Monday, June 14, 2010

Near Death Experiences

There are many who wonder about near-death experiences. Enough that the topic frequently becomes a plot twist in TV dramas - especially when the writers run out of ideas.

Take the TV show, Walker, Texas Ranger. Admit it, you have watched this classic show, starring American icon Chuck Norris. Remember the episode in which Walker has been shot. His heart stops. We know this because the monitor flat lines and it makes a buzzing sound. Walker is dead.

But wait! He is only half-dead.

His friends, who have circled his bed, don’t notice that Walker is actually floating on the ceiling. Walker reaches for the white light. But first he has to relive past life experiences – which consist of a montage of previous episodes. This takes about a half-hour. Just as he’s about to go to the “other side”, he hears a voice.

“Walker, don’t leave me!” It’s his extremely hot girlfriend. Walker decides to come back.

Some scientists are skeptics when it comes to Chuck Norris and near-death experiences. They think these experiences are bunk, the result of the brain being deprived of oxygen. They also think Morgan Freeman is not really God.

Personally, I never gave near-death experiences much thought. But then I had one.

You may recall from previous ditties that I tend to be somewhat of a spontaneous “doer” – only pausing ever so slightly to reflect on the possible consequences of my actions. And it really doesn’t matter if my grand adventures involve potentially risking life and limb of others – the more the merrier from my perspective. My grandchildren still talk about the winter of Grandma’s Death March involving the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys on a hot, glaringly bright day. (One granddaughter is still thankful she spent that day in the emergency room in Marathon while the others who participated still wish I had let the police pick up us for trespassing!)

Not surprisingly it has become routine for Barry, my ever patient husband, to admonish me each time he leaves with a stern, “Don’t do anything stupid while I am gone. Be careful!” He assumes that an admonition not to do anything stupid covers every possible scenario. It does not.

I can achieve stupidity with unbelievable speed when left to my own devices! Which is exactly why my twin grandsons will always remember last winter’s Florida Key’s experience known as Grandma’s Wretched Kayaking Adventure a.k.a The Night We Almost All Drown or What Can Happen When Grandpa Leaves Grandma in Charge.

Who knew the wind could come up so fast out on the Atlantic? Who knew that getting to a place with the wind at your back was so much different than getting back home from that place as you desperately tried to paddle a two-person, sit-a-top kayak over choppy seas as the sun was setting and the temperature dropping?

Oh, did I mention said kayak was loaded with a four-year-old grandson and an over-protective Border collie? Neither of which were manning a paddle of their own I might add. I vividly remember at one point wondering if I could swim and drag the kayak faster than I was paddling – one stroke forward, four strokes backwards was not exactly the progress towards shore I was wanting. And it didn’t help that off in the distance I could see neighbors standing on their balconies pointing in our general direction – obviously either impressed with my kayaking prowess or wondering at what point they should call the Coast Guard.

My daughter-in-law, Jill, manning a kayak loaded with a twin herself – having been talked into this insane adventure by yours truly – kept calling back at me; “Are you okay? Do you want me to tow you?” She sounded like my husband, only more patronizing. Who did she think I was? An old, rather chronically ill woman who just completed a series of chemotherapy?

I kept going. My arms screamed. I stopped singing My Paddle Gleaming Bright and started mumbling – and this goes back to near death experiences – Barry is going to kill me! Aaron is going to kill me!

We made it to shore without the assistance of the Coast Guard – none of us the worse for wear except for aching arms, chilled bodies and the concussion I would soon have.

The concussion would be caused when either my husband or my son (father to the twins) would hit me upside the head as they said, “I told you not to do anything stupid!”

Actually, that’s not true. Barry is a loving, patient, and understanding husband – the best thing I ever did for myself. Aaron grew up with me as his mother and knows what to expect by now. But I would rather be smacked upside the head sometimes than endure the torrent of “I told you so’s” from all of them. They think I should give up my adventuresome ways now that I am more mature. More ‘fragile’ as the grandchildren put it.

Why don’t they just kill me now? That way I could float up on the ceiling like Walker. I can see it now.

“Come back, Candis (mom, grandma),” they will all plead. “We didn’t mean it. You can go off on whatever spontaneous adventures you want and we won’t say a word!”

“Well, OK,” I will reply, “But have you seen how much dust is on top of this ceiling fan?”

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”  - Helen Keller

Monday, June 7, 2010

Buy Local First!

“We all participate in weaving the social fabric; we should therefore all participate in patching the fabric when it develops holes.” ~Anne C. Weisberg

Two or three years ago – when I started contributing “ditties” to the Drummond Island Digest – my first essay was on the ritual and routine of stocking an Up North pantry. Anyone born and raised in the north (or lucky enough to have a second home Up North) knew all to well the custom I spoke of in that article:

You walk around the house with a pad of paper and pencil, opening all the pantry doors as you jot down the essentials that need to be re-stocked. Then you call your closest friends and relatives to let them know you are “making a run” and get their lists. When the big day comes the kids all vie for “shot-gun” and you head out early in the morning for a day of shopping in the big city.

Let’s face it, retailers and warehouse super stores that can only be found in larger communities make “one-stop shopping” a concept that appeals to all of us. And when these stores can lure us in with lower prices and super sales we feel good about the money we think we are saving. But there is a hidden price . . . and one that can end up drastically altering our own small community.

In these hard economic times by thinking local first we make choices that have dramatic impact on our community, our economy, and our environment. While it will rarely be possible to buy everything we need or use from local independent businesses, I am advocating for people to first think local in order to maximize the impact of daily actions and purchasing decisions. Buy LOCAL First refers to a commitment to our community.

Compared to national competitors, local independent businesses return more money to the local economy and give an average of two to three times greater support to non-profit organizations. They are better positioned to respond to the special needs of the community and more invested in its future. When was the last time you saw Wal-Mart listed in the Digest as a sponsor for the March of Dimes Dance, the Hunter’s Dinner or the Snowmobile Grooming Fund-raiser?

Local, independently owned businesses are the backbone of an economy, the lifeblood of a community. By increasing the number of independent, local-to-local economic transactions, we:

*Support local entrepreneurs

*Sustain family farms and orchards

*Create local jobs that stay in our community

*Have greater control over environmental impacts

*Increase sales and tax receipts to finance schools, police and fire departments, arts, roads, and open spaces

*Maintain a unique sense of place, directly contributing to what will keep our home place alive and special in the long-run

*Maximize the economic multiplier (that means every expenditure of a dollar generates more than a dollar's worth of activity and cascades into a larger number of transactions that enrich the community).

Choosing local over non-local has 2-3 times more financial impact in our community, promotes more reinvestment locally, creates quality jobs, and encourages more donations to local charities and causes.

Several studies have shown that money spent at a locally owned business stays in the local economy and continues to strengthen the economic base of the community. A 2002 case study in Austin, Texas showed that for every $100 in consumer spending at a national bookstore in Austin, Texas the local economic impact was only $13. The same amount spent at locally based bookstores yielded $45, or more than three times the local economic impact. (Civic Economics, Austin Unchained October 2003)

A 2003 case study of Midcoast Maine covering several lines of goods and services validated these findings. In Maine eight locally owned businesses were surveyed. The survey found that the businesses spent 44.6 percent of their revenue within the surrounding two counties. Another 8.7 percent was spent elsewhere in the state of Maine. The four largest components of this local spending were: wages and benefits paid to local employees; goods and services purchased from other local businesses; profits that accrued to local owners and taxes paid to local and state government. All eight businesses banked locally, used local accountants, advertised in local businesses publications, purchased inventory from local manufacturers, and used local Internet service providers and repair people. The study estimated that a big box retailer returns just 14.1 percent of its revenue to the local economy, mostly in the form of payroll. The rest leaves the state, flowing to out-of-state suppliers and back to corporate headquarters. (The Economic Impact of Locally Owned Business vs. Chains: A Case Study in Midcoast Maine - New Rules Project, September 2003.)

We all support and count on doing business with people in our community, but what we don’t take the time to think about is how our community and ultimately our livelihood is affected when 85 percent of each retail dollar we spend at a national chain is sent somewhere out of state. Are we really “saving money” if our community’s retail dollars are not cycling back into our own local economy? Are we really “saving money” if our local merchants have to raise their prices in order to meet their overhead . . . or are forced to close their doors altogether due to lack of revenue? Are we really “saving money” if our local and state governments have to raise taxes or cut back on services that we wind up having to pay for?

I am getting ready to “re-stock” the pantry on Drummond and I know I can get cases of the things I need much “cheaper” down-state. But how much would I really save? Are my retail dollars ensuring that this community I have come to know and love continues to thrive? I, for one, know my quality of life would be greatly diminished if I couldn’t pop into the four corners for a bouquet of flowers, a sheet of plywood and the latest fashion magazine. And the members of this community have been truly blessed by merchants who have had the resources to donate to countless fundraisers.

We are blessed on Drummond with a variety of independent merchants of every kind. We might want to think about the greatest gift we can give both the community and ourselves . . . and the money we can “save” . . . by choosing to shop more in our own community.

“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” -Aldo Leopold

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Hatch is on!

Think how fast a year flies by

A month flies by

A week flies by

Think how fast a day flies by

A Mayfly’s life lasts but a day

A single day

To live and die

A single day

How fast it goes

The day

The Mayfly

Both of those.

A Mayfly flies a single day

The daylight dies and darkness grows

A single day

How fast it flies

A mayfly’s life

How fast it goes.

It starts like a rise of small trout. There are dimples on the surface, little fingerlings eating midges, perhaps. But these are no fish. The water breaks and up pop the wings of a Mayfly, then another and another. The hatch is on!

This legend plays out every year on calm, dark, humid nights in late May and early June. The mayflies make the television news by showing up on doppler radar or calling snowplows out of dormancy to remove layers of duns from bridges.

Mayflies have two adult stages. They first emerge from the water as duns (scientifically known as the subimago stage). They then molt into the spinner (imago) stage, in which they mate and die.

This poem is from the book The Llama Who Had No Pajama by Mary Ann Hoberman. Hoberman's poems, accompanied by Fraser's illustrations, have been delighting children for 40 years. Now, many poems from their out-of-print books are available in this fun collection. The selections are mostly humorous, sometimes contemplative, and deal with animals, family, play, and plain silliness.