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Our German Relative

Our German Relative

By Mitchell Toews

Whenever our family got together, it was inevitable that we would sit and tell stories. We would gather in my grandparents’ adjoining kitchen and living room, tjinja on the floor to make room on the couches and chairs for our elders. Here at the heart of their warm and crowded house, no one would be out of earshot. Yarns were unravelled and our feelings rose and fell. It was as if we were on a ship and the prairie around us was a rolling ocean – in all that sprawling snowy sea, my grandparents’ house was the safest harbour. And yet the stories often reminded us of the many dangers that exist in what seemed such a placid and familiar world.

At Christmas, Grandma always told the final story. That was our tradition. It was about my great-aunt Rosa when she was a child in Russia.

Enunciating with care in her precise English, Grandma Zehen told the story. Her narration was theatrical and thrilling, but still heartfelt and purely told. She would fill in detail and sentiment, adding dialogue to suit. But most engaging of all, she always told the story as if it was ours. This may not have been strictly so; it may have been cultural lore as much as family history. I never felt that it mattered – I just remember waiting for the story every Christmastime.

Lights were dimmed, candles lit. Out came the platters of Christmas cookies from the warmth of Grandma’s oven. Baked fresh this evening, we had been smelling them since the stories began, all of us waiting for them to arrive. I will never forget the candy taste of the pink icing, the buttery aroma with just a hint of vanilla. I can still see the warm glint of the crystal sugar in the candlelight. Best of all, dee tjinja got first pick from the overflowing trays!

Grandma began her special story once everyone had their cookies and we chewed as quietly as we could to listen.

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Not too far from Odessa, on the shores of the Black Sea, there was once a place called Molotschna Colony – ‘Milk River’, you know, as Englanders say it. My mother’s sister, my Taunte Rosa, attended grade school in one of the villages there. By Soviet dictate, the lessons were taught in Russian. The teacher, however, was brought in from Germany for the school year. Naturally, she was fluent in Hoch Deutsch – the language the Molotschna Mennonites spoke in church. She spoke Russian too, but best of all, thisLehrerin was also able to get by in her Mennonite students’ native PlautdietschObah, for the tjinja, of course, Plautdietsch was like the difference between day-old rye bread and fresh raisin toast with butter!

After Russia’s Godless Revolution, another state dictate forbade all religions. It was illegal to come together in any kind of gathering, especially for groups with obvious proclivities towards worship. Why even our little get-together today would have been banned under these new laws! Ambitious and diligent, the government officials were particularly strict in overseeing the local Mennonites in everything they did: at work, at home, and in Taunte Rosa’s school.

But there were still some aspects of Christendom that refused to fade in Russia. In a practical sense, this referred to the calendar and the arrangement of holidays, most of which were based on old religious traditions too deeply ingrained in society to go away overnight. Christmas ceased to exist, but a single day of rest near the end of December was permitted in Taunte’s village. Despite this, officially, even the simplest Yuletide symbols were banned.

Can you imagine? We have not experienced oppression like this in Canada, but let me tell you, it was a profound stimulant to Christmas joy back then! There is a kind of enthusiasm for celebrations that only forbidding them can produce. Ha! Bibles came out of secret hiding places. Clandestine late-night services were held in barns and haylofts and carols were sung in whispered voices. Even the auf’jefollna cast aside their backsliding ways and rediscovered their fervour!

Now, kids, I’m sorry for all the big words and grown-up talk! What Grandma is saying to you is that Christmas was taken away. And not just Christmas, but Easter too and even going to Sunday School. It was a mixed-up time, joh? But you little ones shouldn’t worry – the next part of the story is really for you, most of all!

So, now…little Rosa was very excited and too young then to grasp the full extent of the ban. She felt that taking away Christmas was like a game the adults played – the government on one side, trying to catch you; the parents and kids on the other side, trying to be clever and feeling the dangerous exhilaration of outsmarting the apparatchiks and their stuffy No-Christmas rules.

Christmas baking was one of many pieces in this complex game. Most Mennonite families still made Christmas cookies and other festive treats, but these traditions were known to the officials and were part of the ban. Christmas cookies were kept secret and were hidden.

A few days before Christmas Day one year, Rosa joined the game. That day, her mother had baked a batch of these secret Christmas cookies, and young Rosa couldn’t stop herself. She took one of the best, one with pink icing and red and green sugar crystals on top – and snuck away. She wrapped it in oiled paper, then in a folded piece of cardboard and secured it snugly with a thin ribbon she had saved from her birthday. Her coat had an inside pocket and she placed it there, near her heart. This was her Christmas gift for her teacher, Fraulein Rosenfeld. Rosa was so fond of her pretty teacher, you see, and was always broken-hearted in the springtime when Fraulein packed her trunk and left on the train.

Imagine the winter sky, children, as big there and just as blue as it is here. Think of Taunte Rosa as she hummed ‘Stille Nacht’ ever so softly while she walked to the schoolhouse, her boots squeaking in rhythm on the hard-packed snow path. Rosa, you see, felt guilty for not telling her mother about the gift. But, you know just how she felt, joh? She wanted to give this gift so badly and feared if she had asked, the answer would be no.

After lunch at school that day, while the other children dressed to go out and play, Rosa walked shyly to Fraulein’s desk and placed the ribboned gift in front of her. Fraulein tilted her head, not used to gifts from children in her class. Desperately saving for passage to strange, distant destinations like Canada, America, and Mexico, the families of Molotschna had little left over. And, of course, no one in any of the Russian Mennonite Colonies gave gifts for Christmas.

“What’s this?” the teacher asked.

Rosa stood at the edge of the desk, her heavy parka over her arm. At first, she was terrified, sensing that her teacher was angry and that she had done something wrong. “A present, Lehrerin,” was her meek answer.

Fraulein answered with a hum and a slight frown. She was a prim woman, thin and neat and somewhat severe. Her eyebrows raised and her eyes flicked up to see if anyone else was in the room. It was empty; all the children were already on the playground. She picked up the light bundle and unwrapped it with long piano fingers, laying the shiny ribbon on the varnished desktop. She undid the folded oil-paper and looked down at the small Christmas cookie.

“Well, well,” she said, before taking a deep breath and sitting upright in her chair. “How nice, Rosa. But, tell me please: did your mother give you this, for me?” She left her steady gaze on the child but took care not to stare too hard.

Rosa looked down, her cheeks flushing. “Nay, Lehrerin. It was me,” she confessed.

Nicht Mutti?” replied the teacher in more formal High German; her tone firmer, a hint of accusation lingering.

Nein, Fraulein. Mother doesn’t know.”

Fraulein Rosenfeld nodded curtly. She rose and walked swiftly to the doorway, her heels like hammer blows on the oiled wood floor. Looking down the hall and then closing the door, she paused there, her hands clenching as she gathered her thoughts. Rosa waited, feeling ever smaller next to the tall desk. The door locked with a sharp snap.

Nah joh,” Fraulein Rosenfeld began. When she turned back to Rosa she was smiling. “This is so nice.”

Rosa squirmed, basking in the moment.

“It’s just so nice!” Fraulein repeated. “Can we have it now, Rosa?”

The little girl studied her teacher’s face. Then, eyes shining, she said, “Joh!

Fraulein Rosenfeld looked through the window to the playground. Then she returned to the desk and broke the cookie into smaller bits. She ate some of it, passing a small piece to Rosa.

They ate together, chewing busily like church mice, with the teacher standing between little Rosa and the door. Fraulein fretted from door to window and to the large white-faced clock on the wall behind her, above the lined blackboard, keeping watch all the while.

Soon the cookie was gone. The teacher took the wrapper and folded it over and over until it was a small square. She pushed it deep into her pocket, together with the curly ribbon. She moistened her fingertip and dabbed at the few remaining crumbs. Holding one finger upright in front of her pursed lips, she took Rosa’s little hands and squeezed them gently, leaning over to kiss her on the forehead in the silent classroom.

“Our secret, joh?” Fraulein said in a whisper.

Rosa nodded, elated to have a secret with Fraulein – an honour she did not fully grasp. But perhaps it was just what the Fraulein had been lacking in cold and distant Molotschna.

 

molotschna sm
Page 232, “Building on the Past”, Raduga Publications, Rudy P. Friesen

 

You see, Fraulein Rosenfeld was much revered by the officials who ran the school. They saw her presence as a special concession to the Mennonites. On the other hand, the local teachers felt it was a slight to them and they treated her with cool disdain. For Fraulein, from a remote dairy farm in southern Germany, this teaching position was Godsent. It combined her gift for language and her love of children. To her, some minor social distance was a small price to pay. But ask any oma or opa whose children have since begun their own lives and families, and they will tell you, it’s easier to feel lonely at Christmas than at any other time of the year.

Fraulein gazed with fondness at the tiny girl, she saw the brightness in her eyes and touched her braided blonde hair.

Just then, the first of Rosa’s red-cheeked classmates huffed into the cloakroom stomping snow off their boots and unwinding scarfs, their yarn-strung mittens wet and dangling. They looked at the two at the front of the classroom. Rosa’s friend Tina called out that they missed her for the game of fox and geese they had played, running in the fresh snow. Before Rosa could reply, the bell rang and the children returned to their seats.

Now tjinja, you might ask, how dangerous was that one innocent küak? Surely no great peril could come from something so small? But all it would have taken was for the wrong official to find out about the cookie – why what would have happened to them then? Those Russians, obliged by strict orders to find them, might have detained Rosa’s family. Maybe they would have been sent to a distant work camp or suffered some secret cruelty in Moscow, too horrible to name. Who knows?

And all because of a Christmas cookie.

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Grandma folded her hands in her lap. The house fell still and silent until Grandpa prayed, his voice solemn and thick with emotion. When he finished, after, “Amen,” we sang, giving thanks for our deliverance, rattling the windows, billowing our hearts; “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”

At last, late on Tjrist’owend, I would lie in my bed and retell myself Great-Aunt Rosa’s story. Fraulein Rosenfeld was like a relative we saw just once a year – a loyal and trusted member of our family there in the tiny house behind the bakery on Barkman Avenue. With this visitor, never distant though she came from far away and long ago, our Christmas was complete.

 

Reprints and re-blogs are welcome. A version of this fiction appeared on Red Fez Christmas, 2016.

The Business of Saving Souls on SickLit

Update: My prickly story about the conflation of business, big church and politics appears on SickLit Magazine today, May 15.

This is a reprint of the story which first appeared on another of my favourite literary journals, Literally Stories.

This is what SickLit Senior Editor Nicole Ford Thomas had to say about it:

“I really like “The Business of Saving Souls,” as it seems at first like a warm and fuzzy church parable about doing good, but down deep, it’s a lesson about standing up to corruption–all corruption–and fighting to take care of each other.”

SickLit recently ran a reprint of another of my stories, “The Rothmans Job”, which first appeared on the vibrant Canadian literature site, CommuterLit. I have a total of seven stories on CommuterLit and another five on Literally Stories. Thanks to the editors of all of these exceptional online literary journals!

I hope you enjoy the pieces and welcome your comments.

Special thanks to the editors at SickLit. They are awesome sauce. (Or, “hosanna!” as they’d read responsively at the NTCCF.)

Allfornow – Mitch

The Beefeater and the Donnybrook

 

Update: 4.11.17 – Hi, from a sunny day in April, beside the lake,

Janice and I have been travelling and have both been down with a cold lately. My blog activity has been limited, though I have been able to keep up with daily writing. Today I heard from editor and literary paragon, Charlie Fish, that another of my stories has been accepted for his award-winning site, Fiction on the Web.

Feedspot has named FotW a TOP 20 short story site on the internet!

Short-story_20_transparent_216pxHere’s what Charlie says about FICTION on the WEB: “It is a labour of love. Every single story on here is hand-picked and carefully edited by me. I don’t have a staff, and I don’t make any money. I do this because I want to give authors a chance to get their work out there, and I love sharing great stories with the world.

FICTION on the WEB has been online since 1996, which makes it the oldest short stories website on the Internet.”

Here are a few snippets from my latest story:

The Beefeater and the Donnybrook

By Mitchell Toews

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

MICAH JAMES WAS shorter than average and had an interesting kind of face. His eyes were recessed and penetrating and his complexion had the weathered texture and ruddy colour of a mountain climber or a big game hunter. He was neither. Micah James was a quiet, middle-aged family man – an engineer working for the City of Halifax in Canada.

The Jameses were leaving together soon on a long-awaited trip to London. His wife, Marion, had planned the trip from the packing process through tipping and all conceivable forms of disaster planning.

[SNIP]

“Ok, I’m on it! Walk will do me good.” Micah said, giving Marion an assuring glance and summoning up some energy for the trip. It was fine – the kind of little blip he had been secretly hoping for.

[SNIP]

Twisting in his crouch, Micah was eyeball to kneecap with a pair of creased black pants, gold piping on the sides. His eyes followed the stripes up to a white satin tunic and topping that, a dapper red fez. Then the voice again, but softer, “Are you alright, mate?”

[SNIP]

He waited in line at the reception desk, listening to an instrumental version of a Bob Dylan song. It was piping out of a speaker in the tile ceiling above him and he laid his head back to peer at it. Thinking of his own rapid descent into hell, he picked detritus from his oily beard; bits of styrofoam and other rancid urban spod. His thinning hair hung in limp disarray and the belt of the raincoat had come loose and was dragging on the ground behind him like an obedient, filthy snake.

[SNIP]

See it on FotW on May 19: an ever-worsening yarn that plays out on the streets of central London. 

Other stories that have appeared on Fiction on the Web:

Nothing to Lose

July 8, 2016. A baker and former hockey player reminisces on his colourful history as he delivers buns in the dusty Manitoba sun.

Heavy Artillery

Oct. 30, 2016. The story of young Matty and his characterful neighbour encountering a travelling salesman in the sleepy Manitoba town of Hartplatz.

The Preacher and His Wife

 Jan. 23, 2017. In Hartplatz, rural Canada, a neighbourhood scandal brews when young Sarah reports that her grandmother’s engagement ring has gone missing.

The Rothmans Job

February 19, 2017 UPDATE

SickLitMagazine has advised that they will be publishing a reprint of “The Rothmans Job” which first appeared (see below) on CommuterLit.com.

The story will run in late March or early April.

sicklit

allfornow – Mitch

January 30, 2017 UPDATE

TODAY, this twisted Canadian yarn, born in absurd truth and transported on the wings of a fictional 1991 prairie storm, is published by CommuterLit – a Toronto based online purveyor of morning short stories, lox and bagels. (And they are all out of lox and bagels.) 

http://commuterlit.com/

If a Neo-Noir Xmas Tragicomedy sub-genre exists, then this story belongs there. If not, then maybe this story inspires it?

A snowy night. An unlocked warehouse. A characterful materfamilias.

The Rothmans Job – EXCERPTS
By Mitchell Toews
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A STORM LIKE THIS was rare. Snowflakes blocked out sky and sun and moon and stars. The flakes – as big as baby fists – had been falling for three days. Light and dry, they flew, then settled, then flew again – whipped by a dodgy north wind. At night, the tops of buildings disappeared except for the occasional glimpse of a red tower beacon or a snapping row of flags, like those atop The Bay.
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Through this otherworld trudged Waxman and Thunderella. Waxman led. He wore two snowmobile suits and his knees could not bend more than a few degrees. Lumbering and stiff, he plowed through drifts for his female accomplice, Ellen Thundermaker.
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[snip]
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“No way, Waxy. It’s gonna be all imported cheese and fancy wine. Crab meat. Vienna sausages…” she said, stopping to let him join in.
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“Ha-ha. Yeah – uhh, Heineken beer, Dijon ketchup, Swiss chocolate – or, you know, one of those giant bars, ahh,”
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“TOBLERONE, TOBLERONE!” she shouted out, filling in the missing name.
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“AS if,” she added, suddenly serious…
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[snip]
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(about 2,400 words)   Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017.

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Waxman, Thunderella, Pegasus, Otto the inventor, the police, Pozzo, Roland, and (in absentia) Poland, all look forward to making your acquaintance.

allfornow – Mitch

The School of Forgiveness

One of the joys of writing is meeting and connecting with other writers. It’s interesting in a capitalist context to see us buzzing together like communist bees to build a plenary body of literary work: Fiction, Essay, Journalism, Criticism, Opinion, Poetry, Theater, and so on. All done in what are often intensely personal moments of recollection, self-awareness and exploration.

We band together in critique groups, associations and guilds, in events, readings, book launches and on the internet.

Since March 2020, a LOT of internet.

A pleasure and a point of professional courtesy that (no surprise) pays off as much for the giver as the receiver is to read and review work in progress. I’ve been both beneficiary and provider in this regard—giving an increasing amount of effort to reading and less to being read. (Those who regularly get my feckless Momma’s boy pleadings for them to read a story and report back may disagree… You know who you are. But in my defense, we built a loft on the water just to bribe you, so, you know, soldier on.)

Here is a fresh-voiced realist who walks the streets of Every Damn Day Another THING and knows how to tell it on the mountain. I’m pleased to give you one of her stories, below. A pick-up truck with a rose-hued patina on the outside powered by a Boeing jet engine and driven by a hot-rod pilot with one elbow poking casually out the window, even around the bends.

The School of Forgiveness

by Ramona Jones

Electives or required courses? Forgiveness and Patience, two subjects failed time and time again, reappearing and taken until I get them right. I wouldn’t have to study these if I had majored in something quantifiable. Forgiveness paired with betrayal…Do I have to sit here until the class is over? Ramona, pull your head out of the emotion and recount the facts. I don’t like going to hard places in my head without good reason, because those subjects are really tough.

I understand why people block out memories and shore them up behind facades and alcohol. I just forget, or replay parts, over and over until they wear out. Maybe this time I can turn a few off.

In 1981, I lived in a house in Vancouver with my boyfriend, a medical student, and four other students, paying ridiculously low rent. So low in fact that Ron and I saved enough money for a road trip to San Francisco. Two days before departure the phone rang, connecting me to my unpleasant family life in Toronto.

“Mom’s had a stroke.” I could hear the tearful catch in my brother’s voice. There was no choice but to go. No time to do anything but book a hotel. I could not stay with my father, where my strength would be drained to construct mental defences and avoid, whatever.

Clint told me to come quick, this was very serious. I took a cab from the Toronto airport, straight to Saint Michael’s Hospital where my mom lay fresh from surgery. The smell hit me first, alcohol fumes rising through the air to my nose. The next thing—the visual—reminded me of Egypt. Her head was swathed in bandages, a lot of white bandages in a turban. In the peripheral view, tubes entered and exited her body.

I don’t remember the last time I spent conscious time with my mom before that day. My memories of commonplace days with my family of origin blur and soften. That day I only had love. I reached for her hand because she could not see me.

“Mom, it’s me.” I held a swollen hand. It had to be the right hand, because her left hand remained paralyzed  for the rest of her life. She squeezed me back, releasing some of my numbness.

My dad was very upset that I would not stay with him and my brother, but Jacqueline—my dad’s cousin, a school counsellor living in BC—supported my decision to go solo. The hotel offered refuge and calm space at night, while part days were spent shopping and walking on Yonge Street, waiting to see if my mom would make it. Saint Michael’s is downtown, 30 Bond Street, to be exact. I had access to record stores and the Hudson’s Bay bargain floor. I bought a size 10 navy skirt, a red sweater and brown shoes, with gracefully thin straps and low but stylishly flared heels, perfect for my job in a Vancouver government office. I wanted badly to go home, to work, as soon as possible.

I scold myself for being so self-centered. No thought of Clint or my aunts and cousins, who are just as upset, maybe more, as me. Two of my mom’s sisters flew from Manitoba to be there. Neither travelled much—living pure, simple lives in the country, but they came, like me, knowing we were all near death in Toronto.

Only, it didn’t happen. I have a comforting memory of sitting with a nun at the Catholic hospital. She never preached or told me anything about God, just offered me a mug of hot chocolate. So sweet, in the midst of everything. I found out more about what they did and thought about my mom’s cerebral aneurysm after I got home. Dr. Howard, who is my cousin, and is renowned in his specialty, Geriatric Medicine, told me afterwards that he arranged for my mom’s stay in Riverdale Hospital. In her situation, with inadequate support at home, she lived in rehab for an entire year.

I used to think, Eva, my mom, was a bit of a chicken—always anxious, always evading the direct questions I would fire at her from my position as her dependent but selfish child. The stroke threw back the covers, exposing her truth. My mom worked so hard in rehab, she became the bravest woman I ever met. She learned to walk again.

Every challenge was met with a search for a personal solution, not complaining or blaming. With her new outlook, she went shopping, once a week to a mall, travelling by a bus for handicapped people, for treasured time outside of the house.

She never took another drink and assumed a mental independence she never had before, returning home where she relished every minute until the day she died, 26 years later.

My brother had a huge part in her story, but not mine. He told me he prayed hard, hours on end, begging God not to let her die. There is more to what he told God, but that is not mine to share. Clint told me Mom had a dream before the stroke. Jesus appeared to her. He told her, “Eva, Life is going to get very hard for you, but you are going to be alright.”

What did I make of that? This: Forgiveness does heal. My mom showed me how it is done but I am still working to graduate from that course. Patience? If you saw what I felt, watching Mom navigate from a wheel chair, in a walking world, you might not have enough either.

British Columbia’s Dr. Bonnie Henry has nailed this now, in Covid context, but my mom learned it, miles back:

Be calm, be kind, stay safe.

~ ~ ~

Thanks, Ramona!


Imposterism and Perspective

A quick ramble through the blackberries: I write about my Mennonite and my secular experiences–what I love and what I disrespect–as it occurs to me and in roughly equal measure. As a non-baptised cultural Mennonite, and a self-named Mennonite imposter, I am outside of the permission loop that may constrain others who write about the same topics.

But I’m not immune to restraint and inhibition just because I don’t surf the hemlock pews on Sunday morning. (Another one of those surf-slash-theological and pinophytically-correct metaphors, dudes.) Externality, it could be argued or at least considered, gives me and those like me the freedom to be hyper-critical.

In fact, I am rigorously beholden to all of my personal relationships, long held and cherished, with those who DO “surf the hemlock.” Seriously, a perceived outsider (or imposter) has internal motivation–not church-imposed–when speaking out. An equivalent influence? Sometimes jo, sometimes nay.

So… audible inhalation… I would like to and should make it my professional beeswax to know what has gone on in various church groups, conferences, etc. in the history of Mennonite writing. I need to understand those who held or now hold formal rank and wield the power of censure or absolution. The fact that those bodies-politic were, or still are, all-male and seem as intellectually homegenous as those identical rows of psuedotsuga benches upon which they, uhh, ‘hang ten’ bugs me not a little and diminishes their validity in my view. But still.

So, yeah… I’ll work to enhance my knowledge of the history of “insider” writing in the Mennonite fiction canon. It will enhance my POV even as I see my externality as an equally worthy, and perhaps in the final analysis, less incumbered point of origin. My lifetime of personal experiences continue to kick me “right in the back pocket” and won’t allow me to ignore their painful presence. Plus, considering the depth and context of my personal Mennonite experience–with both a Russian delegate and a shunning in my antecedents–and my 50-years in one of the central milieus and eras of Mennonite evoloution… I feel I should tell the stories I have lived.

Flash Fiction and The Group of Seven

Winnipeg blogger and author MaryLou Driedger (“What Next?”) had this interesting post on her site recently: Flash Fiction and The Group of Seven. I’ve re-blogged it here partly because she mentions me in her post.

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She has pointed out that photographic artist Phil Hossack and I will draw from people and places in Manitoba to create an ekphrastic prose-filled artbook. The photography will offer one interpretation and prose another.

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MaryLou accurately points out some similarities between our concept and the excellent new book, The Group of Seven Reimagined published by Heritage House in Victoria and edited by Karen Schauber.

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Like the Group of Seven book and other artbooks that combine visual art and the written word, we too will be called upon to create an aesthetic that is worthy of the subject matter. Our “design charette” has paid attention to the design on the printed page. Some benchmarks: Unity & Variety; Balance; Emphasis & Subordination; Directional Forces (visual flow of pages, spreads, covers, bleeds, etc.); Contrast; Repetition & Rhythm; Scale & Proportion.

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Leading our design… the recurrent themes or stepping stones will be People, Places, and Light. Phil and I are excited, eager to begin, but we’ll wait for the all-clear Covid siren to sound before we hit the road.

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Below: One of Phil’s evocative images, Roseisle artist Stephen Jackson near the Sourisford Linear Burial Mounds. This photo provides a possible example of how People, Place, and Light might combine to suggest a fictional narrative with a distinctive Manitoba inflection.

Roseisle artist Stephen Jackson soaks up the lush landscape at the Souris Ford Mounds, a National Historic site in the far south west corner of Manitoba.

This project, with the working title, “People, Places, and Light — a Manitoba journey” is assisted by a “Create” grant from MAC | CAM.

What Next?

The Fire Ranger by Franz Johnston -1921- National Gallery of Canada

A man guides his plane over the burning forest, scanning the horizon for a place he might land. As he does so he tries to comfort the little girl who is his passenger. 

Little Island by Alfred J. Casson -1965- McMichael Canadian Art Collection

A young woman becomes so engrossed by a painting at the art gallery that she is oblivious to the man accompanying her, a man she connected with on a dating app. 

Lake O Hara by J.E.H. MacDonald -1928-McMichael Art Collection

A woman who has been travelling the universe in her spaceship finally arrives at a place she can call home. 

Those are just a few plotlines from the short stories featured in a new book called The Group of Seven Reimagined published by Heritage House in Victoria.  

Cove by Emily Carr- Collection of the…

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What Leda Knows

This thought has been irritating me, like a pebble in my shoe — a squarish pebble lodged where it cannot be reached. It has bothered me all day and the only way to get rid of it is to jot this down. Barefoot, maybe. Toes wiggling.

Whether it is Irish writing or Jewish writing or Indigenous writing… or even if it is Mennonite writing, I think the full complement needs to be part of the accounting. All constituents must be consulted to speak their unquiet peace. Not only the praise-makers, the honouring, the apologists, the happy-talkers, and the yammering wholly satisfied but most importantly perhaps, all of the others.

All the others.

Who would best know the naked truths and speak freely about what they know? Do the rich paint their discontent on the subway walls? How many fat cats walk a beat on city streets, risking rubber bullets or worse? No, They cause resentment, they don’t suffer from it.

Go ask these: The fallen. The betrayed and the shunned. The aggrieved. The marginalized, the disavowed, the once-close — now distant. The ambivalent who hang suspended still from the ties that bind, but who would cut them if need be… if they had no other choice.

In W.B. Yeats’s dark masterpiece, Leda and the Swan, we are told that Leda could feel the swan’s strange heart beating, “where it lies,” as if it was somehow disembodied, no longer a part of the bestial being.

Does this mean that to capture the truth, we don’t go to the apparent source? Go rather to those who offered up a sacrifice and received aggression in return. Or something sadly “indifferent” as the poet suggests.

The presence of indifference might reveal more than all the rest combined.

 

 

The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon

Hi everyone,

I have a new story out today. The inspiration for this tale comes from my real-life friend Irene M. and her mom. Taking the plotline related to me last summer, I created a composite small-town mom, mixing aspects of Irene’s wonderful tale of resolve with memories of my own mom and her steely side.

The result is the short fiction, “The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon.” This story is live online now, August 10, on the great Canadian literary journal, Agnes and True. 

It’s a special story for me in lots of ways—timely too—and so I’m hoping it will get lots of reads, shares, forwards, and reviews. If you are able, please give it a glance and send it around to friends who might have a special understanding of some of the conditions and the times and places described, or who might relate to the overall grin-and-shimmy of it.

I’m hoping that someday my granddaughter (Hurricane) Hazel will read this and say, “What the crease-resistant Fortrel was Gramps talking about? Could it really have been like that?” You see, Hazel—like all of her aunts, great-aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and definitely her mom—is made of stern stuff, just like the main character in the story.

https://www.agnesandtrue.com/the-grittiness-of-mango-chiffon/

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Mom, tree planting in my sis’s yard, working up some steam and showing a granddaughter how it’s done.

My thanks to Agnes and True!

The Quatrefoil

In art and design the quatrefoil is an important and frequently used element. I don’t know too much about them but I enjoy them for their simultaneous blend of simplicity and complexity. A quatrefoil consists essentially of four overlapping equal-sized circles, with variants on that theme. Like a meander or a spiral, there is an innate optical pleasingness in looking at a quatrefoil and that is one of the reasons why it is a fundamental of visual art and design.

ancient-greece-meander-ancient-greek-cuisine-geometric-art-ancient-greek-architecture-meander
Meander

Both the quatrefoil and the spaces between its evenly aligned ranks and files are visually soothing. Looking at these shapes scratches an itch in your brain, the one you did not realize you had until it got scratched.

Large Quatrefoil Wall Stencil: Amazon.ca: Home & Kitchen
Quatrefoil

I think. I did not look all of this up on Wikipedia, nor have I studied this in the past nor do I have special intuitive knowledge powers (“super genius stuff”), like some C- grade undergrads from Wharton. Wharton is in Pennsylvania. I think.

Four. 4. Quarters. Quatro. Four anything can be represented by a quatrefoil. Four lads from Liverpool, the Ninja Turtles, four ripe plums, or four asteroids in orbit around one of the nine moons of Endor…

Today, I have four good things to talk about. I have listed them as Quatrefoil One through Four:

Quatrefoil One.

Nice people are overrepresented in the business of fiction. Thank goodness. If it wasn’t for the nice people, I would lose my mind because this writing shit is super genius stuff and that means, for me—a non-graduate of Wharton undergraduate studies, Cambridge University or Endor (or any of its moons)—it is hard as f*ck!

Quarrel One. The diamond-shaped pieces between adjacent quatrefoils are sometimes called “quarrels”, especially in a description of fenestration — like the stained glass windows in the King’s College at Cambridge. (A place, like Endor, where actual “super genius stuff” takes place.) Quarrel is a fine word and so I’ll use it here to describe the fillers I have inserted into each space between my four good things. Each of the three quarrels will describe something about quatrefoils. There is no extra charge for these trequarrels of sublime, intermediary (or interlocutory, cuz that is also a fun, six-syllable word) information.

Quatrefoil Two.

I am able to enjoy the lake we live next to in almost any condition. If it is warm, I can swim in it. There’s fishing, but somehow I don’t get around to that much. In summer, on calm mornings, I can row across its surface. When it’s really windy, I can windsurf. Windsurfing is basically a showing-off activity so when I am out windsurfing I am thinking super genius stuff like: “I bet those people sitting on the dock over there would be prett-ty-prett-ty impressed if they knew that I’m a GD pensioner!” Meanwhile, the person on the dock is actually busy wondering if Regina really does rhyme with “vagina” or whether that Canadian guy was just having them on…

If it is just a little windy I can windsurf on a board equipped with a hydrofoil. This is a new windsurfing invention and it really ramps up the “bet those people are impressed” thoughts in my show-offy brain. It may also increase the shoreline spectator consideration of other Canadian city names like Moose Jaw, Upper Rubber Boot, Crotch Lake, Dildo, and Climax.

The strangest place names in Canada | Cottage Life
This is a real place name. It’s in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Quarrel Two. A quatrefoil arch is a common feature in gothic architecture. Cathedrals are loaded with ’em.

Quatrefoil Three. I have work out soon in three exceptional Canadian publications and one based in the U.S.:

Shape Outline Clipart - Quatrefoil Png , Transparent Cartoon, Free ... On Sunday, July 19th, at 2pm Pacific time, I’ll be part of a virtual (online) launch for Pulp Literature Issue 27.  The launch will be on PL’s Discord server channel, and I hope you’ll be able to join in. Just like an in-person launch, there will be door prizes and chances to chat with the authors, who will be reading from their work. The event has contributions from Denmark to Western Australia. But none from Elbow. (Saskatchewan… there may be one from Elbow, Ontario, though — home of the Elbow Roughriders.)

bumblebee1
My story, “Piece of My Heart” was awarded the Editors’ Choice award in the 2020 PL Bumblebee Flash Fiction competition.

Shape Outline Clipart - Quatrefoil Png , Transparent Cartoon, Free ... August will see the launch of a new issue of Agnes and Truean exceptional Canadian online literary journal. I’m super genius excited to be in this market and can’t wait for folks to read my story, “The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon”, a tale of fashion, warmth, and redoubtable resolve.

agnes about

Shape Outline Clipart - Quatrefoil Png , Transparent Cartoon, Free ... I’ll be returning to Just Words, the annual anthology of fiction, CNF, and poetry from Blank Spacesa production of Alanna Rusnak Publishing. This compilation will be out in September. https://www.facebook.com/blankspacesmag

blank spaces team

Shape Outline Clipart - Quatrefoil Png , Transparent Cartoon, Free ... My pick-up truck saga, “The Sunshine Girl” will shine its ever-lovin’ light on Cowboy Jamboree, sometime this fall. “An interesting slice-of-life vignette…” according to Editor Adam Van Winkle. 

cowboy jamboree
“A grit lit rag promoting fiction in the vein of Donald Ray Pollock and Larry Brown and Dorothy Allison and the like.”—Cowboy Jamboree, About.

 

Quarrel Three. Are quatrefoils lucky? Do they have special, magical powers? Do they stay crunchy in milk? I don’t want to influence your religious beliefs or otherwise stray onto private property but I’d say quatrefoils are never considered unlucky.

Quatrefoil Four. Drumroll, please. My grant application to the Manitoba Arts Council | Conseil des Arts du Manitoba has been accepted! My proposal to produce a Manitoba artbook will be going ahead as soon as Covid-19 allows free travel around the province. My collaborator, photographer Phil Hossack, and I will work together to create an ekphrastic collection of Manitoba-based short fiction and photography. The three-part theme we want to focus on: People, Place, Light. We’ll travel the province to gather extraordinary stories and pictures from ordinary folks.

mac logo

More on this project soon, but for now, please let me know if you have a Manitoba location, a person, a story, or if you know someone with a printing press sitting around not doing much. These are all things we could use!

PEOPLE | PLACE | LIGHT

Manitoba is endowed with remarkable people. From Louis Riel to other famous individuals like Gabriel Roy, Cindy Klassen, Miriam Toews, and many, many more, there are lots to choose from. There’s also a plethora of the not-so-famous—but just as interesting. It’s predominantly this latter group we hope to meet and share with our readers, though story-telling and visual arts.

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Our province is one of diversity not just in the origins of its people, but in its geography too. The North, the prairies, the boreal, rivers, lakes, a great city and numerous smaller communities with singular stories to tell and show. Manitoba places make for fascinating discovery and study.

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Sunny Manitoba. As every Manitoban who has spent time out of the province knows, it is our light, both in terms of the vast size of the sky over the flat prairie landscape, and its year-round abundance that makes the sun’s absense felt most acutely when we are away from home. Whether it’s sitting on a Whiteshell dock in the unfading light of a late June evening, or waiting impatiently for the sunrise on a frozen January morning, Manitobans’ relationship with daylight—with the sun—is special and unlike any other place. So too, light plays a dominant role in the art of photography and we believe that by paying special attention to light in our photos (and in our fiction!) we’ll uncover truths that may otherwise have gone, uh… unilluminated.

So that’s it. Four cool things. A quatrefoil.

allfornow,
Mitch

 

One Day on Mars

It could be that this fanlit flash (launched May 1 on my Facebook page) has some prescience! For those who love a good conspiracy theory, Romulans, Klingons, and the Orange Menace.

One Day on Mars

Picard: Queen Sensula, do you mean to tell me that the Romulans created and then spread the deadly Space Virus? (Appalled. Much Elizabethan flavour.)

Oh, but I shan’t doubt it, my dear Queen. Those secretive Romulans are capable of…

Queen Sensula, leader of the Teuton Nebula: No, Jean Luc, I’m telling you that, Orangitus, the Klingon ruler means to promote such a theory in order to demonize the Romulans!

Picard: But that’s PREPOSTEROUS! No one in the galaxy would do such a thing… to lie in order to turn the universe against a single planet? Why surely even Orangitus, that PATAK, is not capable of such a VILE RUSE! Why?

Sensula: Don’t call me Shirley… and not only is Orangitus accusing the Romulans, but he also has impugned the Intergalactic Health Organization! Accused them of being in league with the Romulans!

(She continues with smouldering, Fiona Hill-like intensity) Why? Orangitus knows these three things: One, that if he persuades the universe of the Romulan guilt, he can exact stiff penalties from the rich Romulans. He will claim these penalties as reparations for Klingon, citing his planet’s devastation—Klingon has suffered more than a quarter of the deaths from the Space Virus.

Two, Orangitus will pit himself against the Romulans—a race already distrusted—and glean political power for himself in the bargain. Plus, his staggering accusations cover up his own bumbling mismanagement of the Space Virus on his home planet!

Picard: My, my! Do go on dear lady, please.

Sensula: Third and last, but most cruelly, Orangitus KNOWS that by assassinating the character of the IHO, he will be opening up a path to ignore their universally-agreed creeds and laws. Instead of sending vaccines—once they are formulated—to the universe’s poorest planets and systems…

Picard interjects: Is that the usual IHO mandate?

Sensula, nodding her two heads: Yes, it is the time-honoured way; to protect the most vulnerable. But Orangitus will wreck the IHO’s reputation and then force other planets and races to bend to his will by threat of economic and military sanctions! Klingon and Orangitus will get the vaccine and only once their selfish needs are met will the rest of the universe be saved!

Picard, cursing obscurely: BY ANDROMEDA’S STRAIN, you say! My word… What are we to do, oh, wise Sensula?

Sensula: Get off our privileged asses and VOTE the swine out in November.

Picard: MAKE IT SO!

 

(And yes, I’m aware it is May Fourth and I also know the difference between the two space sagas and the fanaticism of true fans. Nannoo-nannoo. )

Winter Shrinkage

My contribution to Earth Day, April 22, 2020.

With sorrow for coronavirus victims—direct and indirect… past, present, and future.

With hope for humankind; hope that we change the things that brought this pandemic upon us.

 

Winter Shrinkage

by Mitchell Toews

It was an average winter. I spent idle days virtual-thumbing through online catalogues, dreaming ready-to-assemble dreams, exercising my PayPal muscles and the Charter of Rights and Free Shipping. But one morning, Janice and I were unnerved — not a little — when we were forced to climb out of bed like U.S. Marines going over the side of a troop carrier in a Turner Classic Movie.

“It’s that shrinking virus,” our doctor’s young voice boomed after a half-hour wait, my damn cell phone now the size and shape of our Trolstrop end table and just as heavy.

Shrinking? But how? This is Canada, not Skull Island! Was this to be our polio? Our influenza? Our Walking Dead, now come to pass?

And it was true. We were shrinking. All — or at least, most of — the people in the world were getting proportionately smaller. Just like The Atom or Ant-Man in the primary colour universe of my pre-teens but without the attendant super-powers. Unable to undo my lifelong sense of divinely assigned supremacy, I felt as though it was not us shrinking, but the rest of the world growing. The world was suddenly upside-down, growing enormous due to some horrendous mistake, through no fault of the people of the Earth.

I frowned through the window at the grinning, darting chickadees. The size of flying monkeys. Disturbed, I imagined a population of mutant human giants — immune, immense — clomping around in Adidas Gazelles the size of actual gazelles; amok in our shrunken Canadianopolises, now Kandors, with no tiny Supergirl, boy or man to protect us. I want to be immune, I thought, a little pouty.

#

After a month or so, for amusement, Jan and I sit atop our Frukskol serving tray. Its buoyancy — pounded out of a bucket full of ground Amazonian treetops — floated us serenely during our laps around the meltwater in the swimming pool. A cat, swaggering poolside big as a dragon, watches us with yellow eyes and we stay in the middle until it pounces on the mini-deliveryman, here to drop off our latest package of mini-toilet paper rolls. He screams like a robin chick fallen from the nest.

“Maybe we all just need to go back to eating more carbs?” I suggested as we paddled along, making smooth synchronized strokes with our Svart Svan salad serving spoons. The plastic is so light — made with real boreal forest tree flour!

Our desperation grows. We succumb, weary of our teeniness. Despondent in our miniature solitude we sit each evening in the never-ending flickering blue light that shines down upon us like our own personal drive-in movie… reclining, as we do, on a stack of expired Netflix gift cards, we watch the pandemic on TV, eating popcorn puffs the size of cantaloupe. We the shrunken, armed only with our snacks.

“I’m glad about one thing!” I posted online with cheery intent to distant unseen friends in less-effected regions — racing home before they can no longer see over their dashboards. “This malady does not affect our heroes…” I wrote. “Gretzky is as big as ever; he hasn’t shrunk an inch.”

“That CBC interview last night?” A buddy texts me back. “That’s just an old replay. He’s actually the size of an Ütfart flower vase now, I saw him on the news last week.”

How belittling. I find it on YouTube. Gretzky, his hand-puppet sweater tucked in on one side, wearing a Jofa helmet made out of a thimble.

And what about the billionaires? They too have become tiny but, their wealth remains Costco-sized. They urge us to keep doing “normal” things, to keep the economy going despite our dimunuation. “People may shrink but our economy must remain LARGE,” they say with conviction. Right… They don’t have to dodge hungry sea gulls on their way to the Wendy’s drive-thru in a Barbie Star Traveller motor home! We do — we feed the trickle; the trickle-way-way-down.

#

But then the tide turned. Stealthily, the blessed Tillväxt came among us, lifting Her cloak tails discretely as She crept along, and we began to grow. Praise Tillväxt.

“A long cool woman in a black dress,” one alleged eyewitness reported. Soon after, steady enlargement came announced only by the smallest of shudders, like a cement truck hitting a pothole outside your office building. Humankind began its journey back.

One day, I noticed how it only took me a few minutes to stamp out a text to our daughter, whose small children were like a string of ellipses, following behind her, their 14 pt. ampersand mom. I jump on the keys like Tom Hanks to send out my message, ending with, #feelingweighty. r u guys growing? I ask, with joyous smiley faces on a field of red hearts.

Incrementally, day by day, our statures grew. All of us, around the world. O blessed renewal! Some claimed it was on pace with the mercury in the thermometer. Others cleaved to the ascendant gospel of the Tillväxt, now the third-leading religion worldwide. Sun theory or benign magical Mother Almighty, I welcomed our return to normal and the coming warmth of summer. I could hardly wait to be tall enough to turn on the air conditioning!

#

Whatever it was that caused it all, whatever the scientists can cipher — once they are again big enough to operate their laboratories and not self-immolate in the flame of their Bunsen burners — the human population enlarged. Jan and I soon found ourselves standing eyeball-to-bullnose with our Fullspäckorp kitchen island countertop. Progress!

Comforted by the unknown natural vaccine, the grace of Tillväxt, or whatever, I luxuriated, expectant, my anticipation sky-high. I relished the mental imagery: Visions of humankind, rising up and reaching outwards like that pansy caught in time-lapse photography on The Nature Channel.

I renewed my password-protected online consumerism but it felt a little off, as though something had changed in me during my big-small-big passage. Disconcerting thoughts filled my head. Packed freeways. Smog-filled urban skies. Jet trails playing Hangman in the sky above. Mountains and forests and glaciers and clean water once again going, going, gone.

Yes, we’ll grow back. We’ll unshrink! Once more the human race will reach titan proportions and resume our species’ ordained privilege; our filthy, greedy, pleasure-dome domination of the planet and its lesser beings — flora, fauna, and anything else we can batter and fry, cut and pulp, exploit and extirpate.

Until that is, the next usurper comes to take away our crown — invited unknowingly by we humans and the havoc we create as we attempt to hold dominion over nature, acting för stor for our britches, as always, I fear.

End

 

CC BY ND

“Here’s what the coronavirus pandemic can teach us about tackling climate change.”

“Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it.”

 

 

 

The Daily Rapture — Wrap Party

 

 

Here’s the CONCLUSION to the short-lived but lively as a rodeo-clown-with-diarrhea three-part series, “The Daily Rapture”.

Q: WHY, not-so-anonymous ghostwriter Toews (if that’s even your real name—sounds made-up)… why did you take the time to grind out this spotte-fest? Why bother? Do you have a shit-disturber disorder? What skin have YOU got in this game?

PREFACE: Not long ago I happened to catch a TV show featuring an interview with an evangelical fellow who claimed to have been to Christian heaven and back. Okay… He was taking on-air questions and hawking the vanity press best-seller “he” had authored. Right…
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Did I want to reach in through the television set and pinch his money-grubbing snout in a rhetorical way? Yes. Yes, I did, brothers and sisters.

This evangelical-du-jour went into great detail about THE RAPTURE and I found it comically similar—minus the F-bombs, weed, and gross sex jokes—to Seth Rogan’s over-the-top apocalyptic movie, “This is the End”. It is hilarious, and telling, that the evangelical, super-uber-earnest, book-flogger dude and Seth Rogan’s druggy, Hollywood religio-romp came down about the same on the facts and figures of the big ol’ round-up in the sky, the tribulation, and to a degree, heaven.

How many evangelicals would allow their children or grandchildren or those in their care with a less-than-adult ability to discern between fact and folly to watch an apocalyptic movie like “This is the End”? N-O-N-E, with a capital kliewe de, that’s how many. It is worth noting too that Rogan & co-producer Evan Goldberg created their film for mentally fit adults only.

Remember, many of these same end-time extremist folks* prohibited kids from watching “The Simpsons”, and yet, they force-feed the horrors of the rapture to unqualified, unfit audiences without care or compunction. 

*Spot them dancing “Gangnum Style” at Sunday morning services. “Put yo hands in the AY-YAH!”

pt hat

So, with that as the groundwork, here is some other bitchiness I am seeking to vent:

  1. Why was this rapture business not a big deal when I was a kid? I grew up in a God-fearing town, where Die Owlah’s vengeful nature was known and preached with some regularity—in homes and from the pulpit. Sure, there were some “end times” conversations and we all knew “Revelations” was not bedtime story material unless maybe your dad was the Marquis de Sade… But, other than that, the RAPTURE was not common fare among the religious set, within whose margins (and abodes, sometimes) I resided. I don’t know much about the growth of evangelical influence in respect of rapture preaching within Steinbach churches, but something tells me that the correlation factor would be high. For me, at age seven years (1962), when my Grandma Toews led me to Jesus’s warm embrace, I can guaran-damn-tee you I would not have gone if that rapture shiet was being tossed around like a live grenade! No way. Even back then, my trusty bullshit barometer would have been at ELEVEN on a scale of ten.
  2. The Snake Oil Factor. Why, with any caricature in the wide world to choose from, would I have created a Main Character with the persona of the Hee-Haw host? (Minus the gitar-pickin’ skills.) Why not pattern “Pastor T” after a solemn student of scripture, an academic, ecclesiastical show-jumper with a pedigree a Molotschnan mile long? Eh? Well, I just felt like the rapture is more suited to the big-lunged revival tent gang: “COME TO THE FRONT, BROTHERS AND SISTERS… COME TO THE FRONT AND REPENT… THE BUSES WILL WAIT… COME TO THE FRONT! (We take VISA!)” You know the type.
  3. The “Of Mice and Men” factor… As I alluded to in the third installment (“The Daily Rapture — Act Three”) I find it cruel and irresponsible to put a child or any person of diminished intellectual or emotional capacity in the line of rapture fire. What will the rapture message do to a person deep in the throes of depression? How will thoughts of the rapture allay despair? To hear that you yourself, or your loved ones, your more-sinful friends, or even just the wide world of random strangers (billions of people, according to a fast Google search) are going to be left behind to suffer the whole mess promised in the good book… Nah! C’mon! If you want to circle dates on the calendar and scare people, pick someone your own size.admit one
  4. You get what you pay for. A problem I have is accepting the transactional nature of some teachings. (If it’s a transaction, where’s the faith?) Okay, in all of life on earth, actions have consequences. Mostly. You let your guard down at the water hole and, BAM! Your ass is grass. See you later, alligator. We are tempered by the harsh reality of physics, chemistry, and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”—we’re taught that the world will kick your donkey if you’re not careful. Soooo, it follows then that our eternal address must be purchased, cash on the barrelhead, in advance, right? Like insurance or guaranteed seating at a concert? NO, I DON’T THINK IT DOES FOLLOW. I can’t swallow it…can’t believe that this much-promoted eternal entity made of pure light and love and blah-blah-blah is there at the wicket, handing out tickets like a carny huckster. I think the hucksters are the human beings who try to sell us on this tit-for-tat confidence game that the whole rapture biz is based upon.
  5. The people I love have a brain, a big heart, and a firm spine. The misguided few who put up with my pap—especially since I started this whole Toews-prose shake-rattle-and roll in 2015—are people with whom I don’t always agree. They are individual members of a broad, diverse, and eclectic cohort. They are collectively non-collective. While they might not agree with my personal take on the RAPTURE, they probably get why I might have some issues with it and some might even agree with me, at least in part. If they do or if they don’t, I’m certain their eternal fate will not change one bit, because that is my faith. In return, I pledge my friends and relatives my ongoing, unaltered friendship, love, and respect even if I disagree with their rapturous viewpoint. Like the staunchly adversarial disciples of Ford and Chevy, Coke and Pepsi, keto and carbs, etc.—we can disagree and still have a cordial (lite) beer together. And so…
  6. It’s a free country—with one caveat. Everyone should believe as they wish, as long as no one else is harmed. Can this be a rule for religion? Can we agree to curb our fervour at the point where others are involuntarily involved?

w abbit

6.1 It’s a free country—not a magic country. I see prayer calls for people in dire straights… I get this and have no complaint—fill yer boots! This action comes out of caring and an honest desire for good; a human reaction to hardship. Empathy. Part of faith that can do no harm. (Well, except for gun violence, where prayer can supplant real, effective action, but that’s another whole case of huckleberries.) Another example: I see prayer calls for a nicer house, a pay raise, or for a certain motorcycle to pop up on the Buy & Sell and I am not impressed. That’s an easy one, right? Many people disavow this kind of shabby, picayune, bent-knee self-serve. I also see directives from influential clergy calling for their congregations to prepare for the rapture by modifying earthly activities as though the rapture was an absolute certainty with a specific date. Hmm. In light of all the prior FAILED FORECASTS, that is magical thinking of the highest order and it may well cause some harm. Harm for whom? The poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized in the flock. Not the preacher—he just pencils in a new rapture date and checks the Buy & Sell for that bike he wants to buy. What I don’t see are prayer calls to re-grow a severed arm or leg. Why not? Because, deep down, even the most devout and the most earnest and the most cynical can all appreciate the difference between faith and magic.

LAST: We are already in a period of rapture, with nature, if only we would recognize it and stop screwing it up.

“God doesn’t need to come down upon a mountain, for the mountain itself is the revelation. We only have to look at it and we will know how we should live.”-—John Moriarty

Disclaimer: No bonnets were harmed in the making of this spotte. The use of the phrase, “The Daily…” is purely random and coincidental and bears no relation, resemblance, derivation, kinship, or sheep’s clothing from any other internet phenomenon, past or present. It does represent admiration and writerly puppy-love of the non-Ewww! kind.
Spotte (schput): To deride, scorn, mock, scoff…