Season 2: Happy Birthday CJBuzz!

On October 14, 2015, I posted my very first blog post (Blogging 101: What’s in my head). In all honesty, I had no idea what I was doing then; in truth there are times when I still don’t.  I simply knew that I wanted the opportunity to write and this website has given me the chance to practice something I love doing.  Now that I’m looking back, I can’t believe a year has gone by.  I mean, where does the time go??

When I first started this blog a year ago, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to write about.  Several people have fashion blogs and others have ones that deal with politics.  My biggest issue is that I’m not sure I could ever focus on just one subject or theme.  How could I possibly focus on just one thing when there are so many topics and issues to discuss?  Much like a casual conversation, the subject of this blog and its entries have changed from post to post; it is an ever evolving entity.  In the end, it keeps me typing so it can’t be all that bad.  It also helps when people are still reading what I have to say.

To those who have read this blog in the past and to those who are still reading… THANK YOU!  I sincerely hope you have my found my ramblings interesting….if not entertaining.

I will be looking at making some improvements to the website over the next few weeks and I will be posting entries more frequently.  I have some exciting things planned and will share them with you in the coming days, but first……

I am extremely excited to share with you the news that I can now call myself a published author.  One of my works can be found in the latest issue of NorthWord: A Literary Journal of Canada’s North.  I now find myself grinning like an idiot every time I think about it, but I’m incredibly happy, terrified and honoured to have my name and work listed in a publication that others will read.  This is another big step in my artistic journey and I hope this will continue to push me forward.  The fog is beginning to clear and there is a bright horizon ahead.

20160921_073451

That’s it for now.  However, like I said before, there is a lot of exciting things coming. With that said, Happy Birthday CJBuzz!!  It’s been a great year.

Now let’s get ready for Season 2!

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pit Bull: An Angry Rant

“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

For the last three years, I have been blessed to have a best friend in my life I could not imagine a day without.  She can be stubborn and irritable when she wants to be, but I know she loves me when, at the end of the day, she lays her head in my lap and starts to snore.  I am, of course, talking of my dog, Phoebe.  As I stare at her curled up beside me, I can’t help but think how other dog owners (and dogs themselves) must be feeling knowing that it can be incredibly easy to pass legislation, bylaws and other regulations making days like this a thing of the past.  For those who haven’t been reading the news this past week, I am addressing the recent changes Montreal made to their animal control bylaw practices which have essentially banned Pit bulls.

pitbull2

The changes came in light of a recent dog attack which led to the death of a 55 year old woman.  Reports say that the owner lost control of an animal identified as a Pit bull.  I guess, as a city legislator and lawmaker, the solution was simple – ban the breed.  Problem solved!  Right?  Before we go any further, let me make it clear that the city managed to pass this law after police are quoted as saying “we are still waiting for DNA results.”  That’s right.  They manged to pass a law banning a breed without even having confirmed the breed.  Perhaps justice is indeed blind.

The Montreal bylaw has been passed more than a decade after the province of Ontario passed a similar law.  Back then, and to this day, the government claimed it was for the safety of all Ontarians and that it would reduce the amount of dog bites and attacks.  The troubling part is that despite their claim of safety for all, the statistics show no such decline in incidents; in actuality, the number of dog bites has gone up.  My point here is not to show that dogs are dangerous, but that the breed specific ban has not worked for Ontario.  Why then would it be logical to believe that it could work for Montreal?  Pit bulls have merely taken the fall for a much larger issue.

This leads me to the reasoning I talked about my dog at the very start of my post.  We adopted our dog from the SPCA almost 3 years ago and she was listed as a terrier cross.  After a few months with her, we were so curious about her breed that we got her DNA tested.  As it turns out, she is a cross between a Border Collie, Maltese, English Fox Hound and Rottweiler.  Quite an interesting mix, but together they make a pure bred Phoebe.  This is what she is.  The reason I wanted to talk about this is because as of 2014, 2 of the breeds that make up my little furry friend were on the top ten list for bite offending breeds in the city of Toronto (Rottweiler and Maltese).  Interestingly enough, in 2004, the year before the law was passed banning Pit bulls, 2 of her breeds appear again in the top ten list (Rottweiler and Border Collie).  My dog may be many things – she is silly, stubborn, foolish, snuggly, and a bit of whiner when she wants to be – but she is not an aggressive dog.  True, she may not be a Pit bull, but Pit bulls weren’t even the worst offenders for bites and attacks in either of 2004 or 2015 in Toronto.  Actually, that honour goes to German Shepherds for both sets.  I find it quite interesting that the Pit bull was banned in 2005 when in 2004 the German Shepherd had a recorded 112 bites vs the Pit bull’s 86.  I guess it must be easier to blame a “bully” breed for these problems.

160219_dog_table

I’ve recently had the pleasure of handling a Pit bull at my work.  She is a shy and timid girl, but one of the sweetest dogs I’ve handled so far.  She enjoys walks, loves to play catch the ball and always licks my hand when I come to see her.  If we were in Montreal right now, we would be forced to have her euthanized simply because she is part of the “wrong breed.”  According to the new bylaw, any Pit bull that is not licensed to an owner is required to be euthanized.  This gets worse as they have defined Pit bulls as any of the following:  Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, any mix with these breeds and/or any dog that presents characteristics of one of those breeds. The new bylaw is a little too ambiguous for comfort.  Anybody could accuse any dog of being a Pit bull, mix or showing a characteristic of one and as long as an “expert” agrees to it, the owner is suddenly looking at ensuring the animal is sterilized, paying a hefty licensing fee , having it muzzled, and/or putting the animal down regardless of the animal’s behaviour.  Hasn’t humanity been down this road before?  It seems that history has an odd way of repeating itself in the most unlikely ways.

The problem with breed specific legislation is that it truly targets the wrong issue.  Pit bulls have long been a target for everybody’s fears of dog aggression.  Historically, they have been bred for pit fighting as well as bear and bull baiting.  However, while they have the physical characteristics bred into them, it is still up to their human companions to raise, condition or teach them how to behave.  It is the owners who pose a risk to society, not the Pit bulls.  How can you blame an animal for something it has been conditioned or trained to do by its owner?  If all the dog has been taught is how to attack or guard what would you expect it to do?  There are other cases where the owner doesn’t have control over the animal, not because the animal is uncontrollable, but because the owner doesn’t have a bloody clue.  How can you punish an entire breed for a few bad cases?  How can you kill an animal that has done no wrong because of the actions of others?  If you are looking for the root of the problem, you should look no further than the two legged animal on the other end of the leash.  How many people are now on the verge of losing their best friend – a friend they could not imagine a day without – because of human idiocy?

ALL dogs are essentially the product of one of two things: humane responsibility or human neglect.  It is not a Pit bull problem and it is not a dog problem.  It is a people problem.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quiet Does Not Mean Silence

I have been staring at a blank screen on my computer for the better part of an hour now thinking of something clever to write.  It’s sad, but true.  Quite often, I have so many topics of things I would love to write about ready to go; subjects or opinions that I am rather passionate about tucked away inside my head.  I suddenly felt the urge to write today, so I grabbed my computer and a cup of Earl Grey tea and ran out to the front porch of my mother-in-law’s house in Watford, Ontario.  I had the feeling I was in for, what I thought, would be a fantastic writing session.

But here I sit……my mind quiet.

I can’t help but laugh a little at the thought.  My mind is usually firing on so many cylinders that I try to focus on the nothingness in an effort to bring some level of peace to brain.  It works most of the time.  It also often leads people to believe that I am disinterested or shy, when that is not necessarily the case either.  And just to be clear, this is not me suppressing or ignoring items in my brain, I just need to process them in a specific way and over a certain length of time.  This leads to things like a 2 month process in choosing which type of laptop to buy.  I like to let things percolate.  I am not usually an impulsive being.

And yet, here I sit……my mind quiet.

One of the things I’ve discovered lately is that writing has a profound and positive impact on the state of the jumble that is in my head.  It’s an exercise and a time when I can dump some of these ideas and thoughts onto a piece of paper or a word processor and see them in some physical or true form.  This was probably not the best way to describe it but I can’t seem to find the words to properly convey what I mean to say.  Regardless, it will have to do for now.  This blog is only one such tool I have been using in this fashion.  Over the last 2 months, I have begun work on writing a work of fiction; I someday hope to publish this work as a book.  I am also dabbling with some ideas to write a short or one-act stage play.  While the book is already a work in progress, this play itself is still an idea in its infancy.  I won’t say more on these for the time being; I’m holding these projects close until I feel the time is right to share them.  All you need to know is that they fill with me with excitement and help push me forward.  I still have tons of ideas for these projects.

With these works ongoing, here I sit……my mind quiet.

I’ve often found that my mind tends to be at its “jumbliest” when I’m at work.  For the last few years I’ve worked a few jobs across two different companies.  Each of these companies have been good to me in their own way and I have met with a fair amount of personal success in the positions I have occupied.  For some reason, however, my brain never wanted to fully cooperate.  I always tended to look at myself as an outsider doing a job for the company rather than a member of the organisation itself.  I’m not exactly sure why that is.  I feel like I was good at my job.  Sure, I had moments where I could be a royal pain in the ass – who doesn’t have those?  But I never got comfortable.  I never allowed myself to click in fully.  I always felt on edge.  My brain was working overtime.  I froze.  A moment of clarity came when I was doing some volunteer work with the Fort McMurray SPCA.  Something clicked.  I felt useful and wanted to be useful.  One day of volunteering became 4 weeks of volunteering.  I was sweaty, tired and sore.  I was helping people.  I was helping families.  I was happy.  That’s the moment I realised I’ve been working the wrong kind of job.

Thanks to this realization, here I sit……my mind quiet.

I am now looking down at my computer screen and I notice that it is not a blank screen anymore; a screen filled with words, thoughts and ideas has somehow replaced it.  The tea I had been sipping on earlier has been replaced by a glass of water and the porch I was sitting on has been replaced by my bedroom in Fort McMurray.  Nearly 2 weeks have passed since I started this exercise.  Sometimes it can take me as little as an hour to write something for my blog.  Other times, such as this, it can take much longer.  It might even surprise you to know (or not) that there are several items I have written that will never see the light of day.  Just because I am not posting does not mean I am not writing.  In all honesty, one of the biggest mistakes a writer can do is buy into the idea of “writer’s block.”  I don’t like this term at all.  It’s a cliché.  I hate clichés.  The only reason a writer gets writer’s block is because they chose to stop writing; it has nothing to do with running out of ideas.  I like to believe that this entry can serve as an example of that; that something can come out of nothing.

The same thing can be said for my volunteer experience.  Something that started as a relatively simple commitment turned into so much more; the SPCA made me a job offer and I am happy to report that I started on Monday.

And so, here I lie……my mind quiet, but also far from silent.

pearson-creative-writing

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Epilogue: Life Beyond Re-Entry

I’ve been back in Fort McMurray for nearly three weeks now.  I had intended on writing sooner but the weight of re-entry into the city has been more taxing on me than I had originally thought possible.  The level of devastation I have seen in the aftermath of the fire has been indescribable.  Despite my best efforts, words have not found me the way they usually do and my searches for them have come up empty.  And so …. silence. That is, until now.

20160606_140103

City sign – on approach to re-entry

Through all the media reports we had received during our evacuated life in Edmonton, nothing could have prepared us for our return to the city I’ve called home for the last 4 1/2 years.  Our house was still standing, the same way we left it when we were evacuated a month earlier, completely untouched by the fire.  Walking through the house for the first time was weird; books, mail and charging cables were still where we left them as we fled the burning city.  A pair of pants I had worn to work the day we were evacuated were still recklessly sprawled on the bed where I had tossed them.  Having a life that you’ve been separated from on display before you is simply bizarre – almost like experiencing a vivid dream.  To an extent, returning home was almost like walking through a museum.  Even untouched, the smell of smoke was present throughout and we spent days airing it out and using bulk amounts of Febreze.  We could have come home to something much worse.

20160608_160202

View off the road between Waterways and Draper

Even though 85 – 90% of the city was saved through the amazing efforts of the emergency crews that held the line against “The Beast,” I’m still in disbelief over how many people I know who have been more directly impacted by the fire.  Many friends and acquaintances have experienced minor to extensive smoke damage.  Others, have suffered far worse.  For my part, I am really not sure how to handle these situations.  The period for cracking jokes has long since gone.  Nothing I say can bring their homes back.  Part of me feels guilty for having something to come back to.  All I can offer is support, a hug and a pillow if they need it.  I don’t feel like it will ever be enough.

As for me, I have been trying to keep busy since I’ve returned.  The sound of sirens and the sight of flames no longer haunt or frighten me the way they did the weeks following the evacuation.  I am happy to say, this makes getting a full night’s sleep much easier.  Also, I have been unable to return to work so far due to some damage and restriction on site.  While this is not ideal for my bank account, it has certainly had a positive impact on my creativity.  I have been painting more frequently; an activity I have enjoyed in the past but never really committed to.  I’m far from being a skilled artist, but I do find it relaxing and quite fun.  I have also done several excursions out into burnt sections of forest surrounding the city with my camera.  Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting everything to be so green;  the regenerative abilities of the forest are stunningly beautiful, more so amidst the charred remains.

20160616_210641

May 3rd – by Chris Bowers

This observation has also led to me doing some gardening.  A week or two after we had returned, I felt the need to contribute in any way I could to add to the greenery in the city.  One of the first items I had purchased was a tomato plant, which is now growing like a weed.  This was soon followed by an herb garden, including basil, mint and parsley.  Needless to say, I couldn’t stop there and, with the help of Diana (my wife), suddenly had two baskets of flowers, a pot of lavender and two pepper plants.  Our back deck has become a bit of an oasis, especially with the view of the pond not far away.  Now, I sit and sip on some gin and soda while typing surrounded by a small jungle and thoughts of my accomplishments over the last few weeks and I can’t help but feel a sense of ease wash over me.

image000000

Photo credit: Diana Moser

Everybody from Fort McMurray has been on a journey since evacuation on May 3rd, 2016; not every story will be the same.  The effects of the fire have hit us all in different ways and to varying degrees.  Make no mistake of it though, everyone has been hit by the event; no journey or story is invalid.  Even so, I can’t speak for everybody personally.  All I can do is tell my tale, how it makes me feel and how I’ve been dealing with it.  While I wasn’t burned by fire, I have been marked by it.  I believe the best thing to do is acknowledge it and learn from it – the experience has become a part of me.

To friends that have suffered or lost – I am here if you need to talk, borrow an ear or need a safe place to stay; that’s all I can offer.

And as for me……

My silence has come to an end.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tales from the North: There and Back Again

Far over the boreal forest old
From Sturgeon hold past Athabasca road
We must away ere break of day
To reclaim our long departed home.

image

The road back to Fort McMurray - Highway 63

33 days. That’s how long it has been since we were evacuated from our home.  33 days since fire and smoke engulfed our city. 33 days since we fled not knowing when we would be back.

It has been a long road; the last month has been filled with uncertainty.  Many of our lives have been put on hold and we have tried to make the most of our time away. Still, we always had that little nagging feeling in the back of our heads that something was never quite right. We have been patient and now the day has finally come – it is time to go home.

You’ll have you excuse me. I haven’t posted much in the last while and this entry won’t be very long.  I am currently on the road typing this out on my phone as we inch closer and closer to Fort McMurray.  I am excited, nervous and a whole array of other emotions all rolled into one.  Despite reports over social media and the news, I still feel uncertain as to what to expect when we get there.

Even so, it is time go home.  We packed up the car with what belongings we took with us, the dog and a few (more than a few) groceries and hit the road as soon as we were able to this morning.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back on the move headed towards my city, my community, my friends and family.  While it hasn’t been all that long since we left really, it feels like an eternity.

I will sign off now as we approach the city limits but I will check in again shortly.  For now, I leave you with one simple message….

Home is where you can always return, no matter how long you’ve been gone.

See you soon Fort McMurray.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seemingly Insignificant: Pieces from the Fort McMurray Fire Evacuation

We all have those moments when you do something without even realizing it.  It was you doing it, and you did the task willingly, but there was a brief disconnect between the conscious and subconscious for whatever reason.  For example, you’ve put your car keys somewhere other than where they normally go.  You remember having them in your hands and you remember putting them down, but for some reason you can’t remember where.  There must have been a reason, but you can’t seem to figure out what it is.  Hiding a gift for someone in a secret location, only to find out that the location was so secret, you can’t remember where you placed it.  Setting a reminder on your phone, only to forget what this nondescript reminder was supposed to remind you of.  Packing an item in your bag for a trip you were taking, but then never being able to figure out why you packed it in the first place.  Maybe you do know why you packed it after looking at it, but you don’t really remember grabbing it in the first place.

During the evacuation of Fort McMurray, there were thousands of people trying to leave the city all at once; thousands of bags packed in a hurry.  We were no different when the time came and felt the need to leave as quickly as possible.  Now that we’ve had a few days to sit and breathe, this got my wife, Diana Moser, and I thinking; what did we really end up packing?  I know we packed a lot of useful items – toothbrush, deodorant and a few sets of clothes.   When we looked through everything else, we were actually confused, amused, touched and mesmerized by some of the other things that made the cut.

I remember getting home in such a rush on the Tuesday of the evacuation.  By the time I walked through the door, I felt gross; saturated in smoke and sweat.  I ended up taking a quick shower as my wife finished packing a few of our bags (she did most of the packing as she was home a lot sooner than I was).  After a quick rinse, I got dressed as quickly as possible and helped her with loading the car.  Those moments were so frantic and feel like they happened so long ago, I barely remember them.  Before locking the door, I thought I could use a book to read as we weren’t sure how long we’d be gone.  I ran up the stairs, quickly grabbed one from the bedroom and put it into my bag.   It was only after arriving in Edmonton that I realized which book I had snagged on my way out the door.

For my birthday this year, my wife gave me two things as a gift; the first being a trip to Banff, and the other being a book.  While books can be a common gift idea, this particular one actually has some particular significance.  Recently, a writing course I was taking had me complete an assignment in crafting a story on a commonplace object (as discussed in a previous post – The Paperclip: Based on a True Story).  My wife liked the written piece so much that she got me a book that contains a collection of written pieces inspired by commonplace objects.  To me, this book is symbolic of my progression as a writer as well as the love and support she has given me as I continue to explore and develop my craft.  If I had to take one item, and one item only, I’m glad it was this one.

FullSizeRender (2)

Diana and I now invite you to share one of these stories yourself.  What made the cut in your bag?  What was that one item in your bag – that seemingly insignificant object that you grabbed on your way out?  What is its story; funny or sad?  How and why did it make its way into yours hands as you went out the door?

Provide a picture and description of your object of choice and then give a brief write up describing what made you bring this object with you, consciously or subconsciously.  Write ups should be no longer than 300 words.  Join our Facebook page at the link provided below.   Please be respectful – the purpose is to laugh, share and support each other.  Disrespectful comments and language will be removed.

Seemingly Insignificant: Pieces of the Fort McMurray Fire Evacuation

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Tales from the North: We are the City

It’s been 5 days since we’ve been forced to evacuate from our homes and our city – 5 very long and hard days.  Most of us have been watching the news in horror as more pictures come in from the fires still raging up north and what remains of the fire ravaged neighbourhoods we left behind.  With all of the press still focused on the sensationalized reports of doom and gloom, it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain a positive outlook and spirit.  My posts these last few days haven’t exactly been the brightest or cheeriest either.  Despite this, today is a new day and I felt it was time for a change in perspective.

There have been so many negative stories over the last few days that it becomes rather easy for the positive stories to get lost.  Yes, we all know that the fires are still burning and that there is quire a bit of damage.  But is this really all there is?

As most of the Fort McMurray refugees have been doing over the last couple of days, I have spent a good portion of my time browsing through social media to see updates and reports of the home we left behind.  There are still multiple pictures of ruin and fire that I would rather never see again.  These posts, while telling, make me feel more and more ill as each day passes.  I’ve had enough of these to last me a life time……maybe even two.  However, there have been a few posts that seems to have slipped through the cracks – these are the ones that I would like to share with you now.

The first thing I would like to bring attention to is that it officially rained in Fort McMurray today.  It’s long overdue and didn’t last very long, but to be honest I will take whatever bone mother nature is willing to throw at this point.  Of course, it will take a significant amount of rain to smother The Beast as it continues to burn, but any rain is better than none.  I take this as a sign of things to come.

IMG_1590

Rain finally falls in Fort McMurray

Since my last post, I have been able to get together with a lot of my friends from town.  While there have been no fatalities directly linked to the fire (as of yet), and I know that they were safe, seeing their faces for the first time since being evacuated has been a whole range of emotions.  I have never been happier to see them and just being able to hang out with them, no matter how brief, has been a huge relief.  On Friday evening we managed to simultaneously celebrate the birthday of the magnificent Michelle Thorne and see the amazing Hanna Fridhed and her husband, Kyle, be reunited.  Its an odd mix – a reminder of what we have endured as well as a touch of normalcy we have all been craving.

IMG_1584

Friends reunited

I’ve recently learned that Chris Byrne from Rock 97.9 FM is back in Fort McMurray.  He and an engineer went in, with permission and strict guidelines from the RCMP and emergency services, to reestablish the radio station and start transmitting again.  It was decided that this move would assist with the rebuild of infrastructure and, if nothing else, give the emergency crews in the area something to listen to.  As it turns out though, it’s reported he only had the station’s backup iPod which contains a list of 25 songs.  It’s possible he may be in more danger from his audience when they’ve heard the same song 30 times in a single day.  Despite this, I see a dedicated set of individuals who are set on assisting with the current situation and the beginning of rebuilding efforts going forward.

Ashley Laurenson has been very busy since the evacuation.  She has put together a t-shirt campaign born out of the #MayTheFortBeWithYou hashtag.  With the help of Sithara Fernando, the campaign aims to raise funds for the Red Cross in support of those displaced by the fires in Fort McMurray.  These shirts can be ordered on the Etsy store and will also be available at the May the Fort Be With You BBQ on May 14th here in Edmonton.  Details can be found on their Facebook page and on Etsy. I am not ashamed at all to admit that I have pre-ordered my t-shirts – see you all at the BBQ!

MayTheFortBeWithYou

For me, there is one story that sticks out above the rest  – that of Lee Ellis and Terry Cyr.  I do not know either of them personally, and I’m uncertain of what the full story is.  What I do know is that when the mandatory evacuation order was announced, they stayed behind.  While this is a technically a big no no, there is a silver lining to this story.  Lee and Terry made the most of their time and began rescuing stray and stranded pets. I have heard multiple stories regarding people who stayed behind simply because they believed they were not in any danger.  Usually I am opposed to people with this mentality.  If you have been ordered to evacuate, there is usually an extremely good reason for it.  If you decide to stay, then you are not only putting yourself at risk, but then also distracting and endangering the lives of the fire fighters, police and other service members who have stayed behind to do their jobs.  In this case, I applaud the efforts of both gentlemen ensuring that these animals were sheltered, watered and fed.  In some cases it’s been days since these animals have had anything to eat or drink.  They must be tired and frightened.  In addition, they have been providing video footage and pictures of neighbourhoods as they have been travelling around in an effort to provide people with up-to-date information about the status of their homes.  RCMP and Emergency services personnel can only do so much.  The SPCA, in conjunction with Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo,  is equally busy doing everything they can to ensure that pets are saved and reunited with their owners.  Both Lee and Terry have since left the city, but their legacy endures and they have left a list with SPCA and RMWB to ensure that the animals are cared for.

IMG_1591

Lee Ellis and Terry Cyr

These are only a few of the stories that I have been hearing out of Fort McMurray.  I will continue to post them as they unfold and reveal themselves.  The last time I posted, I made a comment about how the people are what makes the city – not the buildings.  I feel these stories and people show this comment in action.  In disasters like this, it can be very easy to focus on the negative things.  Sometimes you have to stop, take a breath and look at the good things that are happening around you.

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments