Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Sunday, July 25, 2004

This is not about my diet!

I got into an argument today with a stranger in a chatroom who asked me why I lied to people when I told them I was a vegetarian and that I eat fish. As far as I am concerned, I am not lying. I am a vegetarian and I also eat fish on occasion. It is not a major part of my diet, and it is a good compromise when I am eating out and there is nothing else on the menu that appeals to me or falls within the confines of what I consider to be vegetarian. She said that I was not a vegetarian if I ate fish, hence I was lying.

I have learned that many different styles of eating may be called vegetarianism. My own particular brand is pescevegetarian, a vegetarian who supplements her diet with fish. That does not make me any less of a vegetarian than one who supplements her diet with eggs and dairy products. Yet this chatroom stranger only considered me a liar because I ate fish, which is technically speaking an animal, and not because I ate animal products, which are technically not vegetables. Even when I explained that the original meaning of the word “vegetarian” is derived from the Latin vegetus and means “whole foods” and said that my own diet was more on those lines, she still would not let up on the fact that I was “lying”.

The question then pertains to the meaning of the word “lying”, not “vegetarianism”. Looking up the word “lie” on, I get these two definitions:

1. To present false information with the intention of deceiving.
2. To convey a false image or impression.

When I tell people I am a vegetarian, I am not intending deceit. I even tell them that I eat fish. This is so much easier than saying, “Hi, I eat fish, but I don’t eat any other animal foods, except for milk and eggs.” If I say, “I am a vegetarian,” they already know that I don’t eat meat. When I add that I eat fish, they breathe a sigh of relief because most non-vegetarians cannot conceive of preparing a meal which doesn’t contain some sort of animal protein. As a matter of fact, I recently lunched for the first time at a new acquaintance’s house and was fed spinach quiche, loaded with cheese and eggs. In my normal day-to-day meal preparation, I avoid cheese and eggs because they are so high in saturated fat. On the other hand, fish is good for you. So my definition of myself as a vegetarian is linked more closely to the original meaning from the Latin than from being an eater of solely vegetable matter. We have a word for that kind of person, “vegan”.

So, am I a liar? This is what I most want to know. Am I purposely trying to deceive by calling myself a vegetarian even though I eat fish? Am I trying to present a false image or impression of myself?

Most of us lie on a daily basis. When asked how we are, we reply, “Fine, thank you,” even if we are not technically-speaking in the best of health. When asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?” we know damned well to lie through our teeth. A friend returns from a trip to the hairdresser with a new coif that you consider frightful but which your friend is all excited about, and you lie, saying it is very becoming. We lie specifically so that we do not hurt people’s feelings, so that we do not reveal information about ourselves which we feel is confidential (such as our state of health) and because it is sometimes just faster and more convenient to let an untruth go by that does not in the end hurt anyone or change the space-time continuum in any appreciable way. To say that we are honest 100% of the time would in itself be a lie.

Therefore, I did not lie about being a vegetarian. I just didn’t tell the whole truth.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

I have become a chatroom junkie. I am so ashamed.

The other blog where I keep my day-to-day diary has a chatroom onsite which I visited infrequently at best until just recently. It was frequented by kids anywhere from age 10 to 17 for the most part, and I have found myself in private conversation with the younger children asking me if I have a “crush”. It is actually very funny. Often when they find out that I am in fact a grown-up and I have not shunned them, they ask me for advice about their love life and other teeny-bopper problems. I am usually very polite to these kids and treat them seriously. It’s a difficult age for many.

However, in the past week I have been in this chatroom almost daily, and often for many hours at a time. There is an older crowd, still teenagers, but more mature, who are actually interesting to talk to and joke around with. Being with these guys virtually makes me feel like a kid again to a certain extent. They appear to accept me as one of them, even though some of them definitely know that I have kids as old as they. It’s exhilarating, and I have become addicted to it.

Then there are the abusers, those sorry souls who go into chatrooms for the sole purpose of uttering misogynistic profanity at the participants, usually with caps lock on. There is one such young man who keeps a diary at the site. He is extremely articulate in his writing, shows quite a bit of intelligence, but is obviously suffering from some kind of personality disorder or is dealing with past baggage. His entries show that he hates women, uses them if he can, and make me think that he was abused as a child or had a very bad experience where his mother was concerned. In the chatroom, however, he sounds like a moron. Every exchange breaks down to the ultimate “SUCK MY COCK, BITCH!” that typifies him. Women are “fat bitches” and his answer to everything is a demand for fellatio. A very sick man. I have had a few altercations with him, but I think that in the future I shall just avoid him completely.

There are other sad cases as well who, while not as bad as the young man mentioned above, always seem to be picking fights. This I do not understand. Among the regulars there is rarely any attempt at real information sharing. Talk is often merely banter, or discussion of popular culture: movies, music, etc. The younger ones are always asking “asl”, and the older ones are always refusing to reply or giving obviously bogus answers. It has become a joke.

I have made virtual friends with a highschool student from Finland who wants to go into the recording industry, a teenaged boy from California who is interested in swords and martial arts, a girl who takes marvellous photographs and several others. It is an interesting mix. They all know each other, I presume from repeated interactions in the chatroom, often by their real names as well. Some keep online diaries, others have signed on just to use the chat. It’s an interesting community. I just have to ask myself what I am really doing there.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Tipping and tailing snowpeas for a stirfry, remembering my father.

Peas were one of the earliest-ripening crops in my father’s vast garden which took up most of the backyard, and they were delicious, as long as you didn’t let them overripen and become tough and starchy. In order to open the pod easily to get at the little green pearls of goodness inside, he instructed me to grasp the tail end and pull back, effectively removing the “zipper” along the top edge of the pod. It then opened easily with a little pressure from the thumbs.

He also taught me how to remove the inner membrane from the pod, rendering it edible. It was sweet and crunchy, and a just reward for the tricky job of peeling back that translucent layer of cellulose. Little things, like preparing snowpeas for a stirfry, bring back these memories of the man now dead four years who played such an important rôle in the formation of who I am today. He taught me how to husk corn fresh from the yard; how to crush grapes to make wine; how to save tomato seeds for next year’s crop; and how to wear a can on a string around my neck to free up my hands when harvesting raspberries.

So many memories of my father are connected to the garden, perhaps because he was truly happy there among his plants which responded to his loving care, which did not answer back or question him, which unconditionally gave of themselves without asking anything in return. He was not comfortable around people unless he was the centre of attention, telling jokes or giving lectures. He was not comfortable around us, his family.

Growing up, I had feelings of ambivalence at best toward this parent. He was a strict disciplinarian, possibly making up for an inferiority complex fed by his own childhood emotional baggage. He could not stand to be contradicted, and so offered his opinions hardly at all. I cannot remember having deep philosophical discussions with him, or any discussions at all that did not somehow centre around the things that interested him: his garden, the Castle organ, the Canadian Shield.

And how has this all affected me? I love growing things, although I am not as conscientious about my own garden as he was about his. I am not trying to escape though, as he was. I love geology: rocks, caves, mountains, the stories written thereon that outlast us. It is the sense of age and timelessness that awes me. I do not know what awed my father. He never said.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we diet.

Food. Such a wonderful thing. Eating is a pleasure, or it should be, since we have to eat to live. But what about those who live to eat?

The other night I viewed Fahrenheit 9/11, and while I don’t want to review it here, I do want to mention something I could not help noticing throughout the film. America is full of fat people. Lots and lots of fat people. It is shocking, but perhaps not wholly unexpected. In the land of plenty where there is too much food available and affordable, people overeat. In a land where one needn’t chase one’s dinner, but can drive up to the take-out window instead, it should not surprise us that people take in more calories than they expend and are, as a result, obese. It appears to be a sickness.

Actually, obesity is the cause of much preventable illness, from diabetes to heart disease, high blood pressure and all their attendant evils. It is so avoidable, just like the ills associated with smoking and drinking, and yet the population continues to balloon outward at an alarming rate. It all comes down to corporate profits.

Food companies keep coming out with new products aimed at different segments of consumer society. Just take a trip to the supermarket to see how we are influenced. Candies in bags at the checkout counter have joined the chocolate bars and breath mints. Snack food comes in ever larger packaging. You cannot buy a bag with one serving of potato chips inside. Instead you get an economy-sized bag that is supposed to feed 20 people. How many people will polish off half of that bag in one sitting? Do any of them actually read the side of the package to find out what a recommended serving is so that they can measure it out very carefully into a bowl, close up the bag and store it away for another time?

The food companies make their products just too damned delicious and irresistable. “Bet you can’t just eat one” is all too true. But the same companies are coming out with products aimed at those fatties who are leaping on the diet band wagons with low-carbohydrate snacks (which are only marginally lower in complex carbs than their regular products). It was the same story when low-fat foods were put on the market. People intent on losing weight just switched to low-fat versions of what they were already snacking on. But because the lower calorie versions didn’t fill them up as much, they ate more. Who gains? The fat people gain more weight, and the food companies gain more profits.

No, my friends, the only way to defeat this cycle of corporate greed and national obesity is to shun all these products. Do not get sucked into eating snack foods. Period. Get used to being hungry between meals. It’s healthy. Eat more fruits and vegetables, less meat, cheese and eggs. Say “Yes” to complex carbohydrates. They are your friends. Say “No” to potatoes and white bread for you will resemble them. And in all things, practise moderation. For life is short, and we have to enjoy ourselves a little bit, after all.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Peace Moth

One day many years ago there was a beautiful visitor hanging around the lantern on the front of the house. He (or she) looked a lot like this guy here:

Hyalophora cecropia

The cecropia, or peace moth, is the largest moth in North America. The particular visitor we had refused to leave, having become enamored of our light, and pined away as his love was unrequited. Eventually he became a mere shadow of his former self and expired for lack of food and drink.

Is it worth it? Is love worth all that?