the death of Mary Oliver

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (M. Oliver)

It is a serious thing / just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world. (M. Oliver)

Do you love this world? Do you cherish your humble and silky life? Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath? (M. Oliver)

I was deeply saddened to read that Mary Oliver died today. Her poetry and way of looking at the world, especially at nature, uplifted and sustained me. (see New York Times obituary below). She was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Maybe death isn’t darkness, after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us. (M. Oliver)

A favorite poem entitled Wild Geese 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Rahaf and Zineb need our help

When I read certain blogs written by Privileged Western White Women who complain a lot, and then read about the plight of a terrified Rahaf barricaded in a hotel room in Thailand, it is starkly clear that the problems of Rahaf, Zineb and PWWW are not quite the same. Frankly, I’m tired of listening to the PWWW (privileged white woman’s whine.)

Rahaf fled her family and Saudi Arabia. Thankfully, and largely due to social media supporters worldwide, she is now in a safe house under UN protection. She is seeking asylum in Australia, and Australia should help her. The fact is, there are thousands of women like Rahaf and it’s tragic. The full story is below and it’s chilling. Which brings to mind another woman I’ve been interested in lately, a journalist here in France. Her name is Zineb El Rhazoui. Known as the most threatened woman in France, she is also the country’s most protected citizen. Everywhere she goes (here in Paris), she is accompanied by a police escort. The French government is protecting her. Women like Rahaf and Zineb are very courageous, and I admire them.

Zineb was a Charlie Hebdo journalist. Yesterday, January 7, marked the four year anniversary of the day the two brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. To “avenge the Prophet Mohammed”, they gunned down 12 people. Zineb happened to be out of town that day. Since then, she is an ardent and vocal advocate for the right to publicly examine Islam more closely. Is Islam really a religion of peace and love? She dares to ask these questions. She has also publicly declared her atheism. Because she dares, and because she says she’s an atheist, she receives thousands of death threats from French and non-French Muslims. Which is why she has bodyguards.

As for Rahaf, she fears her family will kill her for renouncing Islam, a crime punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s sharia law. UPDATE: She has been granted asylum in Canada.

Zineb and Rahaf’s dilemmas only highlight my privilege. How lucky I am to be a free and independent woman, born in Canada and living however, wherever, and with whomever I please! Personal choices, all. It is I who chooses how I live, not some cultural or societal or religious diktat. But really, when you think about it, it’s a roll of the dice. I could have been born an oppressed person in a freedom-less, tyrannical, misogynistic country. Luckily I wasn’t. And I treasure my luck every day.


Zineb El Rhazoui, freedom-fighter

From Wikipedia

Zineb El Rhazoui was born in 1982 in Casablanca, Morocco to a French mother and a Moroccan father. She has dual French and Moroccan citizenship.

Growing up in Morocco, she routinely asked critical questions about the subordinate status of women under Islam. In secondary school, she made a point of wearing black nailpolish and low-cut blouses to school, where her teacher was a conservative man with a long beard. “As a woman in a male-dominated country, you sooner or later face a choice. You can comply, let yourself be cowed and shut up, or you can fight.”

Here’s the article in today’s The Guardian concerning Rahaf al-Qunun –

Update – granted asylum in Canada:

January, shades of gray

How many shades of gray are there? When I look up to the winter sky in Paris I can think of many: pewter, pearl, slate, stone, dove. You get the picture. When I first moved here I was disheartened by the long, unbroken stretches of gray days that befall Parisians during the winter season.  This is, after all, northern Europe.  I missed (and still do) those invigoratingly cold but sunny days in Canada where temperatures drop below zero, but the sky is magnificent, blue and cloudless. Not so here. Just endless gray and cold, but not freezing days.  No ice. No snow. No drama. Just dull, boring gray.

That’s what it’s like today. I’m stretched out on my chaise longue, huddled under a blanket, a mug of creamy coffee at my side. I’m going to save my pennies, I’ve decided, and try to go to Barbados at the end of this year. The last time I was there was in the 1990s with my parents. Barbados isn’t cheap, and flying there from Europe is costly. My sister has the timeshare there, inherited from our parents who purchased weeks 51 and 52 way back in the late 1980s. But she has not once invited me to stay there.

The beginning of January is like a bottle of fizzy Perrier gone flat. All the sparkle and effervescence of December gone, we start a new year in a shroud of gray and uncertainty. Will Brexit go through? Will Trump be quelled? Will the gilets jaunes prevail? Will world poverty be eradicated?

Back to Barbados, and because I haven’t much else to report right now, here’s a popular blog post I put up in March of this year –