Friday, November 30, 2007

Good Boys

No, not good ol’ boys, or good little boys, I’m writing of good men that I’ve met in the last wee while here in this microcosm of life that is Newfoundland. And I’m particularly writing of men around their mothers. I don’t have sons so have never experienced this directly.

My mother was dead before her four sons had a chance to be men around her though I did get a small taste with my eldest brother who had this jocular almost flirtatious manner with her. Her face would light up when he walked into a room and he was the spit of her own father, which helped. But I’d watch him cajole money from her or attempt to get her to intercede with Dad or tell her she was the only special woman in his life as he dropped a kiss on her cheek. She was putty in his hands.

My series of husband/serious relationships men all had troubles of some kind with their mothers. In some cases they avoided their mothers, or would vocally castigate the relationship a la Dick and Tommy Smothers, saying that Mom always preferred a brother. And in one case a sister. For some, their mothers had not approved of their marital choices or their children. I had an odd set up with my own mother-in-law. She really didn’t like my husband very much (she definitely preferred his brother) and when he and I broke up she refused to have contact with him and befriended me completely. It might have helped that I had custody of her goddesses, the granddaughters.

My father adored his mother and she him, a fact that troubled my mother greatly and had them (she and her mother-in-law) set up a lose-lose scenario where her enemy became her mother-in-law and vice versa. My mother was never present when my father and his mother interacted but I observed his courtesy and courtly attention and was bemused by this previously hidden facet of my father.

I play cards with my fellow villagers here every week and our large group encompass all ages. Many mothers and their middle-aged sons play. It is their ‘evening out’ together and in most cases the wives/daughters-in-law are elsewhere.

It is a joy to be around the kind of energy these, in some cases, crusty old fishermen, exhibit towards their mothers – this courtly behaviour I had first observed in my own father. Retrieving their lacy shawls, linking them proudly into the village hall before and after the game. Fetching them little sandwiches and cups of tea.

“Are you alright there, now Mum?”

“Ah, you’re such a good boy. What would I do without my boy?”

And for one brief, shining moment you catch a glimpse of the freckled ten-year-old boy in the face of the sixty-plus year old wind-burned, bald fisherman, himself a grandfather.

Good boys.

The world needs more of them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Me and Mother (Big Corp. Father?) Church, Part 2

Sweet Jaybuzz, what gives here ?

As if there hasn't been enough scandals.

And this is a mighty serious business - retailing Christian tchotchkes pushes nearly 5 billion in annual sales.

Buy a crucifix and ward off the possibility that you too might wind up in a Chinese sweatshop making a Baby Jaybuzz?

With the current tanking of the U.S. economy, it might be a distinct possibility.


Friday, November 23, 2007


Picture is of a bowl made out of local wood by my friend, "G.C."

It hit me again last night as I was driving home from meeting friends. As it has hit me many, many times over the years. The reality of worry.

A worry had been perking all the way through our many cups of coffee, stealing my presence throughout much of the night.

Why, sez I to myself do I let this happen? Let a stupid thing like a blocked up toilet in my bathroom at home interfere with a nice evening out?

And then, next thought, when has a worry actually actualized itself, inserted itself into reality?
And I laughed out loud as I drove.
And came home. And got the plunger out again and rammed that sucker into the toilet and next thing, it flushes. Duh.
What makes me this way?
Well, the last time the toilet got blocked my genius of a handyman was out at the fish for a week and unavailable and I couldn’t get anyone to fix the toilet (nobody from the nearby town would drive out) until I dragged myself literally into the publicity of the local shop and bawled my question out loud after four days of using a bucket.

“Anyone here can fix a toilet? It’s really, really badly blocked!!” When I’m whipped and beaten and down for the count I lose all pride. I become shameless. Not a bad thing.

Well, the town drunk who is a you-have-to-be-desperate-to-hire-me kind of fellow volunteered. And he sorted me out. Early in the day before the fairies took him. He had to take the whole thing off the floor. What some people do for a living - or a bottle - has me in awe. I mean I used to gag changing my babies’ nappies. I tipped him well for his efforts. And knew who to call the next time. At his mother's. He's 55. Doesn't believe in wasting money on a phone when he can use his mother's. He doesn't live there. She has ways of getting hold of him. She even lets him borrow her truck if he has housecalls like mine. But I was sorted. No worries.

No matter what, I get taken care of. Time and time again. Septics, wells, wiring shite, no firewood and no chainsaw, no backdoor. It all gets taken care of.

So why, why, why do I worry about insane stuff?? Stuff that has no intention of ever happening?

Like my gentleman caller. I worried for a while he would make some kind of move on me. I haven’t the slightest shred of attraction to him (maybe the way R felt about me, there’s a thought!). So sometimes I avoided him. All for the worry of losing his friendship when I was forced to reject him. Jaybuzz, the insides of my brain frighten even me.

Well, in the last few weeks, I’ve helped him a few times with his computer issues and he gave me one of his beautiful hand crafted bowls (picture above, taken a few minutes ago), a loaf of his home baked bread and told me he is very much open to having a friend like me and he’d like to cook me dinner and talk some more and play a spot of cribbage, maybe. I do not feel threatened in any way. We have the most interesting conversations (ship wrecks, WW1, artistry, words, poetry, paintings, aging) and never once has he even touched me.
Never happens.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Wise Words of George Carlin

***Picture was taken today of driftwood on the beach by my house, just as sunset enveloped us***

I thought this worth repeating, even though most of you have probably seen/heard it before.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Luscious words

"The Dictionary of Newfoundland English" is a massive tome, 770 pages plus a forward. And I read it like a novel. Many words have the scent of Ireland about them, words of my grandparents and particularly the words of my great-grandmother who was a cranky old wan, disliked by many, but kind to me. "I only have room for the one," she said to my grandmother and her daughters, "Just the one great-grand one!" and she pointed to me and that was it. She refused to have the other great grandchildren around her.

She made a bit of an effort with me. She'd call me her "angashore", not quite the equivalent of "dotey pet" which was used by my Granny. Angashore might have been a bit of a step down from dotey pet but coming from the Great and Fearful Nana S., this was a total endearment. Angashore: a weak little thing, a thing to be pitied, coddled, protected and fed, in a correct translation for that era.

Newfoundlanders have made of the word their very own.
Here, in the dictionary we get:
Angashore, Angyshore
(1) A poverty stricken creature
(2) A weak, sickly person, an unlucky person deserving pity.
(3) A man regarded as too lazy to fish.
(4) An idle, mischievous child or person.
(5) A migratory fisherman from Newfoundland who conducts a summer fishery from a fixed station on the coast of Labrador.

In the tradition of Gaeilge, the Irish language, words beginning with vowels were aspirated (an h put in front) when used in complex sentences. Angashore was packed on board the fishing boats leaving from Wexford and Cork sailing for the new found land, along with the bait, hooks, nets and lines way back in the seventeenth century.

And it emerged at the other side of the Atlantic, sometimes, as "hangashore", thus the new definition in (5) above. A stationary fisherman: "hang a shore".

I just love the evolution of language and I particularly like the special connection for me in this one gorgeous word.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Writing

A hard to get along with dose of writer’s block is behind me. I try not to put judgements around that anymore, it just is, it happens to all writers, I had a hard time with it but don’t we all.
It’s behind me now is all I can say and I’m living and writing to tell about it and there’s a bonus of a couple of new stories for the collection. The characters stir and stretch for a while, sometimes it takes a while for them to introduce themselves. They’re shy. Or in the case of this new one, who remains nameless, she’s always made a habit of waiting so she took her own sweet time coming over and then took another long ream of it before she filled me in, just a little on what exactly made her this way. Not that she had any understanding of it at all, even after her years of therapy. But I thought I could understand it, and have compassion for it and hope that my precious readers do as well when they finally get to meet her and not be as impatient with her as I was at the beginning. For an ideal life for someone else could be far, far from what we’d want for ourselves.
Some people are meant to react to life most of the time. And some of us are gifted with a proactive gene. I know I’m the latter, I was born that way but then it got submerged for more years than I’d like to think about but when it blossomed again, I was pretty thrilled to welcome it back. I’d forgotten about it, you see. Thought it dead and buried. But it was only sleeping. I had put all those years of excellence: winning writing competitions and publishing the school magazine and writing school plays behind me. I diminished them by telling myself I was under twenty then and those were childish things. I put them all away.
And they all woke up about ten years ago. And I started writing again. There were huge globs of it inside me waiting to see the light. And before I knew it, I was published and people were writing to me and telling me I’d helped them in some way to get their own feet stuck by the side of the fire when they’d been out in the cold so long.
And that’s it, I say. Now you’ve got it, there’s room for all of us, it’s a nice big fire giving off loads of heat.
And I quote myself at myself and whoever else would care to listen:
“It is only because I’ve felt the deepest cold that I appreciate so much the warm sunshine”.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Gathering

***spoiler alert***

Anybody up for discussion on the Booker winner of this year, Anne Enright's "The Gathering"?

I just finished it and overall I enjoyed it very much but was a little confused in parts.

Jem (one of the twins) appeared to be female in parts of the book and male in other parts. Perhaps deliberate?

At times, I was gobsmacked at her sentences, at her use of language and metaphor and the way she describes love and hate and the endless variations in between.

The dark Lamb is always moving in the shadows but had such a profound effect on all who came in contact with him.

I loved how her perception of her family changed with the introduction of Rowan.

Overall I would give it a 9 out of 10, a totally enjoyable read, at times even sublime.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What a relief!

It was all just a huge scam!

We can all bask happily ever after!

Sunday, November 04, 2007


I was appalled to read The Guardian on line today and catch Climate Wars Threaten Billions when prior to that, over breakfast, I was reading Cold Rush, the Coming Fight for the Melting North in hard copy Harper's. As you have to subscribe to read Harper's on line, I'll sum the very long article up : There is a battle going on for access to the magnificent new trade route opened up by, yep, the Big Melt. Canada is trying to defend her rights to three coastlines now, rather than the two we've had. But when confronted by the neighbour down south has backed away with the plea (I'm again summing up here):

"OK.OK., alright, you can borrow it, but you're going to have to tell us about it before you use it, eh? When you remember, if it's not too much trouble, eh?"

Meanwhile Canada is patrolling the waters and trying to stay out of the way of the new warrior tourists who are busy venturing on to the lands that were formerly frozen tundra and icepacks.

My head hurts so bad after all this, that I go back to sit in front of the fire and work on my niece's Christmas gift.

I say to her a month ago: Would you like me to knit you something?
Yes, she says, knit me an afghan (lap blanket, couch throw, to those uninitiated to the finer arts of knitting stuff).
And how would you like it? I say.
Like all the colours of the waves on the ocean of Newfoundland, she says, every single one.
Righto, I say.
And here it is.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Elder Revelation or HawHeyWhoYah!

I'm a fan of Padraic Colum and have always admired his poem "The Old Woman of the Roads.
I was forced to learn it in school but over the years, it comes back to me and I get this overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Maybe the Sisters of Mercy knew what they were doing, making us memorize all those poems!

Picture is that famous old optical illusion of the young woman/old woman.

I've come to this conclusion:
This suits me: The age I am, the distance I am from everything that used to be important. In this place I now call home, I’ve always felt as if I received a second chance to live. I play house here. I only put up my own artwork, or cards from friends, or photos I like, or my mother’s embroidery. Even the odd poem gets a wall to itself. I use mismatched china and mismatched chairs. And boil a ratty old kettle on the woodstove for my tea. I invite people I like in to my house to share meals with me. And show them some chairs from 1860 that someone found and gave to me, as there were only three of them. Who’d want three? Well, me. I’m so far away that no one can check up on me.

I find I don’t really truly miss the familiar as much as I’d thought. I’d lived on the same street as my daughter and granddaughter forever it seemed. I co-parented my granddaughter to all intents and purposes and saw her every day and she did her homework in my Toronto office. I even went to her PTA meetings when her parents were working and did the parent teacher thing all over again. I thought one day, I might be doing this for my great-granddaughter, who knows. Does it ever stop? You’d think I’d miss the grandgirl. People tell me I must miss her dreadfully, all the daily doings. Well, yes. And no.

It seemed like every time the phone rang in my old life, someone needed something from me. Nearly always. I got tired of that. Call me selfish. I won’t justify myself. My grandy-friends, left behind, complain about all the demands on their time. They’re the sandwich generation, taking care of their senile parents and their rambunctious grandchildren, sometimes all in the same day. They’re fed up. No time for themselves at all. Lucky, lucky you, they say to me. You got out.
Self-preservation has always been my strongest suit. I make no apologies for that. Enough sacrifice, I say. Did I mention I called off two engagements, negated them, because in each case a daughter took a dislike to the situation and threatened to leave home? That’s how enmeshed I was. How much I didn’t know myself. I thought taking care of myself meant keeping my daughters happy no matter what the cost to me.

Now I’ve disentangled myself. I’m left to my own thoughts, my own books, my own writing, my truly, truly own space. Yes, it would be nice to share it with someone, a soul-mate of my own choosing. Maybe that will happen, maybe not. Meanwhile, I think I’ve gotten to know me and like me and honour me for the first time in my life. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s alright actually. And we all deserve a bit of the alright.