Monday, November 12, 2012

Remembrance Day 2012 for Our World Tuesday

Each year, I think about Remembrance Day, but after four posts in four years, I felt at a loss to start this fifth one.  Finally, I decided to take you through a few moments, each of them somehow connecting to my thoughts. 

There were some school children playing in these leaves, gathering small piles and laughing as they tried to throw them on each other.  Their piles mostly blew away on the breeze or drifted to the ground, but it didn't matter.  They were having fun playing a game that kids have probably played since leaves first fell from the trees in Autumn.

Later, a young man practiced on what appeared to be a new skateboard.  I loved that his wheels and shoes matched and asked permission to take the picture.  He not only humoured me but shook my hand and said, "By the way, I'm Carlos."  I was glad that he was out on a pleasant Fall day riding his board.   

When I said good-bye to Carlos, I walked down to the water.  Two adolescent seagulls couldn't believe that the parent who had fed and raised them now wanted them to hunt for their own food.  I could hear the whining up and down the length of the park for a long time after I took that photo.  Just the normal growing pains of youth.

Just around the corner were a couple of hearts, one larger and the other about half the size of the first.

We continued along the seawall, and I heard strains of music in the distance.  It was fine playing but, more than that, I could just about taste the fun and couldn't wait to get closer to its source.  A couple of moments and these young people were gone, but there was time for our eyes to meet and for me to snap this photo with my big lens.  
The sun sets early these days and by the time we reached Stanley Park, the light was going down in a golden-pink haze.

Black Jack and I checked out a couple of her (our) favourite trees, then walked to Denman Street and back up to the water before retracing our steps homeward.  I was on the other side of the street from Yue Minjun's laughing statues (A-maze-ing Laughter) but managed a quick shot between the cars and the people.  It was the first time I was struck by a sense of comradeship within the circle of these laughing beings.

So what do all of these moments have to do with remembering the ravages of war?  I guess they are a bit of a stretch, but after looking at Jim's video yesterday, I was struck again that no matter what our age or condition, humans just want to have fun.  I hope he'll be okay with my sharing his video.  It will be even better if you read his post first.  It will make you smile.
And while you're there, take a minute to check out his Contemplative Monday post.  It's another good one.  Well, as I said, I was thinking about that yesterday as Bill, Black Jack and I walked to Victory Square for the Remembrance Day ceremony.  About how humans aren't born wanting to fight, and how, even if we do end up in unhappy situations, no matter what our age, a good laugh and/or a happy dance is sometimes just the best approach.  

We have other needs as well.  There's pride.  This was a really poor photo but it caught something that I remember seeing in my father when he marched to the cenotaph on Remembrance Day.  He stood so very straight.  I saw him yesterday in these two gentlemen.
We were standing in quite a crowd and I shot most of my pictures through a very small space between a street lamp and the person on my left, so you will have to excuse the quality, but do you see the fellow with the Sea Cadet uniform at the back.  As soon as Bill saw him, his eyes lit up.  "There's my.." and I could tell he wasn't quite sure what to call them, but I knew immediately what he meant.  He was in the Sea Cadets between the ages of 12 and 15 and he was remembering a good time in his life.  
I see a mix of pride and pleasure in the two expressions of the people closest.  i think they were happy to march with their comrades yesterday.
Try as I might, I couldn't get myself to a spot where I could see "the big picture" so I left Bill for a few minutes and found a wall that would have made a great lookout.  It was too high to climb up on and I looked around for something to use as a step-up.  I worried about blocking the view of a couple standing there.  "Sorry," I said.  "I was just hoping to get a couple of pictures and then I'll be out of here."  "You need to get up on the wall," said the man.  I agreed but didn't want to tell him I wasn't athletic enough to make the jump.  "We'll help you," said the woman.  I didn't see how they could do that.  Then, the man kneeled down with his leg at a right angle, and told me to step onto his knee.  "I'm afraid I'll hurt you," I said.  He and the lady insisted it would be okay and it was.  That view did my heart good. So many people wanting to show respect, say thank you, and express a hope for peace.   I felt I would burst with happiness.  My only regret is that I didn't take a picture of  those two kind people.

I am just showing a few pictures here that trigger warm emotions. There are more at my facebook site. Here's the link for any interested readers from Vancouver.  You don't need an account to look at them.  Just click on each photo and it will take you to the next.

In 2009, I was at Jericho Park when the plane in the photo below flew over. I've been calling it an Aurora CP-140 but now I'm thinking it may be the P-3 Orion.  There was a much brighter sky three years ago and my big lens caught a close-up view.  Yesterday, my small lens had to cope with light rain, crowds of people and little chance to prepare for the shot so I was pretty happy to get a recognizable image.  Recognizable, that is, in that it is clearly a plane :) Truthfully, I have no idea if it is even the same one I saw in 2009, so if anyone can tell from this photo, I'd love to hear from you.  Men, and some women, love the heady exhilaration of machines that are powerful and fast.  Even I, the least mechanically inclined person I know, feel a surge of excitement during the flyby.  I'm thinking of RCAF F/Lt. Fred Mullen.  He came every year to speak at my last school until one year, just before Remembrance Day, we learned that he had passed away.  We all missed his smiles, tears and heartfelt stories.  He was one of the first soldiers to be trained in the use of radar, and when he talked about it, his eyes and voice reflected enormous pride.  And, last evening, I learned the story of the British women WW2 pilots who were part of the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary).  The documentary is absolutely fascinating.  You can watch it here.  It rather destroys my long-held opinion that those who were in the middle of warfare remember it with horror.  These elderly women continue to think of those days as the best ones of their lives.  Perhaps, with their dangerous work close to, but not in the middle of combat, they were just far enough removed from the ugliness to romanticize something that was not in the slightest bit romantic.
I do see why soldiers get caught up in the power of these incredible machines.  Yesterday, my heart raced a bit every time the planes passed by.

We stood throughout the ceremony, watching the soldiers, singing "Abide with Me"  (one of my favourite memories was hearing Bill's voice and singing along with him), hearing schoolgirl, Sophia Chang, read her poem, "Here I Stand Above My Grave" and keeping the two-minute silence after "The Last Post."  Then, I managed to move a little closer to the cenotaph to see one person lay a wreath.  
This tradition has brought a lump to my throat ever since seeing it for the first time at the cenotaph in the small town where I grew up.
I returned to our spot, wondering how Bill was doing.  He stood without a complaint for more than two hours with Black Jack in his arms.  

Finally, the marchers turned in perfect formation for the departure.

I was amazed to have caught four out of the six Fraser Blues in this shot.  Mostly, we could just see them disappearing between tree branches or behind buildings.

When I look at the people who go to war, it seems to me that they are just kids.  Kids who have no clue what they are about to experience.  Never was that more true than in the great wars.  I wonder what is in this young boy's heart.

The wreaths were placed with the greatest of care.

Again, so young.  They should be throwing leaves or playing on their skateboards.

Another favourite moment.  That's Bill's arm reaching out to shake hands with this veteran.

Totally out of focus but check out his smile.  What inspired it?  Black Jack.  We talked about leaving her at home next year, but this moment stays in my mind.  Then again, I wasn't the one holding her 14 (approx.) pounds in my arms for several hours.  But, look at that smile.

After the ceremony, people laid their poppies on The Cenotaph.  That's Bill's at the far left.  It was the only one of the four we had between us that we managed not to lose.

I have read and listened to many stories over the past few days.  I love this one about Irena Sendler, a Polish social worked who managed to smuggle 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto, saving them from certain death in concentration camps.  She was eventually caught and tortured, but amazingly, not only survived, but lived a long and fruitful life.  She was recognized for her courage and died only four years ago at the age of 98.  
I found this picture at a sight called The Memory Project. It is of Margaret Brownlee lifting Millie Davis while performing RCAF Women's Divison fitness exercises in England in 1943. I am struck by their youth and spirit.
Last February, Bill and I enjoyed a wonderful visit with my sister and family in Ottawa.  This photo was taken at the National War Memorial downtown.  Only a small section of it is shown here, but I love it, and feel it is well worth your time to visit.  I appreciate that one of its goals was to avoid the glorification of war.  

I took these next three photos at The Canadian War Museum.  If you have never been there, it is a must if you ever find yourself in Ottawa. 

To really take it in, one could easily spend several days exploring the displays.  Just one is shown below.  This is the plaque telling about the harrowing experience of two peacekeepers, Phillip Badanai and John Tescione.

And, here is the bullet-ridden Iltus.  I've never forgotten this and doubt I ever will.  I can't imagine how Philip found the strength to drive with two bullets in his back, saving not only his own life but that of John,  who had six shots to his head and arms.   

One more person whose story touched me deeply is Herbert Lim's.  I have just listened to his voice at The Memory Project site.  It is well worth the four minutes and 18 seconds it takes to hear his words.  I will just quote a few of his words here: 
"I tell you, I don’t like wars. Wars are a waste of time, waste of life and money. I always say that. I have no pleasure in wars, killing or dying."
So, why did he join?  I am sad to say that Chinese Canadians were treated very, very poorly.  They were not allowed to vote and they weren't allowed to enlist until things became so bad that it was considered a last resort to include them.  Some thought fighting for their country might be a way to prove their loyalty.  Some felt it was their duty even though they weren't wanted.  I have heard several say that by joining the army, they finally felt accepted.  This article is a very interesting read, and these words stayed with me:
 “In the army, you depend on your buddy and it's a group effort,” Lee said. “If your life depends on the guy next to you, you can't have discrimination.”
I don't know if I'm any closer to bringing my hatred of war into alignment with my sense of gratitude to, and respect for, those who did what they absolutely believed was their duty to their country.  I post a picture of my father here.  He enlisted but due to his age, never made it overseas, much to his lifelong regret.  However, his passionate belief in the need to show respect was so much a part of my life, I cannot think of Remembrance Day without remembering him.  I like to think that he would have enjoyed the ceremony yesterday.

It occurs to me that Our World Tuesday is one way to bring people together across great distances.  As internet translation services improve, it may one day be possible to gain a deeper understanding of the many cultures that share this earth.  And, as pessimistic as many are about the impossibility of ever attaining world peace, Bill's reminder yesterday of this article gives me hope.   As he said in a comment after my 2010 post: 

A quote [from the article}: "...violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth." You may think that quote is too Pollyannish but read the article before you decide.
Note: I have put a link to my Remembrance Day posts for 2011 and 2010 and 2009 and 2008 (Part 1) 2008 (Part 2).  They are more for me than for readers, but of course you are welcome to check them out if you need more reading material :) 


  1. A wonderful day to be out and about celebrating and remembering.

  2. a lovely post. thank you for sharing your day and these wonderful souls.

  3. I love the laughing statues and the laughing women. Nice photo-journal collection.

  4. The remeberance day service is always such an emotional one. So many young lives lost that itis difficult to understand why history still repeats itself. Yet another of our young soldiers was killed in Afghanistan yesterday.

  5. This is such a well-rounded look at the paradoxical nature of war. I do think we are born with a tendency to squabble. Children growing up, before they mature, can have difficulty sharing their toys and affections. It is a learning process for many.

    I’ve sometimes pondered on why we send the very young to war. Perhaps it should be the older folk who ferment fear and write the policies that need to do battle. I suspect we would soon figure out how to solve disputes in more rational ways. But mankind throughout time has had a foe to fight so perhaps peace on earth will not be achieved until the enemy is from another source so grave that all of humanity is forced to band together.

  6. So thought full and thought-provoking! I always think of four great uncles and my three uncles who went to WW I and WW II respectively!By some miracle they all came home even though they all saw active service. One great uncle had "shell shock". Not one would talk about their experiences. It was lovely to see a picture of your father. And , of course, I always love the stories and the extras. I will have to think about the article for awhile. Phyllis

  7. Carol...I am just amazed at the details and links that you share with us the reader....Your post moves along with such ease. It was so nice to see pictures of Vancouver again, as you may know Jim and I used to live in Kitslano so very long ago. Your angle helps me to put Remembrance Day into a different slant,. I have had so many emotional feelings over the decades regarding 11/11 because my father had such an illustrious career in the air force during WWll but died while readying for the Korean War. I posted some pictures on Sophie's blog of Dad and in particular that I really love...of them dancing. I will end there and thank you for sharing your world.

  8. Carol a wonderful post with great pictures and interesting and thought provoking commentary.