Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Those Autumn Leaves

Autumn has been reluctant to leave us this year. I find that to be a good thing. I have a mixed relationship with autumn. Most of me loves it. A small part of me hates it. It symbolizes death, a sadness. Spring seems so far in the distance as to be unattainable.

I consoled myself a little by knitting these little falling leaves dishcloths. I've given many away in the last few weeks. Yellow, deepest red. I moved to turquoise then cream. When I knit, I think. I can sometimes look at a piece of knitting I gave away several years ago and tell you all my thoughts as I knitted it. I'm weird that way.

Some giftees are reluctant to use these dishcloths - they're so pretty, they say - I say go ahead, I'll make more, I've got the whole winter ahead of me!

And today, here is Geraldine the geranium outside pretending it is high summer. Go Geraldine!

Monday, October 29, 2012

My People

Morning view from the deck of my cabin - click to embiggen and gasp.

Albert Einstein once said, “I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
I would add and being with other writers. Let's face it. Only writers understand other writers. At the very least other writers don't glaze over as we expound on plot and character and the placement of a comma. Truly.
I had a week of this. Of workshops. Of best-selling authors reading my work. Of salons (oh, the salons!). Of wonderful food and formulating words. Words on the hoof after a long woodland walk with "my team". Words in the long night in front of the fire unkinking and rekinking chapters and paragraphs and sentences. Words spoken from the podium where our characters came alive. One of our leading Canadian poets showing his stand-up comic side before launching into his paeans to rocks and birds and all matter in between. One of our quieter writers astonishing us with her wit as we fall into helpless laughter.
We came from all over, New York, the hinterlands of British Columbia, Northern Ontario, West Virginia, Ireland (me). Our ages ranged from early twenties to (I estimate) mid seventies. Many of us had lived in exotic places. Many of us had challenging day jobs - nuclear physicist, farmer, lawyer.
All of us were there for the love of writing, wanting to share, wanting to listen.
Wanting to celebrate the sheer bliss of it all.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Coming Home

It's only when I've been away that I come back to the stalwart presence of my house. That I notice all it offers. The dog bounding like a teenager in the small hall at the back, the scent of old wood in the floors and walls and the tease of yesterdays'  fires, the feathery comfort of my bed, the haphazard way the orphan jars are lined up on my kitchen shelves, the stateliness of my office with its pots of pens and pencils and notebooks and its magnificent view of the constantly changing ocean.

The organized woodpile drying at the back of the meadow, the sturdy no-nonsense garage, the stately old barn with its offspring clinging to its skirt at the other side. The red chairs on the deck and the surprising nearly-November bursts of matching geraniums in their pots, the birds flapping and flipping,  squawking at me about the lack of regular feeding. The books and movies -  pristine on shelves, the unfinished knitting in a hamper, the expectant dining room table, the waiting cast iron pots and pans.

Home. Simple.

I fall into its embrace.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Topsail Beach, yesterday. October!!!
I arrived home last night to a lineup of phone messages. One friend has been trying to get hold of me for days. A lot has been happening in her family of origin in Dublin, illness, shifts in care for an elderly mother, family dynamics excluding her periodically ("the emigrant").

One can lose sight of our dreams when troubles like these invade. Her dreams have been on hold for a while. I fear they might be buried. Avalanches of concern can take over our lives if we allow them to. And often there is nothing we can do about any of it. But still, it clogs up the arteries of existence, makes it all a trial. I heard her out. It took a while. We remain stagnant in such situations. Life comes to a halt. Daily life is a trudgery of a drudgery. Our imaginations park at the stop signs. She mentioned anniversaries of the friends that have passed before us. And another friend of hers who has 6 brain tumours mestastasised from the lungs (yeah, a life-long smoker). Life does become this when we are burdened. Death nodding at us from every dark corner.

She wound down and asked me about my life, Ireland, the time with the family in West Cork. Before, I would have toned it down a little. To fit in with her bleak landscape. But I didn't. My end of the conversation was celebratory, seizing the days past and present, wringing the juice out of life, affirming my decision to say goodbye to the day job, telling her that if it didn't work out financially, bankruptcy was always an option, even at my age, so maybe the poor house would loom, but you know, the Hemlock Society is a definite possibility if that happened. Meanwhile I would do my very best to work as a full-time writer with no distractions at all. I have many cans of tuna in my cupboard and a freezer full of berries and homemade soups and stews.

Yeah, she responded, the time is now. Everything else is a distraction. I feel a bit better. I need to get on with my own dreams.

And last night? I dreamed of a baby, swaddled in handknit blankets who had been given in to my care. And I showed this tiny baby the world. Wow!

And this may be the last post for a week or so. I am heading off to a Writers' Conference. Just like a real writer.

I still can't believe it. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And yeah, I'll be reading publicly. And yeah, I'm working one on one with a world famous writer.

And finally - don't be one of the 99% who die with their music locked within them. Take the first tiny step today.

Start with The Dream Book.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Teapot and the Bed

Are some self-inflicted family barriers too enormous to break down? Or even climb over?

I ponder on middle-aged identical twin aunts of my ex-husband after their parents, his grandparents, died.

It was all over a silver teapot. One didn't want the silver sugar bowl and creamer. Not at all. She'd always had her eye on the teapot. With its ebony handle. But so did the twin who inherited it. Stalemate. Neither budging in their acquisitions. All familial civilized behaviour ceased at the reading of the will and the designation of the miscellaneous silver bits and bobs to the adult children, all eight of them. A few siding with each twin. We can all nod at this for a lot of us have been there.

These identical twins never spoke to each other again. Through family weddings, christenings and funerals. And often they unconsciously dressed alike at such events. So there was confusion as to who was who. A deep chill sliced the air when Nellie was referred to as Annie. And vice-verso.

My great uncle left everything to his favourite sister when he died. He'd made his will in London, a thing unheard of up to then, especially in the little village where he grew up. So it was all sewn up pretty tightly. Incontestable would be the word used these days. He never married and left a tidy sum, including an oak hand carved bed, to this sister. Who then incurred the wrath of her siblings as she was the most well off of all of them, even before her brother died. Her sister, my grandmother, was always a bit stiff around her after that and made frequent (albeit tinged with a slight edge) enquiries about the magnificent bed. But no, she didn't want to see it. Deliberately, I now see. My mother would wink at me to STF up if she saw my mouth opening. I had many questions (always did, on everything) about how the bed was moved from London to Cobh. Now, in hindsight, I see the money from the will would have paid for this. Along with the fur coat carelessly shrouding my great aunt as she sat at her tea in our dining room (one soft-boiled egg so she could dip her toast fingers into it) with my granny breathing very heavily through her nose beside her.

Which is all in the way of trying to understand a barrier in my own family circle. No silver teapots or oak beds involved at all. Just a sudden silence. Of two years duration now. And the odd sentimental and nostalgic outreach with attempts to meet and resolve quickly offered in return but never responded to. To be followed by a long stretch of silence again. Baffling. I wish it involved a silver teapot or bed. For then I would understand. I've moved beyond the hurt and pain of this now, though it took a while, to outright puzzlement.

I guess at some things we fail. Unknowingly. And I, for one, would welcome enlightenment. I can be too blind to my own faults. As can we all.

But I sure would love to know what this teapot in a bed is all about.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blog Jam

Mitt Romney scares me. As he should everyone. Along with his cohort Paul Ryan.

As does Stephen Harper, he of the glacial blue eyes and hidden agendas.

Isn't it odd how these men are so goodlooking in a mannequinish kind of way?

Then again, so was Ted Bundy.

It's funny that. How we expect the ogres of our time to look like monsters out of fairy-tales. When they're always so good-looking. This is how they access their victims. We should teach our children to beware of the good looking ones with the excellent teeth and perfect hair.

I am reading quite a wonderful book at the moment called Ghost Written by David Mitchell.  It is full of luscious lines like:
"The mountains toss and turn and then lie down until the grasslands begin."

          "Sometimes language can't even read the music of meaning."

Books can elevate us out of the mundane. Act like balm to the soul. Fill our imagination to over-flowing. Replace thoughts of bills and work and hunkering down for winter.

I was inspired by the autumnal red in my wee trees out back, even on this dullish day. And sadly, beside the glow of the crimson there is Mabel, all chopped up and drying out to keep me warm through next winter.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Inuksuk on Fogo Island

The word is pronounced "inuckshuck".

I really don't know much about them apart from their being a form of traveller's guide. Many are seen on the sides of the highways in all provinces of Canada. Or on top of mountains. They are  uniquely Canadian from the Inuit culture. Read all about them here.

I've not seen them in the U.S. but an American reader may enlighten me on this.

I just love them. Every time I see one as I drive by, and there are quite a few around here,  I smile and wave and say hi.

The one above is from the topmost point of Fogo Island in Newfoundland. which Grandgirl and I climbed a few years back. This is also the site of one of the four corners of the flat earth as designated by the Flat Earth Society.

See? I'm not just a flibberdee-jibbet tossing out the diamonds and stones of my life on a regular basis.

I can larn you too, so I can!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Oh Goody, Wrong Number

Talking on the phone isn't something I'm fond of. I'm very selective as to who I enjoy talking with and there aren't many.

I don't know why that is. I love talking to Daughter and a few dear friends in Ontario, and some here but there are far few calls where the old blue-tooth is stuck on the head and I walk around and do chores, etc., while the conversation stimulates me incredibly.  Often for several hours.

Other conversations drag, I don't know why. Maybe they're about others rather than ideas. I know - it's me. I'm getting more lodged into eccentricity as I age. And getting more unapologetic about it.

I've got one of those systems where the phone announces who's calling. The dog hates this. She whines pitifully at the automated ladyvoice and comes closer to a howl than I've ever heard her. I sometimes join her. We bond as the unwanted or intrusive call falls into voicemail.

I have to be in the mood for certain people. They seem to always want something. So I have to be in a giving mode. And often I'm on leftovers with nothing on offer.

The other day I was arranging a meeting and dialled a wrong number. Of a woman I've met the odd time. The outer edge of my acquaintance circle. She was so excited that I'd called. She told me her face must have lit up the room when she saw my number on screen, it was an honour and a pleasure to hear my voice. I told her the truth. She was a wrong number. But she didn't care.

She spoke of her mother who is 102 and still fishing. She spoke of my play and wanted to know all about the tour dates and Ireland. She spoke of her own aging, she never did like fishing and here she was 80 and not going to start now with her mother catching all she needed for herself and her husband.

Oh you've made my day, girlie, she said, you've made my day. Call me again soon.

Well, I might if I had your number......

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Of cards and saints and a bottle of rum.

Boy, I cleaned up at cards tonight. I won the boobie prize - 3 rather nice dishtowels - and also the door prize - a bottle of rum.  As to the boobie, it is a prize awarded to the loser player of the evening. I was stuck at a table for 11 rounds with useless cards. I so want to be lucky in love to compensate for this. 

I've written all about my weekly 45 card game here, if you care to know more about it.

There was much talk of Ireland as one of my cast members was there as well as myself. In addition, there were others who had gone to Ireland over the summer on different expeditions, one had gone with her son, a priest, and they had visited everywhere that St. Patrick had been to convert the heathens and pagans back in the day. Even to the spot where he had banished the snakes.

"Oh, you must miss Ireland so much!" said one of my partners. You'd be amazed at the amount of envy I get for being so fortunate as to be born in the sacred homeland.

"Well, I miss my family of course, " said  I, "But I don't miss Ireland. Though I do like to visit."

He was appalled.

"But it's so perfect! Everyone loves Ireland!"

"Well," said I, never one to hold anything back and it's too late to learn now isn't it, "Back in the day Ireland wasn't very good to me."

Gobsmacked doesn't begin to describe the expression on his face.

"As a matter of fact," said I, continuing to never let well enough alone,  "Canada has been so extraordinarily good to me I can't even begin to count the ways. "

Hire me if you ever need to silence a room.

And if you're up for it, we'll have more on all that another time.

Thanks for the topic suggestion MarciaMay!


Monday, October 08, 2012


One of my knitting hampers, I just love these colours.
Here on Canadian Thanksgiving I am thankful for my family. For my daughters, for my granddaughter. For my siblings who are all alive, though some of us are in slight disrepair. For extended family and bloodlines that span a goodly portion of our globe.

I am thankful for living in this wonderful land, my chosen land of many, many years. My gratitude knows no bounds for the life I've been given here amongst tolerance and equality far beyond the country of my birth.

I am thankful for a life that lets me breathe in the clean air from the ocean, that allows me my artistic expression - to write and create - and partake of the riches of land and sea.

I am thankful for dear friends who walk with me through thick and thin and celebrate my victories and hold my hand when I'm feeling defeated or lonely.

I am thankful for the comfort of blogland and my blessed blogfamily, where I get to throw out my thoughts and ideas (and dry run some stories and poems and photos) and sound off with occasional whingery and outrage.

So yes, today, along with all of the above - I celebrate our true north strong and free - thank you Canada.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Of Books and Potatoes

Scattered week.

Out of sorts. Flu-ish. Black Dog pacing around the house. Far too close for comfort. The ghosts circle and start chattering and I miss the ones who vanish without a farewell or a reason, and then it's a very short hop to self-flagellation. And Black Dog gets within biting distance.

I worked on Grandgirl's afghan.  She never reads this blog so I am safe in saying that.

I knitted a prototype for the book design I was struggling with for weeks. Thanks for all your help, Grannymar.  Now, what do you think?

And then, the best part, some overdue writing for the conference at the end of the month.

And then the jobs that pay my bills.  Without them I would not survive. Freedom 95 I call it. I can't see my way to affording the writing lifestyle, much as I've wanted it for all of my life. This depresses me. Utterly.

Given my druthers I would write all the time. And create knitting designs and read. And play the piano at night by candlelight. And take long hikes with Wonder Dog.

I wrote about routine this morning in my journal. How it can be the salvation of elders. Lay out the day and evening clearly and ahead of time and stick to the routines. No matter what. I thought creative spirits didn't need routine but the research I'm doing shows that it is just what we need. If everything around us is organized and we have a routine it frees up the creative juices like nothing else. Nothing acts more like a distraction than living in a mess and a formless day, or week or month. Then nothing gets accomplished.

So at the beginning of my day today I laid it all out piece by piece and allowed time for all the things I love to do, like write and knit and even meditate and I even put little rewards in for stretches of the bill-paying work. And a good long walk with Ansa.

And later, Leo comes over with the potatoes from the edge of my back meadow.  And laughs and laughs at this particular one:

Can you see the face and the big ears and funny hat?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Just an Old Shed.

He used the old dory for storing the driftwood he picked up from the shore, to dry it out and later use in the stove.

The land behind he grew the potatoes on.

He was religious in the mowing of the grass, every week without fail, in the gentler months.

He'd allow himself to look at the old shed then. And think to himself it looked so orderly, so deeply and satisfyingly red against the green.

Today he thought to open up the shed. Give it an airing. Make sure the tools hadn't gotten rusty and all the many implements of boat-building were still in their places.

No, maybe tomorrow. He wasn't ready. Not quite yet. His heart was still too tender. Those old rafters would be too welcoming.

It had been six months. After their forty-four years and seven months and three weeks and one day together.

His whole world had broken apart the day Ben the dory maker had died.

His beloved. His everything.