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gold medals

A quiet, solitary day – it’s 6.30 p.m. and I have not talked to a single person except the vendors at the market this morning. Riding home with a backpack full of peaches, strawberries, corn, ham and tomatoes, I saw a joyful sight: a large group of people, most of them in wheelchairs, which turned out to be the Colombian team for the Para-Panam games that are ending today. The thrill – that people with disabilities are being celebrated in our city. Ken’s great-niece – a “little person,” as he calls her, once called a dwarf – has won three gold medals in swimming! What a world.

But on the same ride home, I passed several women wearing the niqab – covered except for a slit for their eyes – and then, for the first time, a woman pushing a stroller, completely covered from head to foot, eyes included, in a floor-length black veil. The strange disconnect – our city celebrating people with disabilities, yesterday drinks with a newly-married gay couple, and here, a woman who looked like a walking black garbage bag. Of course, it’s her right to wear what she wants. But I cannot see it as a positive thing, a strike for personal and religious liberty, that she is faceless, shrouded like a black cloud, as she walks the August streets of a big western city. I cannot.

Tonight the Para-Panam closing ceremonies – the streets are closed, much excitement downtown. There’s also the Asian night market near Cherry Beach that Jean-Marc and Richard visited yesterday and came to tell me about – full of street food, fish, exotic Asian dishes including a very stinky tofu. Tomorrow there’s Open Streets, several of the biggest main streets closed to cars all morning, bringing out bikes and walkers. Toronto has recently been voted by Metropolis magazine the most liveable city in the world, beating out Helsinki, Tokyo, and others. And I believe it. The richness and diversity of life here are extraordinary. And that includes women cloaked head to foot in black.

Yesterday I made my favourite summer dish, ratatouille, with my own tomatoes and a huge zucchini from my daughter’s garden. Today I downloaded a yoga class and tried to do it – ye gods it was hard, I’m not nearly as flexible as I’d thought. But mostly I sat in the garden and worked, deeply grateful to that young woman who wrote long letters to her parents in 1979 and to her mother who kept those letters. An incredible resource for a writer.

As you can see, I have given up my attempt not to write here. I need to write here. How could I not tell you these riveting things? Thank you for your patience and for your attention – and please check out friend Juliet’s blog, to the left, about the possible narcissism of “lifeblogging.” Here’s my life: there’s a scarlet cardinal on the lilac bush a few metres away, Randy Bachman’s show starts at 7 and while I make dinner, I’ll be dancing around the kitchen, and here’s a new photo of three of my four greatest loves. It does not get better than this. Over and out, for now.



6 Responses to “gold medals”

  1. theresa says:

    So rich and fine…

  2. beth says:

    Yes, for sure, Theresa. And your beautiful family too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I read that NYT article dissing Harper…excellent! Once again, I'm admirative of your daughter's desire and success in building a family. She's lucky to have such a supportive and hands-on mother. As for the niqab-clad muslim women…when Sarkozy passed the law in France banning the wearing of the niqab in public, my first reaction – as a Canadian – was one of dissent. People should be entirely FREE to wear what they want and no government should dictate the clothing habits of its citizens. Well, after reflection I've changed my mind and I now agree with this French law. Why? Because covering one's body from head to toe does not correspond AT ALL to the values of Canadian women (nor of Canada, for that matter). We didn't march in the streets nor burn our bras to turn the clock back a thousand years. The niqab, in my opinion, is an oppressive garment that is positively medieval. But there's another valid argument. Canada, like France, is a secular country and those values should be upheld. The niqab is a religious garment, an essential Islamic mode of dress that has no place in Canada.


  4. beth says:

    Juliet, obviously this is a very difficult subject. For me, it's the FACE – not having a face – that I find so devastating to witness. These women are most often immigrants, struggling with a new country and language, and because communication with them is impossible, they're completely isolated from everyone except their own families and countrymen. I don't object to any kind of headscarf or body covering, but I do think women should be allowed to have a face.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree. To have a face is to be visible. The reality is that many of these immigrant Muslim women are forced to cover up by their husbands or fathers. In France, Muslim men are fined if found guilty of forcing their women to wear the niqab. By the way, nowhere is it mentioned in the Koran that a woman must wear this garment. Wearing a full black cloak with slits for the eyes is a symbol of oppression and subservience. Hardly a reflection of Canadian values!

    But all this is a symptom of a much larger problem which is the funding of mosques by Saudi Arabia and other ultra-conservative Gulf states. Their aim is to promote Wahhabism, an extreme and fanatical version of Islam, abroad. Eighty percent of major mosques in America are under Saudi-Wahhabi influence This movement appeals to many alienated young Muslims and, in part, explains the growing popularity of the hijab and full veil.

    We need to be vigilant. And informed. And that’s why I loved The Bishopsgate Institute in London so much. One of the posters on their corridor wall said – The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

    Have a great day.

  6. beth says:

    Thanks, Juliet. And now, on this stunning August day, I will concentrate on my roses.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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