My day takes a definite turn for the better every time Joanne Panas comes in to visit.
The Daily Herald’s editorial cartoonist -- and longtime Rural Roots contributor -- brings a giant serving of happy in with her every time she drops by my office.
I drew up a list of things I hoped to accomplish after I arrived in Prince Albert and hiring a local cartoonist was on it.
By coincidence, she had always wanted to do an editorial cartoon.
(It was one of two happy bits of serendipity with that list. Jessica Iron Joseph sent me an email one day wondering if there was any freelance writing she could do and I was searching for another columnist. Her column every Friday has been spectacular; she’s another cheerful person as well.)
But back to Joanne.
We were talking about ideas for a good year-end cartoon. Like me, she doesn’t bring a lot of ego to the process so she’s very open to a brainstorming session.
I mentioned the old editorial cartoon staple where you have an elderly man (the year that has gone by) meeting a baby (the year to come.)
She actually did a couple of cartoons on that theme, one of which ran in the Saturday, Dec. 29 edition of the Daily Herald. I thought it was a terrific cartoon that touched on a number of Prince Albert themes.
The second cartoon, which you’re looking at, has the baby providing an apt bit of gas when confronted with a sometimes harsh and unhappy world.
I promised Joanne that I would find a way to use both; you’re reading the result.
I’m a glass half full kind of guy; I tend to search for the good in people and things. I hope that’s reflected both in this column and throughout this newspaper.
Prince Albert is a wonderful community that has, for too long in my opinion, had its worst elements presented as its only truth.
There’s no denying that the city has its problems, including alcohol and drug abuse and the resulting issues with crime.
But this city has a big heart that’s reflected in its generosity, spirit of volunteerism and many good works. That’s the Prince Albert that needs to be celebrated and applauded.
The vibrant cultural and sporting scenes are a better insight into this community than the pointless vandalism.
So to get back to Joanne and her cartoon, why is the baby tooting?
To me, it’s a much more universal glimpse of the frustrating world we live in.
I’ve had the shooting at the American school on my mind for a couple of weeks. The brain reels at the madness of a man angry enough at his mother to shoot her and students at a local school.
But something else makes me sadder; I’m no longer shocked by this kind of crime.
It was the third mass killing in the United States in a 147-day span.
On July 20, 12 people died when a man shot up a theatre in Aurora, Colo.
On Aug. 5, a man killed six outside of a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Wis.
All that changes is the body count -- people who were sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives and mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles -- and the details surrounding the massacre.
This isn’t going to be a column about gun control or mental illness or anything else. It’s just a mini-meditation on the dark spots of the human heart.
Every year you hope that the baby in the cartoon, the new year, will somehow turn out a little differently than the one that proceeded it. And then a year later we find ourselves wishing for the same thing.
I started this column in a light place and it took an unexpectedly dark turn as I reflected on the random violence that sweeps the globe.
I’m sorry for that because this day is one where we say goodbye to the old and welcome in the new. But it’s that combination of the happy and sad, of the good and the bad, of the productive and destructive that is the world we live in.
All too often that combination of elements does take a turn for the worse, but I can’t dwell there for long. It’s far too easy and way too pointless.
I am hopeful as we head into 2013, particularly in our little corner of the world. Saskatchewan is booming and our part of it is bustling. Good times are ahead.
Happy new year, Prince Albert.