Saturday, December 31, 2011


And by wealth I mean the kind that does not involve money.

And I would add~
and most of all~
A sense of wonder!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Gift of Wisdom

Age presents wisdom (acceptance, too) if we let it. For instance, happenings that would have devastated me years ago no longer do.

For the first time ever in my life I awoke this past Christmas morning with nothing to open. In past years the pickings were getting slimmer but there was always something. It was a strange feeling, this absence of even a token, but also exhilarating in that our worst fears are often nothing to be afraid of. I don't really celebrate Christmas anymore. I find it so far removed from peace and goodwill as to be oxymoronic. A friend worked on the distress lines in Toronto and told me this is the peak season for violence, mayhem and murders and both attempted and real suicides and alcohol poisonings.

So I batten down the hatches, light a candle or two, remember my loved ones, both past and present and cook myself a turkey with all the trimmings. I also carefully select those I visit. I am partial to the families that still believe in magic. And there are a few. And I visited these and shed some tears in private afterwards. Missing my own. Intensely.

But also appreciative of my life, alone or with others. It is always my choice and how wonderful is that for a gregarious loner?

So no, this is not a pity pot post. Just a reflection on my life and the wee bits of growth and evolution I have had on my journey. A wise shaman said to me one time: Happiness is a direct result of the subtraction of stuff.

So I was alone. But not lonely.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Of Barns 'n Sheds 'n Quonset Huts.

It took me a while to notice it, it blended so well into the snow-blanketed hill opposite my office window. It was the occasional spark off the grey sides of it that drew my attention, a brief reflection of the hide and seek sun on this winter day. A new barn I thought, what an odd place to put a shed, on top of a hill fully exposed to the elements of Newfoundland. Must be a newbie come from away. Doesn't know his or her arse from her elbow when it comes to outbuildings and their placements. Ha! I carried on working snorting to myself.

Odd that. I was gazing off into the distance over the hill, figuring out a plot point, a little character twist, when I could have sworn the shed moved. Maybe the owners realized it wasn't such a hot idea after all placing it way up high. It must be over a half kilometre to their house from there. If that indeed was their house below on the shoreline. There she goes again, she's moving fast now. Faster than a hundred people could move her. Even if they were running. And who'd run with a huge shed on their backs? And come to think of it, it wasn't really a shed was it, maybe one of those old galvanized post war buildings, what did they call them? Quonset huts, though hut this surely wasn't. Too sleek for that. The bit of sun coming out was really lighting the thing up now. Thing, did I just say thing? What the hell was it anyway? Oh my good gawd, would you look at that? She's taking off. Coming my way it looks like. She looks more like a circle now. A thick circle, she's spinning so fast, going right high over my house. Blocking out the peeping sun for a few seconds. Look at the birds scattering and squawking and hiding, and the bay all churned up from the force of the spinning overhead. And my dog cowering under my desk.

It's it amazing how disruptive a weather balloon can be?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tears Spring Unbidden

Some things just warm an old cynic's black heart, like these from yesterday:

In my favourite gorgeous wool shop, A Good Yarn, on Bates Hill, two youngish guys come in (all are young to me these days, notice that, elders out there? - cops are in preschool, doctors are in the playground, teachers are working on their ABCs) and request a $100 gift certificate each for their spouses. It stopped me in the midst of stroking some serious yarn from Cupids. Husbands notice their significant others KNIT? Husbands note that a hefty gift certificate from a yarn shop would be the BEST GIFT EVAH for a knitter? And these buddies were together doing this wondrous thing?

Tears spring unbidden.

Me to cashier (just out of diapers) at Sobey's : You must be so busy, but I bet you appreciate the money!
Cashier: Yeah, it sure helps me out, my last year in high school.
Me: So is my granddaughter, what are you planning?
Cashier: Well, I'm only 17 so planning a general year at MUN and then I'm looking at medical school.
Me: Wow, that's pretty long term and committed.
Cashier: Well my dad's in medical school, he's like a total role model for me.
Me: Your dad is in medical school????
Cashier: Well, he's very young, only 38 and just finished 20 years in the military.
Me: You must be so proud!
Cashier: He's one amazing human being, my dad. I would love to set up a medical practice with him.
Me: You will.

Tears spring unbidden.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Tis The Season

'Tis the season
And good reason
To wish you all ~
Light from darkness
Peace from strife

Thursday, December 22, 2011

For Ansa

Through the back door, Ansa, showing off her 5% husky heritage in the snow.

"She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are her life, her love, her leader. She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart. You owe it to her to be worthy of such devotion."

- author unknown

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best Christmas Gift

The news chilled my heart. An old estranged friend was having serious health issues. Hospitalized 3 times in the last 3 months. Worse each time. ICU, drips, test upon test. I dithered and dathered. Took stock of how the friendship ended (my choice). Remembered the good times and there were many. A shared trip to Ireland, weekend visits to her parents when her mother had Alzeimer's, connections with each other's children, followed through advice to each other. Shared broken hearts at one point in time from failed relationships. And on.

My mind was made up today when I heard she had been released from the hospital and was home. I looked at the phone. Answered emails. Looked at the phone. What the hell. Even if she hangs up on me. What have I lost?

I finally picked up the phone and she answered on the first ring. When I told her who it was she burst into tears. We talked for two hours. Yes, it is serious what has happened to her. She has an inoperable clot on the brain and her lungs are just about shot from two bouts of double pneumonia. And her driver's licence has been taken because of her condition. The very worst thing, we agreed, and laughed in unison. And we talked of old times and good times. And she remembered things I wouldn't have thought anyone would remember.

And we said a few times, gawd, it's like yesterday since we talked last. And it's like the rubbish that interfered with it all was just that. Rubbish. To be forgotten.

And we both cried at the end of the conversation with promises of more talks, more remembrances and hopefully future plans.

I can't begin to tell you how mighty and fantastic this Christmas gift has been.

I hold her in light and love. And she will get better.

And most importantly: drive again.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ita's List

The graveyard had a festive look to it. A light layer of snow had smoothed out the hodge podge of headstones, black, grey, white, marble, wood, stone, cast iron. Gave it a pleasing December uniformity. I slowed and stopped, taken by a stooped figure bent over a grave.

Her appearance was edging more towards the grotesque than the eccentric. A long greenish coat, hooded. Footwear that could only be described as old-fashioned with ancient galoshes, unfastened, flapping around her ankles as she trod gingerly around the oversized graveyard plot, leaving huge footprints.

A massive scarf, knitted in the colours of a shabby rainbow, bleeding dropped stitches and a half-hearted incomplete fringe at one end was thrown around her neck. She had stuffed a large pair of snow-mobile mitts into each capacious pocket of the coat.

The hair I could see was scandalous. Her yellowed scalp bore an inch of white roots followed by the lankest blackest straightness of any hair I'd ever seen. I felt an unwelcome revulsion at the filth of it.

A much younger woman stood off to the side, bored, texting furiously on a pink pad. She didn't even raise her eyes to look at me as I approached the older woman.

She was very busy, I could see that. Draping pieces of Christmas tinsel on to some small wooden crosses. Standing back to evaluate her handiwork. Moving forward again to adjust the sparkled thread in some intrinsic pattern only she was privy to.

"A time of remembrance" I said to her, a bit nervously, for how dare I intrude like this. A stranger. A nosy stranger.

"Yes, my darling," she said, as only old women of Newfoundland would speak to someone they didn't know. Something caught in my throat. How long had it been since I'd been someone's darling? I wanted to hear it again.

"A lot of family graves here, then?" I gestured at the many crosses.

"I replaces them every few year, my darling", she stood up painfully. I was surprised at her height. A tall outport woman, far, far older than I had originally guessed.

I told her who I was. I told her I was a writer.

"I'm Ita O'Neill, my darling," she said, "and this here is my family!" and she slowly waved her hand out over the plot as if introducing everyone. I bowed generally in their direction.

"I'm ninety-one," she said then, "and over there is my great-grand-daughter, her nose and hands so busy with no one who is here, the way of things now, right my darling?" I nodded. We are all so busy with no one who is here, I thought. It is easier than dealing with those who are.

"And these," and she spread her hands outwards and over the graves, "are my babies."

"Your babies?"

"My ten babies. Imagine that. All dead within a week of their coming into the world. Some right after their birthing. Some within a few days, no doctoring then. No reasons at all. All born with my black hair. All dying. None to have a birthday or Christmas or schooling." She draped a piece of tinsel over the last white cross.

"Well nigh over sixty years ago now since the last one. Albert. I gave them all names when I put the holy water on their foreheads. I never had the money for a real headstone. With the names all fancy on it. A list, like."

"Maybe this way is better," I offered, "Now they've all got their own markers."

"And I'm the only one now who knows which darling is under each cross."

"Tell me," I said, "I'll remember".

Bernadette. Rosemary. Peter. John. Annie. Bernard. Sheila. William. Agnes. Albert.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Grouchy Geezer Gripes

Both Nick and Ramana had recent posts on "Undesirables" and after commenting on both and offering examples, it suddenly hit me that the most appalling undesirable in my life is when I am talking to someone on the phone and they take another call expecting me to hold. Or interrupt me and announce "I have to take this other call" leaving me hanging. I also have call waiting (part of the telephone package I have, unfortunately) but the most important call is the one I'm on and I wouldn't dream of taking another call. Isn't it all about respect? I always hang up on such ignorance.

Another gripe is when I have a meeting with someone and they keep bouncing off to answer the phone and then have the gall to come back and say "Now where were we?" and before I can complete my answer, they bounce off again to take another inconsequential call (I hear their side of the phonecall, they are all trivial). I never answer the phone when I have company of any kind over. I consider it rude and every call can wait until my guest/client has left. I have got into the habit of bringing a book to such houses and reading while inwardly wanting to pack up and leave and maybe I should.

And isn't it an odd thing. I know atheists with absolutely no fear of death. The only ones who fear it are the religious. What happened to the promises of streets paved with gold on the other side and sitting at the right hand and pearly gates? Wouldn't so-called holy ones look forward to that? Embrace death, so to speak. Say: "At long last bliss!". But no. They "battle" it according to the obits. Sometimes a long, hard battle. Why?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who's Yer Daddy?

Like I've said before: if you want the news, turn off the news.

This is never more evident than in the illustration below, which shows our media concentrated in the hands of the very few.

Government and media by the corporations for the corporations.

And morons are still wondering why the Occupy Movement?

Wake up!

{click to enbiggen}


Thanks to my blogger friend Twilight here is a link to George Monbiot and his takedown of distorted and irresponsible journalism.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ho Ho Ho

“Gawd!” he sez to me last night, “I just hate this season, how 'bout you?”

“I wouldn't say hate,” I responded, “Indifference would be my default position on it.”

“Ah, good one!” he sez, “How 'bout the rest of ye?”


Not one person out of about twenty around us said:


“For Gawd's sake,” I said, “Why don't ye all pay attention to those ads and commercials and follow the instructions, like?”

I got a laugh, I did.


PS My interwebz got unbelievably worse, now offering me days of no connection due to too many users on the system, so forgive me if I'm not visiting you as much as I'd like or responding to comments. I am seriously considering going back to dial-up and twice weekly visits to my favourite WIFI cafe. Desperation-top-of-the-line letters to the premier of this province go unanswered. And right she is - why should the Blackberried One care about her peasants?

Friday, December 09, 2011

December 9th

The voices in my head are particularly loud today. Invited voices, I hasten to add. Voices of the past, a child's voice, her 9 year old body hanging upside down from a tree in the back yard at a heart stopping height. A fearless child. A child never without bandaged knees or split skin somewhere on her face. A child who would insist on wearing different coloured socks. "One matches the sweater, the other matches the pants", she would say to me, rolling her eyes, as if to ask what was wrong with me anyway. A child who wore baseball caps and a leather cowboy jacket until they just about decomposed on her body. A creative child who painted black snow and blue trees and red grass.

I write of her every year on this day, her birthday, my estranged daughter. There is a balm in the writing of it. I know I am not alone. Each time I write someone comes forward and says, yeah, me too. It helps.

I was lucky enough to find her on Twitter. So I follow her quietly, not every day as I did in the beginning but every week. Modern technology: I am so grateful for bringing me my precious child but also a couple of very old friends who were lost to me. Estranged Daughter is a film-maker in England: Avant Garde films. Indie films. And also a social activist much like her sister and me. She is also a creative knitter (!) and writer. This much I glean.

And leave her be.

Happy birthday, dearest daughter!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Snivelling, Snarfling, Sorry Little Mess.

When yon skittery elusive microscopic bug bites, one succumbs. A bug that flies from hand to hand, hug to hug, kiss to kiss, public toilet seat handle to careless hand.

I am so cautious about picking up bugs. As usually they translate into "Brownkitis" as my blog friend Grannymar calls it. Bronchitis to the uninitiated. And me and Brownkitis have had a long and turbulent relationship and he refuses to divorce me. Far too fond of my body he is.

So here I am a bit of a mess, with last year's leftover cold relief in my achey body and my dog wondering why we hop from bed to desk to sofa like some drunken two year old.

The joints ping, the lungs sound like they could use a good turn in the tumble dryer. Ah, but the stomach holds up. Good ol' tums. Cast iron, as my mother would say.

And why am I posting all this?

Well as Friko commented yesterday:

Wouldn't it be sad if we couldn't let off steam here, in the company of the like-minded?

Is anybody listening to us otherwise? No, not likely.

Blame Friko.

Monday, December 05, 2011


{Luna, watching over my house yesterday evening}

Now and again, in an obituary here, everyone predeceasing and post-deceasing (eventually one would assume?) the dead person is listed both by name and relationship. Then the oddest thing: “several great-children” will be added. Or in some cases “several grandchildren'. Why, did no one bother to count them? Or was the seed so profligate it was impossible to track?

St. John's, oldest city in North America, must have the most efficient and speediest snow ploughing of its streets I've ever witnessed, but guess what? Its sidewalks have to be seen to be believed. The snow is piled high against them so you can't cross the street (even at pedestrian crossings) and in winter one has to walk in the midst of traffic as the sidewalks are impassable. There are many bad accidents as a result of cars hitting unfortunate pedestrians who have no choice in getting anywhere but to risk life and limb or stay home-locked for the entire winter. I have never witnessed such utter disregard for ordinary walking citizens whilst the vehicular culture is elevated to the level of a sacrament.

Can anyone figure out why DST (Daylight Savings Time) still exists? Days are getting so short here and by the time we get to Solstice (December 21st,) our sun sets at 3.30 p.m. just when we need the health benefits (Vitamin D amongst others) the most. Kids don't get to play outdoors after school (do they do that anymore?) as it's dark. Anyone?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

My, How She's Grown!

Daughter is in South America at the moment and Grandgirl is on her VERY OWN (At 17+ OMG!) in their house in Toronto.

I've been talking to her every night. Not checking up on her or anything as I've assured her, but availing myself of the opportunity to have these nightly chats. I restrained myself from laughing out loud the other night when she said:

"Oh boy, Grandma it is so HARD to live by yourself!"

"How so, hon?"

"Well there is so much to do, you just never catch up with it all. I'm exhausted!"

"So tell me?"

"Well there's laundry for starters. Then I had to take the garbage out after sorting it. Then I had to change the kitty litter. And oh yeah, walk the dog and give her her meds. Then I had to decide about dinner and what to nuke up. And yeah pack my lunch for school. AND load the dishwasher and unload it. It never ends!"

"Welcome to the real world, darling."

"But you're forgetting something really important here, Grandma."

"And what's that?"

"On top of all of that I have, like, hours and hours of homework!"

Well I hope Daughter reads this when she gets back.

You think maybe she'll feel more appreciated?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Hello, my name is WWW and I am a Lexulous addict.

Lexulous is a scrabble type game available on FaceBook amongst other lesser known sources. Well, I should say I am controlling my addictive self to the level of playing 10 games at a time. I could be up to a 100 if I let myself go. I've always loved scrabble and adored crosswords (non-cryptic) back in the day but find them a little too easy now, all the words overused, etc.

Interesting how all types of personalities are represented by Lexulous players. Some are in it to pursue sexual innuendos. Others (like me) for the love of the language and the game and some light chatter: how's your weather? Some state they love the (clean)chat. Some are courteous – oh well done, good game. Some are snide: Now where did you learn a word like that? Some apologize for placing the words vagina or penis. Some are whiners: oh, this game is rigged as you got all the good letters. Some are ignorant: What state in Canada is NL? Some are enthusiastic: oh please let's play again, I really enjoyed this!

Some of my friends challenge me, I mean how hard is it to lay down a few words? I always warn them I am really, really good but what can that mean, huh, and then most concede before the game is even over. One old friend insisted we never go vertical with the letters at the start as it made her head hurt, they had to be horizontal. Seriously. No, I don't play her anymore.

One stranger has played me for well over a year and is unfailingly cheerful and congratulatory as I am with him. We share a love of words, the more obscure the better and always rhapsodize on bingoes (7 letters off in one go) or super-bingoes (8letters off in one go on a double triple).

But most are my real life friends. Others are my blog readers never met in the flesh but over the years have graduated to friendship and full identity reveal.

But it is the fleeting challenging stranger players who provide me with windows on our endlessly fascinating human condition and all its foibles.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Of Tides and Jupiter

I note the tide getting higher, during leap tides, than it has been previously in front of my window. It jumps over my small bridge to the shore and lies there, smugly, annoyingly, blocking my access to the beach for a couple of hours. Twice a day. Twice a year.

Two times a year, spring tides, or leap tides, are exceptionally high, close to forty percent higher. This is due to a change in the moon's distance from us. The moon is actually 30,000 miles closer than usual, and as we've stated, the closer you are, the greater the gravitational force.
Rising tides, global warming. Will one eventually swamp my house, set it free, floating, bobbing gently as it sweeps out into the broad Atlantic. Ireland will be underwater by then and so will England and who knows how many other countries. So where will we wind up, my house and I? On top of some mountain no doubt. Like Noah's ark.

I watch Jupiter nightly, it is so bright. Our nights here are star-studded, I imagine I can touch them.

I think how dare we, us paltry planet earth types, name these galaxies, these other planets, these stars. Ownership. As if. Who knows what these planets call themselves. And how can we say they are 'uninhabited'? Because our poor little eyes cannot see or our dismal ears hear or our limited intelligence understand?

Perhaps we are the lowliest species in space. Humanoids that are pitied for our inability to get along, to co-habit with each other in peace and harmony. Held up as the bad example of how awful the destruction of one tiny planet can be when rampant over-population and greed take over.

I know. Inside my mind is a dangerous neighbourhood and I should never go in there alone.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Unwelcome Guest

Slithering from the sea,
You crawled in overnight,
Taking comfort in the
Fixings of my porch,

You touched everything,
The trees, the feeders
The broody roofs
The stark fences

The door stones
The withered herb garden
The potato drills
The strawberry beds.

You were early,
Way too early this year.
My back to you, Snow.
For I am not ready.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I have a PhD in procrastination. I don't know why I do it. Which drives me crazy in itself as I am over-analytical by nature. It's like I save up stuff in case there is NOTHING to do. Insanity, right? As if by fobbing off and deferring I can live forever or something. Do most people die with an unfulfilled To Do List do you think?

I live in fear that someday, somehow, somewhere I will sit twiddling my thumbs at the end of The List. Finally complete. Waiting for the grim reaper to scythe me up, gibbering and drooling into my Ensure.

Right now the list is long. Persnickety stuff. Like 8 big boxes in the front hall that need decanting. But to decant them means moving the bookshelves (after offloading them) out of my office to said hall. Then offloading the existing shelves in the hall and bringing them upstairs to the craft room, my cute liddle craft room. Then shelves in my bedroom will be moved to my office and reloaded. And then a smaller shelf from the utility room moved to my bedroom and useless shelves from the craft room moved to the utility room.

Okay - you in the back, stop snoring. And the rest of you, unglaze your eyes please. Pay attention!

And then crafts decanted from the big shelves in the family room and put in the craft room. And then there will be room for all the contents (books, movies, albums) of the boxes removed from Daughter's basement in September and brought out here. I know it sounds like I'm chasing my tail all around the house here but seriously it makes total sense.

So yay, I say unto you, I am going to apply what has always worked for me before. I commit to one hour a day on the timer, to start-up this massive mobilization and put all the STUFF where it belongs.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I had mentioned to another CFA* who is part of my theatre troupe, that I was having severe withdrawal from intellectual stimulation, discussion of ideas, critical thinking, etc. She, similarly afflicted, had found her solution in a book club par excellence which took place the 3rd Monday of every month about 45km from here.

So off I toddled today. The library where it was meant to be held was temporarily flooded so a member of The Hook & By Crook Book Club held it at her home. What I had not anticipated was this lavish lunch being served first. There were fifteen of us around the table and as it turned out, I knew or had heard of about 1/3 of them. One of them an author of a well loved local book, others from a choral group out of St. John's and still two more who had emailed me about a year ago requesting me to conduct a writers' workshop.

I've never felt such immediate comfort with such a large group of people in my life. They were all, without exception, extraordinarily well read, erudite, witty and with carefully thought out opinions on the topics the book had raised. And so very kind. I was exhilarated.

The next meet up is in December in another member's home and we will all be fed again, pot luck this time, and the price of admission is a well loved book from our own libraries, packaged up beautifully and given away with enclosed personalized comment.

I honestly think that the last remaining void in my move here has now been filled.

And so extraordinarily well.

*Come From Away

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Disappointment is the feeling of dissatisfaction that follows the failure of expectations or hopes to manifest. Similar to regret, it differs in that a person feeling regret focuses primarily on the personal choices that contributed to a poor outcome, while a person feeling disappointment focuses on the outcome itself

I've been hit sideways with a few disappointments in the last wee while. And yes, I had expectations. I normally don't, which is what's so odd about it all. I roll with the punches (or maybe I pretend that I do). I enforce a daily gratitude meditation (sometimes short, sometimes long) at the end of each day. A reflection really.

I am more than aware that disappointment in an outcome can truly steal from the positives in a given situation. I am not allowing that. But still.

I remember being sixteen. A few published items under my belt. And literally engrossed in art. I couldn't get enough of it.

Our school on an island (seriously, in the middle of the River Lee) in Cork City imported many great male teachers for us. One of these was our art teacher, another was our advanced mathematics teacher and yet another was an ex-military man who was our gym teacher – the workouts (for girls! girls?) were unbelievable. I truly believe in light of today our school was extraordinarily progressive for its time. And having been recently back for a class reunion and reuniting with many of us, that is reinforced by the PhDs and MDs amongst us. But be that as it may.

I did a little web search and found the art teacher, John Teehan, mentioned briefly on another website. He was very encouraging to me. And his classes (taken over lunch periods, unheard of today, right?) were riveting.

I applied for fashion design school in England, with samples of my designs, etc. ( this was the era of Mary Quant, et al) and was overwhelmed when I was accepted and offered a scholarship.

You can imagine the reaction of the pater familias in suburban Cork when I made the announcement of my intention to henceforth toss aside my provincial education and head off on the Innisfallen for London, England.

I discovered what apoplexy truly was.

And my crushing disappointment lasted months.

And yes, I do wonder still what direction my life would have taken if I'd hopped on that ferry.

But I am no longer disappointed. Much has fulfilled me since then.

Disappointment can only take up headspace if we allow it.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shadow Work

Well, that was a new one on me yesterday as I drove into St. John's with the CBC Q programme playing. Funny how we can accept things without thinking. We have a vague feeling something is wrong but it takes a guy like Craig Lambert, Harvard magazine editor to highlight it - riffing off on how we, the customer stooges, have taken on unpaid work since self serve gas pumps came into being. Shadow work he called it.

Even the term self service has been coined to evade the more realistic terminology:

Self service = no service.

Think about it: we are now our own bank tellers, gas pump attendants, checkout cashiers at the automated checkouts and our own travel agents.

Unpaid work. A sneakily implemented transference of labour from paid to unpaid.

He went on to talk about the number of hours we give away in deleting the spam in our inboxes every day. Not the sale pitch spam but the outright fraudulent ones from sorrowful widows in Africa offering us 2 million to use our faxes and bank accounts. Even two minutes a day would add up to 9 hours over a year and would be incalculable over a lifetime.

My daughter brought up a good point in talking with her about this on the phone today. The countless hours we spend searching for products which we are willing to buy with our hard earned cash in big box stores. I admit to wearying of this from time to time and spending more money in small shops (now few and far between) to receive personal service.

And hunting for pricing on something. Can I find an assistant? Or reach nine foot high shelves with ne'er a clerk in sight. I admit to taking a tongs off a shelf one time, unwrapping it, and reaching high for a casserole dish, in absolute frustration and with a dinner party that night staring me in the face.

Unpaid labour.

Meanwhile, most days we smell of gasoline after filling up somewhere, get frustrated at the out of service ATMs when we can't access our VERY OWN money from our VERY OWN bank accounts, and humbly lug our huge (often wobbly) shopping carts across the tarmac, offload them and THEN willingly take them back to the herding area. I remember bag boys who did all of this.

To add up all of this labour would frighten us, I'm sure.

And we know who's laughing all the way to the bank ATM, right?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I'm in the throes of reading the 2011 Booker prize winning book: "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes, recommended to me by one of my brothers.

It's one of those books that gets me reflecting on my own memory, how accurate is it, how much have I changed it to erase hurts or slights, or enhanced it to heighten the pleasures or deepen the sweet nostalgia. And also on the incompleteness of my life to date. Dreams left unfulfilled, days wasted. Nights too.

Friends unmade. I thought of that tonight when playing cards and I've sensed a good friend lies underneath someone I've known superficially for quite a while and I am at a loss for words as to how to make that more clear than I already have with time, seriously, running out on me. My life at least 3/4 lived, if not more.

Funny how books can do that to one. Gets your mind rambling down hitherto unknown boreens knowing the candle to light the way is flickering down to a nub. Wondering how reliable memory is, especially for a writer who tweaks the twists and turns anyway.

Thank you Julian Barnes for the brain-stretch. It is invigorating.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I've always loved the word "boreen" an Irish word, anglicised for every day use in Ireland. It means "little road". Bothair (bo-her) being the Irish for road. Add "een" to anything in Ireland and you have the diminutive. Little Mary=Maureen (maura + een). Little woman=Colleen (caill is woman or old woman + een).

I was having a day of frustrations and minor disappointments yesterday. Nothing earth shaking, just a series of what-else-can-go-wrong-and-then-it-does kind of days.

I took this picture of a boreen heading off down the main road not too far from my house. Outsiders aren't aware of the enormous number of lakes (called ponds) in Newfoundland. We have thousands. Every time you turn a corner there is a seascape or a lakescape. This man was taking in his boat for the season. There is much trouting on our lakes.

Then I forced myself to go to a party. A Ruby (40th) wedding anniversary of dear friends. They'd booked a huge hall. 120 of those present were going to be relatives. The other 10 were close friends. I am honoured to be considered thus.

I'm not a fan of going to big parties or dances or dinners by myself. Visions of my lonesome at a solitary table hauling over a candle and reading a book extracted from my large purse while merriment and enjoyment surround me. Or knitting quietly in a corner pretending I'm one of those mad women out of fiction. Or best of all, happilly at home having refused to go on some flimsy excuse.

Anyway I went. I clung like an infant to my hosts for a while but pried myself off them when I realized they had other guests so went off, got myself a water and barged up to a large table and asked to join them. (Do any of you realize what absolute bravery this takes? No?)

And yeah, I had, oh, about 8 dances. Grand dances. Booty shaking dances. Laughy dances.

And then one of the women and I at the table get talking. She was a widow of two years and told me she didn't know how she got out of bed every morning. She was a sister of my bride-host. She'd lost her husband of 42 years the year before. But worse than that her only son had committed suicide three years before. He'd come home from up North with a failed relationship under his belt and she had found him in their garage the morning after, an apologetic note to her in his pocket.

And all of a sudden my day took on a new light. And today - which is again full of frustration and disappointment - is just another day. And I had no trouble getting out of bed to partake in it.

My boreen ain't half bad.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sister Margaret Anne

Photo taken yesterday whilst out and about locally.

She was a plain woman. Some might say ugly. A whiskered and misaligned face which drooped in chronic disappointment at life and those participating in it. Nature compensated her with beautiful hands, large, well formed and competent, the hands of a sculptor, and naturally blonde hair which she wore in a fluffy halo around her head. An incongruous appearance.

At the age of thirty-six, when her widowed mother died, she left her nursing order of Catholic sisters and reclaimed her birth name of Grace. She wrote to a man who had an advertisement in the lonely hearts section of the Catholic Register. Serious replies only, he said. Loyal, he said. Looks not important, he said.

How was she to know when he drove all the way from rural Saskatchewan to Brampton, Ontario to meet her and marry her within the month that he was a drunk and would beat her every Saturday afternoon and make her perform disgusting things in bed? She a thirty-six year old virgin and twenty years in a convent her only life experience?

She desperately wanted a child so suffered the daily indignities of living with such a man. And of course there were the vows of holy matrimony, and the leaving of the convent to consider. Pride? Yes, she swallowed it.

Her longed for child resulted in a great hulking daughter with the bright red hair of her father who outweighed her own mother by her tenth birthday. This was the year Grace left her husband and had a restraining order placed on him by the courts. Her divorce and subsequent annulment on the grounds of unrepentant abuse and chronic alcoholism followed swiftly.

Her daughter moved out when she was barely sixteen. Searching, Grace found her living in a commune on Bathurst Street in Toronto, high on drugs and alcohol. Grace refused to speculate on the type of income that would support such a lifestyle and thought it best, after pleading with her, to leave her there. It had been a challenge to love such a child, a child who seemed like her father reincarnated in female form.

Grace drifted backwards, drawn more and more to the life that had been so safe and uncomplicated. She retook her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and asked for, and was given, work in the wards of the terminally ill.

She would often say to me that she didn't know what that long intermission was about as all she was taught when she was out in the real world was how to hate the man who had abused her and the ungrateful daughter who was his seed through and through.

And I'd say - Hate? Is hate all you learned? Can't you let it go?

And she'd shake her head vehemently and her crooked mouth would settle into a grim straight line and she'd hiss:

You don't understand at all, do you? Hate is all I have left.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleventy One

Remembrance of lives unlived
Sacrificed to
Dark men in deluxe rooms
Far from battlefields
Of blood and guts
Scattered amongst the rats.
Too young to know of
Puppeteers and propaganda
And profiteering war machines
And masters of the universe.
Yes, I weep.
But not for words like
Bravery, sacrifice and courage.
I weep for their terror
And the evil of men's ways.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Blog Jam

Did you know that Mississipi just narrowly defeated a bill defining a fertilized egg as a "person"?

Sometimes I am so grateful I live in Canada and don't have to deal with these incessant insanities of our neighbour to the south of us. My ongoing sympathies to my wonderful USian friends who have to suffer these idiocies while the reality of our doom-headed planet is ignored.

Sometimes I shed just a tiny wee tear when I see Graham Nash and David Crosby, those of my Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young days (oh major, major fan I was, I was) who performed at the New York Occupy HQ yesterday. Why do I cry? Oh, you know, like they got OLD and, well, so did I, but we are all still shouting out against injustice.

And a Limerick man explains the Wall Street shenanigans for everyone:

Monday, November 07, 2011

It Could be Nothing, Then Again...?

I thought I was quite beyond frissons of literary excitement until I was suddenly confronted with an invitation to a gala at a gorgeous centre in St. John's.

I'm not obviously.

Beyond literary dreams.

Thoughts gallop around like a so many wild horses inside my head.

Thoughts like these:

Sure isn't every citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador invited?

But they wouldn't all fit.

Why do they want me to RSVP then if everyone is invited?

Am I on the shortlist for a prize?

Don't be stupid. It's only the young ones getting the prizes these days.

Your genre has no appeal except to the auld wans, right?

It's all graphic this and graphic that these days.

Maybe it's just everyone who entered.

Mein Gott, I wouldn't mind an honourable mention.

You're just being silly.

It's a courtesy thing - they've published you, don't forget.

Maybe it's because of the play?

Would all black look good on me?

Will I look odd if I'm not in the commonly accepted mating pattern at such events?

Would you stop making such a big deal out of this?


Sometimes I bore myself stupid.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Happy Fallter

We go from brilliant sunshine coaxing the very last of the leaves down from the trees on to a kind of saucy icy rain which drums its fingers on my windows for about five minutes. Then we move on to a curtain of fog descending over the headland across the bay from me. Then that evaporates, leaving ethereal trails around the houses.

I hear the plaintive call of My Three Loons and watch a few straggling Canada geese honk across the sky in a ragged formation. These are the bargain basement geese who can't seem to find enough of a cast to perform a first class V across the sky. The lazy arse ones who don't read their emails telling them to leave. Now. A month ago.

There should be a name for this season, this pause between Fall and Winter. Fallter I think. As here, certainly, it doesn't know what to make of itself as it falters and tests out some weather patterns that mix all the seasons up. Nothing to get a grip on yet, move along, nothing to see here.

I like it. I never know what to expect and hourly surprises are lovely.

I think I'll keep the Fallter.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Let Me Count The Ways

The interwerbz has gone from impossibly bad to inconceivably worse (i.e. no service whatsoever for days) so apologies if I'm not dropping by.

I thought of this post while sorting and blanching a whole pile of organic brussels sprouts. I have the most eccentric and wonderful thoughts whilst performing mundane tasks. Talk to my therapist.

Contrary to popular misconception it is not the Eskimo or Inuit peoples who have 100 words for snow it is the Sami People.

However, the Irish could give them a fair run for their money with their many words for 'drunk' bearing in mind also that there is an additional twist to this as English isn't the historical first language of the Irish. But as everyone knows, the Irish embraced English and bent it into something extraordinary.

So here those words are, listed in alphabetical order. Feel free to toss me some more!

Rat Arsed

Sunday, October 30, 2011


The first time I felt the Black Dog pacing was at an impossibly young age. Age 6. I would not have known it was the Black Dog, of course. I would have called it being afraid and very sad.

At that age, I had had measles which affected my eyes with ulceration. It necessitated hospitalization as the infection had also spread to my adenoids. In those days there were no children's hospitals so I was put into an adult hospital. I remember all of my stay there, it stands out in a kind of gothic starkness. There were no children in the ward I was on. Just all these adults. And casual cruelties were thrown my way (my eyes were bandaged for about 4 days)- being deliberately misled as to where the washroom was, my few toys being hidden, my hair being pulled,another patient assigned to feeding me and deliberately missing my mouth, all this accompanied by raucous laughter,etc. In those days it was called "teasing" today it would be called abuse. I was wretched.

It was to get worse.

My throat was healing from surgery, my eye bandages were removed when my mother visited with some handmade clothes for my doll. Including a little nightie. When she was leaving, I followed her out of the ward and as she went down the main stairs I screamed and screamed until my throat bled. I fell on the floor until I was carted off (roughly I remember) and told to behave myself.

The following night my father visited. In a rage. He told me I had upset my mother terribly and if I didn't promise to behave myself she would never visit me again.

It was to get worse.

I woke up the following morning to be told there was a great surprise in a cot (crib) down the ward from me. Come and look.

I did and there was my baby brother, under a year, pulling himself up by the bars, recognising me, delight all over his little face. I remember touching his soft head, rubbing my hands over the bandages on his ears. It seems that the measles had given him massive ear infections and primitive tubes had to be inserted to drain them so he wouldn't go deaf.

I remember feeling overwhelmed. I remember thinking my parents had gotten rid of their defective models and were just keeping their perfect middle child (another brother).

I resigned myself to a life on a Dickensian ward, knowing that keeping my mouth and tear ducts shut would mean a possible sighting of my mother again.

My therapist said it was one of the defining moments of my life.

It certainly removed the foundations from it. The idea of abandonment has always haunted me. More than anything the abandonment of myself by myself.

On another note, in adult hindsight, I can't imagine what my parents were going through with two of their children in hospital.

Knowing the reason for one's anxieties and irrational fears will not fix them. I'm just very grateful the episodes get further apart as I move along on my journey.

I'm not at the point where I can chase the Black Dog off my psychic landscape yet. But his visits are shorter and I recognise his pacing and know that he will get bored very quickly if I don't feed him.

And I think I know what to do to protect myself. Very little contact with other, more 'normal' humans, and some contact with those who know exactly where I am.

Pace on, BD, pace on.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New News

(1) One of my stories is up at The Elder Story Telling Place

(2) Quotes

"I could end the deficit in 5 minutes .. Pass a law that says that if the deficit is more
than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election."
-- Warren Buffett

(3) And (tongue firmly in cheek) ad of the week:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Old News

I stumbled across this postcard which was in one of a pile of boxes I am slowly plowing through and sorting. I am reluctant to throw it out. It bears such sadness. It's from Leeds and sent to me on April 15th, 1984.

I find the picture itself rather odd. It looks like an artist's rendition of a municipal building. But the people sitting in front of the wall belie that impression.

The message says:

Dear -------Thank you for all your thoughtful help. I was too late. Buried Dad last week. Will see you in June. Love Pat.

Pat is consigned to the mists of time but the poignancy of her message lingers on.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


At cards tonight:

Ron: Hey Phil, do you know anyone with a harness?

Phil: Yeah I do, b'y, what d'ya want it for?

Ron: Not for me, b'y, it's for John.

Phil: What he want it for?

Ron: For his shrimping pool.

Phil: Oh right, that's some pool, I seen it.

Ron: Yeah, that's why he needs a harness.

Me (bemused at this point): Why would someone need a harness to catch shrimp?

Ron: Wha?

Phil: Wha?

Me: And I don't think he'll have shrimp up in that pool it's on a hill and not connected to the sea.

Ron: Wha?

Phil: Wha?

Me (knowing the difference between my seas, rivers and fish varieties): Like it's freshwater?

Ron (sighing tolerantly): Of course, yeah, it's freshwater. He needs the harness to finish the sides of it, it's very deep.

Me: So why is he putting shrimp in it?

Ron: First I heard of that.

Me: You just said....

Ron: Wha? No, I didn't. He'll be using the pool as a shrimping pool.

Me: (light bulb flashing, translator in overdrive)Oh, a swimming pool!

Ron: Yeah, that's what I said, a shrimping pool.

Note to red-faced self: Please, please, please, stay out of any shrimp harnessing conversations.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Moral and Ethical Authority

Am I missing something?

So this bunch of (mainly white) old men living in the lap of obscene luxury in the Vatican are calling for a crackdown on the financial markets now that the Occupy Movement has established its global street cred and gained such enormous traction.

"Oh, hang on everyone, wait for us, we're on the side of the people, the poor downtrodden people!"

a document released by the Holy See is calling for a "world authority" to crack down on capitalism and suggests some are considering it. Written by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and released on Monday:
Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority

Read more about it here.

It is difficult to put a figure on the extent of Vatican wealth. The closest average I can come up with in dive-bombing around the web is around 50 billion US dollars. Most of it is invested in the banking, insurance and commodities stock markets. And as we all well know transparency isn't one of the Vatican's strong suits. Somehow so much poverty in the world never equates in my mind with so much wealth in the Vatican. Is this how Jesus pictured his future church? Upon this rock which shall be rolling in red velvet and yay I say unto you a listing of stocks and bonds rippling down the steps of the Sistine Chapel?

So pardon my cynical black heart here. Isn't there a self serving whine to all of this noise about looking out for the financial interests of we the people and hear ye now from henceforth only fairness in all financial dealings?

All this coming from these outrageously wealthy masters of cover-up, these irrelevant old hypocrites

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Exploding the Fantasy

The fairytale aspect of life is presented ad nauseum both by books and films and TV shows. One of the primary sells being that the magic princess/prince will arrive, snow white charger optional, and whisk you into a life beyond your wildest dreams. Nightmare more like. At least for over 50% of us.

Case in point: Carol (not her real name) is a 40 year old woman living up the road from me. Attractive. Five children. Two husbands under her belt. Children by 3 different partners. None of whom give her a dime of support for her family's well-being. So we the people do it with our slim taxation dollars. Us 99% I am referring to, of course. I doubt if it crosses the 1%'s mind that such people exist. And if it did it would be “their own fault,” “bootstraps,” and “I'm alright, Jack”.

Nothing wrong with Carol and her life, though there are some that judge her. All the time. Her unhappiness leaks nearly every day from her Facebook posts. She is poorly educated and if you knew why, you would weep (snippet: as a toddler she saw her mother murdered in a bath of blood by her father). Her dream for the knight to ride in and save her has never left her mind since she was fourteen. She just made poor choices in the past, you see. But HE is still out there and will find her. Just like the soaps she watches in the afternoons. So she does herself up right sexy before she even opens her door and zeroes in on any available upright man who walks around. HE will be the one. It is a constant uphill struggle as sometimes they use and sometimes outright reject her. But her poverty and belief in this dream enables her to continue getting up in the morning.

It never crosses her mind to get an education now that all the children are in school full-time. To change. To determine that her happiness is an inside job. Not the knight's responsibility. I've spoken to her about this. About the joy of personal fulfilment and she looks at me sideways. This credo has absolutely no perceivable benefit to her. I just don't get it, you see.

How many countless others are waiting like her for this fantastical teevee land of Father Knows Best and its ilk?

No one talks about failure having much better odds than success in a relationship. And if we included the incredibly unhappy and abusive ones that manage to hold together in a kind of misery loves company toxicity, the odds would be overwhelming indeed.

Why does no one ever talk about limiting the size of their families in this overpopulated and abused planet - while we breed ourselves to the point of extinction? Children are being raised in poverty just about everywhere by single parents. Why? Because they believed in that Princ(ess) Charming and forever with a brood of happy kids frolicking in the meadow. Hell, if the sex is good than it follows that everyone and everything around us would be too, right?

I was one. The only lifestyle that improved after my divorce was that of my ex-husband. All sorts of both material and other benefits were cut from my two children's lives. I had bought into the dream too, you see. Like most of us. Forever and ever, amen.

What a crock of shyte as my people would say.

It is time we stopped this massive delusion.

So that Carol's children won't perpetuate the insanity.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blog Jam

I'm one of those boring people that can watch a movie twenty times over a period of, oh, a long time, and still find something new in it. Mind you, it has to be a good movie.

Hence watching The Red Shoes again last week. I don't know how many times I've watched it and am still mesmerized by the ballet in the middle. And yeah, the ending is weak, but who cares. It sure puts Black Swan to shame.

One of my frustrations in living in Newfoundland is that we never get so-called art house, foreign films and good documentaries here. As in shown on the big screen. It's never the same on the little screen.

I usually go on a movie rampage when I hit Toronto, my hunger is so keen for real films in a reel (sorry) theatre.

And on another note I'm rather ticked off in that I can't seem to stay up late and have a fairly normal day of it the following day. Not at all. I was with some friends last night, great talkers - you should hear all our monologues going off at the same time, over and over - and we cracked the clock around 3.30 a.m., very normal for us. But oh today! I don't drink, neither do they, so there are no hangovers. Just this: OMG: my legs, where are they, OMG: what time did I get up, why is the sun looking sideways at me? OMG: why am I reading things twice for the meaning to penetrate. And on. Some useless day for this cranky old lady today.

But: no regrets. I so love the chat. And there are so few in my world who love it like I do.

As a result I figured I could watch a film without overly taxing the few braincells left to me so I am halfway through Mr. Roberts as I write this, another old hairy one. But what's not to like about Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon and a demented old James Cagney chewing the glue out of the scenery?

Did I ever mention I have a breath-taking collection of old movies?


You see this obsession all started with an uncle who owned a cinema back in the day. Hooked like heroin. At the age of 6.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

For Sale: 300,000 Babies

I was processing some papers for a dear Irish friend the other day. As I was reviewing the documentation in her file, I was struck once again by how the Irish government (and people) handed over all responsibility for medicine, education, registering of marriages and even the methodology of births (see here for my post on that) to the Catholic church. Shame on my government, shame on the brainwashed people who believed so unquestioningly in this cult. That abused everyone around them through massive cover-ups of their paedophilia and their funnelling of billions of wealth gained from such government-funded enterprises to their leader in the Vatican. And don't get me started on their tax-exempt status around the world.

And if you tell me about missionary work I will tell you that the poor unfortunate children in Africa and other Third World countries do not have access to lawyers or to courts that will hear them.

I am exhausted from all the exposed corruption in the last while as are the rest of you, I am sure. But this latest about Catholic priests, nuns and doctors stealing and selling as many as 300,000 babies in Spain for eager adoptive couples made my already sickened heart retch again. For those sad deceived mothers (shown the same frozen infant's body over and over again to convince them their baby had died) and for those lost babies, growing up outside their country, cultures and families.

Is there no depth to the depravity to which this wretched and corrupt organization won't sink?

Read more about it here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Night Owl

This is the latest addition to my owl collection - a birthday gift of a commissioned handcrafted rug from a dear friend.

My animal totem, given to me by a shaman many, many moon cycles ago is an owl. For wisdom, he said, and for night-loving and wooing. I don't think he was punning but I like to fancy he was. Either or. I've woo-hood back at any owls who flit around here and I would like to woo another night owl like myself if he ever presented himself.

I fight this night living thing all the time. It is late now, I look out over the mirror of the bay and see the lights reflected on the water and feel happiest. Day time is not my preferred time but as it's nearly everyone else's I have to suit up and show up when dawn appears.

A belief in former lives would say I must have been a courtesan or a night club dancer or at the very least a jazz singer in a smoky boite.

And of course any relationships I've had were mainly with day people with a few notable exceptions. With one, we would always make a point of having breakfast at Vesta's in Toronto at 4.00 a.m. As we both had to work, this was only accomplished on the weekends to our great glee. We often walked the boardwalk in the dead silence of the deep night, only the waves and the odd flutter of a sleepy bird underscoring our conversation.

With another we would drive off to, well, anywhere. Niagara Falls. Kingston. Sarnia. Only the midnight ribbon of highway beneath the car and some well loved music on the car stereo.

Now I savour the silence as I write this. How wonderful is the silence of an outport late at night. It comforts like a warm cloak.

Simon and Garfunkel were right. Darkness and the sound of silence. Truly my old friends.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Summer's Still With Me

It is extraordinary to me that I can plant all these pots of flowers in spring of each year and NEVER have to water them. The weather takes care of that. Rarely too hot and enough rain to keep these babies happy. Still in bloom today. We expect our first snow, usually, in February, which always startles people who view Newfoundland as a land still in the Ice Age. Well, no.

We have a micro-climate where I live and since I've been living here, we always have a green Christmas. Our trees are still more green than russet or rust as our spring is always later than others (May-June). Late June is when my lilac blooms for instance. So our fall is later too.

My driveway which is long and winding, was ploughed 4 times last winter. Yeah, 4 times. Not much of a winter and it was always worse in Ontario. It can get biting cold when the Nor'easter blows and being An Outport Woman I can be caught huddled around my woodstove when that happens, reading a good book and tossing bon-bons while my woodstove soup simmers away.

Ah poor me - life lived in the rough by the Outport Woman.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Dreams Beneath

I was thinking back to my fourteen year old self. I remember walking along the beach in West Cork in summer, picking up shells, discarding them if marred in anyway, looking at driftwood, seeing the pictures inside, bringing pieces back to our tiny rented cottage (parents, six children, 5 tiny rooms, no bathroom), my mother looking at me aghast:

And where do you think we'll find room for this?

Me finding a space over the cliffs in a difficult to access bay and finding a cave for my treasures, thinking:

Some day, I'll have the sound of the sea beside me all the time and my treasures will be part of my life.

I was walking along the beach with the dog today, we love this daily romp, she and I. She finds her own treasures (crabs not quite cleaned out by the gulls, unlicked clam shells) and I look for old glass and driftwood and feathers and shells. And my fourteen year old self presented herself and said excitedly:

Look, we made it happen, you and me!

And we brought our treasures home.

And together, we looked for the pictures.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


He thought to have one last sail on her before winter crept up on the dock. He'd have to put her away immediately after. Haul her up to the boathouse and wipe her all down. That should take care of the rest of the day.

It was October chilly, nothing that his thick aran sweater wouldn't handle and he'd tug the old wool watchcap tight over his head. Alone. That was why he got up so early, so no one could see him rowing the wee dory out to the boat, his Sleveen, and want to tag along. Now he was tying the dory on to the back of Sleveen so he could anchor just off the island of Colinet where his ancestors had settled back in the day. The island his grandparents had to leave in the sixties when Newfoundland had the massive resettlement programme. Poppy and Nan never got over it. They had their house towed by boat off the island and put it up again on the mainland. Facing the island that they loved so much for the rest of their days.

He remembered Poppy saying to Nan, every morning, "What's the weather like on Colinet today, Rose?" and she'd look over at the distant island and always answer: "Right easy over there, John, right easy."

They were buried there, on their island, and he wanted to visit them. So he did. Rowed in the wee dory up onto the beach below the old graveyard, carefully walking around the wide gaping hole where the old wooden church had been. Taking his cap off, in respect, when he stood in front of their gravestone, not praying exactly. But close.

He circled the bay a few times after, showing off a little, though he couldn't see anyone, it was still early, but you never knew who was looking out their windows. He'd always loved the way the Sleveen handled herself, no matter the wind, its speed or its direction, she bent into it, or danced in front of it, loving the lick of it, the slap of the water on her sides.

He should have felt sad. He'd anticipated it. Packed one of his old hankies in his back pocket just in case.

But he felt happy. The gulls shrieked overhead, the wind bit into his face as it puffed out the white sails against the blue sky above him, the ropes were easy on his hands. The Sleveen was riding right gentle today. As if she knew. And of course she did.

It would be the last time.

You might see Christmas, the surgeon said yesterday, as if he was handing him an early present.


What an enormous word.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Lump In Throat Time

Before it all started.

I was a guest at a rural high school graduation last night. I had never been at such an event and perhaps won't be again. There were 26 graduates, amongst them 2 sets of twins.

Their beauty was breathtaking, both the boys and the girls - young men and young women facing their future, most already in university, some on waiting lists for colleges of their choice.

This was most definitely a community event. Apart from the grandparents and parents in attendance, all the local municipal mayors, the member of parliament and even the senator of the area was there.

I was stunned at the listing of scholarships: from the local firehalls, the legions, private citizens, townships, in memories of, etc. The school's graduating class average was in the top 10% of the province. No mean achievement.

The advantage of rural school education was made abundantly clear, the investment by the teachers in their students, often taking them in to their own homes at night to tutor and nurture. The hunting down of errant high school seniors, always located in the kindergarten room playing with the little ones. The series of projected photos of ALL of them as babies, as grade school students, in play, in study, on trips, all together from infancy.

It was joyful to see the capped and gowned students receiving their diplomas and scholarships and honours and then tossing their caps in the air before revealing their gorgeous dresses and suits.

One of the most moving moments came when two of the girls came on stage in all their finery, both sobbing but wanting to honour and talk about their mothers who had died in the past six months. Young mothers in their late thirties/early forties. Who should have had most of their lives ahead of them still. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. I can't imagine their pain.

The finale (at least for the adults) came with the Grand March, which had all the students walking slowly in single file down to an arch at the end of the hall and then pairing off, to march down and loop around again, this time in fours, and so on up to eights.

Notice how the young men's ties and handkerchiefs match the girls' dresses?

And then, oh my, lump in throat cubed, the graduates danced with their parents and grandparents.