Tag Archives: Canada

Seven Days in Toronto

View from Mt DallasMt. Dallas, San Juan Island, photo by Paul Mayer

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

Sometimes you have to get away, and there it is. Waiting as always with open arms: O Canada!

We went to Toronto to attend the Rotary International Convention (6/21-27), as well as the Rotary Peacebuilding Summit that preceded it. First Nation blessings were bestowed on Rotarians from around the world as we gathered on ancestral land. Red Sky performances filled the stage with feathers and color, hoop dancing and drumming.

Toronto, we were told, translates to “where the trees are standing in water.”

Full disclosure: I went as an outsider. I am not a Rotary member, but I am married to one. When growing up, my father was also a Rotarian. He didn’t get up early and slip out to breakfast meetings, nor did he come home late at night after dinner meetings. Rotary met for lunch in the city in which he worked, and the meetings were folded into his day each week. We were not a part of that world.

Times have changed.

If I were to sum up the subject matter of both the summit and convention, I’d say it was an emphasis on educating and empowering women in the world, the global immigrant and refugee crisis, and an overarching concern for the environment. All this on the plate of the organization that has nearly rid the world of the poliovirus—only 11 cases remaining–a mission that practically consumed Rotary in my father’s day.

Regarding the environment, you might say Rotary is returning to its roots in that Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, was a naturalist. Traveling extensively with Rotary International, by the end of his life Harris could say he had planted trees “… on all continents of the earth and on islands of the seas.” Indeed Harris thought the planting of trees the finest symbol for the idea of Rotary.

Last year Rotary International President Ian Risley proposed that every Rotary Club in the world plant one tree for each member. That’s 1.2 million trees. Living lungs in the face of deforestation and development.

Islands have the greatest stake in sustainability; as islanders we understand this. On San Juan Island, fifty-four more trees will stand for fifty-four Rotarians. A living legacy as well as a commitment to the future. Here too, Rotary can make a difference.

We all can, by planting a tree. I’m going to make mine a Madrone tree.

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O Canada!

Slip away for two weeks and what happens? My dear, dear, President Obama loses his mind and threatens air strikes over Syria.

We keep returning to Canadian waters in our boat. The goal this time was to go beyond The Puget Sound, through The Gulf Islands, up the Straight of Georgia, and into Desolation Sound. In speaking to my father, I called it our “destiny” when what I meant was destination. But I don’t know; maybe it is our destiny?

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Located between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island, in particular, has a distinctive history. In the mid 1800’s ex-slaves from Missouri who had made it to California came up from San Francisco at the invitation of Sir James Douglas, the first provincial governor of British Columbia. Here the British granted all the rights denied them by the United States: the right to vote, to become part of the local militia, to homestead and own property. Some of their descendants are established there today.

Then in the 1960’s and 70’s, American draft dodgers began arriving on Salt Spring and once again the island opened its arms. Again, many stayed and are among the artists, musicians, farmers, and small business owners contributing to the quality of life there today.

Are they ready for another wave of American ex-pats?

I don’t want to come home if we have to go to war. With all the work there is to do, we have to protest this now too?

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Beyond Broken

When we first dropped anchor in Roche Harbor all the boats were pointing in the same direction, as they should, in formation like birds. As we sat and looked out toward the setting sun, some of the boats spun around one way, and others another, until we were all pointing every which way and there seemed no rhyme or reason to it. The sun disappeared and there we stayed awaiting the next shift of our boat, like the calibration or orientation of a compass.

I mention this because before we left San Juan Island another odd phenomena occurred, this time from above. While setting out on a walk in the woods, hundreds of birds—mostly seagulls–swarmed in the sky, circling at random, looking like white confetti against the blue. An hour later as we rounded a point, another swarm of birds was in the sky before us, the same random scribble. Whatever could this mean, we wondered.

I have become very good at doing nothing out on the water. Aware of yet another tragic shooting, this time in Wisconsin, I think my heart is beyond broken. If we can’t get a handle on the assault weapons at least, I am afraid for us.

At the Northernmost point of land in the continental U.S. sits a little white lighthouse, straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. The humbleness and innocence of it—my country is losing that.

On we went into Canadian waters. Salt Springs Island B.C. is where many of our draft dodgers found open arms during the Vietnam war. Many of them stayed and raised families, ran small businesses, and have slowly, happily aged. Our loss, their gain. It looks like it’s been a good life on Salt Springs. Our very institutions are under siege at home: theatres, schools, shopping centers, churches and temples. I’m thinking now if our lawmakers can’t stand up to the NRA and get a handle on our war with ourselves, might there not be another wave of Americans to other shores?

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