The Digger

This piece was written while I was in solitary confinement; the Hole. If they wanted to threaten you, the Hole was referred to as the Digger. Many found any time spent here to be excruciating. In my psychosis I made peace with some of my time there.

I don’t look at what’s behind me in here, it’s just my ass. Most would not understand what I find entertaining in here. It is essentially everything. When they unlock my food slot a whole new world opens up for me. I can see light and hear things I am usually deprived of. I’m quite certain no one knows I’m here. I am unimpressed with the jail postcards. What parent doesn’t long for a glossy photo of their child in handcuffs or shackles? If this were an amusement park I could put my head in various cut outs. My friends would be amused to see my head poking out of the stocks or writhing at the whipping post. The Hole is visually boring, oh the good old days. It might be fun to have a cut-out of the Warden with his arm about my shoulder. If I wasn’t alone I might rally the others into forming a sculpture of the Warden at yard. We could pose in front of him or hang from his flabby jowls.

His rules are simple and we laugh at the comfort they provide. Without my mattress during the day I might not appreciate her at night. You devise ways to break me without knowing me. You expect me to pound on this door and beg for release but if I can’t be alone there is little hope for me. Dear Digger you complete me.

I Am Myself

I remember when popularity was all important. I used to cut my hair and wear certain clothes just to increase the odds. I played certain sports and hung out on certain corners. These days I am apt to not even shave. I do care what people think but I don’t go to bed worrying about pimples. Is it maturity or have I just let myself go? I don’t look for friends or tell jokes to be the center of attention. My mind lets me be more of what I want and less of what others want. Who and what I am does not change with the number of people who smile at me. If I have people around me am I greater than when I stand alone? My shoes are filled with the same flesh and bone.

Santa Claus

It’s less than 90 days until Christmas. I was thinking about Santa Claus. I remember believing completely in Santa Claus. One particular Christmas I actually saw his beard peeking beyond the door jamb of my shared bedroom. I was too stunned to wake my brothers and laid in some sort of mesmerized trance. I wanted to jump from my bed and say hello but I was perplexed as to what a good boy should do. Was it best to lay still and take in the magic of the moment or should I scream and involve everyone in the house?

Most would argue that it was the overactive and possibly sugared mind of a child but I saw what I saw. We sometimes discount what a person experiences or believes. Most of us are entrenched in a personal reality but your outward view is only more realistic to you because of what your experiences have coated your perceptions with.

My mind may have been filled with the magic and myth of Santa Claus but does that make what I saw unreal? When we stop believing in magic it can only disappear. We are all entertained by illusionists. Knowing there is more to the story does not cause the illusion to seem less real.

There may be no Santa Claus but I beg to differ. Santa Claus went out on the frozen pool at my brothers leaving footprints, sleigh tracks and hoof prints for my nieces. For that Christmas Santa left some magic which I dare say did not disappear with warm temperatures.

It is unlikely the same illusion would survive in my niece’s minds today but that is their perception. The interpreter is always part of the magic.

Fingers and Toes

I was returning some favours today so I noticed some things outside of my daily habits. I noticed how sweat catches any breeze and the sun can only be danced about. I noticed my community and what we look like from two stories up. I noticed muscles and actions I was unaccustomed to. Not long into my shingling I even noticed synergy.

I was two stories up working for a friend with a physical disability who does more than most. He had a hired man whose name for anonymity is Roger. Roger stands 6 foot three with a mustache and pony tail. Nearing or above 270 pounds his shadow is larger than mine. His belly is bigger than his biceps but his forearms are larger than many within labour. His hands are huge. I didn’t take off my shoe but I swear his fingers were as big as my rather large toe. I stared at them every chance I had.

Since I was the grunt we both found ourselves in the midst of labour and conversation. I saw enough of his laugh and intelligence to want more. He was quiet but I tried to talk to him through the silences labour brought. We started talking about old bars in the city and surrounding region. Roger mentioned that in his hometown and at least one other establishment in the city there was either a side for Natives or another section entirely. I was shocked. “How old are you?” I then pleaded for the decade. It was the early seventies. I was sure racial barriers were long less than that. I was glad to have helped Roger for I held nothing but grief in my heart for him. What might it have been like to grow up on the wrong side of humanity?

Roger accepted much less pay than any job near this size might command. His wages were closer to the decade he was segregated. I think we expect people who have been wronged to stand up and protest. What if it is the person wronged who should be approached? If you do not believe Native Canadians are worthy of your respect it does not mean they should not be apologized to. I worked hard for the hired man. If it was a weight on a scale I did more. I only hope my back was stronger when I knew his pain.

Roger is proud in a way that involves no chest but plenty of heart. In discussing one of the premiere builders in the city he couldn’t understand that they do ten jobs and laugh at their customers while he does so many more for so much less.

We celebrate success but there are some who measure it differently. Is Roger less than builder Dan with his truck and trailer or is he more as he bikes from job to job?

Oh Canada!!!

Stigma is a reality. I cannot change the attitudes and actions of others in society but I can protest when my government perpetrates and condones stigma and discrimination to the highest degree.

There have been a variety of problems at the provincial jail within the city of London, Ontario, CANADA. There have been a series of severe beatings and a homicide. An inquest into the death of a charged but not convicted shoplifter has given rise to recommendations that are being blatantly ignored by the government and its institutions.

Just because someone’s actions fall outside of the law does not mean they should not be protected by the law. Consider for a moment that many who find themselves in jail have lives of disadvantage. Does anyone deserve to be beaten and bullied for their food? We wouldn’t tolerate this anywhere but in jail. We have agreed and turned into law basic human rights. We shake our heads at countries who torture their prisoners when we need to pull ours from our asses and consider the fact that we condone the same here. Our governments try to find as much distance from these events as possible while they rest their heads contently on pillows of inaction in their homeland.

A certain judge’s comments were recently reported in the media. In his remarks to a Young Offender he outlined some of the treatment he could expect when he finds himself on the other side of the law as an adult. He mentioned that his proximity to adolescence would render him a victim to any of the larger inmates. What I found more disturbing was his warning that if he was on psychiatric medication he could expect to be punched in the stomach until he vomited them up for others to use. Judges don’t visit jails but we can assume his comments are based on fact.

When we are talking about people using psychiatric medications we are talking about individuals with mental illness. We are talking about vulnerable individuals at least and possibly individuals with a disability. Would we flip to the sports section as fast if it was reported that people in wheelchairs were being assaulted into giving up their assistive devices? If you have ever wondered what stigma is and how it leads to discrimination this should be illustrative enough. Our elected officials and many civil servants seem not to find outrage in this. Sadder still is that many in society are even less alarmed.

There is one main difference between those with physical impairments and those with mental impairments. One is bathed in stigma and discrimination while the other is usually accepted and understood. Understand this! To be looked down on and to be left uncared for as the result of impairment is like pissing on coffins; only assholes do it!

This government’s insistence that it is the wish of the majority to cut back on social programs and expand the incarceration system is only a screen for the fact that one entails a profit. We are morally bankrupt if we accept this. We are all guilty. We are guilty of complacency when we should be outraged.

If the government’s response to “decreasing” crime rates is to institute mandatory minimums, we should hold some for them. Shouldn’t it be a mandatory minimum of government to ensure basic human rights and protections for anyone despite their legal situation? Shouldn’t it be a mandatory minimum to protect and care for the mentally ill regardless of their residence? There are some who find themselves on the wrong side of the law because they are on the wrong side of proper mental health care. Jails are overcrowded because we find more value as a society in punishment than in treatment.

If we condone through inaction and accept the corporal punishment being perpetrated in our jails we need to legislate it. If this is acceptable let’s not be hypocritical. Make a law for the world to see the conditions we as a society accept for anyone in trouble with the law. We talk out of the side of our mouth and espouse democracy and human rights while the other side is silent when they are denied.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


I used to be naive about many things in life. I thought love was something I had to earn and search for. I would often concentrate my efforts on mirages. From a distance things seemed lush and I gravitated to the idea of quenching my thirst. I could be standing in a puddle but what I saw in the distance was where I thought happiness resided. Sometimes love finds us when we don’t even know we are looking. Other times it seems buried deep in the sand and we are without a shovel. We think we know the spot it is buried and flail away with both hands to uncover it. At times I have thought that the kind which is buried is more valuable because I have to work for it.

We often guard our secret gardens because none of us lives without the memory of some heartache. The usual result is atrophy. We rarely admit anyone for fear they will trample what is the core of who we are. As a result we have no one to help us care for our garden. Some things wither and others grow uncontrollably but the real loss is not having someone to witness its beauty. Our garden is useless unless we allow others to walk within it.

In some ways life is like being on a train. We don’t always choose who our fellow travelers are and it can be a relief to see some disembark. Others have the same destination; they can be family and friends or acquaintances and loves. At each station there are some who transfer with a different destination in mind. Seldom are we alone in the boxcar and many of us are fortunate to have many accompany us on our journey. I sometimes find myself looking at the stations we pull into and wondering if it wouldn’t be better to disembark. What do these people know that I do not? Is their path possibly the one I should be on? Where I find myself is always where I am supposed to be. It can be a place of suffering or of ecstasy. Without the one the other loses its meaning.

The importance of our gardens and our travels is that we share them. We can choose some of the individuals that accompany us but others are not meant to be a choice. They are a gift. We do not shop for our own gifts, they are simply meant to be graciously accepted. Sometimes we have no clue as to the worth of a gift. Sometimes we find little value in something so freely given. Sometimes it is difficult to recognize that we have been given more than we would have the audacity to ask for.

When the coat is thrown down in the puddle for us to walk on it does not mean the coat is worthless. It means the wearer finds more value in the steps you take than you possibly do.

I Learned

It’s Labour Day and one of the trees in my yard is changing colour. I don’t find this to be alarming but it is the starting pistol to future labour. I usually rake up 20 bags of leaves. By the end of this process I often question the cost and benefit ratio of shade.

Children will be returning to school tomorrow. They will have tans and tales. I don’t envy the teachers who are tasked with reeling in the freedom of summer. I was the recipient of years of formal education but there were many things I learned only through absence.

I learned that collecting pop bottles equals candy.

I learned that the public pool is louder than any playground.

I learned that siblings can be best friends.

I learned that the gravel pit is always open for swimming.

I learned that vegetables are more fun to watch grow than they are to eat.

I learned that playing the second movie at the Drive-In Theater is pointless to a 10 year old.

I learned that picking rocks is hard work.

I learned that bailing hay is harder work.

I learned that water is a magnet to flesh.

I learned that the can of beans on a hiking trip fares better than peanut butter sandwiches.

I learned that corn on the cob marks the twilight of summer.

I learned that proximity leads to friendship.

I learned that squirt guns are easier to empty than to fill.

I learned that it is best to be the first one off the Teeter Totter.

I learned that thunderstorms sound worse than they are.

I learned that flashlights are made for reading comics.

I learned that a tent makes a fine sauna at high noon.

I learned that trees are as fun to climb as they are to sit under.

I learned that Boomerangs land on rooftops as often as they come back.

I learned that it’s always worth the extra money to have your soft serve dipped in chocolate.

I learned that farmers’ tans are only funny on others.

I learned that my friend’s sister was more interesting than he was.

I learned that Popsicles shouldn’t be left unattended.

I learned that Speedos are an age appropriate fashion.

I learned that swimming in chlorine is as effective as any bath.

I learned that lawn darts hurt.

I learned that geography lessons hold little meaning on a bicycle.

I learned that root beer and ice cream are best served as one beverage.

I learned that more girls show up at the arena to roller skate than to play hockey.

I learned that the best plan is to not have one.