Pippi Longstocking

My friend Marieke told me about Pippi. I vaguely remembered the name and hadn’t seen the movie. Now I have.

What a marvel in the world is this young one!

“A nine-year-old redhead with pigtails that stick out sideways” And a spirit to match. Listen to her sing:

I am Pippi Longstocking
With a hope and a hey and a hope shah-nah
I am Pippi Longstocking
Watch out, here I come!

I don’t need to give any more Bruce comments. Here are the moments I loved:


She dives into the water to retrieve a bag of gold. “Don’t worry. I’ll get it.”

She’s friends with a mouse, a horse (Old Man) and a monkey (Mr. Nelson). And they’re always talking. At Christmas she gets them presents: cheese, a long scarf and bananas.

Tommy and Annika, her human friends, come by at 4:00 pm, just as Pippi is waking up. “I danced the night through.”

“We don’t have to grow up if we don’t want to.”

“Nothing’s impossible. Remember that.”

(A poster) “Do you suffer from freckles?” > “No, I don’t suffer from freckles. The spots on my face feel pretty nice.”

(A man throwing darts at a target) “Watch how I do it. The most important thing is … Watch and learn.” (Then Pippi throws six bullseyes)

(Speaking to two men) “You should really remember me very well.”

“I wish I could fly like birds fly.”

(Tommy) “Pippi, this is your birthday. You’re supposed to get presents, not give them.”

“It’s the opposite of what others do.”

Pippi gets up from the table by crawling over it.

Pippi dances and sings around the campfire.

She kisses Old Man goodnight.

“I made up a search game. Most people pass things by without even noticing them. But if you can keep your eyes open, you can find the craziest things.”

(Talking to Mr. Nelson) “Let’s pretend you’re a grand duke.”

(Dressed up as an old lady, hidden from her friends by a veil) “All children should blow their noses frequently to keep their passages clear and get enough oxygen.”

(After the reveal) “That old lady could learn something from us.”

(Tommy) “Pippi! You can’t take him on. He’s a very strong man.” > “Oh, so what? I’m a strong child.”

(Finding a bunny and a deer in the woods) “Don’t leave. We won’t hurt you.”

“I never turn down anyone in trouble.”

(The teacher) “A girl leaves with ten coins in her purse. When she returns, she only has two. How many coins did she spend?” > “Why would you want to know that, teacher? After all, the money she had was all her own, wasn’t it? So she could spend as she pleased.”

(The teacher, in drawing class, after Pippi gets up and draws on a wall) “Why don’t you draw on a drawing pad like everyone else?” > “Do you think I could fit a big horse like this on a tiny piece of paper?”


Enough said

“What Happened?”

It was a long time ago.  Many images had blasted my eyes over the years but then there was this one.  I don’t remember if it was girl/woman or boy/man.  A poster hung on a wall somewhere – a glowing child next to a dull adult.  There were two words at the bottom: “What Happened?”

A few years back I blogged about this.  My small mind says not to repeat it in 2023.  But why do small when you can do huge?  I’m a different person now, living in a different country, having new experiences.  So here goes …

Drink in two female human beings.  Forget that one is a photo and one a sculpture, that one is recent and one ancient.  Just look at the eyes … and the mouths.

What you see may not be what I see. (And isn’t that what makes the world go ’round?) Anyway, for me there is joy and resignation, presence and absence, immersion and putting a toe in the water.

I don’t have an answer to “Why?” I’m sure we can all come up with educated guesses but the contrast between these two invites something far deeper than the reasonable mind.

Let’s look at two more citizens of our planet:

One face is level with the world. The other gazes a little down, perhaps the weight of life pressing hard.

One is so open, welcoming whomever comes by. The other is shielded and in pain.

As human beings, they both face “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” but the responses are widely apart.

And a final pair for you:

In April last year I visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts, USA. He was a marvelous painter who caught the essence of people. As I ambled from room to room, only a few paintings grabbed me. This girl certainly did. How come breakfast can be such joy for some of us?

The woman is accompanied by her child but there is no connection. Mom is elsewhere. The young one deserves more.

And so …

I am happy

I am sad


There are countless female goldfinches who show up at my sunflower and nyjer seed feeders.  Right now, I’m looking out my living room window and one lass is poking her head in to dig out the good stuff.  I’m thrilled to have so many birdies come by to say hello.  I’ve been to some areas of the world where birds seem to to be downright rare.  So I am blessed.

Female goldfinches keep their glory muted, with brownish feathers.  I don’t love them any less for their inconspicuous nature.  But every once in awhile a guy swoops down for goodies.  And he wears his heart on his luminous sleeves.  My heart soars even higher to see the shocking yellow.  We humans seem enthralled with brightness, even if many of us don’t clothe ourselves in that way.



Lest you think that vibrancy lives only in the male realm (and I doubt that you’re thinking that!), consider Senegal.  My visits there have been about wild splotches of colour dotting the brownish land.  I was surprised to see how many men dress “Western” – t-shirts and shorts.  When they pull out their cell phones, I feel right at home.  But hold on.  The women festoon themselves with wild bandanas and long flowing dresses.  The 80-something lady you see here is the real deal – red, mauve, brown and pink, along with sparkling earrings and bracelet.  Plus her speech was animated with sounds I didn’t know.



Guess it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl
You can fly through life wearing the palette of the heavens …
if you want to

Full Speed Ahead

I just wrote an entire post … and it disappeared! (Sigh) I’ll go for recreating it, but I’m sad


A few nights ago, I watched the film Enola Holmes on Netflix. The description sounded good: the younger sister of the master detective Sherlock Holmes has some sleuthing smarts of her own, and she outfoxes her bro as they both chase a case. Then I noticed that Millie Bobby Brown was Enola. I’ve enjoyed her acting in the TV series Stranger Things.

As the plot began unfolding, I started staring at Millie, with my mouth gaped open. She’s a pretty 16-year-old girl, but that wasn’t it. There are lots of pretty girls and women. This was far beyond physical appearance, age or most anything else you can think of. Millie’s face was bursting! Vibrating. Some faces stay put. Some recede. And some blast out into anyone who’s passing by. Such is Millie … and Michelle Obama … and South Africa’s Desmond Tutu. Each of these folks connect with us … effortlessly.

As one reviewer said:

The real attraction here is Brown’s turn as Enola. The character’s insistent lightheartedness might seem easy to pull off, but it’s not: With her constant addresses to the camera – from an underwater wink while a baddie tries to drown her, to a cheekily grandiloquent reveal of her identity to us while she attempts to go undercover as a widow – Enola could get real annoying real quick … But Brown is wonderful, selling the film’s girl-power ethos with just the right amount of playfulness, while retaining something sweet and sincere at the character’s heart. She conveys the energy of a kid discovering the wide world; her Enola moves with seeming confidence but has the darting eyes of a child.

Such aliveness resides not only on the silver screen, or within the halls of political power, or spoken from the pulpit. This exuberance shows up here – in all the “here’s” where we live. It shows up in that kid on the playground, that old codger at the coffee shop, that dancer on the sidewalk. Quite likely, it also shows up in …


What Happened?

A long time ago, when I was just a pup, I came upon a black-and-white poster that nailed my shoes to the floor.  The top half showed a young boy, giggling away.  On the bottom was a 60ish fellow, wearing an impeccable suit and a crushed face.  The caption?  What happened?

I spent half-an-hour this morning trying to find that poster on Google.  No luck.  Another search brought me these two photos, which filled the bill nicely.

What do we do to ourselves as adulthood emerges and lengthens?  What do we learn under our parents’ roof and in the schoolyard and on the job about who we are?  Is it society’s fault that we numb ourselves so that the joys of life slip away?  Where does the need to be more, better and different come from?  What happened?

All is not lost.  There are vibrant human beings walking down Main Street if we have eyes to see them.  Some have secret smiles but others hit you between the eyes with their joy.  Shall we join these bright spirits?  Shall we contemplate a new question: What will happen?  If you’re 20, what will you bring forth when you’re 30?  40 … 50?  60 … 70?  It really is up to us, not to a painful childhood, financial disasters, or the loss of loved ones.

When I meet you on Main Street, please show me your future photo.  We’ll celebrate together.

Animating Life

I’m thinking of two different perspectives:

1. Things stay the same, becoming solid and dull over time
2. Things change, flow and brighten

While it makes sense that things evolve, gradually becoming new versions of themselves, it seems to me that we don’t act that way.  If I tell you, “I am a teacher”, it’s likely you have a stable image of what that means, due to your life experiences about teaching.  And it’s easy to become so firm in our perception of something, such as a maple tree, that the original beauty of the object becomes lost.  The spreading branches in the backyard, adorned with lovely reds and oranges in the fall, simply becomes “a tree”.

When we use adjectives, such as “humble” or “endearing”, the aliveness of the word is so often invisible to us.  To be “not full of oneself, without pride” shows me a person with a glass half full – lots of room to discover the new in life.  To be “lovable, precious, making dear” shows me a person who shines as the light plays over the jewel, someone who deserves to be held as you would a baby bird, someone whose glow touches others.

Some of us use a lot of words, almost a barrage at times.  The flood of verbiage doesn’t give us time to pause, and reflect on what has been said.  Compare the land as perceived from a car to what the cyclist sees.  I also think of black soil after a rain.  If I really pay attention, I see the lovely seeping of water into the earth … so slow and exquisite.

I have two favourite words.  The first no doubt would be the choice of many.  The second I likely share with virtually no one.


Did I guess right?


How about this time?

If your first thought is something like this: “the technique of photographing successive drawings of models to create an illusion of movement”, I understand.  My joy, however, is in “the process of giving life to, of making alive”.  The words we choose, the moments where we pause and behold, the creation of an alive space between us – these are what we give and receive.

An Unbounded View

I’m sitting in my red man chair, looking across my living room and out into the world. The sun is preparing to say goodbye. The field of winter wheat beyond stretches to trees bordering the faraway creek. It’s home I see.

The tall panes of glass reveal a young tree in the foreground and a slope of newly-mown grass. It’s quiet out there.

Awhile ago, the windows showed me the soaring of a hawk … such lovely curves in the sky. I stared. Then my airborne friend flew to the left and out of my world. I was sad. “Come back, new companion!” I cried inside my head, but it was not my call to make. I know the hawk is somewhere nearby, and his path through the air is still etched in my mind. There is “hawkness” here, the remembrance of gracious flying. And that’s enough.

On the left edge of the photo, you’ll glimpse the dome covering my nyger seed feeder. Birdies come and go in search of the good stuff. The male goldfinches are so yellow! Sometimes the feeder (and its nearby sunflower seed cousin) are frantic with the wings of visitors. Sometimes the feeders hang limp and alone. Such rhythms.

Way to the north is the left and right expanse of Harrietsville Drive. Cars are so tiny from my living room. And they look so slow. I wonder who’s going where, who’s happy and who’s tormented … all brothers and sisters of mine.

See the glass on the window sill? It’s full of little pebbles of couscous. I see them as the citizens of Belmont, my village of 2800 souls. It’s convenient to wish them all well in one spot. The glass is dead centre in my view.

It’s nice being home.


No, I’m not talking about Pixar here.

Many moons ago, someone asked me what my favourite words were. I sat back and listened to what was inside … and two bubbled up. The first shone brightly in me, and still does – love. The second was a shock – animation. Huh? Where did that come from, and what the heck did I mean?

Once I was a teenager in Grade 13. One more year and I’d be a high school graduate. My job was to take four yearlong courses, each culminating in a June exam worth 100% (!) of the mark. Incomprehensibly to me now, I chose Latin … a dead language.

It was so strange to see as the year unfolded that Latin was becoming my favourite subject. I loved seeing the roots of many English words, and the meanings often opened my eyes. Fifty years later, I swim in my love of language.

So … animation. It comes from the Latin verb animare.

To bring life to
To breathe into
To blow
To inspire
To rouse
To refresh

It’s up to me. What do I want to bring alive? Who do I want to bring alive? I suppose the answer could be “nothing and no one”. But that’s not true to who I am.

Many or few years remain for me on Earth. I will continue to exhale into the world.

Day Seven: Nima

What can give you a true sense of Senegal? I have many moments to choose from yesterday but my time with Nima was the best.

She’s a four-year-old girl, the daughter of my friends Ice Tea (Moustafa) and Fatou. As I arrived around midnight a day ago, she was sleepily there to greet Jo and me. At the gate, Jo picked her up and said “She’s grown so much!” I looked over to see two eyes shining in the darkness. Soon she was asleep, and we adults joined in conversation. But those eyes remained in me.

Yesterday morning, it was Nima again, finding me from across the room. She wore a pink t-shirt and her hair fell in countless braids. What was going on that I had trouble maintaining normal conversation with the tall people? There was a power here, in a tiny package, that reached over to me. How we can affect each other.

Later she sat in the next chair and her smile shone. There was Beatles music in the background and I began drumming on the wooden arm of my seat. Nima did the same, and soon we had a beat going that would have made Ringo proud … a Senegalese kid and a Canadian forty-year-old giving ‘er in the percussion section of the orchestra.

As Nima drummed, she stuck out her tongue. And I realized that I’d never really noticed tongues before. Hers was so pink against the black of her skin.

The beat went on and so did we. I plopped my hand on hers briefly. She returned the favour, and soon we were trying to escape each other’s touches from above. And still we drummed, now to the songs of Neil Young. We laughed.

I don’t believe that Nima knows any English, and my French is slowly moving from marginal to moderate. No matter. We were rejoicing in the melodies of life.

Later in the day, we had visitors. Two young boys crammed a chair with Nima. It was her fourth birthday. Conversations in French bounced across the room. And the song with “anniversaire” in the lyrics burst out. Happy Birthday, dear little one. The song morphed to something else and the kids started dancing. Somewhere along the way, I picked up my phone and started videoing. I wonder if I can send it to you. Let’s try:

Une grande célébration! Parfait pour tous les gens.

Perfect for us all

B-ball Lessons

I watched the Grade 5/6 girls basketball team today.  They were in another school against two opponents.  I was thrilled to see them play after being on the west coast for nine days.

As the games ebbed and flowed, I saw 12-year-old kids that I love rocket down the court – sometimes making great plays and sometimes messing up.  I realized that I wasn’t attached to the transcendent moments.  My love especially extended to errant passes, missed free throws, “losing the handle”.

The NBA is full of astonishing athletes.  Years ago, Michael Jordan could do seemingly impossible things with the basketball.  But I didn’t love him, nor the other stars.  Today was different.  You go, girls!  You gave it all you had … and I cheered.

Game Number One was with a less skilled team.  The score quickly mounted to 12-0 and my thoughts turned towards the other folks.  Being so outplayed can be such a blow to the ego, but these opponents kept holding their heads high, grabbing the ball after we scored a basket and motoring towards our end.  We intercepted passes, blocked shots, and got in their faces, but those “others” didn’t give up.  I was so proud of them.  When they eventually scored a basket, the cheer from their fans was the biggest I heard all afternoon.

The final score was 28-7.  We didn’t gloat.  They didn’t slump.  Two teams gave ‘er.  In the large scheme of things, it didn’t matter that one team performed far better than the other.  Everybody got to play, and play hard.

Game Number Two had us up against a school that has three times the number of students that we have.  Our girls didn’t believe the stats.  We had hands up in the opponents’ faces.  We fought under the basket for rebounds.  All of our missed shots didn’t slow us down a bit.  At one point a player on the other team broke away towards the basket.  One of our girls raced back and swatted the ball away as she was starting her layup.  Brilliant … worthy of TSN’s Sportcentre highlight show!

The opposition featured powerful players and a stifling defense.  But no heads hung low for us.  We were behind 6-0 and then roared back.  In the final minute of a 10-8 game, we must have had four shots, and none of them found the net.  Still, the fury of our press to tie was a joy to watch.

Win one, lose one?
On the surface of things … yes

Fully alive for two?