Monday, December 31, 2012


Well, I get to use my avatar again. I rather like it. I made a card with a poem about it at one stage. More like a story poem. Sad it was, so I won't reprint it here on New Year's Eve.

Best times I had on past New Year Eves were the little dinner parties I'd throw for strays such as myself. We'd play music and talk the hind legs off donkeys while feasting on each others' potlucks. Best kind. Now I have my Nollaig na Mban which is next Sunday January 6th. So to run another stray dinner party would be too much for me, I'm afraid. Too much for most people.

I tried the dances and the fireworks (only good with kids in tow)and coupleystuffs. but now choose to spend it alone. Just being with myself. I'm never bored with her. And it's a relief to create that boundary and not bustle out to please others.

It was a good year for me, 2012. So many performances of my play including the run in St. John's, and the big trip to Ireland to present it to my people, family and friends. Everything about it took much of my time but it was all such fun. Even today the cast and I pinch ourselves and say: Did that really happen? Really? Wow!

And seeing my precious birth family and just hanging out, particularly with the newer members. Who remind us all of how precious our time here is.

And the Writer's Conference in October where I got all fired up again. And Grandgirl's annual trek out here where she got to spend a weekend with the cast and crew and see the play. And Daughter's trip out here last May along with one of my closest friends to see the St. John's performances. And two other trips by Daughter.

These in themselves are wonderful but I get the greatest pleasure from my loved ones partipating and taking such joy in sharing the experiences.

What do I wish for 2013 - it's not a very pleasant sounding year is it? I think the 13 throws me off. I'm staying in the moment even though all politicians have shown their true colours as never before.

Canada has been sold to China behind our backs. We have a First Nations Chief on hunger strike (Day 17,today I believe) at the base of our parliament buildings until the prime minister meets with her to discuss the trashing of our environment and the breaching of all native treaties. And on. Too many issues. We are all in oligarchies. Democracy has always been a dream.

We all need to fasten our seatbelts and as I said before: Plant. Shop locally. Turn off main stream media. They are bought and paid for by the very corporations that are hurting you in the name of obscene taxless profits. Stop subsidizing all of them!

And remember: if your grandparents didn't eat it, try not to!!

Athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit! = Happy New Year!

Without you, this blog would only exist in a void. So I thank you all for your wonderful kindness, it's such a pleasure meeting such kindred spirits!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New World English

~~~My treacle/fruit/wonderloaf~~~

I had to learn a brand new English when I began to live in Canada. I think I've basically assimilated now but for a while I was completely lost. Pinafores and jumpers (jumpers and sweaters here) just the starting course. Don't even talk culottes and bonnets and boots.

It has taken me a while but I'm still tripped up now and again. There should be a dictionary.

I was baking a loaf last night and remembered my mother doing much the same thing. Her saviour in Ireland for baking cakes was grease-proof paper. You lined your cake pans with it. When I came here first and wanted to bake I couldn't believe grease-proof paper was nowhere to be seen racking the grocery shelves as I did, asking store managers who viewed me as deranged. They had never heard of such a thing and guided me to the wax paper. Well, I used it but it just didn't have the, let's say detachment, of the stoic old greaseproof. It often wound up strangling cakes and breads and it kinda turned me off baking as it left an icky taste where the paper touched the mix.

Imagine my surprise when I was at a friend's a few years back and she was baking a cake and she had greaseproof!!! I just about screamed in excitement. I picked up the box. It was called "parchment paper". Parchment!! Lawdy lawd. I couldn't wait.

Now I bake a lot of the time with this lovely parchment. I wish I'd known sooner. And I can also use treacle again - now that I know it's called molasses here.

Friday, December 28, 2012


~~~~~~~~~Ansa on boat inspections duty, her day job~~~~~~~~~

I value the stuff that doesn't cost money. I wouldn't have said that even twenty years ago, for I wouldn't have truly felt that way. I do today.

I was out and about today with my camera, it gives me the greatest delight to do a walkabout, go to the shore, look at the wintering boats cuddled up together on the wharf with their Christmas lights. Yeah, the boats are decorated seasonally here. I breathe in the salt sea air. I chase a bit with the dog who did her own boats inspection as you can see.

It touches me no end when crusty old fishermen invite me for dinner. Meet the wife, they say, she'd like ya. I want to ask them what is there about me to like? Tell me, for I've never been sure of myself, much as I try. But of course I don't.

Sometimes though I get a bit of insight. You like us, they tell me, and you're like us. Easy to please, nothing too fancy about you at all. You fit in right well, we can be normal with you, no airs or being careful, like. We can be ourselves. We like how you treat old Mike's house and saved all his lovely woodwork. Respect, like. You're one of us.

I can't count the invitations I get. Though on a bad day I'd tell you they don't mean it, they just feel sorry for me, as that was the language I was brought up in. But the old language is dead and buried most days. Can't we do awful damage to a child, though? Can't we give them lifelong agony with our careless words? I'm sure I've done my share of it with my own. I didn't know any better and I have to allow that to my parents too. For what did they know? Fresh out of unbelievable poverty thrust into a middle-class lifestyle, wanting the best for their children even down to elocution lessons to get my country accent out of my voice so I'd fit in with the city folks. A voice that has served me well, thank you parents.

These thoughts come to mind as I finished off a book I wrote, editing, stroking, taking all the luxurious time to do it before I forwarded it on to a beloved to read and comment.

Beloved. Someone used it on a comment. Is there any greater word?

~~~~~~~~Sunset tonight, another freebie, thank you, Gaia~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


A time of reflection in the last few days, away from the whizz and bang.

(1) More than you would think really despise this season.

(2) More than you would think absolutely adore it.

And it has nothing to do with family or friends or being alone or not.

Now that I am older I censor myself more, do you find that? Less revealing to those younger than me. More revealing to those my age or older. I tamp myself down when talking with family, conscious of being boring with same old, same old or forced cheeriness. I would observe this phenomenon in elders as I got older myself. A contrived jolliness, less revealing, more dismissive of aches, pains, heartbreaks. Even though the heartbreaks hurt worse as I age and they get swallowed down. For fear of...more. It must be just fierce to be old and all one's peers gone. No one to talk to. Fear of being abandoned by those younger as too much of a downer? Perhaps. So one would have to remain secretive, unrevealed. A friend is doing this now. She is 84 and doesn't speak the truth like she used to. No more worries, no more cares, grins and chuckles all the time. Or maybe this is the nirvana I so desperately seek? When I turn 80 all days will be cloudless and giggles? I'm not talking dementia, though now that you mention it....

I'm still formulating these thoughts. I wrote, a lot, over these last few days. Good stuff I think. I read an entire book in 24 hours too. A lazy, decadent thing to do. I watched a few movies I'd seen before but good movies, like books, never lose their allure. They offer something new each time.

I ran away once too. But not for long. I play what ifs? when I do this. What if I vanished completely, just drove and drove. What if I went to the most expensive hotel in town and pretended I was somebody I was not. What if I got a blonde wig and dark glasses and just walked around jewellery stores. Back in the day a friend and I would do this, pretend we were people from out of town. And howl for days at the sheer entertainment value of it and the gullibility of people. Innocent masquerades. No fraudulent intent at all.

An old boyfriend would never grocery shop. He'd take your full one if your back was turned and check out. Saved him the time and trouble and only got stuck once with a box of tampons that he thoughtfully put in his washroom for people like me giving the illusion he was a considerate, caring, sensitive man. Everybody won in his life except the poor shopper who lost.

Did you win or lose this holiday season? I hope you won.

A friend woke up on Boxing Day with every room in her house trashed by grandchildren and their drunken minders. She wept as she emailed me. Her grandmother suicided on the railway tracks on Christmas Day and she totally understands.

And yes, I won too. I kept a very low profile and did the limbo beneath. All was calm. All was bright.

Calmy brights to all my blogland buddies.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Shadows Cast by our own Thoughts

I just finished reading "The Rings of Saturn" by W. G. Sebald. It held me entranced from beginning to end just like "The Emigrants" did. I have ordered three more books of his. I didn't research him until now and was so disheartened to read he died an untimely death from an aneurism while driving his car in England in 2001. He was fifty seven years old.

Here's an article about him in the New Yorker

It is all too rare to find a writer who is so flawless in his/her execution of words and inspires one to ponder on both memory and history and all in between. The title of this blog post is a direct quote from his writing.

And this gave me much pause:

We are able to maintain ourselves on this earth only by being harnessed to the machines we have invented.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tell Me a Story

Englee (but throw a few extra syllables at it) where Myrtle lived all her life

I'll write it down before it leaves me, and you can read it too. So my thoughts are a little richer tonight. And maybe yours might be.

I was companion to an elder today. A woman whose body is falling apart, her legs at odd angles to each other, her elbows support her along the walls. You'd be right nervous looking at her negotiate down the hall and she'd shrug you off with a shoulder if you came near enough to help.

She tells me she didn't bring her walker with her as she lives in Labrador and had to fly down and the walker "got on her nerves". She is staying with her daughter in my village over the holidays.

She has early onset Alzheimer's. I shifted and played with my words so we could engage in a meaningful conversation. It took a while as she had a massive resentment that her daughter "had the sauce" to engage me for the day while she, the daughter, "off and gallivanted in that annoying way she has." I got her back into her life, age 19.

Here in her words:

I was post mistress at Englee, ran the whole post office all by myself. Daddy was good with the numbers, he was quartermaster in the First World War so he taught me numbers and he built me all those shelves for the sorting. Oh my, there was so much mail! I had to sort them out for the boats in the summer and put them in big canvas bags with cardboard labels. They would take them away, up and down the coast to all the little outports, there was a bag for each one. And they's pick up the outgoing mail and drop it off at my post office for me to sort and send off to the city. I'd write letters too, there's some that never learned. I never would charge for that though I heard some did. Now that was the summers.

The winter was another story. There were all these dog sleds in the winter when it was too rough for the boats. Coming in from everywhere and I'd load up the sleds with the bags. Mail was the only communication then, there was no phone or electricity so it was so important I kept on top of it all. It's how I met my husband and he just back from the Second World War. He was a post office inspector! Imagine that!

And here she laughs and laughs, punching me in the arm, to make sure I got the joke.

And I did.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brisk Walk along Holyrood Boardwalk.

Lupins in June in Holyrood

At Holyrood the winter hangs suspended.

Juncos stitching scallops across the sky.

Ponds glistening in white winter coats

Lying hard and low on the crouching water,

Waiting for the skeech and shuss of skates.

Speeding along the boardwalk, the dog and I

Pause and listen to the pounding of the surf

Roaring at the chattering of the beach stones,

Falling back, helpless, frothing at the mouth.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Kitchen Dervish

~~~~~~~~~~~Irish Soda Bread w/ chopped apricots and prunes~~~~~~~~~~

I can't believe how many meals I've frozen in the last 10 days. Some serious baking and canning were happening also. I have to be in the mood, unfortunately. That old routine and discipline gene completely skipped my sorry self. But I try. And glory in these accomplishments when they happen.

I put down 8 single serve pots of my super woodstove soup today. Pots of beef stew has been put aside along with this fabulous dish I do of spinach and chickpeas and sundried tomatoes. And my leek and mushroom soup. Then I put up a batch of blueberry jam (I make mine with lemon zest) and baked a few varieties of my Irish bread. I love adapting recipes. I do it all the time. One for instance is the traditional white Irish soda bread (I do make the whole wheat also) I add an egg to it and whatever dried fruit I have on hand. Tonight it was chopped prunes and apricots. With Irish cheese (and yes, I can get that in Newfoundland!) it is amazing. I sometimes accompany it with hot pepper jam. Grown men have wept over this. No other food is necessary.

I'm on a roll. I need to scavenge more cupboards and the bottom of the freezer. Ah rhubarb? Where have you been? next up:

A compote of rhubarb, strawberries, pineapple and fresh chopped ginger? Whoo-ee baby!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Random Act of Kindness

The other day a family member virtually visited me with an absolutely overwhelming act of kindness. Where my response was to cry. Tears of joy, I should add. It wasn't so much what they did. It was how they made me feel, even though incredibly loving words accompanied the act.

As if they could see me and know me and recognise unsupported solitude. And then for them to say: I understand. I love you. You are special. And now and again life is a struggle for you. And I've got your back.

It was as if some hitherto unknown internal pressure inside me was released. I can hardly describe the feeling and to let myself even relax back into it brings on more tears.

The muse, my Scriobhnarin, returned. And writing comes easy today. Idiotic I know - but I can feel the love even at this huge geographical distance.

Unexpected love and kindness are priceless.

I'll pay it forward.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Moving the Toothbrush

I am always one for fresh opportunities. I remember reading a few years ago that as we age we should challenge ourselves a little more each day to keep that vital creative spark going. Sleep on a different side of the bed. Move the toothbrush to the other side of the sink. And suit up and show up if something interests us.

I had a call the other day from an acquaintance.

"Would you be interested in a few hours of a different type of work from time to time?"

"Well... if it doesn't involve housework, maybe yes."

"The situation is this. You remember my elderly mother?"

"Oh yes! Mabel is delightful!"

"Well, she feels the same about you and she's staying with us now and we need the odd break in town so would you be able to companion her during those times, we would pay you, of course."

"With advance notice I don't see a problem."

"And I should also mention she is showing early signs of Alzheimer's or dementia. This is heart breaking for us all."

"Not a problem, maybe I can read to her, or see what she'd like to do."

Aging fascinates me. I love my elderly friends. What is elderly to me now? Over 80. Mabel is in her late eighties. I know that both physical failing and less mental agility can strike quite suddenly. Days are precious as we age. There are no guarantees.

I am so fortunate I am healthy enough to provide this kind of service. I even thought of a business name "Elders for Elders". Many have told me that most young minders can't relate at all to elder needs. And I want to learn. About me.

Yes, moving the toothbrush. I think I can do it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Power of One and Social Networking

Brandon Field is a young teacher in Newfoundland.

This is what he wrote in Facebook to Loblaws, a national grocery chain in Canada:

An open letter to Loblaws:

I am writing this letter as a customer, a schoolteacher, and a concerned member of society.

This evening, I was in your Dominion location in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland, when I saw an issue of the Nation
al Enquirer that I found extremely offensive. The cover story for this particular issue is "Best and Worst Beach Bodies." The magazine displays on its cover numerous photos of women with captions such as "Beauty, blubber and cellulite," "Belly disaster" and "Larger than life."

More and more, we are seeing the detrimental effects of bullying in our school system. These magazines, which are displayed prominently at every checkout, are a very real form of bullying. What's more, they further perpetuate the idea that women should have flawless bodies, thereby exacerbating the problem of negative body image, particularly among female youths, but also among all sexes and age groups.

As a schoolteacher, how am I to demonstrate to my students the importance of treating others with respect when everywhere they look society is sending a message to the contrary? I shudder at the thought of my teenage students seeing such magazines at your checkouts, only to question their own bodies.

I am sure that Loblaws has not fully considered the damaging effects that these magazines can have on teenagers, and society as a whole, and that you will agree that they have no place in your stores. I have recently seen many of your ads which promote your community involvement, including one filmed in St. John's. If your company is truly dedicated to making a positive change in the community, then you will act swiftly to remedy this problem. I believe that as a responsible member of the Canadian business community, it is only prudent for your company to remove these negative tabloids from your stores.


Brandon Field
And Loblaws removed the offending magazine from their shelves.
And this went mainstream - here.
Brandon is my hero.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Circles

When I moved to Newfoundland I left old circles of friendship behind. Most of those loving links survived my move, we are in weekly telephone conversations supplemented by emails, FB exchanges and little gifts and cards sent through old fashioned postal services.

My new circle really came to focus when I was planning my annual Nollaig na Mban which will fortuitously fall on the actual date next year, January 6th. I was overwhelmed a little when I realized that I would have to prune the list of everyone I wished to include. Prune. So in my short time out here I've made that many friends? Yes. I had to do the same thing in Toronto, prune the list. That sure brings gratitude to the forefront of my mind. My house can only take so many guests in comfort, though it has crossed my mind to have it in the community hall.

I was at my Book Club's annual pot luck yesterday. This book club has been running for 35 years. For this event we each bring a dish - I  was specifically requested to bring the same as last year which is a cheese ball - a great recipe of mine if anyone wants, just let me know. We exchange wrapped books anonymously - usually the best one we read in the past year outside of the book club choices. Some of our members are part of the St. John's Choir so they prepare and rehearse some harmonized musical pieces which are absolutely incredible. I look around the room and feel so very fortunate that I found this group of intelligent and welcoming book lovers.

The rest of my friends out here I met through my closest Newfoundland friend and her vast circle which I think encompasses all of this island. Seriously. And through my play, of course, and a few through my bill-paying work and the kindness of some of my fellow villagers who worry about my living alone.

All in all I feel very, very grateful that these new circles have included me in their midst. A later in life move could have turned out way, way differently than it has.

And for a gregarious loner such as myself, faced with pruning a list, remarkable.

Newfoundland People, salt sea.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Love and the Beloveds

Can love remain unshakeable and constant?

Or does it occasionally wander off and meander around looking for a new home?

Do we put expectations on the love of another?

Can the love of self be pure and selfish in the best way?

Are we capable of love of others without love of self?

What validates love?

Can love be truly unconditional?

I ponder on this today, the very worst day of my year. When getting out of bed and showering and dressing and eating is truly an accomplishment. Under the covers in bed is where my mind is free to think of her. And think of her. And think of her.

Most of my beloveds I take for granted but never without overwhelming gratitude. They know who they are.

But there are other beloveds who are so very distant -  distant in their disregard and unavailability. But close to my heart. And they know who they are too.  For shared memory doesn't allow the cutting of those intertwining ribbons of love.

And there is never enough of it to go around today.

I put all my energy into reflecting on what I have and not on what I don't have.

It ain't easy.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Long House

This book I just read?

Well, it wasn't a very good book, characters wandered in and out without much rhyme or reason. It was written by a Quebec author, an international best-seller and award winner, highly recommended, but written like she was poorly translated into the Anglaise.  But I persisted.

When I told one of my Quebecois writer friends I was reading this author she had dramatically raised one eyebrow (she does that so well, I wish I did) and said really? as in why waste my time.

I learn something from every single book. Even from this particular one,  though I will not read her again.  But now my curiousity is satisfied and I can say to myself, yeah, I read her, not impressed.

But, and it is a big but, there was one wonderful passage in it that I could strongly relate to:

P261: Living our lives was like living in a long house. We entered as babies at one end, and we exited when our time came. And in between we moved through this one great long room. Everyone we ever met and every thought and action lived in that room with us. Until we made peace with the less agreeable parts of our past, they'd continue to heckle us from way down the long house. And sometimes the really loud obnoxious ones told us what to do, directing our actions, even years later.
Somehow, my life became more manageable when I thought of it as a long house. Yes, sure there are hecklers but also there are some glorious wonderful times that I can glance back at now and again. And grin and do a little skip.

I don't have to stay in bleak December. Now I can run back and be in August 2012 if even for a few moments.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

December Blues

Fog rolling in to my front yard.
Each year it creeps up on me and takes me by surprise.

I'm chugging along, minding my own business when wham, out of nowhere, comes black December. A month I despise.

It wasn't always like this.  Or maybe it was. Every year, it just seems to get a little more bleak, a little more sad as it hoves around the corner and up the driveway and into my house. It's clever. Like a fog. It pours into the corners and stays there. Making faces. Reminding me. I used to drink my way through it. For many, many years now I've "done" it stark raving sober.

This time of the year I see an abused dog in a news story and I bawl my eyes out. That dog in Chicago shot by a policeman? Did my head in.

And babies, hurt babies. Have to jerk past the headline to avoid a catastrophic collapse of my emotions.

Even poor old pregnant Queen Kate in the hospital? Good for a five minute weep. I couldn't care two whigs for the monarchy, But a stranger's pain? Let the floodgates roll away.

My father died in a December. My closest friend of the time did also. In our family car. And worst of all, really, it's my estranged daughter's birthday. She was named for my dead friend. I don't know how many years she's been gone, I deliberately don't count them as the length of the chasm would probably astonish me. And make it worse.

Let me say it loud and clear. I don't like Christmas. I'm not in humbug status, just apathetic about everyone's jolly homes all posted on Facebook with the lights strung everywhere and this year it looks like pink and gold trees - whoa, nelly! - and last minute runs to Walmart for Chinese gifty tat. I like Solstice and would celebrate that in Toronto, but here there is nothing of secularism and paganism. That I can find anyway.

I've nowhere to run away to. One of my clan goes to Egypt every year to escape it. (I know, Egypt?!)
But he manages the annual Great Escape quite well. We discuss the ghosts of Christmas Past together. And there were many. And try to extract a modicum, a soupcon, of happiness out of it all. And can't.

A couple of bahs you might call us. And you're entitled. And chin up and chest out advisories? It just seems to make it worse.

So yeah, I'll let it flatten me like a steamroller.

And the one great cheering thought I have is that I know I am not alone..

Monday, December 03, 2012

Another Wee Treasure Has Landed!

I read. A lot. No teevee by choice can open up one's life.  I hunt for books sometimes. One such was #10 on a list of loves written about here. Today another love dropped into my spanking new mailbox that I can access 24/7 now that the post office has been shut down. It's a little beaten and bruised but a new treasure none the less.

John Millington Synge has been a hero of mine for a long time. One of the most fascinating aspects of his writing has been his detection of the inherent paganism beneath most rural Irish beliefs, particularly in the Aran Islands where he stayed in the summer months of 1898 through 1901. He had been living in Paris and ran into WB Yeats who urged him to further his understanding of the Irish language  by visiting the Aran Islands.

He maintained  a journal on his stays on the islands which was published. Of which I now have a copy, after much hunting.

JM Synge was the playwright of "The Playboy of the Western World" amongst other great works and died far too young of cancer.

This journal has many photos and maps and quotes from the locals and the structure of their daily lives and the cost of lodging and of food. I am finding it utterly riveting.

Listen to this (what he says about Inishmore):
The sense of solitude was immense. I seemed to exist merely in my perception of the waves and of the crying of the birds, and of the smell of the seaweed.
And this: (from a resident of Inishmore):

"Do you see that straight wall of cliff? It is there the fairies do be playing ball in the night, and you can see the marks of their heels when you come in the morning, and three stones they have to mark the line, and another big stone they hop the ball on."

And I leave you with a quote from Padraic Colum, the poet, quoted by JMS in his journal:
"And I knew what you heard and what you saw, 
That left you for a little while withdrawn -
The lonely land, the lonely-crying birds!"

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Gasoline Alley

You can see Ansa in the back, begging the question what fresh hell has ol' Two Legs wrought?
I'm one who lets the small stuff get to her. The big stuff can go fly a kite. But the small stuff drives me around the twist as it slowly masses itself into global proportions.

I felt like an idiot today. Trouble with my second car (Strawbella) which I should never, ever, have kept. I got into the habit of ignoring her in spite of my good friend B's advice to drive her every third day or so.

So today B starts her for me, after inflating one of her tires, and then I go drive her off and next thing I'm without any kind of power at the crossroads with no winter gear on and the leashless dog in the back of it. And no cell phone with me. (You're beginning to see I should never be let out without a minder, right?).

So nice young man stops, and sits with me and sympathizes and says he doesn't know a piston from a battery but would drive me home. Sans dog, as he was driving girlfriend's car, he had taken her car and had snow tires put on it. My dream man.  So Ansa, my dog, watches me pitifully from the back of my car as I drive off with a stranger and leave her at the crossroads.

My friend B comes to the rescue again, picks me up, we drive to the crossroads and he charges up the car and we drive in tandem to my house. I let the car run for 30 minutes, and then shut her off and try and start her again. Fizzle. Nothing.

At this point my knickers are in a knot and the real fretting starts. I would be the neighbour from hell if I troubled B again. The CAA would come but it could be all hours by the time they got here and I didn't like their rep. the last time, a shyster. My brain rambles all around me, picking up fluff here, dropping it there. So I direct message B on FB, confessing to moronic/imbecilic/cretinous status for stopping the car and could he boost me again tomorrow?

B calls. Tells me he is on his way. He will keep my car overnight in his shed and charge up the battery over 14 hours. Then we will know if the battery needs replacing. Or not. No problem. No big deal. Nothing.

But an absolutely staggeringly big deal to me. I was about to be crushed by this one tiny piece of small stuff.

Worries, like I said before, never happen.