Etiquette & manners

 
 

TIS THE SEASON – OF CONTROVERSY

We came across the tree of remembrance on a snowy trail deep in Mundy park- a small fir tree festooned with photos -some of humans, but mostly of dogs (Mundy is an off -leash dog park) a small hand lettered sign inviting walkers to hang a photo in remembrance of someone dear, but now departed, that had walked the park with them in days gone by. The memorial was a new creation, since we walk the park frequently and had never encountered it before-doubtless it was done in the sprit of the season, since Christmas was almost upon us.

It seemed a simple, and heartwarming gesture, and judging from the comments of others as they passed, one which was appreciated by the community of dog walkers who inhabit the park. Imagine then, my surprise when our local community Facebook page came alive with a diatribe against Christmas decorations in parks!

Decorating trees along local forest trails with Christmas ornaments has been gaining popularity over the past several year. I’m not sure when I first noticed a decorated tree in one of our local parks,- likely at least five years ago, but they have become common place, with families and groups, like my wife’s walking group, adopting a tree for the season and decorating it.

But alas, the grinchly Facebook post had ignited a fire storm, and incendiary posts poured in – the Ornamentalists pleading for reason- the pastime was innocent, and gave joy to many-a delightful and unexpected enhancement of a stroll through a wintry wood- while the Puritans insisted it was a desecration of nature- an un-needed and unwanted intrusion- surely unadorned nature should be enough!

Many of the Facebook Flame-throwers insisted that Christmas ornaments were simply bad for the environment. I could have saved them the energy of a Facebook post- I know for a fact that argument doesn’t work- I tried to use it a few years ago to get out of hanging the outdoor Christmas lights, and ended up on the top of a stepladder with a flea in my ear and a string of lights around my neck quicker than you can say Merry Christmas.

The social media ‘War in the Woods’ continued to escalate, as one of the most strident puritans, emboldened by the luke-warm support she had received, posted that all Christmas decorations were henceforth deemed “litter” and she was personally forming a work party to clean up the park . The Ornamentalists were put on notice – if they valued their baubles, they had best remove them within 48 hours before a volunteer posse of environmentalists assembled to sweep the park clean of man-made clutter – Christmas be damned!

The litter argument was a curious one, I thought, since the ornaments have been appearing in the park for years around Christmas time, and promptly disappearing, a few days after New Years, leaving no trace in the forest. Whether the work of unseen forest elves, or of conscientious Baublistas, the woodland park has remained pristine, without the intervention of zealots.

Social media being what it is, the challenge did not go unanswered, as the Baublistas replied with fury-how dare others be offended- and who gave the puritans the right to preach, or interfere with the god-given and probably constitutional right to hang ornaments in parks?

Feeling the need to nurture the seasonal myth of goodwill to all mankind, and yearning for the simple pleasure of a tranquil walk in the woods, free of controversy, we elected to avoid encountering the threatened work party and the likely clash of ideology along the trail, by taking an alternate, and unadorned path.

There, to our delight we discovered the work product of that endangered species of the deep forest –

THE MODERATE!

Someone, of obvious diplomatic mien. had taken the time to adorn the path with a seasonal icon- a snowman- BUT- using only natural materials – compacted snow, fir boughs, twigs, and pinecones. Something human crafted- to amuse the passersby, – but no man-made materials to offend.

On a snowy path, deep in the forest, a master class in the art of compromise, taught by an anonymous Moderate.

We tried to follow their tracks, since its so rare to see a Moderate in the wild, but the tracks eventually disappeared into the deep snow, leaving us to muse that, in the Canada of our youth, Moderates were everywhere- their range extending Canada wide- from the great boreal forest, tp the the Canadian Shield and beyond- even occasionally being spotted in Ottawa. What had caused their decline, we wondered ?

So we continued our walk, wistful that we had missed a rare sighting, but gladdened by the knowledge that untamed, free-range Moderates continue to exist in the wilderness at our back door. My wife, always with a soft spot for wildlife, suggested that we should leave some food out for them, but I’m against it-let them live as nature intended, I say.

Then again, to settle the debate, perhaps I should try to solicit some feedback from our friendly neighbourhood Facebook group?

Categories: Environment, Etiquette & manners, Nature, Parks, Reflections | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Slight Misunderstanding

Travelling the safari lodges of Botswana one soon realizes what the locals have long known- their Setwana names are impossible for a Westerner to pronounce. So, a custom has grown up in the service industry for workers to adopt  simple, pronounceable nicknames, to cater to us linguistically challenged tourists. Continue reading

Categories: Africa, Bucket list, Etiquette & manners, humour, Reflections | Leave a comment

Infernus Sanguinum

It was a dark and stormy night in Port Hardy.  Port Hardy, as you may know,  is the end of the line- the terminus of the Island Highway, and the dropping off point for parts unknown.

It was also Saturday night, and the start of our vacation. It was time to show my lady a good time. Continue reading

Categories: Etiquette & manners, humour, Reflections, relationships, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rescue – and Penance

It’s already shaping up to be a record-breaking year for our overworked local search and rescue groups, as they pull scores of out of bound skiers, ill-equipped hikers and overly ambitious mountaineers out of danger. The local media have even developed a bit of a formula for reporting these events. Typically an opening shot of the rescue helicopter descending to search base, and disgorging a bevy of sheepish looking skiers or hikers, followed by a clip where the newly rescued blubber a few words of thanks, and ending with a spokesman for search and rescue gravely admonishing the public to be better prepared when they venture into the wilderness on our doorstep.

Inevitably there is a debate as to whether or not the feckless hikers ought to be charged something for their rescue or fined for their stupidity.  The authorities of course are reluctant to introduce financial consequences into the rescue equation for fear that those in need of help might then be reluctant to seek it for fear of those financial consequences, and in the end creating a much worse result. The occasional hiker apparently does repay the favor with a donation to Search and Rescue, but most I suspect simply shuffle off, their fifteen minutes of fame having expired.

Against that background I can’t help but think of the incredible rescue effort recently concluded that miraculously saved the entire Wild Boar soccer club from a Thai cave. it was a rescue effort that had us all glued to our screens and shaking our heads in disbelief.

What really struck me in the aftermath of the Thai  cave rescue was the announcement that upon discharge from hospital, and  after a brief reunion with their families, the team will, en-masse, enroll as novice monks and will spend a week as such in a nearby monastery, doing penance in quiet prayer and contemplation. That they would do this shows a deep respect for the enormity of the miracle which with they have been blessed, and towards those who made it happen. It is a fitting, and elegant gesture.

As my thoughts stray back to  our local North Shore mountains, the concept of penance following  rescue develops a certain resonance. Should rescued parties be subject to something a little more onerous than the loss of their lift pass privileges ? -such as a week of silent navel gazing  in austere surrounding?

We don’t have a lot of monasteries in BC , but it strikes me that we do have a number of boarded up correction camps- relics from an age where boot camp style training was considered the panacea  for youth corrections. So, imagine if the price of rescue was a week spent as a monk in a re-purposed correctional camp, contemplating the error of one’s ways ?

 

 

 

 

Categories: death and dying, Etiquette & manners, Reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Wither Emily Post?

Back in the 1950’s a fixture on my parents’ bookshelf was “Emily Post’s Etiquette”. It was the definitive guide to everything involving manners or decorum. If you needed to know which knife or fork to use at a state banquet, or how to properly address an ambassador or a bishop, Emily was your source.

I am told that the book is still around, now into its 18th edition, and updated for the digital world by Emily’ s descendants, but somehow it seems to me that the world has become so incredibly complex that propounding rules of etiquette may no longer be possible. At the very least, a new set of rules is sorely needed.

What triggered these musings was a spat of obituary announcements that have shown up recently in my Facebook feed, and my consternation as to how to deal with them.

The first was the easiest, as it announced, not unexpectedly, the death of a very dear family friend, at the venerable age of 101. The announcement, via Facebook was tasteful, and welcomed, since those of us affected by the passing are scattered across the continent. There was no question that I would post a comment, but I baulked at clicking the “like” button as well. Surely one should not “like“ the announcement of someone’s death?

The next was a bit more difficult, a guy I had paddled with on an extended trip two summers ago, and a last-minute no-show for this year’s expedition. He passed suddenly, a day after our last Facebook exchange, bantering about the missed trip.  He died with many friends and acquaintances, but little in the way of close family, certainly no-one that I knew. Not knowing the actual circumstances of his death I didn’t want to blunder in with an inappropriate comment, and certainly didn’t want to appear to be applauding his death with a big thumbs up. To whom was I paying my respects m and, would it be disrespectful to say nothing at all?

Then a business acquaintance posted an announcement of his father’s passing. I had met his father once, years ago, but didn’t feel that my tenuous connection to him made any type of comment appropriate, although I still wanted to reach out to the son. What to do? Barge in with a post, or simply “like” the announcement, or use a silly emoji to try to express myself.?  Again, I find myself resistant to the idea of using an emoji to recoqnize someone’s death.

The last was more difficult yet, It was a local politician, whom I scarcely know, except via social media, and the odd political event. She was announcing, in somewhat coded language, the sudden and devastating loss of her son, whom I had never met. My suspicion, from the language of the post (later confirmed) was that the child had perished as a result of a drug overdose. How to respond, in order to comfort a very nice lady, using the limited tools in Facebook’s toolbox ?

It is, I suggest, past time for a new tome on etiquette, to help those of us who struggle with using social media in a respectful and caring manner. Perhaps Facebook needs to expand its repertoire of available responses, to include  some which are a bit more  formal than a contorted happy face. Or perhaps, we should just eschew social media entirely in such circumstances, and dust off our copy of Emily Post. Emily, I’m sure, would counsel a kind word, a handwritten note, and a comforting hug.

 

 

Categories: death and dying, Etiquette & manners, Reflections | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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