Ode to Willow Creek

Shelley Goldbeck at Stavely

At Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering

I attended my first cowboy poetry event on July 10 and 11 at the Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering at Stavely, Alberta. I participated in their open mic on Saturday with this poem I wrote that day.





Ode to Willow Creek

Come to Cowboy Poetry, it’s lots of fun to go
Sit in rows of chairs and just enjoy the show.
Talk of cows and ponies and land and farmin’.
You’re a farm girl so I know you’ll fit right in.
Life got in the way, almost got there last year
But something else came along and I missed again, I fear.
This is my year for change, something new to do
So when my sister said Lewistown, Montana I knew
I had to grab the proverbial bull by the horns
And take a chance and share some of my poems.
That’s right. Not only am I going, I decided to commit
To sharing some poems and see what comes of it.
My poetry gushed like waterfalls, spilling from the pen.
Growing up on a farm, I have herds of stories to spin.
Like Dogface, an old plug pulling kid-laden toboggans on frozen fields.
In ’67 there was the wagon train trek, ’75’s barley yields.
There was my 12 hour concussion, got thrown and kicked by a horse.
There were parades and gymkhanas and rodeos of course.
So I’ve got some poems but I haven’t seen it done,
This cowboy poetry thing, so I decide I need to come
To Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering to get me some smarts.
Knowing nothing would be such a greenhorn move to start!
Let me say I was wowed sitting in the crowd on the edge of my seat
Feeling the singers sing, the players play and the poets speak.
Sagas about cows and horses and big skies,
Opining about their problems and making up lies.
Listen to Jim Hamilton’s poem about the cow man
Contemplating suicide, cancer doctors reveal his life span.
All words carefully chosen, each one has its weight.
Letting them out judiciously, one by one, through the gate.
There’s Phyllis Rathwell and her homespun yarns
Of grandkids and Hutterites and functions in barns.
The customs agent searching her truck for contraband
Struck a chord. I’ve driven farm trucks so I understand.
I think her scheme is brilliant and I plan to do the same
When I head to Montana for Cowboy Poetry games.
I’ve been surprised by all the music; I grew up on cowboy songs
And with a story put to guitar you simply can’t go wrong.
If you close your eyes Charlie Ewing can pass for a young Tyson.
Through the voice of Jim Beaudoin, we heard even more of Ian.
Who has more fun onstage with strings than Noel Burles?
I bet when he was younger that he got all the girls.
Sitting, watching and listening to the cowboy poetry stars
Almost makes me think I should take up the guitar.
I wish that I could memorize like Mag or Jim or Morley.
But I can’t remember last night’s supper so I need my notes, I’m sorry.
I can’t decide if it’s his guitar picking I prefer
Or the masterful way Ed Brown talks of wrestling bear.
Or his song about NOT preaching at the wedding of Tim.
Like the rest of the cowboy poets, couldn’t get enough of him.
I never dreamed I’d see a show that makes audience eyes shine
Which is udderly what happens when you see Divine Bovines.
I’ve met some fabulous people, for example Ruth and Kay,
They’ll be at Lewistown, a name they taught me to say.
They pointed out to me it’s pronounced LewisTOWN
Not LewisTON like EdmonTON, not TON but TOWN.
All the poets and all the singers filled me up with awe
At their talents and deep thinking they shared with us all.
I left last night, inspired to write poetry for you.
Thanks for allowing me to show what I can do.
I’d rather be here than with the crowds at Stampede
I like that I can hear every story, laugh and deed.
I like that the songs are honest, not artificially produced.
Hearing thoughts I’ve not heard before gives me quite a boost.
I like that I can see the stage without binoculars on my eyes.
I get to corral real people and learn about their lives.
I feel like this is my place, so thank you Willow Creek
For all your hospitality. What a way to end the week!

Stavely Alberta

Shelley Goldbeck at Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering

Good-Bye Alison Redford

RedfordA few weeks ago my eight-year-old grandtoy, J___ proudly announced that Premier Alison Redford had lunch with her class.  Redford was doing PR for the new schools recently announced.

“I talked to her!” J___ beamed.

I imagine J___ whispering in Alison’s ear, redhead to redhead, “You know, we all have to follow the rules. When you break the rules it’s just not fair to others.”

Or maybe she said, “$45,000 on a trip!? To a funeral!?  Our school needs….”

I like to imagine J___’s words of wisdom prompting the premier to repay that $45,000 reputedly spent on attending Mandela’s funeral. Perhaps she needed to be there. Regardless, it does seem excessive.

This week I teased J___ that all was well in the Province of Alberta until our premier spent time with her class. Now everything’s awry.

J___ vaguely understands my teasing but has no clue about the impact Alison Redford’s abrupt resignation will have on the province.

My opinion of Alison Redford is irrelevant now. She will go down in history as Alberta’s first female premier. Frankly, I can’t recall anything else for which she could be remembered.

Oh, there is one thing: I am dismayed that we’ve returned to deficit spending, after years of sacrificing to balance the budget. Sorry, Alison; that’s what I remember.

Strangely, a number have people have asked me about my political aspirations this past week. I guess “women in politics” is on their minds.

Part of me is tempted because I would love to make a difference in the world, fix problems, apply common sense to government.

But much like the happily-ever-after-marriage fairytale, I have little faith in politicians’ ability to do what’s right for us and it has almost nothing to do with their will.

Our systems of government are flawed, far from fair (or democratic) and conducive to sucking the very souls out of their participants.

Look at pictures of past presidents and prime ministers. After eight years in office, they’ve aged 20 years!

This is not a coincidence.

Politics is a nasty job. I know. I once worked for a Member of Parliament. He was a wonderful man with the highest of ideals but the system and his own friends’ betrayal severely hurt him. I learned that bureaucrats have more power than politicians. I also learned to never trust the media, but that’s another story.

The most altruistic individual can go to Ottawa or Washington, or wherever the “capital” is, and be sucked into the vortex of toe-ing the party line or pleasing the lobbyists, with no heed to the will of the electorate. The crooked seem to thrive; the upright struggle.

Then there are the games, some of which are legislated. For example: years of Senate crap! We know it sucks money. We know it’s ineffective. We know it’s not fair. But the games prohibit us from fixing it.

People often lament the lack of women in politics.

I say, most women I know are too smart to want a job in politics!

The hours are long. In Canada, the travel can be arduous. You read endless boring documents (if you’re doing your job) and attend endless committee meetings. You have enemies everywhere: opposition, journalists, in-party saboteurs. One slip of the tongue can finish your political career. You must play games but no rulebooks are procured nor are there referees.

You’re under constant scrutiny, especially if you are a woman. In fact a woman in politics must be immaculately dressed and groomed to command respect, whereas Ralph Klein was endeared for his rumpled bowling ball look!

My skin’s not thick enough for me to be in politics. I am far too sensitive. I know it’s not about me but I would be hurt. I know that I work best in an atmosphere of collaboration. A building with a section for the “official opposition”, to me, screams of impotence.

Worst of all you can’t ever please your constituents. Half will revile you for supporting something; the other half for not supporting it. You can’t win.

That is why there aren’t more women in politics.

I also believe that it’s easier to change the world outside of politics. The best change is bottom up. It starts in the hearts and minds of individuals. They get inspired to inspire others and then the people demand change.

I read a book about the history of champagne this week. It struck me that the many French revolts that brought positive change in the long run were started at the bottom. The politicians at the top were powerless to stop the ensuing tsunami.

I don’t blame Alison Redford for leaving her job. Reports are she didn’t have the support of her party.  She hasn’t seemed to be having loads of fun: barking and bullying accusations abound, sure signs of unhappiness.

Regardless of our job level, most of us get to a place at some time, where we’re no longer having any fun. The dirty parts of the job are not sufficiently balanced with perks.

I suspect giving back $45,000 could severely skew one’s perspective of fun.

Good-bye, Alison. Our family will remember you as the red-haired first female Premier of Alberta who had lunch with J___ and then ran away.

For a lighter look and politics click here…

Black Friday Blues

Black Friday Blues

Black Friday Blues

We interrupt today’s mindless worship of consumption with this burning question:

What did you create today?

In the frenzy of Black Friday I am struck by an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.

I like a good deal as much as anyone and Black Friday is reportedly The Day of the Year for Best Deals.

And not just in the USA. Black Friday has sneaked into the Canadian shopper’s lexicon.

How many of us actually need more stuff?

I realize retailers count on this next month to flush them out of the red and into the black. Our countries’ GDPs rely on strong retail markets. The goal is always growth.

But what is all that growth doing to us? Consider this:

  • Canadians carry record consumer debt; our southern neighbors are similarly burdened.
  • Our governments both struggle to service massive debt.
  • North Americans continue to consume a disproportionate share of the world’s resources.  As developing countries strive to our standard of living the earth is straining under the pressure.
  • I’ll wager that a significant portion of the crap that is purchased this month will be in landfills by spring, likely before the credit card bills are even paid!

How long can this go on? When will we grow ourselves right off the face of the earth?

What would happen if we turned around our thinking?

What if, instead of consuming, we created something to give back to the world?

We don’t need another set of dishes or a TV for the bathroom or more “collections” to dust.

The world needs solutions to its problems, especially solutions unfettered by entities whose sole reason for being is making money at any cost: human rights, pollution, lying.

Some of the best solutions will change the world without making their creators rich. That doesn’t make those solutions any less valuable to the earth. Or any less satisfying to the creator.

A recent news story touted a cancer cure discovered here in Alberta. Sadly, money to conduct solid scientific research is not available. Big Pharma isn’t interested because the promising material cannot be patented. Most of the money raised for research goes to pharmaceutical companies. It’s likely that cure will be buried along with the thousands of patients that die from chemotherapy and radiation poisoning every year.

If more of us keep our credit cards in our wallets during this seasonal consumer free-for-all and if we channel those resources into something to improve the world, we all win. Maybe we should crowd-source (raising money online) the cancer cure and claim ownership of it for the people. We could give it away and save money (on cancer poisons) and save lives.

If we continue in our wasteful indulgences, the world will perish and all the money Obama can print and all the junk you can buy with it won’t make a speck of difference.

To review: creation not consumption.

At least consider it.

More Great-fullness: Insights into Programs for the Blind

ASRAB logoIt seems everywhere I go lately, I am reminded to be grateful, or great-full, as my granddaughter puts it.

One of my volunteer gigs is as a board member for ASRAB, the Alberta Sport and Recreation Association for the Blind. The mandate of the organization is to provide sport and recreational activities for visually impaired individuals.

Last week I was invited to an event attended by 25 children, all with varying degrees of sightlessness. They were hosted by an organization called Courage Canada, whose goal that day was to introduce the children to Goalball, a game specifically for visually impaired athletes.

The organizers started with some basic drills so the kids could learn the techniques of the game. After the drills, they all got the chance to “play” for a few minutes.

The kids were so engaged and enthusiastic about this new learning opportunity, I found myself caught up by their laughter and cheering them on (quietly, since the athletes need to hear the ball) as they practiced their new skills.

I once read that when it comes to acts of kindness, recipients and givers both receive health benefits. But most remarkable is that witnesses to acts of kindness also achieve health benefits.

I experienced a gush of feel-good energy coursing through my body when I watched those kids experience their first Goalball save. I was immediately great-full for the Courage Canada representatives and cognizant of the honour I have in being associated with these people and organizations, working towards this noble cause.

ASRAB’s major annual fundraising event, Sight Night, is just around the corner. On Saturday, November 16th, 2013 the light from hundreds of headlamps will bob and weave along the Bow River Pathway as enthusiasts and supporters of visually impaired Albertans join in sight night Calgary – a fun run after dark.
 Runners can select the three, five or eight km courses starting from Eau Clair and incorporating the Peace Bridge.

All funds raised go to ASRAB programs, benefitting real people as opposed to going to fund research like so many other charities. I got to see the faces of the children that were directly affected by the volunteering and funding gifted to them by real people. I urge you to support this cause.

It’s not too late to participate. To sign up or learn more, go to http://www.asrab.ab.ca/sightnight.html

I hope to SEE you there! At least remember to be great-full for your sight!

See Poster Physical Literacy and Adapted Sport for Visually Impaired Children: Flyer – Physical Literacy Calgary Nov 21

Flood Update: Hurt, Hope and Nenvy

Nen-vee T-ShirtIn certain areas of Calgary you can still taste the swamp in the air.  Debris forms ghostly fences in the middle of fields on the flood plain, reminders of the river’s ravaging reach.

Not all the roads are reopened and not all buildings are back to normal but the atmosphere is nothing short of “heady”!

Against impossible odds, the 101 Calgary Stampede is in full swing. Not without hitches, mind you, for the Saddledome could not be reclaimed in time for the big musical acts.

In the last two weeks hundreds of added staff have pumped and preened and polished the grounds and one would almost never guess the place was so recently under several feet of water and mud.

Crews completely rebuilt the racetrack, hauling in untold tons of material and constructing a half-mile of hell in mere days.  (I wonder if anybody got the irony).

What’s happened at Stampede Park is nothing compared to the outpouring of unconditional love exhibited by Calgarians, Albertans, and Canadians.

Red Cross donations reach monumental proportions.

Swarms of roving volunteers roam streets throughout flooded communities to haul trash out of basements followed by troops of other volunteers who, at their own expense, feed and water the worker bees.

Folks have come from BC and Saskatchewan with trucks and pumps to help out, leaving businesses and personal lives behind.

I attended a Stampede function on the weekend where several folks tossed in $100 bills and refused their tickets for the Flood Relief 50/50 draw. The winner donated back the $1400 she won. Her generosity brought down the house.

It’s not just Calgary. The devastated community of High River is now the focus of the volunteers, doing what they can to help alleviate the pain. Some homes are beyond salvaging and are likely not covered by insurance.

We can’t imagine what that will do to young families.

How many people have enough saved to payoff a $300,000 mortgage on a house that is a pile of rubble and another $300,000 to rebuild? And furniture and clothing and appliances? I reckon none.

Some have no land on which to build since the rivers carved out new paths.

The flood heavily damaged St George’s Island and the Calgary Zoo is not expected to reopen until late fall. Sadly 300 zoo personnel were laid off last week.

While hurt is high, hope is too.

Flood Fundraisers are part of almost every event.  Opportunities to donate abound.

Many households are back to normal.

One volunteer confided she thought that Mother Nature did many people a favour, forcing them to dispose of stuff they neither needed or used. Knowing how good it feels to purge one’s stuff, I must agree. But some things are irreplaceable.

(That reminds me it’s time I get my “important stuff” together and in a safer place. I have some photos in cardboard boxes. It’s my own fault if they get ruined!)

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has stepped up and done what we wish all politicians would do.

He is down on the frontlines, communicating plans and processes. He routinely praises public servants for their long hours of service.  He rallies volunteers, urges Calgarians to help their neighbours, and cheers us on. All this has certainly helped his political career.

A new T-shirt has emerged: Nenvy: [NEN-vee] the feeling every other city has when comparing mayors. Especially Toronto.” Tee-hee!

Everywhere people marvel at what they’ve witnessed in the wake of the disaster.

Until one experiences this spirit of oneness, it’s impossible to truly understand how powerful acts of kindness are and what they do to the collective psyche.

I am honoured that these are my neighbours. Ya-hoo!

See other Calgary Flood posts by Shelley Goldbeck:

This is my City, Hell or High Water

Calgary Floods Expose Human Character