Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Happy New Year!

“Life is a journey, and love is what makes that journey worthwhile.”
(Author unknown)
True North Perspective
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more:

For years, I have enjoyed the same routine on New Year’s Eve: a quiet evening at home with the Christmas tree lights on, a fire in the fireplace and quiet all around. Before I celebrate the coming year, I review the passing one, not through the journalistic eye which often looks for sensationalism, not through the comedy shows who ridicule everything but through my own experience and perspective on life.

Tragedy came early in 2010. I was in Florida on January 12th when a powerful earthquake hit Haiti. Driving back from Tampa, we experienced but a small sample of how natural forces can create havoc. We were stuck for hours on the highway when an entire section collapsed into a sink hole. But in Haiti tons and tons of concrete collapsed, crushing and killing the local population, some tourists and foreign workers. What ensued was a human catastrophe! Ill-equipped, the country was paralyzed, causing massive logistical problems for foreign aid and rescue teams that were dispatched to the island. While around the world donations of money and supplies were collected, the death toll mounted. Foreign aid workers struggled with lack of security and medical supplies. Desperation soon turned into violence as Haitians were herded into make-shift tent cities … And to top everything, cholera later surfaced.

I realize, in all things, balance is fragile. I proudly participated in the fundraising event that was held at La Nouvelle-Scène in Ottawa on January 30th. I would later contribute a story to an anthology meant to raise more funds for Haiti. When we were invited to talk about this project on Rogers TV23, December 9th, life was still precarious there. Kettie who lost her mother and sister-in-law during the earthquake now grieved for her father. No one was optimistic about life returning to normal anytime soon. Over 290 000 people have died since that fateful day.

Ottawa enjoyed wonderful weather in 2010! Surprisingly, we also experienced a small earthquake centered near Val des Bois in June. But in many parts of our country and around the world weather created havoc: floods, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, wildfires, crop failures, an 8.8 earthquake in Chili and more. Here, we enjoyed a mild winter, early spring and a hot summer that enabled gardeners to produce wonderful veggies till autumn and finally, a calm start to the winter. We were lucky! Canada registered its hottest year on record. 

For the uplifting offerings of the year, the Vancouver Olympics were certainly proud moments for Canadians. I was amazed by Joannie Rochette’s grace under fire. Our athletes made us proud! 

Another story that touched my heart was the plight of those thirty-three Chilean miners who were confined 700 meters underground for 69 days. Their courage inspired us and the rescue efforts amazed us. Here was one mining disaster that turned into the unforgettable story we craved!

Michaëlle Jean’s departure saddened me. In my eyes, she has been the most gracious Govenor General since His Excellency George Vanier. My hopes of Harper prolonging her mandate were dashed. Uncomfortable with her charisma, he started singing to beef up his own image and maybe, convince artists he cares about them. (I had a brandy at that point!) Michaëlle Jean will surely be a champion of the rebuilding of Haiti at UNESCO. I wish her well!

This fall, I reconnected with Margaret Trudeau at the Writers’ Festival. I must admit that reading her book Changing My Mind was difficult at times. I wish her well also and admire the work she does for Watercan and for the Mental Health Organization in striving to overcome the stigma attached to mental health problems and offer sufferers insights in how to attain a quality life. 

Finally, the most disturbing case of 2010 was the evil and sadistic secret life of Russell Williams. To think that such a high-functioning military individual could hide a demented deviance of this magnitude sent shivers down my spine. I chose not to dwell on this too long but I hope his days in solitary confinement afford him endless hours of soul-searching and remorse. 

My final analysis of 2010 was a good one. On a personal note, I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do but I’m satisfied and look forward to 2011 with renewed insight and determination. I will soon hold my new granddaughter in my arms and will continue to devote quality time to loved ones and friends. I look forward to new writing ventures and a bit of travel. 

After a wonderful New Year Day celebration, I watched The Green Mile on TV, Sunday evening. This film still tugs at my heart strings. “That’s the way it is every day…” admits John Coffey, the black giant on death row, unjustly convicted of raping and killing two little girls The film mirrors life’s daily struggle between good and evil. Every day, honest people strive to make a difference as Paul Edge, the corrections officer (played by Tom Hanks) does in the movie.

A caring man, he looks after the inmates under his supervision, loves his wife dearly and helps his friends. Limitations often hamper accomplishments. Stringent rules or narrow-minded individuals can spoil efforts to better the situation. In the movie, Percy Wetmore embodies the sadistic and totally immature rookie officer who just doesn’t care and thinks he is above the law. He loves to make people suffer but proves to be an absolute wimp in an emergency. (Bullies are often wimps!) There is also the totally perverted and violent killer, Wild Bill Wharton. Wild Bill ends up shot dead by Percy who goes crazy, then falls into a catatonic state after being punished by John Coffie, a healer and a visionary psychic, who feels intensely the good and bad of the world. After John Coffie performs several miracles and makes his innocence clear, Paul considers letting him walk away. John replies there is too much pain in the world, which he is acutely aware of and extremely sensitive to. He is “rightly tired of the pain” and ready to rest, therefore choosing execution.  

John Coffie reminds me of the thousands of people who strive to make the world a better place. They often get weary to the bone because life is an uphill battle and their work is never done. But they must go on, shifting priorities when the task threatens to wear them down. 

Dear friends, my message for this coming year is: “Continue to do your best to make this a better world. And in the process, if you need to shift gear or take a different path, go ahead but continue the good work because our world needs healing.” 

P.S. I’d like to share a New Year offering from my cousin Gaston: 

“There comes a time in life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy!” 

Thanks Gaston! Blessings to all!