Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Some of you may recall Mabel the Maple that Hurricane Leslie knocked right over, roots and all. Just about out of the ground. Dead. Her branches were sawn off and as the job was being finished, Mabel rose again and settled back into the vast hole left by her uprooting. So I left her there to dry out so that Craig, a local furniture maker, could make a lovely outside bench from her. She would live on. But Mabel has taken matters into her own hands and as you can see from the picture, festooned herself in leaves and mini-branches. It takes my breath away.

I think of her as I take my morning quiet time and do some readings and reflection and yes, meditation, on the power of life and rejuvenation, adaptation and change. For that is life, n'est pas?

Ruts and routine can be deadly, stultifying the spirit, filling us with anxiety and the entrapment of addictions and thoughtless consumerism.

Mabel keeps teaching me. I can hardly wait to see what she does next.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

This says it all, right?

I find it hard to find the words sometimes. Those who know me would laugh. I am never at a loss for words. But sometimes my emotions overwhelm me when my dreams come true. Like writing and directing and touring my play. And writing for newspapers and magazines. And having my photos on published calendars. I could go on. Today was one of those days. I am still in shock that I completed 10 miles. 10 Miles.

I had started out this particular journey just trailing along the shore with the dog. Then extending my range. Slowly but surely. Varying it. Doing some hill work.

All culminating in today.

Two of my friends showed up in the final mile and hand-maidened me in to the Finish Line. That meant the world to me. And then we all cried. And cried. Sometimes tears without words are enough.

Thanks for all the good wishes and virtual support out there on the interwebz. And to those of you who are also my FB friends.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hair Today, Shorn Tomorrow

For those of us who loved the musical "Hair"

I wish I'd had a camera. To take pictures of the mountains of hair in the room. The Head Room that is. Voted # 1 hair salon in Canada at some point.

I gave this a lot of thought. And sought out no one else's opinion on this momentous change I was making to my own head. My hair was down to my waist and worn basically in a bun all the time. A bun is not conducive to walk training. And to wash this hair was beginning to aggravate me. Combing it out. Drying it. Not that the thickness was there anymore. I was losing my long hair at a really frightening rate. And the pins holding it up were hurting me.

So I mulled things over for about a week. And thought to myself, find an expert on older heads, pay the money - you old cheapskate you, and get a proper job done.

And I did. My original suggestion of wanting a Helen Mirren was met with disbelief but fortunately not with outright laughter. I can be sensitive. Squelch that fantasy under my left trainer. She requested I leave it to her. She hacked the first bunch of hair off me before she washed it. Customers and other staff (the Head Room is in a very old house in St. John's, full of fireplaces and nooks and crannies and staircases, I just love the place) visited the mounds of hair on the floor and gasped rather gratifyingly at what I had shed.

The end of the two hour session had me seriously admiring myself. I was delighted with my hair colour (no colour assists, we decided my natural colour was rather beautiful)and the cut was short, not too short, but completely manageable and falls nicely, thank you very much, even without blow-drying or painstaking styling for which I've never had the time or even a faint desire to make the time.

The very best, the absolute very best, was when I met a bunch of friends for dinner and when I walked into the pub they all went "Oh. My. God. - you've knocked 10 years off yerself!"

I'm obviously not quite ready to crone out just yet.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stark. Naked. Fear

(I couldn't resist this photo, the chap looked exactly like him which added to my fear.)

I was out road-training today. Ansa would be part of the scene but the other day - she is one hell of a smart dog - at about 2k outward bound, she sat down and looked at me. I got it. 4k is roughly her limit even though I had pushed her a few weeks ago to 7k. So today I pushed her to about 5. Put her back in the car in the shade. And toddled off to do another 6k+ by myself.

And then it happened. At about 2k into this dogfree portion, he came marching out of the bush just ahead of me, a gun over his arm. And for, what, 10 seconds? 20 seconds? My heart pounded in fear. I thought I would pass out. Seriously. And he waited for me. And through my head ran: you deliberately choose busy roads for your solo walks. Cars are passing all the time. You can attack him with your car key up his nose. How long does it take to load a gun, it doesn't look loaded. Is he aggressive? What the hell is he doing out here? And on.

"I thought I saw a caribou, where would I get a caribou?" he said to me without even the barest of greetings. An American accent.

Internal debate. Caribou shooting is a no-no. As a matter of fact this is not hunting season for anything apart from trout.

"I don't know," I said carefully, "And I'm training for a coming race so I need to keep moving, OK?"

"Ha-ha," he said helpfully, "You're going to get yourself killed on this busy road."

Heart stoppage once more as I pass him. I await the click of the gun. Does he mean by him?

No click, just an innocuous whistle.

I am safe once more.

It has been a long, long time since I felt this naked fear. A man walks out of the bush. And the world stops for a minute.

Does a woman on her own ever feel safe?

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Hardest Battle is with Ourselves.

Odd this. I was expecting the final call. And it came today.

I had planned this road race for a while now. And others - three and by their own choices - were joining me. It had been on my bucket list for a while.

I had some issues with my right foot. A deep burning in the right sole. But I recalled I had a similar issue in my running days. My podiatrist said it was a deep callous, even from childhood, and I thought of my days running shoeless on Sherkin Island in West Cork. Us kids would take off our shoes at the beginning of the summer and not put them back on until safely re-ensconced in the city once more.

It felt amazingly good to just be back in the racing fraternity (I use the term extremely loosely, racing being relative for an elder 'n all that!), going to my running store, discussing socks and sweats and being measured and walk-tested for new trainers, etc. I hadn't expected that renewed vigour and joy. And amidst the train-walking I found myself jogging a little from time to time. A huge surprise. Added to that was the honking and cheering from the passing village cars as I road-trained. Seriously.

And I can't say I was surprised that the co-racers were dropping out. Maybe I'm a pessimist at heart. One had completely underestimated what 10 miles was. Another had a leg issue. But there were still 2 of us in it. And we trained together a bit but mostly alone due to domicile distance. But I always felt she was going to back away even though she assured me she was in it, guaranteed. So I got the call today a blah-blah-blah call.

Expected as I said. But nevertheless.

I am struggling mentally with doing the race completely alone. Other festivals are on which demand the previously committed supporters' attention.

So the battle is with myself. And it's scary.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Outport Stories

I knew he wanted to speak with me. I'd been taking pictures of the area, it was a stunning day yesterday. I loved the brooding boats both tied up and skating the ocean. I was saddened by this outport, its fishplant falling into the ocean, a once picture-perfect village in a tragedy of disrepair. A house dominating the small harbour showed signs of a bad fire, a nasty change since the last time I was there in the fall.

He was sitting on a little porch of a trim green house watching me. As people with a lot of time on their hands and no inner resources can do - falling into the habit of monitoring the ins and outs of cars and boats and people from their small patch of turf.

I nodded at him and said lovely day and moved on. Away from the harbour, up to the breakwaters. This place can be rough in winter with the full Atlantic's power heaving and devouring all in its path.

I snapped pictures. I take a lot. I always do. There can be a gem among a hundred shots. Or not. And I threaded my way back across the barrens and down into the village again. He had moved. He was now sitting across the road from his deck in the shade of the collapsing fish plant on an old picnic table. He looked ready for action.

I stopped. He was practically frothing with curiosity.

"Haven't seen you around before?" was his opening gambit.

I filled him in on where I came from, when I moved to Canada, when I took the giant leap to live in Newfoundland. Who built the house I inhabited now, a name he approved of. Our tenuous connection. He was happy, he took a while to mull it over. He had something to share over his tea today.

"And you?" I asked,"And where do you live?"

He pointed up to the burnt house. I could sense the story bursting inside him, waiting to be told. I sat down at the picnic table, a silent command putting the dog underneath it in the shade, placing the camera beside me. All ears.

It was December, just before Christmas. He smelled it before he saw it, sitting as he was at his kitchen table reading the Telegram. He thought it was somewhere else as he had electric everything, got rid of the old Enterprise with its constant need for wood and attention. He carried on reading until the smoke drifted in, he thought he'd left a window open so got up off the chair and went out to the hall and found himself engulfed in flames and couldn't reach the door to open it.

"You never know where a doorknob is when you're choking from smoke and blinded from fire."

It felt like an eternity for him to find the melted doorknob and push back the bolt and open the door. By then he was engulfed in flames and had to roll on the ground, screaming in agony.

And then he passed out and woke up in the burn unit of the hospital.

"Six months," he said, "I only just got out of the hospital. Now I'm going to show you my body, well, you know, only the parts I can show a lady."

And he took off his shirt and it was horrifying. I couldn't count the skin grafts on his arms and back and chest. I was shaken. And astonished he was alive to tell the tale.

"Do you know what caused the fire?" I asked.

"Well, the forenzas were out here and investigimated it all and couldn't find the reasons for it in spite of all their fancy 'quipment and best brains in the land. Electrical. It had to be. I don't smoke - though, lard, if you'd seen me on fire I did enough smokin' for a lifetime that evenin'."

In the last week or so, people have been telling me stories like never before. As I was writing this, a retired handsome (seriously good-looking - hurray! I'm not dead yet!) villager pulled up in my driveway, ostensibly to talk about high-speed and radio stations but it only took about five minutes before he'd told me four fascinating stories, including some from his own life.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


We trek along together,
Seniors. She and I.
She loves the irises.
Always has.

Sticks her nose in.
Asks me to do the same.
I oblige. She is pleased.
She's trained me well.

See, she's easy to please.
I just have to get up.
And she's joyful.
Bounding to greet the day.

Every day is her birthday.
Mine too. When she's in it.
If only I were the kind of person
She thinks I am. Maybe.

Take a bow (wow)
My gorgeous girl.

Perfect Moments

A long line fishing: women, men, children, rods high.
The fish are biting. The creels are full.
Gannets dive deep into the water, competing.
Wild roses everywhere. Breathe.
Perfumed air.

The loons call their loneliness
Into the slipping sun.
The dog paddles into the water, sniffing.
I watch the raven black crows smash
Crabs on the rocks.
The seagulls taught them this.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Just One Housekeeping Rule

I don't know whether I've passed this one on before. But seriously, I only have one housekeeping rule. I come from a long maternal line of non-housekeepers. There was, and is, always something far, far better to do than clean a house which, come to think of it, is like an avaricious beast and will want cleaning again before you know it. Like a heroin addict.

I live by this: "A clean house is a sign of a wasted life." And let me tell you, I proudly carry this banner high.

But there are matters of hygiene and manoeverability and not wanting to be the feature of the week on Hoarders Unlimited, right?

So I pass along the tip that has saved me:

Entertain once a month.

That's all there's to it. It encourages the pickup of the creeping book pile, the re-shelving of shoes, a non-disgusting bathroom, table linens hauled out and milk put into jugs and kinda-matching cutlery on the table. And oh yes, uncovering the actual table underneath another book-pile and the clean casserole platters that weren't put away from the last monthly fiesta. And the knitting put back into the knitting basket. And the placing about, casual like, of the pots of wild flowers and candles and a bit of that nice incense from Free Tibet Now! and a review of some recipes.

I clean up so good.

And yes, lunch today was absolutely lovely with my friends. Three hours of it. And I used (adapted) recipes from two of my blog-buddies and a couple of my own.

I pass this splendid tip along to you. Free.

Reactive housekeeping in its finest hour.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


"Swimming in the sea of me". Now where did I hear that phrase. Sometimes it's inevitable though, pain climbs up the backside and throws its hands around my eyes, blocking out the light, the love and yes, hope.

And then I get catapulted into the lives of others. And that happened yesterday with the floods in Toronto and worry about Daughter and Grandgirl and their well-being which expanded into a discussion about climate change and Daughter's activism which involves death threats. Yes. And no more can I say about that without imperilling her. She is very brave, is Daughter. So she was on the one landline in her house that worked, in a corner of her dining room plugged into the old fashioned jack on the wall with all the power out in the city, the vast immobilized city. Note to others: always make sure you have a real honest to goodness landline somewhere in your home. And yes, like her, a windup radio or one with batteries.

So my sadness about my particular roadblock rolled off me and afterwards, I was able to package it up and file it under "unsolvable mysteries of life" and move on. I slept last night, all night, for the first time in maybe weeks. And yes, I feel good today, not dragging the old butterama around, muttering darkly to the dog about misunderstandings and casual cruelties and raw rejection by loved ones.

And a new friend called and asked me about East Coast Trailing. We found each other! I had always wanted to hike with a companion on the East Coast Trail. Another item on the bucket list. It's not something one does alone as parts of it are dangerous and visions of lying helpless, broken-legged, at the bottom of a cliff for a couple of weeks stopped my solitary explorations right in their tracks. I may be foolhardy but I can be surprisingly mature when it comes to personal risk-taking - much to my own astonishment.

Another catapult. Bring them on.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

A Candle and a Coffee and a Journal.

I took these three things in hand tonight and headed up to the Tigeen at the crest of the hill behind my house. I was feeling terribly sad. Loss does this.

We have smog from the awful Labrador and Quebec wildfires which has drifted downward from there, many kilometres. It makes of the bay a magical place. Headlands disappear and the sun does strange things, peeking outwards from the smog and hiding again. A golden glow washes the water followed by a pink bath. Nothing is clear. If I were a painter I would set up an easel right there on the wee deck of the Tigeen and get cracking. As it was, I lit the candle and wrote in my journal. Of grief and loss and what it does to the insides, how it bathes everything in uncertainty, much like the drifting smoke that travelled so far south with the winds and the breezes and the currents of the ocean. Who is to peek inside another's heart?

I came back down to the main house and shared a few bits on Facebook, about the awful fiery explosions in Quebec from the train wreck, loaded with fracked oil. So many dead or missing. Perspective.

And then an old friend from Ontario called. Late-ish. And in the way of dear old friends, soothed my spirit, patted me down, reassured me of my value to her. I so needed that. And I told her so.

Solitude can sometimes be a fearsome thing.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Blog Jam

I bring you an iris from my walkabout the other day.

Sometimes old clich├ęs - tried and true wee sayings - keep me going when everything else seems to fail.

Focus on what works and not on what doesn't is the mantra of the moment.

I've been doing that lately. A lot. It staves off depression that keeps banging on my door. Depression over stuff that doesn't work. Family shyte as I term it. Puzzling and powerful and wounding and awful and unfathomable at times.

So what's working?

Leo cleaned out my chimney. Leo whipper-snipped the meadow and around the trees. He was off in his own wee world for a while and I was beginning to think I should get a sheep. Or a goat. Sometimes I think I've got too much land. And then he defugues himself and I come home to a sparkling chimney and outside haircuts on all the grass.

Some new friends and I ploughed the Rennie's River Trail yesterday. It was wonderful. I didn't know the city of St. John's had this magical hidden path running through it. We walked up hill and down dale in this fairy tale setting. Waterfalls, flowers, all kinds of blossoming trees and wildlife.

Daughter calls with good news of full steam ahead in the disposal of her Toronto house and her potential move of her base of operations to here. And Grandgirl's annual flight out here is booked for September (she's a working student now).

And tonight, an old friend, this makes me choke up, thanked me for saving his life three years ago. And meant it. He had severe depression and was suicidal and all I did was listen. And understand. And share some of my own flirtations with death with him. Sometimes we don't know when we're helping people, do we? All that's needed is time. And a willing ear. And compassion. He made my year so far. I had no idea of how close he was as what he didn't tell me that night was about the hose he had stashed in the trunk of his car. And ending it all that very night once I had left.

I need to stay focussed on these positive items at the moment as other stuff, that I can do absolutely nothing about, is trying to send me over the edge.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Whoa Nelly!

I think to myself: a general pall of subtle insanity surrounds me. And it is delightful. I don't feel so alone in my head anymore -a dangerous neighbourhood at the best of times and I try not to go in there by myself.

There's this guy. I won't breach his privacy by snapping a picture of him but twice a day he strides busily by my place with an empty large knapsack on his back. He's in his fifties, I would estimate. Someone said he's the mad son of a village elder. He walks "to stop the noise."

Then there's the yacht owner. There are a few around here but this particular guy? He has a little rowboat sitting on the beach in front of my house and there's ALWAYS something wrong with his yacht. It untethers itself. It skews around. The mast falls down. One time it turned right over. The owner is a strange guy. Quite unfriendly. He spends all his time in the rowboat, rowing back and forth to his big boat and fixing something. Tarps, sails, masts, jibs, it's a full time job. And he never sails the thing. But his arms are quite shapely from all the rowing.

Then there's my bird-feeder. Have you ever seen crops inside a bird feeder? Well now you have - take a look.

A miasma of small town lunacy like a mist around me.

I fit right in.