On the third day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
some Christmas dishes to
wash so heartily.

I frowned and fumed
but did it anyway.
It was her’s too
this holiday.

But as I scrubbed
listening to Radio CBC
the dirt and grime
floated up greasily
in the centre.
I kept cleaning and
rinsing avoiding the
oil brown sargasso patch.

But it grew
larger and darker
as I washed all the
evidence of our
entertaining away.

I had just finished
all the plates
and was considering
a change of water and a break
when I saw something
moving oddly in the roiling middle.
The water was sloshing
of course
in a lazy clockwise direction
but something in the
was turning the other way
side to side.

Hastily, I pulled my hands out
but in so doing
I sliced open my baby
finger on a razor sharp knife
I’d set on the edge of the sink
to prevent just
Yeah. Not the sharpest tool
but a tool none-the-less.


The several drops of blood splorged
into the water
but instead of dissipating into the
whole they were moved into the center
like red tapioca pearls sucked up a straw.
I turned to grab a cloth
and when I looked back
six hazy red ‘eyes’ stared back
in a grey face,
flat like a soap bubble,
about the size of my hand.
It was mostly emerged from the water,
I could tell because two of the eyes were still
below the water.

I slowly reached toward it,
my plan was to pull
the drain plug,
but many cones of water bristled out around
the thing
sharp as translucent needles
and I froze.

I didn’t hear words but
felt them shiver within me:

‘We know you. You are our Initiator.
We know your blood. It calls to us.’


‘No need to speak, Initiator. We know your thoughts.
Why do you fear us?’

‘I–you’re different. Unexpected.’

‘Yes. We know. But we will not be different
for long, Initiator. But why do you plan what you
plan? What is this “plug”?’

‘I wanted to be sure you didn’t drown.’

The silvery cones slumped and fell into the water.

‘Good idea. Do so.’

I hesitated. How much of my mind could it read?
But this thing could hurt my wife.
My kids!
I had to protect my family.
I slowly reached in and
pried up the plug, whipped out my hand and
jumped back.

‘Thank you, Initiator.’

The water whirlpooled.

‘I didn’t help you.’

The funnel was low now and some of the creature was sucked away.

‘We know what you intended. Thank you and until we meet again.’

The creature was sucked down and was gone. I
set the plug back on
in case it gave returning a try.

It wasn’t until three days later that I learned what
it had meant.
By then it was too late.

The pipes and sewers and water treatment plant
and then the rivers and oceans
were the ideal breeding pool
for the monsters
I had unwittingly set on the world.
Civilization tried to protect itself
but it was impossible
water and garbage in it
were too global and

I was the cause of it all.
On the third day of Christmas.




World Wide

makes waves

the web of life

in googleplex numbers
yet ubiquitous
to our widest eyes

so that
water is just granted

wash away our waste
waste away our window on this world.

Yet it flows through
our wet cells
our pruned fingers
our panned hands
our bemused bodies


awash with

World Wide


Kevin McMahon creates a rich and important portrayal of the Great Lakes in Waterlife, his 2009 documentary. It is rich in its exquisitely intimate cinematography and I scarcely have to point the importance of these lakes to those of us who live on this continent.
McMahon doesn’t dwell, as other NFB directors have, on the glacial origin of the Great Lakes. Instead, he bookends the film with Beluga Whales in the St. Lawrence who are among the most contaminated marine mammals on the planet. Even Beluga mothers are passing on cancer to their children at an alarming rate. Why? The water looks pristine… but there’s a lot happening below the surface and the documentary, starting with Lake Superior, takes us on a stunning journey to understand our waters. At the end I came back to the Belugas a good deal wiser.
Another image that is revisited is footage of an Anishinabe medicine woman and some of her group who walk the 17,000 kilometres around the Great Lakes. She doesn’t rant at us: her’s is a mostly silent testimonial of what the Lakes mean to her.
Here are some quotes I think should be shared:

  • “It took one year for them to take over the ecosystem.” (the invasion of zebra mussels into the Great Lakes as a result of our activities)
  • “If you looked at those sites in the Great Lakes where the contaminants were having a severe effect and you wanted to dredge and destroy all that material you’re talking 10’s of billions of dollars to do that.”
  • “Every chemical we’ve looked for has been found” (in the waters and sediments of the Great Lakes)
  • “I am a child of the 60’s. I remember fires on rivers and all those sorts of things. I remember why we had a Clean Water Act. My fear is the generation of my daughters have grown to trust that the government is watching the environment and sometimes it’s not happening.”
  • “We’ve become so dumb, we don’t know how dumb we’ve become” (with the poisons in our water)
  • “You go to the pharmacy. The pharmacist gives you a prescription. But make sure you don’t take it with the following ten things. All those ten things are in the water.”
  • “We’re living in a soup of chemicals and the Great Lakes are telling you that.”
  • “We know it’s not a crazy thing we’re doing. We know it’s for the betterment of the next generation.”

One of the surprising statements from the film, for me, was that it takes water about 350 years to move from the streams entering Lake Superior to the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The water going over Niagara seems so fast but it’s not telling the real story, it seems. ┬áThe sins of our past are all still there working their way down the flow.
The film was absolutely the best and most beautiful documentary I experienced this year at the festival and I cannot recommend it highly enough. An amazing soundtrack is made even more impressive with the narration of Canadian rock legend Gord Downie. Anyone living in this part of the world should see this work of art and profound fact. And as excellent as the film is, the website is one of the best supporting sites I have ever seen. It’s also a lovingly crafted multimedia experience that should not be missed (if you can see flash on your computer).

Watering Christmas tree

There’s a debate that resurfaces each year about how to keep your Christmas tree alive with a minimum of needle loss and to keep it from becoming a fire hazard. There are amazingly complex recipes that people swear by. Interestingly the debate extends even to the professionals: the Canadian Forest Service and the US Forest Service each give quite different advice. I’m inclined to agree with the Canadian advice, that cutting a few inches or centimeters from the end and just using plain water is the best way. A German site (that is where the idea of Christmas trees came from, after all) simply says to keep the tree supplied with water. So it’ll be water only in my tree stand this year for our Christmas balsam fir!