Sunday, May 29, 2016


I didn't think I could have fun again, so much loss my dears. So much I didn't write about the half of it, it sounded like so much fiction. Like a fantastical situation, my gawd, you'd say, the woman has to be exaggerating. So I didn't. I just carried it. Sometimes not so bravely. Under covers. Not functioning too well. Performing life, one might say. Knowing life will never be the same again is a huge adjustment. Knowing that those who purportedly love you absolutely do not.

And then this little one walks into my life in a hell of a mess. I've written about her here and here.

And the fun starts to happen. She is dyslexic but has a photographic memory so if she's seen something once, her memory stores it. Very handy in a store where I was looking for a small fan for a bedroom and she whizzed off and came back with one small white convertible one and I said "perfect". And we laughed. And she got her hair streaked foiled today for the first time in her life and she looks amazing. And she bought stuff for her kids and a big rosebush for her mother and a special halogen light bulb for her father ("how do you know which one?" - "my photographic memory!"). And she was so full of joy and gratitude and just plain into life that I realized that for the last week or so, some huge black heavy object has been lifted from my heart. And it's all due to her pushing me out of my own misery and she wouldn't even be aware of that. She connected me with fun again.

I see the world through her eyes and she's funny and talky even though her life story would make you cry for her. She doesn't cry for herself.

I hope she makes it. I truly do. And so far so good at 2 weeks and 2 days.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

By the Lake/That They May Face the Rising Sun

I'm just about winding up reading "By the Lake" a novel by John McGahern. Like some other readers of this book I am putting off reading the last few pages as I just want to savour, more slowly, the language. The unspoken words lying underneath.

Like this - from the loss of a tiny newborn lamb on the small holding of the main protagonist and his wife, Ruttledge and Kate:

P283 "It was as if the black lamb reached back to other feelings of love and disappointment and gathered them into an ache that was out of all proportion to the small loss."

P234".....ran the sense, like an underground river, that there would come a time where these days would be looked back on as happiness, all that life could give of contentment and peace."

P141 "But how can time be gathered in and kissed? There is only flesh."

As I read his scrumptiously detailed writing about the ordinary local doings and the comings and goings of characters and seasonal changes, I find memories resurface, my words more fine tuned as I explore some poetry I'm writing, richer ideas for stories. For there are no plotlines to many of his works, it's all in his observations, of the lake, of candlelight, of sun and shadow and rain and most of all the complexity beneath the surface of his characters.

This book was John McGahern's swan song. He was dying of cancer at the time he wrote it. His other books and short stories are dark, with threads of anger and hopelessness until the characters escape from the savagery of rural Ireland, unsuccessful in the hiding of their scars.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

She says

She says to me once we finished dinner together in a restaurant:

"I've never eaten at a restaurant with a friend in my whole life. I like this. There's no pressure."

She insists on paying.

As she gets into my car, she says, "I know you're supposed to tip. I didn't know what to tip. Was $50 OK for her? The bill was $36.00."

She says: "I've nowhere to hide my pills. My mother steals every pill from everyone. Even her own mother's and my father's. And I need my liver pills. What do I tell the doctor?" (the truth)

She says: "You're like a therapist. I never knew how to talk to people without yelling or blaming until I met you."

She says:" I'll miss my kids' first haircuts." And starts to cry. I let her.

Her mother calls.

I hear the mother yelling about pills. She doesn't care how her daughter procures them. Get her pills now. She doesn't want me to hear. She's embarrassed.

Then she says: "I hate going home. She'll attack me for pills once I walk through the door. She'll go on and on about how she gave birth to me in pain and I owe her. I never want to speak to my daughter that way. Never."

And she doesn't cry this time but holds herself a little more stiffly in the car.

And I think: We are so privileged. We have absolutely no idea what hell others face on an hourly basis.

I love this wee woman as if she were my own.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Life Lessons from Knitting

Knitting has taught me so much about life. I'm currently working on an afghan (sofa blanket) for a dear friend who has been so good to me.

The other day I discovered an error in it and I'm a little OCD when it comes to knitting so I immediately ripped down the four stitches to the error, corrected the problem and moved on. Not so fast. For I soon discovered that two stitches had gone AWOL.

There was nothing for it but to rip down all the rows and then reknit the entire problematic row again. And the two missing stitches magically reappeared with innocent faces on them.

Which put me in mind of relationships, how some are irreparable – they can't be patched up and oftentimes they have to be taken right down to the foundation and assessed to see if they can be rebuilt. Challenging.

Sometimes a design on paper can be beautiful but in practical application can be a disaster. All the kinks have to be ironed out, often with a practice run. It's far better to find out early in the game if something's not going to work than to invest time, effort and dreams into a project that is destined to fail.

It is best to concentrate on the project at hand. At times, my mind drifts off to the next project which is always more exciting than the one in my hands and that's where I make mistakes, cabling (twisting) the pattern the wrong way, forgetting plain rows and purling like a mad thing, forgetting to insert a key element like a heart or a piece of lacework.

Before, I would tell you that knitting is nothing, anybody can do it. Today I recognise, like all creative endeavours, it is something that comes from my heart, my soul, my spirit. It nurtures me, slows me down.

As I knit, I think, with love, of the people I am knitting for. A gift of time and memories as I run the needles back and forth. Most of the projects I complete and gift take well over 100 hours of my time around the rest of the busy-ness of my life. I weave in the sounds of birds, the ocean, the blue sky, the fire, people who bide with me a while and stroke the knitting and yes, always, my hopes and dreams for the giftee.

For I've only ever knitted for people I love.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nota Bene

I'm a meticulous note-taker. Throw me into a meeting and I've got the "stuff" - note pad, a few varied coloured pens (partial to purple and green am I), a highlighter or two. What throws me off and brings out my inner kindergartner is when those who are not as organized ask for pages out of my notebook and borrow my pens or scratch words, with my highlighters on pages ripped from my notebook.

My note-taking all falls down in the execution of course. Because I have this ongoing fantasy that I can remember every icky bicky thing and what I'm supposed to do before the next meeting. What truly galls me are those who scribble one word notes to themselves with my gear and at the next meeting and with their to do list completed, will remind me what I had agreed to do for this one. What happened, did I forget? Of course not. Just deferred. Ahem.

You have no idea how often I'm caught unawares by this false assumption that my memory is remarkable. Well it is if you want me to recall the day I rode my first bike or the mornings I went rabbit hunting at the age of 4 with my grandfather. But last month?

There really is no further space for new files in the recesses of my brain.

I have to break down and haul out the notes and fumble over them and tick when completed.

I hope I remember to do that.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Nice Ran Away

It always takes me unawares. I'm cruising along, calendar a little too full as it nearly always is - Type A personality what can I say? - and I come to a complete halt. Almost paralyzed. It happened yesterday. I had a full day scheduled for today where I had to speak at a small annual retreat, prepare a pot luck dinner (orange-coconut-curry chicken over rice, my usual go-to potlucky thingie)gather a few items for a raffle, pack a lunch, select something half decent to wear and Bobbie's your aunt. Nothing to it.

So I get home around 7 yesterday. I forgot to mention there's a visiting book club plus guests coming on Monday for a lunch and discussion and about 26 already booked. So I had agreed to do the crab wraps for that (another go-to, cream cheese, seafood cocktail sauce, green onions, shredded lettuce, crab)AND bake a couple of my orange cranberry loaves. AND I agreed to take my new friend on a small trip on Sunday, I could work the food prep in around that, forgetting about the exhausting Saturday that would have wrung me out by then.

As I said, I got home about 7 and just the thought of all this activity made me collapse on my bed, feeling like a complete and absolute failure at life. And I slept. For about 2 hours. Refreshed when I got up? Hell, no. Distraught is a good word. I started in on what I had to do (there was an early start of 7.30am on Saturday's packed day which would run late - the after dinner candle lit discussion runs to 9 pm - and it was then I realized I'd misplaced my Nice. Nice ran away on Friday sometime. It was an overwhelming week for Nice. Committee meetings, newsletter, agenda planning, more event planning, editing (that never seems to end)and oh lawd yes, PGs staying for 2 days until this past Thursday where my output of Nice (and breakfasts!) had to be cubed if I wanted a pay-packet.

So awful as I felt, I canned out on today's relentless demands on Nice. Guilt? You don't know the half of it.

I need to plan the calendar a little better. Schedule some recuperation times. My health needs to be respected as frankly, it hasn't been that great for a while now. But I hate talking about that.

When you're greedy for life, as I am, how do you plan downtimes when all forward events collide and you want to be everywhere at once?

Monday, May 09, 2016

Canada. Our Hearts Burst with Pride.

I woke up this morning feeling the most incredible sense of pride for my country and it's people.

As a portion of it burns and it's people run for their lives with only the clothes on their back. Like refugees in their own province.

As people lose everything and have to drive by their burning lives. Confused, scared and desperate to escape.

They do the unthinkable....

They help others.

They throw their own belongings to the ground to make room for those stranded on the side of the road.

They open their homes and businesses for strangers in need.

They walk for miles down a highway with a gas can while people are stuck in traffic asking 'who needs gas.'

They fight a monster for hours on end, all the while knowing they have no home to go home to.

Almost 90 000 incredible people were evacuated from ‪‎Fort McMurray‬ in less than 24 hours. With NOT one story of violence, looting or price gouging against their fellow man.

Instead they shared what little they had, made sure everyone had a safe place to sleep or a shoulder to cry on.

As a country we have won many medals, trophies and honors the world over and it always gives us a sense of pride.

But this...this situation...there is no prize here. No medals coming for these people. The real heroes don't wear capes.

To the incredible people of Alberta and the entire country coast to coast, I Thank You. For reminding us all what it means to be an amazing and a true Canadian.

Dee Brun Gow

And - so many animals on this flight out of Fort Mac, they shared cabin space with humans.

Photo courtesy CBC

Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Festering Village

Village by the Sea - Maurice Prendergast

I wrote about Annie before. Here. Mr. Stan took off on us. Village life became too much and he now lives with his daughter about 60k from here. I miss him. Annie's had a few bouts of bad health. Enough to get her a home care worker every morning. Annie lived in a hoarder's paradise which you can read about in the Mr. Stan link. That's all gone by the wayside now as the homecare worker won't allow it. Her daughter comes by and takes pictures of Annie sitting in her uncluttered hell, idly passing the time away watching teevee with nothing to keep her hands busy. She would litter every surface and table and counter with junk. Her food was put in bags on the floor. Her basement was a fire hazard. Now everything sparkles nakedly and people visit and can sit down and have a cuppa.

This new Annie has to find other ways to entertain herself. And she has.

Her son is in a hell hole of a marriage. You'd have to meet his wife, Pammie, to understand it as she could be certified. For example, she's leery of me (that's another story)but she does call me periodically. A few days ago, for example, she called and without salutation said: "What are you going to do about my 9 kittens?" It turns out there are 9 kittens in her shed and she's already got 4 adult cats in her house. Around here in the FV, very few get their animals neutered. If I wouldn't take one or two or three, she threatened, she was going to drown them. The older I get the more firm I am. Not my circus and certainly not my monkeys kittens. Sorry as I am, pained as I am, I tell her to keep phoning others after she responds to my question about the SPCA. They couldn't give a damn, she says. Cats are overrunning the island, thanks in no small part to her and her ilk. Our town dump alone has about 40 feral cats running around.

So recently Annie's son, Jude, husband of Pammie, hooks up with his high school sweetheart and they are madly in love. So where do they hang out when together? In Annie's house. Overnighters. They even have parties with accordions and dancing with everyone invited. And Pammie? she hates her mother-in-law so she'd never go near the place.

But she complains around the whole village that Jude spends far too much time taking care of his mother now.

While the whole village knows the truth.

And this is just one slice of a story out of hundreds.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

I remember

Her name was Mrs. Hoare. She looked about 90 and she taught First Class (Grade 1). Now who'd forget a name like that?

I was six. Fresh out of the country and into a suburban school in Cork. An old national school once part of a village until urban sprawl had incorporated it. A smelly old school. Thick walls, uncertain heating system, we were always cold. Even in the spring.

We'd practise hymns. We were all getting ready for our First Communion and the RC church ran the schools, the hospitals, the orphanages, the old age homes and us.

Six. And we sang of hell fire and redemption and saints who died for Jesus.

And one of the girls, in a class of about 40, vomited all over the floor as we stood there singing.

And Mrs. Hoare?

Well, she flew into a rage. The priest was expected shortly to examine us all and make sure we were fit to confess our dreadful sins and be accepted, in our bridal dresses and veils, into the kingdom of the parish and thereafter heaven, if we did what we were told. You may laugh at the Taliban but Ireland is, was, and always will be a trendsetter in that regard.

And Geraldine Barry had the gall, the brazen brass of her, to throw up all over the wooden floor.

And Mrs. Hoare said we were all going to make up for this unforgiveable sin in the eyes of Jesus. We would all suffer along with Geraldine and stare at that filthy floor all day and learn of our mistakes, our evil natures. With the priest coming.

And he did. And the smell in that room was appalling. And little Geraldine, her freckles stood out like raindrops on her little white face. She hung on to the desk with her eyes downcast, tears trickling off her chin and on to her shoes. I can still see her page-bob hair, she had lovely bangs, we called it a fringe back then. None of the rest of us had fringes, they were too expensive to maintain. Good haircuts cost money and fathers made you look like a boy if you let them loose on your head with your brothers' hair trimming equipment.

When the priest saw the mess on the floor, he left the room, the smell was pretty bad then, permeating everything. I remember using all my energy to battle the rising bile in my stomach, biting my lower lip down so hard my teeth left marks.

He came back with a bucket of sawdust and threw it all over the mess. We were all still standing there shaking, as our mothers had bought our First Communion dresses. My mother had made mine. She got a gift of cream silk damask from a priest who still loved her but now lived in Egypt. I didn't know that story until I was old enough to talk unrequited love with her but he sent me a pendant in the post too, a non-Catholic one with a little hinged door on the front of it where I put my Granny's sixpence.

So what would happen if Father Sheehan now punished us by cancelling our big First Communion Day? Our mothers would be raging.

He chatted briefly with Mrs. Hoare and muttered something about her good job in teaching us all a valuable lesson in respect for property.

He fired off a couple of solid questions at us along the lines of: Who made the world? And we all chanted back at him: God made the world, fadder. And then he left us all to our vomit and sawdust.

And one month later little Geraldine of the perfect fringe and freckles was dead. Of meningitis.

The first funeral I was ever at.

She wore her gorgeous First Communion Dress as she lay in her white casket.