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Friday, February 27, 2015

Laura



I don't think I can stand anymore.

Another friend, a very dear friend, dies this afternoon after a very brief illness. Yeah, her name was Laura. I've known her for nearly 30 years. She was 14 years older than me but we spent a lot of time together. Concentrated time as she'd moved away and I'd spend weekends with her and she stayed one time with me out here on the Edge.

I spoke to her last about 10 days ago. She'd had a few health issues but was recovering beautifully.

I posted the picture of the movie up there as we both loved that movie and we each had a copy.

The memories are crowding in on me now, so very, very many. We spent a huge amount of time together and she was enormous fun, I loved her laugh. She was dedicated to the colour purple and to a husband who typified the "Long Goodbye" - he had 20 years of Alzheimer's.

She embraced technology quite late in life and I loved her cheerful emails. And her cards. She'd find a card and think of me and pretend it was my birthday and send it to me. It became a long standing joke.

I did a post about her finding and loving a son she'd given up for adoption when she was 15 - 60 years later.

And I can't find it which distresses me.

It's as if I could hold on to her longer if I found it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The winter of my discontent.



Intermittent telephone and internet problems which Bob, the Bell repairman, has tried to fix a few times now. He's back again today. He's like an old friend.

How does he remain cheerful in the face of a biting blizzard of ice pellets hitting his face. Outside, wearing mitts as he splices narrow gauge wires and bits of plastic as I hobble around indoors, still in pyjamas and robe.

I feel proud I managed to offload and then reload the dishwasher. Everything is a remarkable effort in the jabs of pain crawling up and down my spine. Stoic I am not. My pain threshold is very low. I learned that in childbirth.

I do a tally in my fingers. My BFF dying so horribly, leaving me bottled up with grief and heartbreak.

My chimney fire, still unresolved, still waiting for parts for the chimney and for the weather to stabilize to let the repair guys on the roof.

Even though I don't heat most of my rooms, my electricity bills are high enough to leave me a little breathless each time they pop into my email for normally the wood stove heats the house.

I try and balance all this off with the positives, a series of workshops I'll be conducting on memoir writing with a publish at the end of it, my new musical drama back on track (we think – casting out here on the Edge is always a challenge) and private software training sessions. And knitting. And reading. And writing.

And somehow, it's not enough.

You can call me a whinebag.

I won't mind.

In fact, you can join me.

Perennially cheerful doesn't cut it today.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I am stir crazy, so here's a poem.


**********************February************************


February is: a dull grey beach leaden with fog.

A huddle of birds under woebegone hedges.

Dirty snow marching alongside tread-heavy tire tracks.

Wasn't this the year I said I'd go south

And stay until the northern sun would beckon me

Back to its splendid silky summer of endless evenings

And carefree hikes on iris laden cliffs with the turquoise

Sea tossed into sparkles by the gleaming jet black hillocks

Of the cavorting whales and their retinue of hagdowns?

Fog with leaden beach grey dull a: is February.





Sunday, February 22, 2015

Riff

Riff

Definition:
riffing. 1. talking via stream-of-consciousness thinking 2. freeform talk 3. first-derivative talking. I sat down to write you a letter and then picked up the tape ......

I do this riffing thing. Ephemeral thoughts. None of it cohesive enough to remember but I am sometimes astonished at my own brilliance. Then poof, thoughts evaporate, coalesce into something else, another bauble in the imagination, darting like dragonflies in the twilight.

I went out today for the first time since last Wednesday. Not for long. But enough to release me from that helpless invalid feeling. At my age, and so much loss behind me, there's an untold thrill on being this side of the daisies.

I was going to share a picture of my back and butt here but hey, the fact that I nearly gagged when I put up that small mirror and surveyed the damage in the big mirror? I kept thinking: that blackness all over your back could have been your head.. I'll spare you and myself the gory evidence.

I'm working on a non-fiction piece for Canada Writes, in case any of you are interested, there's the link. It's one I wrote years ago and it was published somewhere small but I can't remember where and I'm editing it down from 3,000 words to the 1,500 required. It's a funny (not at the time) account of an absolute weekend-from-hell in Winnipeg. I will share when it's all re-polished and submitted.

And I was reflecting yet again on this time of loss. I so miss my BFF and writing to her every day of the small stuff, you know? And then another friend dies in Ontario, only 63, had survived her first bout of cancer 10 years ago and then was taken to hospital with a bad flu last Wednesday as I was somersaulting down my driveway and subsequently CatScanned and she was riddled. She was dead by Saturday. She was a vibrant, well-travelled woman. And memorable for her distinctive voice and outrageous hair and kindness, she was very kind.

The ranks are thinning, my friends, we need to make the most of what's left of it.

Starting now.



Friday, February 20, 2015

Flashing Lights

Where Ansa is on our driveway became covered in snow a few days later so the ice underneath was not visible.

Yup. Many of those lights to write about.

(1) Flashing lights: A really, really bad fall on the ice resulting in the stars and moon in front of my eyes. Short term memory loss. Swellings on lower spine. Like the humps of a camel. Pain. Oh pain. Increased blood pressure.

(2) Flashing lights: Emblazoned on neon inside the skull - call Daughter.

(3) Flashing lights: Ambulance pulls into driveway, they check my swellings, stretcher me, put me into ambulance. Two lovely, lovely women.

(4) Flashing lights: they pull the ambulance over periodically to check my vitals, BP, sugars. I am IV'd.

(5) Flashing lights: inside hospital, overhead, on probing lights into eyes, ears. They have called ahead I am given a room in spite of other sick souls in corridor.

(6) Flashing lights: I am moved to a long steel table and my whole spine xrayed. "Sorry," says Blaine the technician,"This is very painful." "Not at all," I say back to his belly laugh, "I've given birth twice."

(7) Flashing lights: As I am released four hours later: no bones broken, tissues bruised and swollen but unbloodied. Strong bones, my doctor says, really, really strong bones. A light of overwhelming gratitude fills me. This could have been catastrophic and it wasn't.

Yeah, I hurt. Yeah, I walk like I'm 105 and I don't recognise the purple and pink and black swollen mass all over my behind and down my thighs. And I'm told this will worsen before it gets better. And I'm not sleeping well as I keep waking with pain.

BUT, so very many have it so much worse. So very much worse.

Thanks for all your kind thoughts and wishes out there. They mean so much.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stuck Between Grovelling and Smarmy

"We like the plot Miss Austen, but all this effing and blinding will have to go."

What have I been doing?

I'm glad you asked.

I thought to find an Irish literary agent. Brave, impudent perhaps, of me. As it's challenging - not so much the finding of one but the abject, begging tone one wants to keep as far away as possible from the request missive.

Along with that, the d and f on my keyboard decided to go on strike, I may have overused them. H'm. Desperation. Failure. FFFS.

I started my hunt in Cork, the city of my birth and the one that keeps yanking me back by the scruff of the neck every year, sometimes twice in the same year. I found one. Whether she feels she's found me is yet to be seen.

But I spent untold hours polishing up my biography, smoothing my various synopses into full disclosure of my works and oh, that was hard. You're not allowed more than 300 words to summarize individual pieces. And then the cover letter: wheedles, cajoles and despair omitted. Pleasant, light, unconcerned (but not too detached),grammatical, succinct.

I did say this was the year I was going to get really, really serious, didn't I?

Well, I am.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Bread and Butter


I love making bread. Irish soda bread, spelt bread, real honest to goodness yeast bread. As do some of you out there. With real butter. I reflect on a conversation a long time ago with my mother.

"There's a way you'll always know if someone cares about you," said my mother one time in the kitchen where she was preparing sandwiches.

"Tell me," I said, I was probably about twelve.

"You'll know by the way they butter your bread."

"What do you mean?"

"Someone who really cares about you will butter your bread right to the edges with no empty places anywhere, not even the edges."

And you know?

She was right.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hunkering.


Our winter begins sometime in February always. Now it has snowed here. Savagely. But I am taken care of. Odd that. I only worry about reality. I don't worry about possibilities or what ifs. Tons of snow: I worry. I look out at it and worry who is going to take care of the massive might of it, carelessly drifted into high unclimbable barriers, rendering egress impossible for car or human.

Pat comes along with his plough once the last flake has floated to earth. How he knows this, I'm not sure. I call it magic. He did this at 9 or so last night.

And Leo comes along with a bright red shovel at 10 this morning and frees up the garage that has a two foot high snow drift in front of it and corrects my dismal attempts to smooth a path from my backdoor in order to let the dog out.

See what I mean?

And now it's pelting down this kind of fog-rain-snow mix, bitter tiny flakes of icy fog coming down in a thick curtain. But I'll be taken care of. This I believe.

I do a little shoveling for the dog but having seen a 33 year old man drop dead in front of me one time as he shovelled I have tremendous respect for the effects of this strenuous activity on the heart. Especially at my age.

So today? I bake bread, I simmer a stew in the ancient old crockpot, I re-edit another 100 pages of a book that someone is interested in, I look at the really rather lovely afghan I am working on (pictures to follow in a week or so) and ponder the wise words of a friend on the phone yesterday:

"Why do we wait for bad weather to give ourselves the permission to do exactly what we want to do and have the kind of day we truly want?"

So yes, I am disciplined but in a good hunkery way. The house is full of the smell of freshly baked bread mingled with the aroma of the stew, in between I'm reading a most fabulous book - more on that later too - and my knitting beckons for later on.

Hunkering is excellent. It doesn't need bad weather.

At all.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Unfortunate Sanitization of Language


The Exploits River in Badger, Newfoundland.

I've noticed this in so many reports in newspapers and on the web. As if the English language goes through some sort of grinding modifier to render it innocuous and then spews it out the other side in politico-spin or media spin or whatever you'd like to call it.

The blandness of the language has me rolling my eyes and then closing them and regurgitating word for word what I anticipate are the next few tired old profundities uttered by whomever. I am always correct in my assumptions.

Thus it was with delight I read a report in today's newspaper on the town of Badger, Newfoundland. Don't get me wrong. Not a delight in the misfortune of the flooding expected with the rising waters, but in the language used by the Mayor of Badger.

He is explaining the elevation of the water level of the Exploits River which seriously threatens the small town. Badger doesn't need or want spin doctors to smooth out the language. Listen to the rhythm of his words as he paints the Exploits River with personality:

"She just took all that friggin' ice that was even up above us and she took that ice and she pushed that down around the corner."

and

"She built up that much pressure and plus the temperature got up a little bit in the middle of the afternoon and she made a big pullout."

She be some powerful woman, that Exploits River.

My thoughts are with the town and its her safety in the challenges it she faces.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lemonade in a Cold Climate


There's a story behind this sweater you see. Yes, I'm wearing it in my house today. Yes, I have layers of clothes on underneath including long-johns, thick socks, serious slippers (doncha hate those fluff bundles femmie kinds? I do).

I knitted one of these sweaters for myself well over 40 years ago and my father loved it so much for those cold nights on Sherkin that I paid attention to my mother's pleas to present it to him. Which I did and he wore it many, many times. But only on Sherkin. A man has to have his dignity out in the real mainland world.

That sweater had a "thing" about it. It felt like someone's arms around you. You could smuggle things across borders (don't ask) with it on. And it fit anyone who borrowed it. And you could use it to dry off and warm up after swimming. And nurse a baby underneath it. I missed it. But thought to get it back one day. But next thing, a few years later, bro and sis-in-law and I go off for a day's hiking and lo and behold there's my lovely sweater. On him. I remarked on it, how toasty and blankety it was and sis-in-law sez : "It's his favourite, he loves it. Your dad gave it to him." And I shut my trap.

And then, still mourning it but resigned, about 25 years ago I took to the needles and made myself a copy. Gargantuan as before. Three could fit inside it in comfort.

And I NEED to wear it now. Mr. Chimney was here and gave me a quote and ordered stove pipes and liners and brackets for my stove and I await. In this portable blankie.

And the lemonade? I can't even count the offers of spare bedrooms, meals, and a couple of fun ones: "put on a t-shirt and shorts and come for a few minutes and walk around our house in our heat."

And heaters. And concern. And phone calls checking on me.

Daughter says today: "Only that we live here and experience all this astonishing community of sharing and caring would we believe it. Hearing about it on the outside beggars disbelief."

I've never known anything like it. And I only gave you a tiny taste of what has been offered to me in this latest life challenge.

Newfoundland I love you.

And I know you love me back.

Friday, February 06, 2015

When all else fails, start in on your tax return.


Yeah, that is what I did from about noon on today with a few meal breaks.

Unfortunately, my tax return is still complex due to many ventures.

Don't I sound like a millionaire?

Far from the truth. Way far. But I rent out bits of my property in tourist season, I prepare a few other tax returns, not many. I glean a few dollars from writing and sale of my cards and I conduct workshops and oh yes, I'm one of those trusted citizens who can sign off for your passport or legal documents for a small fee. And marry the pair of you if you want, though that hasn't been requested yet.

All that is to say I have to track the income and expenses of each entity separately which is a right old nuisance when the total doesn't amount to a hill of beans and I slide up and down over the official poverty line all year.

So this morning I had a chimney fire. Pretty scary. The wind was savage and blew open the door of my stove while my back was turned and next thing.....

The sound inside the chimney was fierce and I ran outside (I admit to panicking a little) and there was a mass of black smoke pouring out of said chimney but fortunately no flames. The stovepipe went red with the heat and the brick and plaster chimney breast on the second floor was so hot I couldn't touch it.

And I never thought to phone the fire department. Imagine. I calmly called to cancel an appointment I had with a client I am training and then sat frozen in the house. Now I see I should have called the FD for they have special powder/salt they throw down the chimney to kill the fire. I am hopeless at this unpredictable stuff.

Now it is 10 hours later and the chimney breast is still warm to the touch.

But hurray for social media. A friend in Ontario (a chimney expert) gave me instructions - number one being 'do not light your stove under any circumstances as the bricks and liner are compromised now' and 'find yourself a chimney expert to install a new liner'. He came through on FB also and he's coming on Monday to sort me out.

And then I unclenched my mouth and flexed my paralyzed body and began the 10 hour job that is my tax return.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Did I tell you about......?


My Clock.

This is the one that sits in front of my computer beside my printer. I think I paid a $1 for it yonks ago in a thrift shop. I seriously don't like digital clocks. My age or something. Time seems more real to me when it's on a round face with three hands.

Bonus with this one is that the slightest movement makes it waggle and wiggle itself. Adding a further sense of urgency to tempus fugit.

And the pink. Why is pink a ridiculous colour for a clock? Or anything serious? A pink computer. A pink fireplace. A pink printer. A pink truck. See? I told you, didn't I?

Additional bonus: others covet this clock.

But it's mine.

All mine.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Did I tell you about.....?


My Snake.

In an effort to distract myself I am amusing myself with taking photos. Of odd things around my house. Well, not odd to me but maybe to you.

This loooong snake I designed and knitted some time in October of last year. He keeps out the chilly drafts from my front door. And is a colourful addition to the original hall which is wood panelled and darkish with the outside wooden storm door fastened against the winter elements. Not that we're seeing much of any of that this year.

You don't want to know what he's stuffed with.

And no, I haven't named him.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Carrying On


The act of being creative (for me) is healing and validating.

Today, January fled the scene and February opened her unpainted canvas with green grass and dazzling sunshine. And warmth.

I recognise, as if for the first time, that any kind of creativity requires discipline and the perseverance necessary to take apart and begin again. And the concentration required is a reprieve from repetitive hopeless thoughts.

It was thusly with a new afghan I am designing and knitting for a friend. I treated myself to some new wool in those "new" colours (pumpkin - everything old is new again) and cream and an oceany mix and I took the time to design and measure and swatch and started it and then recognised about 6" into it wasn't going to work. So rip, rip as I watched "J. Edgar" which says a lot about that particular movie. If you feel compelled to read my review go here.

And I started all over again with an adaptation to my original design and this time it worked.

#4 Bro has a valuable connection to someone who may be interested in a book I wrote so I will explore that opportunity along with others. And keep plugging away at writing and revisions and editing.

Being curled into a ball of grief has its upside. Feeling the feelings is necessary in order to clear the darkness and let in the sunshine.

Thank you February.