Eat from a dish with one spoon

It has been inspiring to see how reconciliation has finally become more than just a word in this country.

Every conference and event now starts with an acknowledgement of the First Nation territories and their land upon which the event is being held.

When I was at Queen’s University a few weeks ago to hear presentations from graduate students in their school of public health, covering one wall was a string of flags hung by the students declaring their personal act of reconciliation.

I was especially proud recently to view a special work of art done by the students of Loughborough Public School, where Clare goes to school. The piece called “From What Dish Do You Want to Feed Your Grandchildren From” is 13 feet long and spans one of the foyer walls. The artwork was chosen as the Ontario entry for a special gathering in Winnipeg as part of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

It was inspired by a treaty signed between the Anishinaabe, Mississauga and Haudenosaunee First Nations in 1701 where they agreed to share the territory and protect the land, its animals and bounty around Lake Ontario. The philosophy these young students are trying to pass down to future generations is we all share the same land and eat from the same bowl with the same spoon. We must respect the land, its inhabitants and take care of it so it continues to thrive and reap bountiful harvests for future generations.

There are no knives at the table—an equally powerful message about acceptance, harmony and living in a peaceful society without war.

children's messages on artwork

I’m always amazed at the creativity and talent of young people. They used natural elements like beaver pelts and birch bark stitched together with modern symbols of how we are harming our environment in a beautiful tapestry, then overlayed personal messages and artwork for a powerful mosaic that reflects Canadian and First Nations values and principles.

This week’s #HappyAct is to ask yourself and answer the question these young minds are challenging us to answer: what will be your personal act of reconciliation?

artwork

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Plant a tree and help Forests Canada reach their Canada 150 goal

Family planting trees
Planting trees at Lemoine’s Point in 2013

Friday was Arbor Day. Clare and I celebrated Arbor Day selling seedlings at her school. This is the fourth year we’ve held this popular fundraiser and once again I was surprised and touched by the interest and support in our little community — we sold out of our 1,500 seedlings.

After travelling so much in the past month, and seeing from the skies and road how much of our land is being developed and the shrinking tracts of forests, I feel even more passionate about what we’re doing and the need to plant for the future.

Some times I think we’ve forgotten the important benefits of trees. Did you know,

  • One large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people?
  • Trees clean our air, absorbing carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals and releasing oxygen
  • Trees cool our planet by providing shade and through the evaporation of water from their leaves. The cooling effect of one large tree is equivalent to 10 room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  • Trees create an ecosystem that provides habitat and foods for birds and animals
Clare selling seedlings for the school

The Ontario Government and Forests Ontario are inviting Canadians to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday by taking part in the Green Leaf Challenge and plant three million trees in Ontario. The Ontario government has committed to planting 50 million trees by 2025 and is making it easy for landowners to participate by offering subsidies and tax savings. Add your trees to their online counter at greenleafchallenge.ca.

Here is how you can get involved and help.

  • May 6th is Community Planting Weekend sponsored by Forests Ontario. There are tree planting “bees” happening in York Region, Windsor, Niagara Falls and Cambridge. Here in Kingston, we’ll be planting trees with the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority at Lemoine’s Point Conservation Area, starting at 9 a.m. at the north entrance off Bath Road at Coverdale. Bring boots, a shovel and gloves. All are welcome.
  • If you are a lot owner, learn more about the 50 million trees challenge and log any trees you plant on the greenleafchallenge.ca website
  • Register to become a Forests Ontario member. Receive Our Forest magazine (it’s also available online if you’re an Issuu subscriber).

This week’s #HappyAct is to plant a tree. Happy planting, everyone!

Nominate an amazing place

Holleford Crater
Holleford Crater

Recently I spent two weeks in Ireland with my girlfriends. To say it was an amazing vacation is probably an understatement. Ireland is a country full of amazing places and we were lucky enough to discover and explore many of them in our travels.

The Frontenac Arch biosphere, where I live is another amazing place in the world, and they are asking people to nominate an amazing place in our region before September 3, 2015. Long Point and Georgian Bay biospheres are also asking for nominations.

I know how lucky I am to live in Canada and Frontenac County. The Frontenac Arch biosphere is a unique palette of rich fields, limestone, granite, towering pines and crystal blue lakes. It was designated by UNESCO in 2002 as globally significant for its diversity of plant and animal life and geographic features.

I’ve been thinking for the last couple of weeks about which place I would nominate and I’ve decided to nominate three amazing places.

1) Wintergreen Studios on Canoe Lake Road near Westport. Wintergreen is a non-profit year-round education and retreat that hosts programs on the arts and the environment on its 200 acres. We discovered Wintergreen about five years ago and I still think what they are doing there is amazing and commendable. The main lodge is made entirely from straw. We’ve attended some of their music nights, where you get a scrumptious catered meal, followed by terrific music. What makes this place truly amazing is the passion and commitment of Rena Upitis, its founder to educate people on off the grid and sustainable living and to provide people with a unique and beautiful retreat to spark creativity.

2) SpindleTree Gardens in Tamworth. You may remember I blogged last year about this very special place. When I was in Ireland, I toured many beautiful gardens nestled among ruins and castles. I think SpindleTree rivals these great gardens for its beauty, creativity and for the vision of its owners to carve out a piece of paradise from the Canadian shield that reflects and retains the geographical features of this area. It is an amazing place.

3) The Holleford Crater, mainly because it’s just down the road and I think it’s kinda cool that we have a crater formed by a meteor that struck the earth 550 millions of years ago in our own backyard. There is a plaque there that says the meteor was travelling 55,000 kms an hour and blasted a hole 244 metres deep and 2.5 kms wide. That’s pretty amazing.

Now it’s your turn. This week’s #HappyAct is to nominate an amazing place by September 3. Share it here—I somehow doubt the Holleford Crater will make the list but you’ll thank me when you make the trip up here to see it. (Ok, maybe you won’t, but if you drop in, I’ll at least give you a cold beer!)

Gardens
Spindletree Gardens

What would you do: take the commons test

what would you doA psychology professor from the University of Maryland recently posed an offer to his class to earn extra credits for their term paper. The offer was they could choose to add two points or six points to their individual grade, but with one important catch. If more than 10% of the class selected six points, no one would get any extra marks.

This challenge went viral when one of his students shared it on Twitter. I read about it in this Toronto Star article.

More than 10% chose the six points, so none of the class got extra grades. In the 7-8 years he’s been doing this test, only one class achieved a 2 point increase for everyone. He said many professors in his field have been using this test for years with similar results.

What’s interesting about this challenge is it forces students to consider whether they should only focus on advancing their own interests, or think globally for the greater good.

I’ve always been a firm believer that as human beings we are inherently selfish. We are wired to think about ourselves first and act in a manner that forwards our own interests. The best we can do is to try to make choices that benefit us while benefitting others at the same time.

The professor uses this test to teach his students more than social psychology, but as a reality check for today’s generation. With real and very scary problems like global warming, limited food supply and other issues facing us on a global scale, the lesson here is obvious. We need to start thinking and acting globally, even if it means sacrificing individual gains in order to survive and thrive as a society.

Some of the insights in the article were fascinating. One study looked at the success hotels had in encouraging guests to reuse towels. Researchers found that it was more effective if the message appealed to social norms. The message “Join your fellow guests in helping save the environment” resulted in more guests reusing their towels than a direct plea to save the environment.

This week’s #HappyAct is to pass the commons test the next time you are challenged to choose between your own interests and the greater good. This is an election year in Canada. Let’s give the commons test new meaning as we prepare to elect representatives to our own House of Commons. Let’s demand our leaders do away with partisan politics and address and take action on the important issues that affect all Canadians and our planet.

Get your hands dirty

IMG_1439I moved to the country about 20 years ago. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like it, having lived in the suburbs most of my life. Much to my surprise, I fell in love with this area, its vastness, beauty, community spirit and the freedom we have to roam and explore. I feel like I can breathe here.

Country life isn’t for everyone, and this post is not meant to wax poetic on the joys of country living. But I do believe that in today’s urban culture, we have become separated from the land that sustains us physically, emotionally and spiritually.

We have moved from a society of hunters and gatherers, to producers and manufacturers, to knowledge workers who use screens and devices to do our work. What toll does this have on us as human beings? Have we lost basic skills of survival? Have we lost a respect for our land and its sustainability? Have we suffered spiritually or emotionally from not being firmly grounded with terra firma?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I know is when we drive back from Toronto and pass the final townhouse in Oshawa and see the open fields, I sigh a big sigh of relief and rejoice in the sights and smells of the land on my way home.

This week’s Happy Act is to get your hands dirty and plant something. Saturday, May 3 is Community Tree Planting Day in Ontario. I’ll be planting trees twice this week. My kids’ public school is having a work bee to build a new garden as part of the school’s Eco Schools initiative (a big shout out to Union Gas for donating $1,000 and volunteers to help with this project). On Saturday, my entire family will be at Lemoine’s Point Conservation Area planting trees for the Cataraqui Conservation Area. If you go to the Trees Ontario website, you can find out where you can plant trees in your community this Saturday.

NOTE: Apologies for the late post this week for you Sunday morning regulars. Our home internet was down for the last five days–country living!

Here’s some pictures from the tree planting: Volunteers from Union Gas with a young helper, and my family at Lemoine’s Point in Kingston.

Union gas volunteers planting trees

 

 

Swinton family planting trees