Posted by: Peaceful Social Worker | February 29, 2012

Fireweed and Bullies

Fireweed in Port Hardy, BC

WordPress suggests a goal of writing five blogs to start, so I am writing again today. I have been thinking about fireweed, the plant (weed?) that is so abundant in this part of the world, and further north. When it is in full bloom, it is bright fuscia/pink. It adds a bright splash of colour to the landscape. I didn’t notice it the first year we lived here, possibly because it was orange at that time, in August. Fireweed is quite an amazing plant actually. When we visited the Yukon, we learned that it is their territorial flower. I didn’t know what it was at the time, and asked about it. When it was finally pointed out to me so that I could recognize it, I learned what that nice flower was that I kept seeing on my walks in the bush near our house.

Fireweed is a plant with many personalities. In the spring it is green. After the pink flowers have died off, there are seed pods that blow around and cover the ground with white. In the fall, its leaves turn a bright orange-red making the fields look like they are on fire. The leaves and flowers of the plant are edible, and honey and jellies are made from the blossoms. Tea made from fireweed has been used for stomach ailments and restlessness. Apparently eating too much fireweed will cause drowsiness.

While we were in Dawson City, Yukon, we went for a salmon barbeque dinner that was held at a camp an hour’s boat ride up the Yukon River. Along the way, we saw a hillside that was completely pink. It was gorgeous. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a picture of it since the sun was in the way. Just picture a small mountain with a rounded top that is completely pink. Lovely. Our boat driver and story teller guide extraordinaire told us that the hill was pink because of the fireweed. There had been a large forest fire on that hill a few years before. The fire had almost wiped out the camp that we were heading towards. Fortunately, they were able to save the camp and continue their wonderful dinners. We learned that fireweed got its name because after such a fire, the fireweed is usually the first thing to start growing.  What a wonderful gift and metaphor for life! When something so devastating as a forest fire happens, the first thing that returns is a bright, pink, cheerful “weed”. It seemed like a reminder that good things can indeed come out of devastation.

When I was doing my BSW, I took a crisis intervention course. It was there that I learned that the Chinese have two symbols for crisis; danger and opportunity. Every crisis we face has both danger and opportunity. We can go down the toilet, or we can grow. That is what I thought about when I learned about the fireweed. The flower does not take away the horror of the fire. It comes to remind us of new life and new hope.

Today is Pink Shirt Day to help stop bullying. There are many pink shirts around town here today. One school took a picture of all their students wearing pink t-shirts. This day started because two male high school students decided to wear pink to support a fellow student who was being bullied. They distributed pink shirts to all the boys in the school. The bullies disappeared. The action of these two young men and their classmates started a movement. I hope it creates change. More information can be found here:

Ironically, the BC government has just silenced our teachers by creating a bill that will prevent them from striking. It will also remove their bargaining power. The teachers have been trying to negotiate a contract for some time, and now our government has created this bill under the guise of creating a cooling off period. Shame. I truly hope that the teachers and government can negotiate a settlement. If this becomes another instance of government legislating a group of people’s working conditions in this manner, then we lose some of our freedoms. I have mixed feelings about unions, and argue both sides of their reason for being. Never-the-less, average citizens and employees need to have a collective voice somehow. I support the teachers and their ability to bargain in good faith.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any ~ Alice Walker



  1. Ironic that all this highlighting of anti-bully measures isn’t directed at the biggest school bullies of all – the BC government.
    Pro-union, anti-union, shouldn’t matter..when you are forced against your will and against a collective agreement to settle for whatever the govt chooses to throw at you while simultaneously refusing to raise corporate taxes and crying the blues about the greedy teachers…puh-leeze…

    • AMEN! I absolutely agree. I was part of the HEU strike in about 2004 when the union caved to the government bully tactics. I feel for the teachers. This whole tendency to legislate (Canada Post, Air Canada, etc) is most alarming!

  2. New Jersey is going through similar shake-ups in their education system. Personally, I feel the healthiest policy comes from a diverse panel / committee of individuals that reflects the many voices it represents. Seriously frustrating to hear about :-/

    • Yes, the spin is amazing too. Our government will have you believe it is just about money. There are some blogs from BC teachers in WordPress. It will be interesting to see where this will go.

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