A Special Christmas

A gift from my wife Francis:

“This is a re-worked story that appeared on my blog two years ago. Because that’s what writers do – re-work things. It was inspired by an email I had received that reminded me that Christmas is not an easy time for some people. I sat down to write and this story found its way into being. It isn’t filled with holiday cheer – it doesn’t sparkle and make you smile like a freshly decorated gingerbread house might. But if you’re lucky it could make you grateful for what you have. So – here goes.”

A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS – by Francis Guenette

She never let herself believe in anything as foolish as the magic of Christmas, but this year she couldn’t shake the feeling that something special was happening. It was as if time were standing still – her whole world poised on the precipice – watching and waiting.

She definitely had not anticipated magic. She had watched as early December slipped by like sodden leaves falling battered to the dark earth. Each day she dutifully ripped off a page of the tablet on the desktop calendar, feeling as though a part of her soul was being crumpled right along with the ball of paper that landed with a thud in the trash bin. Death was everywhere, now. It dogged her footsteps each day when she took the dog for a walk through the garden. Plants dragged down to the earth by the weight of the rain and the early frost. Everything was dark and decaying. Just the way they would all end up one day.

The doctor said they could bring Tabby home for Christmas. In the New Year there would be time enough for arranging hospice care. So she had followed his advice and somehow, against all odds, the magic of Christmas had sunk into her the way brandy would soak the cloth-wrapped fruitcake her mother used to make. There was a quality to the coloured lights and decorations, on the streets and in the stores, which brought tears to her eyes. They had taken three days to decorate the tree. The story of each ornament was told with breathless anticipation, all of them lingering over the details. Then someone would hang the ornament with the greatest care so that Tabby would be able to see each one from the hospital bed that now dominated the living room.

She had never before shopped for gifts when the only priority was the present moment. She bought a CD she knew Tabby would love to hear, a bottle of a light and fresh perfume to mask the ever-present smell of life slipping away, the prettiest flannel nightie to wrap around a body now diminished to skin and bones, a stuffed pink bunny – just like the one Tabby had as a toddler – this one brand new and so soft all she wanted to do was stroke it over and over. She couldn’t believe the absolute joy she felt as she wrapped each gift and laid it under the tree.

She piled up precious drops of time spent together – baking and icing sugar cookies, pouring over Christmas cards, playing Christmas music, laughing together as they placed a Santa hat on the dog’s furry head. She knew she was already storing these memories like a miser with every penny that came her way.

The living room was dark now as she sat curled up in the recliner. The rest of the family had gone to bed to deal in their dreams with their own versions of magic and pain. Tabby was asleep at last, the high sides of the hospital bed pulled up, the glint of the morphine drip catching the light from the Christmas tree. Her eyes traced the line of the IV tubing to the point where it snaked under the blanket. Her gaze shifted to the window and she saw the snow falling in huge, fat flakes to the ground. The trees, branches thickly covered, were already bowed under the weight like so many white garbed priests in supplicating prayer. The quiet was deep and total.

Her world was reduced to last moments. Tears washed down her cheeks unaware. The special moments of magic she felt wouldn’t change the fact that Tabby was going to die. Very soon now she was going to lose her seventeen year-old daughter – bury her before her grown-up life had even begun.

She rose silently and grabbed her coat and boots from the hall closet. She tugged on her gloves and wrapped a scarf around her neck. Out on the snow-covered lawn, among the tall trees, she turned slowly, her head thrown back. The snowflakes fell on her face. She watched the stars sparkle far away above her. All that was, all that had ever been, was now, this moment. It was all she had, all she could hang onto, all she could bear.

Source: A Special Christmas



Britney at Christmas play 2015 - bruce witzel photo



Horeshoe Bay near Vancouver, B.C. - bruce witzel photo



“I am an incorrigible optimist. I’m aware of the threats that surround us, but I haven’t lost my faith, I haven’t lost my hope. And I haven’t lost my confidence that people working together harmoniously can bring about a change for the better in the world that our children will grow up in . . .” 


Emma's Grade 2 class at the 2015 Christmas concert - bruce witzel photo



Bow River in Banff Alberta - Bruce Witzel photo


“It’s not for governments to improve our lives. It is for each individual to ask himself or herself, “Should I continue to make things which destroy life, or can I lend my expertise and my experience to benefit life, to help life?”


Oaxaca Mexico with ecclesial itinerent missionaries - 1992 - bruce witzel photo on tripod



river near winter harbour - bruce witzel photo


“We get discouraged because we don’t see life as it is. We feel we can’t make a difference because we don’t see things as they really are. When we see life as it is, when we see people as they are, all sorrow will fall away, all suffering will come to an end.”


Britney @ her christmas play - bruce witzel photo

“This is the great message of all religions. When we see life as it is, all sorrow falls away.”


A quote from Eknath Easwaran (1910 –1999) 

founder of Blue Mountain Center of Meditation



Star of Wonder - bruce witzel photo



WPC: Gathering



  Downtown Ottawa - bruce witzel photo


We stand now where two roads diverge.


 I-5 Seattle, Washington - francis guenette photo


The road we have long been travelling is deceptively easy…


Ventura Freeway - photo by Bruce Witzel


A smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed,


but at its end lies disaster.


Highwood River meets Alberta Highway 541



slide-truck in ditch cropped (2)



san josef wagon road @ ronnings garden - bruce witzel photo


The other fork in the road – the one less traveled by –

offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the

preservation of the earth.


Quote from Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring 



The Paris Climate Accord makes the eco-logical imperative described by Rachel Carson crystal clear. The unfettered extraction, use and dealing in fossil fuels give every indication that a fossil fuel economy is in our best interest. It may have been so in years past but it isn’t anymore. We need rapid divestment from fossil fuels towards a whole hearted embrace of the new de-carbonized economy based on renewable energy.  Cheers to the vision . . .



Toronto Co-operative Wind Turbine -bruce witzel photo







Solar powered cold frame, May 31-2015 -bruce witzel photo






solar prius           



    Hydro power mill - bruce witzel photo










Solar powered nature centre on the Sunshine Coast of BC - bruce witzel photo, through the luminary lens




Windfarm near Pincher Creek, Alberta - bruce witzel photo





Hybrid solar electric cooker - bruce witzel photo








Portland Washington - bruce witzel photo


People get ready, there’s a train a comin…


With love, faith and hope ~ Bruce


WPC: Oops!




together-as-one . . .  shared alike . . .  bound together by obligation



The Brandt Series:




Text and nature photos by Charles Brandt


It cannot have escaped your notice, but on Thursday 18th, June 2015, Pope Francis published his long-awaited encyclical: Laudato Si, ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME, addressed to every person living on this planet.

Thomas Berry writes elsewhere that the human community and the natural world must go into the future as a single sacred community, or we will perish in the desert. Some scientists believe that we have already released so much carbon into the atmosphere, which is causing global warming, that we have passed the point of no return. Laudato Si sees it differently: there is still Hope if we begin to act NOW. So menacing is this threat that recently the world powers (G7 Nations) have reached an agreement to completely “decarbonize” their economics by 2100.

This is a watershed moment. It means that all oil, coal, gas, will be left in the ground after 2100.


Antelope Canyon, Page Arizona - July 2007 by Charles A.E.Brandt



WOW! Even (our past) Canadian Prime Minister Harper agrees. This bodes well for Woodhus Creek.



Pink Salmon moving upstream  Hatchery  August 19 2015 - charles brandt photo


On “Our Common Home”, Aldo Leopold writes that our community includes by extension waters, plants, soil, atmosphere, and all sentient beings: in other words : The Human Community and the Other than Human Community.


Four-pointer Comox June 25 2015 - charles brandt photo


While Laudato Si is concerned with the poor Human Community it is perhaps more concerned with the poor Other than Human Community, especially how global warming is affecting this community.


Cover Encyclical (cover of encyclical – Praise Be, On Care for Our Common Home)


We all have important works that we are involved in. Thomas Berry points out that in addition we are all involved in the GREAT WORK: which is making a transition from a society that is having a disruptive influence on the earth to one that will have a benign influence. That we make this transition by experiencing creation with a sense of wonder and delight.


Photo by father charles brandt


That we have to fall in love with the earth. We only save something, someone, if we love them. We only love something if we think it is sacred.


bleeding heart - charles brandt photo


Only the sense of the sacred will save us. Laudato Si teaches us that the earth is sacred,

our Common Home is Sacred.


Father Charles A.E.Brandt, erm

September 30, 2015



postscript from Pope Francis . . .





Peace, Justice & Joy

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 7.41.14 PM


John Trudell quote on love of people and the earth


The earth lost a great spokes-person this past Tuesday. John Trudell died at age 69 of cancer.     


Although I mourn deeply,  John’s light and spirit will continue in death as in life,

like a mighty comet in the clear night sky.


Lake at night and the nightt sky - John trudell RIP Sept. 12, 2014 Bruce Witzel photo.2


“John Trudell was a Santee Dakota activist, artist, actor, and poet, who led a life dedicated to indigenous human rights, land and language issues,” said fellow poet Alex Jacobs. He was also an incredible musician.

His family released a statement yesterday which reads in part: “His wishes are for people to celebrate life and love, pray and remember him in their own ways in their own communities.”

“With love for all.”

John said near the end of his life “I appreciate all of your expressions of concern and I appreciate all of your expressions of love. It has been like a fire to my heart. Thank you all for that fire. But please don’t worry about me . . .”


John Trudell_Photo - from his official website - Rest in Peace with love, Bruce


John Trudell’s life story was memorialized in the ballad of Johnny Lobo,

written and sung by Kris Kristofferson.


Click on this link for a listen. 


Johnny Lobo


Once upon a dusty reservation

Somewhere in the land of sitting bull

Johnny Lobo played with fire and dreamed of open spaces

Locked inside a heaven gone to hell

All the dreams were gone but not forgotten

Murdered like the holy buffalo

But johnny lobo knew the rules and grew into a warrior

Fighting for his people and his soul


Oh…… johnny lobo

Oh…… johnny lobo


Loaded down with lessons that he carried

Home from Vietnam to Wounded Knee

Johnny lobo burned a flag he knew had been dishonored

Paid the price for thinking he was free

Someone set his house on fire, burned it to the ground

With his wife and children locked inside

Later when the bitter tears were falling to the ashes

Something good in johnny lobo died


Oh…… johnny lobo

Oh…… johnny lobo


In a darkened corner of a tavern

Burning down old memories again

Johnny lobo stares into the smoke and dream of clouds

Running like wild horses with the wind

Holy phoenix rising from the ashes

Into the circle of the sun

Johnny lobo’s warrior heart was burnished in the embers

And the battle’s just begun


Oh…… johnny lobo

Oh…… johnny lobo







Rest in peace John



“Imagine a world where each decision maker, public or private, has to pay the real cost of pollution.”

Honourable  Stéphane Dion, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs



1.The earth has warmed .85°C since 1880.

slides0092 (4)a - bruce witzel photo


At the Paris Climate Conference on Sunday, Canada announced our intention to support initiatives to limit further warming to 1.5°C.

350.org has pointed out that “even limiting to 2°C would take a fundamental transformation of the global energy system and 80% of fossil fuels would have to stay in the ground. To hit  the 1.5°C target would take the world doing a massive shift from fossil fuels to 100% renewables now.”


Buffola Wind Turbines, April  2008 - photo & effects, Bruce Witzel


Pricing Carbon:

2. How are we going to make this shift? One of the ways is to put a price on carbon.


“Is it really all about Carbon?”, asked  Bernadine Bednarz, of Los Angeles, Calif. in the New York Times.

Justin Gillis replied that “when you hear about carbon taxes, carbon trading and so on, these are shorthand descriptions of methods designed to limit greenhouse emissions or to make them more expensive so that people will be encouraged to conserve fuel.”

The legendary climate scientist James Hansen has consistently called for a world wide Carbon Fee measured in dollars/ton of CO2 emissions. The fee would be charged by governments at each point of fossil fuel extraction and every port of entry, and quickly rise in price until it reflects the true cost of fossil fuels.

“An economic analysis indicates that a tax beginning at $15/ton of CO2 and rising $10/ton of CO2 each year would reduce emissions in the U.S. by 30% within 10 years. Such a reduction is more than 10 times as great as the carbon content of tar sands oil carried by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (830,000 barrels/day). Reduced oil demand would be nearly six times the pipeline capacity, thus the carbon fee is far more effective than the proposed pipeline.”

(source – Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature – James Hansen, et. al., Dec. 3, 2013)

Hansen is alarmed but he still has hope the carbon fee will be utilized to avert climate catastrophe.


NASA Scientist James Hansen Arrested


3. The Carbon Fee or “tax” is a simple and fair method of pricing pollution.

Carbon Fee (and Dividend!) – How it Works:


The fee adds cost to all fossil fuel, and hence promotes energy conservation and efficiency as well as stimulates renewable energy. For example, the commercial sector implements innovative methods to use less energy, keep costs down and stay competitive. For families and individuals the higher fuel costs promotes the use of vehicles with better fuel economy and public transit, biking or car sharing. 

In other words, wasting energy brings a penalty via the extra fee. Conserving energy brings a dividend. A dollar saved is a dollar earned, as the adage goes. Fossil fuels are saved.


a study of contradictions - bruce witzel photo-2


My home province of British Columbia has a Carbon Tax. All money the government collects from it goes back to individuals and business through incentives and benefits, mostly reduced income tax. This makes it “revenue neutral”, which is key.


This chart shows how the 5 Billion dollars of Carbon Tax was disbursed. . .

Cumulative BC Carbon Tax revenues and tax cuts - 2008-2104 - source, Sightline Institute

Note that less Carbon Tax was collected than disbursed. The Carbon Tax stimulated the reduction of fossil fuel consumption more than estimated.  Put another way – less fuel was sold and hence less tax was collected. More tax cuts and benefits were paid out than necessary.


Here are the results of British Columbia’s reduced dependence of fossil fuel (hence, reduced emissions) according to Statistics Canada:


Previous to the implementation of the BC Carbon Tax in 2008, fuel usage was rising in British Columbia. As a direct result of the Carbon Tax, from 2008 to 2013 fuel use in our province dropped by an amazing 16.1%  –  it rose 3% throughout the rest of Canada.

Currently in British Columbia, the Carbon Tax has increased the price of gasoline by about 7 cents per litre (25 cents per gallon), to $1.25/litre. Me and my wife Francis receive from the provincial government  a  quarterly deposit into our bank account called the “Carbon Tax Credit”. In addition, our annual income tax rate has decreased.

The BC Carbon Tax Shift was implemented only months before the 2008 economic meltdown and the American bank bailouts. Some analysts predicted economic chaos for British Columbia. That never occurred.

Downtown Montreal - Bruce Witzel photo


The Carbon price was set low in the first year, then grew gradually until 2012 when it reached $30/ton of CO2 emissions (or Green House Gas equivalents). It was originally conceived to rise annually at $10/ton. Unfortunately the BC government froze it at $30.00/ton, claiming that other United States jurisdictions hadn’t implemented the Carbon Taxes as originally promised.


California oil well - bruce witzel photo


This past November 2015, the new NDP government in neighbouring Alberta legislated a new Carbon Tax to reach $30/ton of CO2 emissions by 2018. Alberta is home to Canada’s mighty tar-sand industry that emits 8.5% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Carbon Tax is a step in the right direction.


Alberta Rockies and oil - bruce witzel photo


What the World Needs Now, is . . .


4. Limit warming to 1.5°C


Canada and the world needs to have a much higher price on carbon.

Progressive economists, insurance analysts, and climate experts say that Carbon Tax needs to reach at least $100.00/ton of CO2 emissions, to begin to reflect the true cost of burning carbon based fuel.

Sweden has had a carbon tax since 1991, currently priced at $130.00/ton of emissions. The carbon tax, along with other innovative policies, enabled them to reduce their emissions by 20% over 20 years and reach their 2012 target for the Kyoto Climate Protocol of 1997.


We all need to do so much more, of course. . .


New Denver BC bulletin board - bruce witzel photo


5. We are entering the Solar Age and the Post-Carbon Era


Dream for the Earth: Let’s Make it Happen

 Boulder Recreation Center - City of Boulder, Colorado

Here is an appeal from the Honourable Stéphane Dion, 

Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs:


“Imagine a world where each decision maker, public or private, has to pay the real cost of pollution and where we all know that our partners and competitors have to pay for this cost as well. In such a world, political rulers would still think of their own jurisdiction’s welfare first but their decisions would be more mindful of the global commons.

Putting a price on pollution: this is what the overwhelming majority of economist, scientists and environmentalists – and a few foolhardy politicians – have been urging us to do for years.  …a universal harmonized carbon price.

We need a world where pollution is no longer cost-free. We need to switch from self-destructive development to sustainable development. Action on this survival necessity and moral imperative is long overdue; it will require individual commitment, business support and political will.”









~ Bruce ~

Our cabin with the wind generator - B.Witzel photo

Transition: WPC


At the Paris Climate talks, or COP 21 (Conference of Parties on Climate Change), currently the negotiations are difficult. . . 

  Bruce Witzel photo


The United States and Australia are demanding that poorer nations accurately disclose their current and future emissions.


At Watson's -bruce witzel photo


President Obama said in his Paris speech, “let’s agree to a strong system of transparency that gives each of us the confidence that all of us are meeting our commitments. And let’s make sure that the countries who don’t yet have the full capacity to report on their targets receive the support that they need.” 


                                                                minneapolis sculpture - bruce witzel photo


On the surface this seems like a reasonable request.


Pathway to Peace, representing the Communities feeling about the meaning of peace - photo by Bruce Witzel



South African ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko chairs the G77 bloc of 134 mostly poor nations. She objected,  saying that this “narrative” on  transparency cast poor countries as “villains.”


bruce witzel photo 2


I’m with her on this. People in poorer countries are often overwhelmed to simply provide fresh water, adequate nutrition, and basic medicines, let alone accurately measure their greenhouse gas emissions.

                                bruce witzel photo 4



Canada’s Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, is currently part of the official Canadian delegation at the climate talks. In this excerpt from a CBC interview today, she explains the crux of the problem:

“China and India (and the G77) are rightly angered  by the fact the industrialized world really created the climate crises over a period of time from the industrial revolution until about 10 years ago.

There is no question that the historical emissions that are presently in the atmosphere, they are not history, they are still active in causing extreme weather events. The bulk of that was caused by industrialized countries. Now we’re saying,  “what a minute  – China is a bigger polluter than the United States so you have  to bear the same burden as the United States.”  

There is an issue of equity here, and it is a very tough one for the developing countries, even the big polluting developing countries, to accept the idea to turn the page and say they are just as responsible as we are. In real terms,  in real scientific terms, they are not as responsible! And the industrial world, including Canada, should be prepared to do more, and reduce our emissions more, and lead the way in the newer and greener technologies.

Financing is part of that too because it was the industrialized world, led by the United States in Copenhagen, that said were going put forward a hundred billion dollars per year by 2020 and it’s going to be there for you developing countries… (to provide) climate financing.

And this is also a sticking point because these (poorer) nations are saying, “will that money be there and how will it be administered?”


bruce witzel photo 3

I have learned about many solutions, including 2 decades of micro-credit and small solar businesses that continue to provide increasing employment and enabled the rural poor to work or study in the evenings via 100’s of thousands of installed 50 watt solar electric light systems that displace expensive and dangerous kerosene lanterns. Money is saved for food and green house gas emissions are reduced. Large agencies said it wouldn’t work. Yet these installations continue to grow at an exponential rate.


Sun image - bruce witzel photo

As another solution, my next post will explain how Carbon Pricing is an economic tool towards reducing the worlds Green House Gas Emissions, and how this works in British Columbia with our Carbon Tax Shift. 

I apologize for my low profile in recent months, due to numerous other commitments. It’s good to be back, though be forewarned – my future posting will come and go.

For COP 21 in Paris, all the best towards a positive result for all the parties – that’s all of us. In these difficult and complex negotiations towards climate justice, may this be one positive step  forward.


Peace  & solidarity  –  Bruce



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