Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Comfort of Lunacy

I've mentioned before I have this kind of face. Total strangers come up to me and confide secrets:sadness, joy and everything in between.

I was at the deli section of my local grocery story today. I love how delis have adapted to aging single people. Love how I can get a 1/2 cooked chicken for $5. Local and kinda organic too. I wonder about their demise as chicken catcher jobs are frequently advertised in the local papers. I envision these lithe young people hoisting butterfly nets and chasing unwilling birds around the green fields of our enormous local chicken farm giving me the illusion of chickens with a sporting chance of escape. But I digress.

This old man stood beside me and asked me how my eyes were. I said grand. He asked me to read him some labels off the 1/2 price deli items. I obliged. It truly astonishes me the number of old people I know who refuse to wear their glasses or have inadequate contact lenses. I read for them a lot. Large store banners, worrisome traffic signs, library book spines, etc. But I digress again.

OM: Oh I could tell you my life story.
Me: Really? (not really interested, want to get home)
OM: I used to be a train driver on the Newfoundland Railways.
Me: Seriously? (I love railways, old abandoned, spanking new, riding the rails has been a joyful part of my life, he's got me)
OM:Yes, I was a train driver for 35 years, could tell you the names of all the little stations on the route. And then I was a worker here in Sobey's, a meat cutter for 25 years. See I know all the people in the butchering department (and he waves at them). I was forced to retire at 65, not too long ago. I loved my job.
Me:Interesting life indeed (having done the math on his life, I realized he was around 5 when he took over the trains of Newfoundland).
OM: You don't know the half of it. I also played banjo with Great Big Sea and I was featured on CBC with these artistic key rings.

And without a pause, he hauls out of his pockets a series of shortened bicycle chains with small key rings attached to their ends.

OM:See, they're works of art. Individual pieces. A lot of work. After the CBC show I sold 10,000 of them.
Me: Oh well done! Now my husband's waiting for his supper so I have to leave you, goodbye!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Rear View Mirror

An old journal survived in another box. From well over 30 years ago. I don't know does anything good come out of this sorting through old crap thing at all. I started reading it and it was so compulsive I didn't stop until half way through and found myself teetering on the edge of an abyss.

I realized I was reading about an undiagnosed nervous breakdown I had. It was awful stuff. Heartbreaking too. Do all of us suffer, in the past, from such dark nights of the soul/spirit? I frankly don't know how I survived as I wrote about suicide and death so frequently and I was still in my thirties. Briefly: I had unexpectedly got fired from a career position. At the same time my former husband was having an affair and missing from home frequently. One of my kids had quit school and was on drugs. I was flat broke, pennies in the bank, no energy even to lift the phone and hire a labour lawyer as my self esteem was in the toilet. I can tell from the writing how I had rejected friendships, anyone reaching out to me. I must have been a one note samba, full of lament and hopelessness. Everyone stopped calling and that's how I wanted it. Isolation, fear, poverty. I certainly didn't let my family of origin know - in hindsight probably a very good thing - and I was nursing a seriously infected leg without medical attention. And oh yes, drinking heavily. I must have been an alarming sight. Well to anyone showing up on my doorstep and actually seeing me for I didn't answer my door. Or my phone. Or open my mail.

My father arrived in the midst of all this unbelievable mess. He never showed how distressed he was. He asked to see my leg. I cried at him: no doctors, no hospital and he showed me how to treat it with salt and sunshine. He assured me it wasn't cancer (my mother had malignant melanoma and died after multiple amputations, I was sure I was following in the same path). He took me out for walks every night, long walks along rivers and lakes and on one weekend to the art gallery in Kleinburg to look at Group of Seven paintings for hours. I had forgotten all of this. He must have been disturbed and scared at my condition but he never let on. By action and deed he showed me he was on my side.

My leg healed with a big scar. My mind took another couple of years before I was good and ready to deal with my alcoholism.

Last night I couldn't sleep (and I sleep well today and for many, many years) as my thoughts raced over again and again that absolutely awful, terrifying time when I felt death nudging at my door every hour of the day and I would succumb to the cold comfort of that bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair.

Sometimes we need to glance briefly in the rear view mirror but staring in it for too long can be a very dangerous visit to the dark side.

Can anyone relate?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Memento Mori

I thought I had destroyed all mementos of the relationship. Truly. I did that with most of my romantic history. A few photos remain, maybe. But all letters and emails and tokens of a once seemingly profound and everlastin' love were tossed, burned or otherwise disposed of.

I don't know whether I regret this or not. I believe there is something oddly pathetic about clutching dried roses and love-cards to one's bosom in old age. As if that was all that mattered about one's life when there is so much more. Often in solitude but also involving deep and abiding friendships.

Anyway, this fell out of a box of photos, don't know why it survived because the other 27 were destroyed I think, but I'll tell you the story behind it. I was away for a month in Ireland. But before I left, my lover handed me a package of sealed notes, one for every day of the month I would be away.

It was 1997. And yes, he was my last great love.

Well, its Tuesday
I wonder where you'll be
I wish I was there with you seeing you do your party pieces, hearing you sing, enjoying the vitality, the fun, the warmth, the excitement.
I'll be missing you terribly.
But I know you'll soon be coming back and I have all the wonderful memories
of moments shared
magical feelings
incredible passion
but above all the joy and peace of mutual love.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Vox Arboribus (The Voice of Trees)

On the same day I receive an email from a friend:
"Wanted to share this with you. I’m a willow, I spread many roots, have a tangle of branches that dance in the wind, more leaves light and airy than most which suits me fine, in spring my colour is lime like, just in time to fall I silver ever so slightly and occasionally I’m not afraid to say I am a weeping willow! What tree be you my friend? Today I friended a sugar maple, a poplar and a silver birch!"

From a previous post:
"So Lana, upstairs in the cabin, made friends with this enormous tree outside of one of her windows. She'd come down in the mornings and tell me about the movements of the tree, how it was reacting to the sun (light and shadow, ever changing) and how the rustling sound of it soothed her thoughts and kept her present in the moment. The tree was speaking to her every day."

I texted Lana this:
"When we have learned how to listen to trees,” Hermann Hesse wrote in contemplating what our arboreal companions can teach us about belonging and life, “then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”

This is one of the pines outside my window. She applauds the weather every day, no matter what dance the wind demands. She trails fog tendrils in her branches, peeking through them on misty mornings. We whisper to each other on soft, still nights.

I Would be a Pine.

I wouldn't be an oak
Or a maple or a larch.
Nor beech nor chestnut
Underneath an arch.

The willow or birch
Are just not me
The pine, now the pine
Is a friend to me.

Strong and green
The whole year through.
Hardy and constant
And prickly too.

Her scent wafts upwards
Then down to the ground
Her branches host juncoes
The whole year 'round.

Her cones burn brightly
In fires red and blue
Her loyal stout heart
Is constant and true.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Home from Home

I have a couple of dear friends out here. I met him not long after I moved here permanently and subsequently met his wife. They live up a hill in the town where I was resident for 14 years and their gorgeous homey place became like a second home to me. She is a marvellous cook. Their dog Salty was great friends with my beloved Ansa. Salty was and remains a total gentleman. When Ansa arrived he would immediately cede his bed, his toys and his food to her and just about genuflect when he passed her. She was a very humble dog by nature, totally non-aggressive, and would take his grovelling overtures with a slight sense of entitlement and then turn her back on him as she enjoyed his treats. This courtship gave us a vast amount of amusement.

I spent the night out there last night and we chatted till 3 in the morning, dissecting politics and world news, meandering into provincial and then into local and family politics. They are very well read and have keen analytical minds. I am included in their family gatherings and feel utterly blessed that they are like a brother and sister to me.

I am always at a loss as to how to gift them so I make or create things for they break the outer limits of generosity to me always.

I made this shawlette for C and called it after the spectacular sunsets of my former town. She was over the moon.

Here it is being blocked:

I brought B beautiful potted plants for outside. He loves his garden.

I brought Salty sausages, his favourite kind.

I slept in their tiny luxurious guest room on one of those high beds that you float into and then fall asleep instantly. I don't think I've ever known such an incredible bed.

We had sorted our worlds out both global and local and were much satisfied.

And I was completely spoiled.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Catch & Release

A lovely shot of Grandgirl as we sat on the Southside Hills of St. John's.

Time dribbles away from me. I couldn't seem to get much of anything done. Living in a fugue of disappointment in myself. I decided to make some changes. Small. How on earth do I manage time more successfully and not feel I had "wasted" it even though I'd have 2,000 words written or a piece of knitting completed or a book read. I couldn't seem to get a handle on it at all, to feel satisfied instead of this miasma of dissatisfaction and a sense of failure and disorganization.

And in the past few days, after a few Tao meditations the answer came.

What I have found successful in the distant past and subsequently abandoned was the timer system.

So what I've been doing is timing my activities, or I should say adding a timer to my days. For instance in the mornings after meditation and reflection and gratitude, I read for 30 minutes. Then I knit for an hour (a great way of thinking also). Then I do an hour of dreaded housework and I find it's not shirked anymore. I can get a lot done in an hour of housework in my apartment, putting away laundry, bagging up the detritus that Grandgirl left behind for her mother, doing the morning dishes, sorting out clothes for this weekend as I'm away overnight for part of it, tidying up the bathroom - I had not only 2 staying here for nearly 2 weeks but 3 staying here last weekend: you can't imagine the havoc this creates in a hermit's life! Then I sorted all the lovely haphazard cards and notes I've received this year and displayed them nicely. You catch the drift.

My free creative time is now so I blog and then am going to design a shawlette for my sister as my next project.

For the first time in ages I feel I'm on top of my time and my enjoyment level of my life has risen dramatically.

I highly recommend it to others who tend to fritter and fooster as I did and have this sense of unease and failure.

I may need reminders of this post.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Elder Value

Growing old is not for sissies as Bette Davis said. She said a lot more too, see above.

I was at an event attended by elders last night. One of my hobbies is observing elders in great big bunches, not that they'd notice, I'm pretty good at it. I can be looking at you and listening to something behind me.

The event was a BBQ and we had live music. All the old songs from our teen years, early rock, some country, some Irish, some Newfoundland music.

The conversation at my table (6 around it) focussed on the good old days and how great the parties were then, how perfect the music, how wonderfully we danced, things just weren't the same and the young don't know what they're missing glued to their screens 24/7

I restrain myself. I always do. I want to yell "horseshit" or "bollocks" for I know The Ladies would circulate a petition and have me tossed out of the building.

I was startled a little to see tears in a friend's eyes and I asked her what was wrong and she said the music always brought her back to her dancing days and how sad she was they were gone.

I mentioned that Grandgirl and I share our music every time we meet and that we had played one of her newest finds (Pink's album - fabulous)

and one of mine (Radical Face - equally fabulous)

And of course when our time together is over we have the music to resavour these more recent moments together and also have the opportunity to discuss why we like this music. For instance "Always Gold", a track from Radical Face, reminds me of Missing Daughter and how I long for her return.

The Ladies looked very confused and eyed me as if I had broken out in a foreign language. No response, apart from puzzlement.

My point in this post is that do us elders have values apart from our distant memories? Are we meant to walk around as if we are mere sarcophaguses of our past? Do we not have a capacity to initiate and create present moments?

I have no desire to "fit in" to some proscribed elder formula, sizing up others to see if they are fitting the geezer mould or alternatively breaking out into puzzling and gossip-worthy behaviours which are perceived as strange and alarming.

I'm aware I'm in a minority here.

But I wouldn't change it for anything.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Three Generations and a Pub Crawl

Sunday, July 15th.

The three of us headed off last night to George Street, St. John's which has the most pubs per square inch than any other street in North America. Hang on a minute I'm going to Wiki that, just to make sure.

Well it doesn't mention that but it this will give you an idea of the street.

We had a great time. Two generations drink but the elder does not. Anymore. I figure I drank enough for three lifetimes when I did drink and I just celebrated 32 years of sobriety. So club sodas are the order of the day for moi with lime or cranberry attached. I have to say I do miss the Rock Shandys of Ireland though. Served in a pint glass and utterly delicious for the non-drinker. I see they're putting this mix in cans now. Not here unfortunately.

We loved all the music and general conviviality at the bars and engaged with another older woman who was there with her daughter and daughter-in-law on a pub crawl too. Her first one at the age of 73. Never too late to experience what we have missed along the way.

However, we threw in the towel at around 11.00 pm even though George Street rocks till all hours of the morning. I remember the good old days when I'd be rocking along and looking for a feed as dawn nudged the horizon. I'm sure the young ones might have wanted to stay but felt they needed to take Grandma home and well - ha!- Grandma was the designated driver.

We heard this hairy old favourite many times on our walks by the pubs.

Nothing can ever top the time it was sung to me by an old busker on Patrick Street in Cork.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thursday Status update

100 pages of current novel read.

250 pages of my own novel read, edited, notated.

700 extra words of novel written.

Shawlette for Lana nearly finished.

Stay begone you demon Facebook.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Social Media

I came to the realization a few days ago that social media takes up a fair amount of my day. All well and good when one is young, I suppose, but the elder years make each hour rather more precious. How many can be frittered away in such a fashion? Facebook alone with groups (recovery groups, feminist, political, writer groups, theatre, photography, nature etc.etc.) and friends who post frequently can consume me, fill me with gratitude/indignation/resignation/cynicism/outrage/take your pick and I'm no shrinking violet - I plunge right in to whatever fray has taken my fancy.

So enough, I thought. What sucks my time the most? It came down to Facebook. So much of it is drivel, unenlightening and unfulfilling. Birthdays, obits, anniversaries, happy families around the campfire/table/birthday cake/wedding - these are all lovely, but by the time I troll and scroll another hour has been swallowed up or 2 or even 3.

It was a big leap but I removed the app from my phone. No more notifications, no more sideways glancing down at the screen as I sit having coffee or dinner.

I still have my online Scrabble games, 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at night. 14 games. I like the brain activity, the searching back for long lost words from my youth.

I still use Messenger for quick contacts with people.

I still have Instagram - which is a quick fix for photo displays.

I still tweet, the odd time, I tend to let it go most days but it is good for newsfeeds. And fast.

I don't bother with Skype or Facetime or Snapchat and never have.

So here I am with about 3 fresh hours in my day to fill and with what you might ask.

Well, this is interesting indeed.

I have hauled out my many unfinished (mainly they need editing, fixing) manuscripts and am working away on one for the past few days. About time. Even with Grandgirl here.

It's a new life of amazing opportunities - to be continued.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Aftermath and Canada Day

Emotional experiences mingled with sadness, memory, fear of change, uncertain future (political, global, environmental) is stressful for many of us, not just elders.

I'll be interested to hear Grandgirl's take on it when she arrives to spend nearly 2 weeks with me tomorrow.

I know many are talking of the 'Good Ol' Days' and going back to them. I call BS on that. I turn a cold hard eye on my own past and would not revisit it for anything. Well maybe a quick revisit to the occasional short sweet times with my mother. But the rest of it? I was a religious refugee from the land of my birth, a victim of the judgement and condemnation of an unplanned pregnancy that would have shamed both my former husband and I along with my family in the eyes of the vicious Catholicism then. I've written about it many times. Escape to a welcoming Canada was our only option, far from the counting fingers of all around us. If we hadn't married, I would have been sentenced to a Magdalene Laundry in Killarney where my cousin was the nun in charge of it and have my child sold out from under me. Friends were caught in this horrific situation. They still bear the scars to this day.

More Good Ol'Days had endless repercussions in my new life in Canada. Isolation from family was a constant gnawing anxiety. Post partum depression after Daughter was born was something unrecognized then. I knew I was depressed. I had made only one friend who was supportive and loving. Father of Child couldn't understand what was going on and busied himself out at night partying and making new friends. I struggled on very much alone with Daughter and thought often of suicide, I was so utterly despondent and frightened by how my life had turned out. As my people say: "I'd lost the run of myself."

I had a supportive doctor for my baby and he recognized what was going on and told me it would pass. It was all hormonal, try and get out in the sunshine, make more of an effort, go swimming (our apartment building had a pool) or walking. I did. But I've never forgotten the awful gloom of that first year in a strange land, how I felt robbed of my family, my homeland, a supportive community, the familial joy that should have surrounded Daughter, a first great grand-child and grandchild to both our families.

So what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Stronger in the broken places.

I am grateful beyond measure to Canada, who accepted two young emigrants back in the day and helped us establish a life in this great country where I was able to blossom and grow and become my authentic self. This would not have happened in Ireland in that era where women were subservient to the church, surrounded by rattling rosary beads and the gossip of neighbours and who lost their careers upon marriage or unplanned pregnancies. Memories of any "transgressions" lived long and hard in the minds of neighbours and co-congregants ("Ah, she had to get married back in 1957, no wonder he runs around on her, who's to blame him?"). There was no moving on then. If your father was a communist, you were unemployable and judged so harshly one of my classmates joined an order of cloistered nuns to escape community condemnation, her brothers emigrated. I could write more. A very dark place it was then, finally coming into more sunlight now with abortion rights and gay marriage but still a long way to go.

Not that Canada is perfect, but it is a country, still, where health care is excellent and universal, where the social safety network is in place to help the least advantaged of our citizens and women are equal in the constitution and dying with dignity and legalized
marijuana make us the adult in a house where in the basement a screaming orange toddler with a lit match holds us all in terrified thrall to his tantrums.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Variations on the Melody of Love - Part 5 (Final)

See Part 1 here
See Part 2 here
See Part 3 here
See Part 4 here

I offer you the above exchange to reflect the humour that is present in our ongoing texting. I am so grateful that it occurred to me to show her how to text. I have to reign myself in as I want to complicate everything. For instance, I wanted her to get internet on her phone and stopped myself. Why? I asked myself. Keep it simple, stupid. This one step into technology is just fine for her. Perfect in fact and she is delighted with it. She texts me twice or three times a day. Little updates. For that is all there is to life, surely - the small stuff.

Lana is very present in the moments, recounting small incidents such as the Canada Day fireworks in the field behind her house last night. One of her very frightening moments in NB in our stay there was when she couldn't recall a single detail of her house, the front, back, interior. It was a blank slate. She has lived there for over twenty years. I confess to being frightened too. How awful not to recollect even the straightforward things such as one's kitchen or driveway or bedroom.

She is going to check in with her doctor again tomorrow to make sure he's on top of the specialist situation. He had put a priority on it and has been her doctor for a very long time so knows her well and she likes him.

No more can I do apart from offering her love and support from afar. I'm enjoying our wee texts to each other throughout the day and evening.

We have a rainbow ribbon of sisterhood connecting us.