Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem- savings November 18, 2015

When Brianna asked why the Brits have such horrible toilet paper,

“Hearts of oak are our men,” Roger intoned, “stainless steel are their bums. It builds the national character.”

Diana Gabaldon in
Dragonfly in Amber

The government is loudly raving

school districts must  search for savings!

As they replaced all our paper dispensers

with giant boxes, our sphinxters grew tenser

The paper that’s extruded, (please trust this fact)

is a complete and absolute pain on the ass.

We’ve had to get tougher as the years go by

but this toilet paper, with its single thick, crispy ply,

is taking it a step too far.   If *Christie’s contract wasn’t enough,

You’re scraping us raw.  Yeah.  These days teaching is rough.

The government doesn’t seem to register

we don’t need to have stronger character!


true story  :-/

* Christie Clark is the current Premier of BC, and former Minister of Education.  Teachers dislike her for her destruction and defunding of education in BC.


re-writing history November 20, 2012

Filed under: OUTLANDERishness,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:39 pm
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I’m just about to start George Orwell’s 1984 with my English 12s.  One of the themes to explore is how history is manipulated to serve the present.

Classic example from this year: The Conservative government did that with their celebrations commemorating the War of 1812 “Yay! We Canadians beat the Americans!”.  Of course, the Americans say “Yay! We beat the British!”

Diana Gabaldon asserts that this propensity is not the fault of the historians…

              “No, the fault lies with the artists,” Claire went on.  “The writers, the singers, the tellers of tales.  It’s them that take the past and re-create it to their liking.  Them that could take a fool and give you back a hero, take a sot and make him a king.”

                “Are they all liars, then?” Roger asked. 

                “Liars?” she asked, “or sorcerers?  Do they see the bones in the dust of the earth, see the essence of a thing that was, and clothe it in new flesh, so the plodding beast re-emerges as a fabulous monster?”

(Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, p. 814)

Politicians do it.  Writers do it as they re-imagine historical experience from the perspectives of their characters.  Artists do it when they clean up their subjects (


Day 20 NaNoWriMo: 0   (Total November: 32054)


There is no time between hearts June 6, 2012

Yesterday I was blessed to have a visit from dear friends of my teenage years.  It has been over 20 years since I last saw them, because they now live in Ottawa, some 4000 km away.  We keep in touch through letters (the paper kind!) and Facebook, so we have exchanged photos and life events, but we haven’t seen each other in lifetimes (those of 3 children between us, I think)

The door bell rang, they stepped inside, and it was as if our last visit was yesterday.  It gives a glimpse into the concept of eternity.  If our own experience is that time folds upon itself when old friends come together, a life time is measured in a blink.

I’m reminded of Joe Abernathy’s comments to Claire with respect to high school reunions in Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber.  He says, “you see all these people you haven’t seen for twenty years, and there’s this split second when you meet somebody you used to know, when you think, ‘My God, he’s changed!,’ and then all of a sudden, he hasn’t—it’s just like the twenty years weren’t there.  I mean”—he rubbed his head vigorously, struggling for meaning—“you see they’ve  got some gray, and some lines, and maybe they aren’t just the same as they were, and you have to make yourself stand back a ways to see that they aren’t eighteen anymore.”

I sure wish Ottawa was a whole lot closer.  The worst thing about seeing someone you haven’t seen in 20 years is how much you wish you could spend  more time with them.  Good-byes are extra sad.

Thank heaven for Facebook. 🙂


re-adjusting… December 8, 2011

I was driving home while listening to the audio book of Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber. It’s a brisk December day, -3 Celsius.

At this point in the story, the narrator was discussing about how the day of the Battle of Culloden was bitterly cold. Immediately, in my mind, I envisioned a bitterly cold day. -20 or so. The next line was about how the bodies were stacked wet with blood and rain. Rain. Immediately, I adjusted my vision of the cold 21 degrees warmer…

Then I laughed. So much of the story is contained in the perspective of the reader. I know it intellectually, but it always seems to take me by surprise when I see it in action.

A couple of times I’ve had comments from readers of Grace Awakening that baffled me. Sometimes they’ve just misinterpreted something, or missed some detail, but often it is just that their life experience reveals a different view on the events. It’s interesting.

Bitter cold doesn’t need to be -20 of course. I spent a July in Vancouver one year, and the humidity of the city got into my bones and I was cold all the time. It was much worse than the -20 winter days! Living in the dry interior of BC, I don’t like humidity. Perhaps the weather at Culloden, not far from Inverness and the Channel, was that ‘get into your bones’ bitterness, even though it was above zero.

Adjust while reading.

Carry on.


this one October 13, 2011

Filed under: OUTLANDERishness,Pondering,Reading — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:09 pm
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In Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon has doctor Claire, make the following observation,

“So many you can never touch, so many whose essence you can’t find, so many who slip through your fingers.  But you can’t think about them.  The only thing you can do—the only thing—is to try for the one who’s in front of you.   Act as though this one patient is the only person in the world—because to do otherwise is to lose that one, too.  One at a time, that’s all you can do.  And you learn not to despair over all the ones you can’t help, but only to do what you can.” (p. 815)

This applies for teachers, social workers, and Rotarians as well.  We can’t save everyone, but we can make a difference where we are.  One by one.


October 11, 2011

Filed under: Commentary,OUTLANDERishness,Reading — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:07 pm
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I was amused by this passage in Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber, describing life in Britain.

Nineteen year old Brianna asks, “Why on earth would people deliberately make toilet paper that feels like tinfoil?”

“Hearts of oak are our men…stainless steel are their bums.  It builds national character.”  Roger replies.  (p. 37)


the reader October 4, 2011

Lost wanderer,
head in clouds,
still travelling fictional roads
though the covers are closed.
Slowly moving through today,
heart heavy
from a world spun from words.
Fiction being truth,
when living between pages
for several days,
rousing reality
proves difficult.



Do you ever find yourself feeling something akin to culture shock when you emerge from several days of reading- reading book after book from a single series until the fictional world in your head is more real than the world your body habitates?

As you try to pull your head back from where it is still lost between pages, does your heart ache to be back in that place?  Even while you’re full of knowing that the place exists only in your imagination, crafted from the imagination of another, do you feel it is yours as much as the creators, because you’ve journeyed together?

I have the same feeling coming home after a time abroad.  Finding myself takes time.  Good thing there is a waiting list for the next book in Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander series.  After reading 2 books (1800 pages) over the last 4 days, I’m quite emotionally exhausted.


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