Saturday, November 14, 2009

Of Flight, Freedom and Paying Respect

On Remembrance Day, at eleven o'clock, I wore a poppy and stood with Black Jack at the fishing wharf, just past Jericho Beach. (This picture of the wharf was taken two days later.)
It seemed there was significance in everything I saw. A seagull with a knowing expression made me think of all that birds have witnessed. I thought of the larks in the poem, In Flanders Fields.
This plane, maybe an Aurora CP-140 Submarine Hunter, flew low, coming toward me, in a ceremonial manoeuvre.
It flew so low, I could see the faces of the pilots. I thought of Mr. Fred Mullen, a WWII RCAF veteran, who spoke at my school at a "We Remember" assembly on Tuesday. It is the 4th year he has spoken, and his words, as well as the pleasure he takes in sharing his story, always touch me deeply. There were approximately 350 students at the assembly, and he shook hands with each one of them. His smile, and the tears in his eyes, would have melted a heart of stone.
My camera seemed to have a mind of its own, one minute, following the seagulls,
..and the next, the planes. These, I think, may be from a club called The Fraser Blues. There were nine of them flying.
Surely, the ability to rise above the earth symbolizes the freedom we cherish.

Here, the two planes on the left appear to be touching, a phenomena of perspective, but still, an impressive feat of precision flying. Each generation reaches further than the one before could have imagined possible.
The seagull was probably wondering about its next meal, but its quizzical look connected to my thoughts about human beings and fighting. Honestly, I don't get it. With all the progress mankind has made, we still have not figured out a way to just get along.
Flight.. it will never seem ordinary. Here, eight planes and a seagull. I guess the seagull wasn't as close as it appeared to my eyes, but I had a twinge of concern for it, and for the pilots.Black Jack and I left the wharf and walked back through the park on our way home. We passed one gentleman wearing a poppy. He smiled, a bit grimly, I thought. I wondered if he also was trying to make sense of it all.

This tree is at the side of the path that leads to the wharf. I took its picture because I found it to be beautiful against the sky, but now, it occurs to me that trees witness silently, sometimes over centuries.
Black Jack was intensely interested in finding out what was in a hollow log. She wasn't free to investigate as fully as she would have preferred, but she carried on as best she could.
Through the rabbit bushes.
Past some flowers.
Just a squirrel gathering food for the winter, but each encounter seemed extraordinary.
A young and very pretty seagull.
Five dogs under the leadership, and restrictions of a man..
who was convinced that the training was necessary and right.
One more knowing look as we left the park.
Two days later, back at Jericho on a windy day, remembrance was still on my mind. I believe November 11th will always bring images of my father, who polished his shoes and his medals, marched proudly with his comrades through our small village, and paid fierce respect to the ones who did what they believed to be right, and paid with their lives.
The robins gathered their food,
and seemed to enjoy the short bursts of sunlight.
The crows gathered food as well,
while Black Jack responded to the wind's energy.
This post has simmered for several days, partly because of the wait necessary while Blogger upgraded my photo storage, and partly because my thoughts continue to be conflicted.

A young soldier, Sergeant R. Morgan, also spoke at my school on the 10th. He gave his personal remembrances, after fighting for peace in Bosnia and Afghanistan. A very likeable young man, he has seen far more pain than any human being should. He was asked some tough questions by our students, and he handled those queries-verging-on-accusations bravely and honestly. He also, along with the other veterans at the assembly, shook hands with every young person in the gymnasium. He works now as a recruiter for the Canadian Military, although recruiting was not his mission when he spoke to our students. I shudder when I pass by the signs in front of the Seaforth Armoury, inviting youth to enlist. I want the youth of the world to find another way to solve conflict. If Remembrance Day serves to inspire that direction, then, it must certainly be the most important day of the year.

A young seagull, flying free..
and some beautiful red leaves taken just as we rounded the corner home on the 11th, conclude a post that pays fervent respect, but begs for peaceful tactics to solve present and future conflicts.


  1. A great series of pictures, CC, and nicely connected with the dialogue. Are you giving lessons in photography at your school? If so, I will be coming over to enroll.

    Cheers, Shiprock

  2. I really like the serie of seagulls and airplanes.
    Nice Idea.
    Thank you for your comment.
    Do you like the idea to visit the Kalahari Desert and its wonderful lions?
    It's easy,sure and cheap with my wonderful Guide and his Travel Agency:

  3. "A long and winding road..."
    Lovely post with a fervent hope for the future that I wish more of the world shared.

  4. Thoughtful texts which mirror my own ideas about Remembrance Day! As always, I also loved the pictures! I had four great uncles who went to WW I and three uncles who went to WW II; fortunately, all seven came back but all were different men when they returned. None were willing to talk about what they had seen or done so I appreciate those who have the courage to talk to students. Perhaps we can make some progress... except that the military are actively recruiting in our schools here in Manitoba!

  5. OOPS!!!! Grammar alert! "None was willing...." Shame on me!

  6. Wonderful post, Carol, the kind that makes me pause with joy or awe or sorrow as I read it.

    "...trees witness silently sometimes over centuries" - oh, how true! If only they could talk!

    The second robin picture - feels like spring!

    And, "I want the youth of the world to find another way to solve conflict." Oh how true, oh how very true! I spent an hour writing an entry on Remembrance Day for my own blog, and then chose not to post it as I feared it disrespected those who believe their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, died for our freedom. If there has been, for me, a positive change in how we recognize Remembrance Day in recent years, it is that there has been a decline in the glorification of war I saw and heard on such days when I was a child, and a new focus on the sadness and sorrow and horror of war. When will society understand that there IS a better way?

  7. Thanks for the comments, everyone. It is always wonderful to get feedback!

    Shiprock, my photography lesson would be a very short one. (Point at something you like, put camera on autofocus, hold the shutter release down until it beeps, take 100's of shots, and hope for one or two passable ones.) But, the encouragement is much appreciated. Now, if only you were offering a course.

    Thanks for that link, Andrea. I checked it out, and would choose that agency on the basis of your wonderful blog. Right now, it's a dream to work on.

    EvenSong, Jean and Phyllis, we seem to be on the same thought path. That has to be good:)

    Phyllis, active recruitment in high schools seems wrong! And... "None" as a singular indefinite pronoun has always made me uncomfortable. Interesting that our natural inclination would be to use it in the plural.

    Jean, that you thought my post was okay meant a lot, as I struggled with the same fear that you did. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. What a beautiful post Carol, and beautiful pictures to go along with it so perfectly. Unfortunately I had to work on the 11th, but did manage to skip out for a short time and see part of the ceremony from afar on a bridge that overlooked the war monument downtown. There were seas of people and it was pretty amazing.
    Thank you for your recent comments on Coopers blog as well :) Hope you and Bill and Blackjack are well!

  9. Thanks, Jen. Yes, Bill and I are well and hope you are too. Great to hear from you:)