The Bagpiper, photo taken by Athena in 2007, licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND.
"The Bagpiper", Athena, 2007, CC BY-NC-ND.

Last evening, I was walking down the street, headphones in my ears listening to some of Stuart McLean’s stories from The Vinyl Cafe when I heard a quiet musical sound.  It didn’t make sense in the context of the recording, but I didn’t hear anything else, so kept walking, and a short time later, I started hearing it again, this time loud enough that I knew what I was hearing.

And as I continued to listen to the story, I heard the sounds of bagpipes outside my headphones.  And I kept listening to and laughing at the story of the drive that inspired Dave’s father to hang up his keys and give up his license.  And I kept walking.  And the sound of bagpipes faded in the distance behind me.

Later this morning, I’ll gather with members of one of the choirs I normally accompany as we gather around the town’s cenotaph and remember those who risked their lives to protect our freedom, helping lead the singing at our town’s Remembrance Day commemorations.

Truth be told, I don’t really want to do it.  A large part of that is just that the local ceremony tends to leave a lot to be desired in terms of the level of organization.  Even as participants, neither we nor our director tends to have a good grasp on what is going to happen.  And even when we think we know, it often isn’t quite as straightforward as we expect.  (You know, a printed program would probably be a help, even if they only printed enough for those helping lead.)

Of course, not all the reasons are the organizers’ fault.  This is Canada in November.  And we’re asking people to stand around outside for 30-60 minutes.  (I don’t know whether I should have just checked that the hourly forecast predicts 33 degrees F for 11am this morning.)

Remembrance Day Monument, photo taken by Jocelyn Durston in 2006, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.
"Remembrance Day Monument", Jocelyn Durston, 2006, CC BY-NC-ND.

I find the ceremonies to be moving (when done well), though.  And after a few years of frustration with the local ceremony, I took the bus into the city and attended the ceremony at the National War Memorial a couple of years ago.  And that day, all I got was the cold.  Which is a surprise, because I watch that ceremony on TV every year when I get back from the local one.

But there are many people who don’t take part in the commemorations, don’t take the time to stop and remember.  In many cases, work schedules don’t permit it.  Doing what we need to do tends to take priority in our lives, just like last night, when I just wanted to get home.

But if we pay attention, our memories can be sparked by what’s going on around us, and we can take some of the spirit of Remembrance with us as we work.  But only if we pay attention.