to do something, anything, more significant than reading about the exciting lives of others while watching my own drift by outside the bedroom door.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

injured. again.

It's 2 a.m. in the emergency ward at Ottawa's civic hospital. We've been waiting to see a doctor for almost 7 hours. The woman who was brought in with police escort, the woman who the ward had heard singing and shouting from behind the door of a private waiting room, has just pulled the fire alarm. The piercing blasts of an alarm designed to rouse the dead and heavily drugged is shrieking from and grid in the ceiling above my head.

Eventually the alarm is turned off. The firemen who appeared in full dress with equipment ready are sent back to their station. The regular noises of the urgent care ward can be heard again - patients being called, people coughing, staff chatting, phones ringing... I turn back to my book while trying to shield my eyes from the three bands of neon light which glare down at me.

V is a trooper. He's been with me all night. Has read a book cover to cover and is trying to get comfortable on the stiff plastic chair.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm injured again. I'm embarrassed to be back in a hospital, complaining of my pain to a busy and unimpressed doctor. What is it this time? In what new way is my body expressing its displeasure?

The doctor tells me brusquely that it's a herniated disc. As far as he's concerned these are a dime a dozen. Nothing new here; why are you wasting my time? He'll write me up an illegible prescription for anti-inflammatories and get a nurse to stick a needle in my arm to take the edge off. That at least is effective - within 10 minutes the place she jabbed me hurts more than my lower back.

So now, its the following evening and I'm lying in bed as I have been for the last five days. Half-propped up against the head rest, laptop on my stomach and thighs. I've managed to do some work this way. Can't let a little back pain stop me from researching a gender perspective on urban violence. Can't let the boredom creep up through the blankets and wrap around my shoulders, whisper in my ears. Can't let the anxiety steal in...

What really am I fighting?

I've got to admit I've been feeling pretty sorry for myself, been feeling pretty resentful toward this body of mine. Strange how our identity, our well-being is so tied up in something which sometimes seems to be so beyond our control. We may do our best to exercise, eat well, sleep right, listen... yet we can never fully control what happens in and to this flesh and blood. A car accident, an illness - or even nothing we can identify - and suddenly we don't seem to be in charge anymore. This thing, this being is calling the shots

I think of friends who have been injured far worse than I, who have illnesses that keep them in bed far longer than will a slipped disc. How does one learn to reconcile with the restrictions, the pain, the frustration of a body that is not what we think need it to be? What do I need my body to be?

My cat has climbed on to my chest. He at least seems to appreciate all this time I'm spending in bed. He's fallen asleep but there is still a faint purr to his breathing. His contented warmth is a reminder of something that needed remembering. I'm not in control of what happens around me - or what happens to me. What I can control is how much energy I spend it fighting and resenting it, or in accepting it. Accepting the burning in my back, the tingling in my feet - and warmth of this bed, the weight of my kitty and my body as teacher of humility and surrender.