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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Memento Mori

What does one say?

The card lies flat on the table.  The pen poised above it.


A late in life marriage for him, when he retired, having spent many years travelling for an international company, she was twenty years younger. They were married eight years. He died yesterday, aged seventy. A long slow process of cancer, eating his blood, then a lung, his facial skin. This cancer ran in the family. It had a complicated name.

He had a life most of us can't even imagine. His father died suddenly at forty leaving five children and a mother with a nervous breakdown (Oh, this happened a lot. I know. I've seen it.) All the children put into care. Mount Cashel Orphanage  for the boys, Littledale for the girls. Horror stories abound about these places where children were so casually abused. I wrote about a Newfoundland orphanage victim here.

Glen (pseudonym) always maintained that he was treated like a prince in Mount Cashel. And insisted, almost violently at times, that he had never even seen abuse. One of his sisters suicided. Another has an extreme case of obsessive compulsive disorder - a frantically hygienic woman, twenty four hours a day. Exhausting to watch her. Another sister is alienated from the family and his brother, an artist,  reinvented the past so as to delete Mount Cashel completely.

Patricia, his wife, has her own issues revolving around food and semi-starvation. She is terrified of a complete meal and only likes tiny portions on those wee plates you'd see at afternoon tea at a grandmother's. She has no friends and tolerated Glen's. Barely.

I think about all these things as I stare at the card on the table and ponder on what to write. Words come easy to me. Normally. I find it easier to write all this down here than to write a few words on the card. I'm not one to ever trivialize a card with cliches. Never have. Never will. And I'll face the funeral home tonight. A card is de rigeur, especially for one who will not be buying a mass for the deceased parish committee president.

I lit a candle for him over the last few days and reflected on the parts of his life that he had shared with me. He loved poetry. He was an amateur astronomer and if he could have afforded it, would have played golf every day at dawn.

A horrible time for him was when his new wife had found an old diary of his and read it. And didn't speak to him or look at him for a week after. He told me he was so terrified he felt like a little child again. He burned all his diaries after that.

We were alone in his SUV when he told me this, driving for a good hour over the barrens. I let the silence float around us in the vehicle. Waiting.

But he never told me what was in that diary that was worth a week of freezeout.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Merry Mas

As a person who celebrates the solstices, yeah, call me pagan, whatever, I find the constant harassment of Christmas worshippers around me, well, stressful.

"Put Christ back in Christmas!!" bleat many, nearly in tears as they stagger from Mallwart with two laden trolleys of Chinese tat, clanking their way awkwardly across the parking lot. 

"Well, who took him out?" I want to shout back, "Happy Mas!"

And then I see a confidential note from Jesus (see picture above) posted and reposted across the vast etherworld of Facebook as an antidote to the - heaven forbid!  - admonition-wish-heresy of "Happy Holidays!"

I am forced to picture Jesus, on his not-birthday (born sometime in the spring, not winter as noted by eminent scholars) sobbing, broken-hearted, over the absence of Merry Christmas being said out loud by the English speaking section of this tiny planet. Mostly Mallwart people I'd surmise. 

I've never seen so many Jesus fans freak out so much at the innocuous sound of "Happy Holidays!" It gets savage, far, far removed from any Merry or Happy.

Do they not realize that Solstice was appropriated by the early Christians?
The Archbishop of Constantinople wrote that church fathers fixed the Nativity during the pagan holidays because "while the heathen were busied with their profane rites, the Christians might perform their holy ones without disturbance."
I'll let you dwell, but not for too long, on all those holy rites which make the profane of goat offerings seem seriously mild in comparison. And "without disturbance" brings starkly to mind centuries of child abuse.

Maybe I should respond to the hostile anguish of the Christ grievers:

"Return my stolen Solstice!"

I've got an excellent case.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Going Off Half-Cocked.

Going off half-cocked

Idiomatic, colloqial

"To take a premature or ill-considered action."

So you thought I was perfect, didn't you?

Well, surprise!  I'm not.

One of my defects of character is running off with some hare-brained scheme and being forced (usually by others) to come up short, in terror and a kind of awe to think I nearly got away with it.

I think I've been this way since I was around three and a half when I tried to smother my brother with a pillow. I was Queen of the Home and his arrival destroyed my royal life. He was very sick, had a nurse in attendance, was not a girl, cried all the time and I thought if I could rid us all of this defective baby, life would be simpler for everyone concerned.   I was banished to the grandparents for what seemed like an eternity of paradise. But all ends badly as started badly when I was returned to my parents and forced to attend school on a daily basis away from the scene of my attempted fratricide. Low Babies Class was how we began school in Ireland then -  for any of you older and familiar with this particular Irish terminology. You would graduate at the age of four to High Babies. The visuals are awesome for those unfamiliar with the term. But they bear nothing to the reality of nuns with rulers in damp and dreary stone convent classrooms where a good day was when you were allowed to wear your woolly coat in class to keep the chills at bay and didn't have to extend your palms for blistering from the above mentioned rulers.

Anyways, as I was saying.  I've been blessed in my life by staunch and trusted friends who prevent me from half-cocking myself. One time it was a seedy motel in Nova Scotia, another time it was a house in the back of beyond that would have involved an hour and half's commute to work. Yet another was where I was clinging to the marital home, completely overwhelmed.  I've lost track of most of them. But a few nights ago, another Staunch sat me down and said seriously to me:

"WWW - this two car business in your driveway has got to stop."

"But I use the second car for my camper. And my daughter can drive it when she's here. It's got the hitch, it's...."

"No. The car is only used once a week, if that. Its value decreases the longer you leave it and the rust can get at it while your newer car is in the garage. And how many offers have you had on it - fifty?"

"Yeah, but..."

"I can't see any buts in this.  You sell the older car. You install a new trailer hitch on the newer car and you pocket several thousand dollars in the bank even after you pay for that."

And as soon as he said it, I just knew.

Another half-cock averted.

I am so bloody lucky with the friends in my life.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Blog Jam

With apologies to Grannymar who really dislikes the term "BlogJam"  but it's my blog and I like it as it's like a big jar full of unconnected thoughts and observations. Much like bramble jam which has all the wonders of the late summer in it, rosehips, blackcurrants, late rhubarb, gooseberries. Not that I'm saying this post is full of wonders, mind you. 

It's Black Friday. I'm so, so glad I don't have teevee as I'm sure I've been spared the spectacle of the near death experiences of insane shoppers hunting down the latest can-opener or camping for 7 days outside a Best Buy or a Walmart. Black in the truest sense of the word. Soul death.

Log Toasting
I imagine it is symptomatic of the time that's in it. How can we all be going to hell in a handbasket if we can shop will we drop? This way for a massive disconnection. The experience is so far removed from the little farmers' markets and fairs I see around here. Where you get to know the maker of the hat or the mittens or the table runner or the gorgeous canned goodies. Where things are kept simple. Not that we don't have Black Friday here. They tell me you can't find parking in all the major shopping centres for the past week. Imagine. How would we behave if we could Skype the workers of our latest gewgaw (fridge, stove, washer, I-Everythings) and have a chat with them? But no, they remain anonymous. We are completely detached. We don't want to know of forced labour and sterilization, or child labour, or dormitories and unregulated hours. Otherwise our flatscreens would cost $5,000, wouldn't they? We are all culpable in the outsourcing of our manufacturing industries.

I was with dear friends last night who replaced their 4 year old noisy dishwasher with a more silent, far more expensive, one. The old one, hardly used (it being noisy 'n all) will go to the dump for they wouldn't inflict it on anyone. And we complain about the constantly increased costs for the disposal of our detritus. We are all mad.

I was putting the fire together this morning. And marvelling at how connected I am to the source of my heat for the winter. The wood is harvested on my land and hewn into kindling and logs. Some of the wood was slightly damp but I've learned to dry it on top of the stove. It dries quickly. But you pay attention as it could get too hot.

Log Harvesting
A friend is dying, he was brought into palliative care last night. Actually an ex-friend. Which is weird, you know?  We had a few heavy disagreements where he revealed a truly ugly side to his nature. I went so far off him as to be on another planet. And yet. He's dying. I called a few times over the past few weeks and was not surprised when he didn't return the calls. My mind races ahead to the funeral (selfishly, abominably) as in wouldn't I be a complete hypocrite if I showed up? And yet he haunted my thoughts for hours this morning as I lay in bed. Nearly always, I can take the bad with the good in a friendship but I felt there was a hidden side to him. A darkness, his rage was so ugly. And frightening. And I told him this at the time. How unsafe I felt. He did not acknowledge my feelings  at all but demanded a book back that he had lent me on the effects of WW1 on Newfoundland.

Black Friday. Indeed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Same Old Conversation

I'm driving back from the shop with Leo where we had to get gas for the chainsaw and the ATV.  Leo picked up a 40 ouncer of rum and a few bottles of coke.

Me (M) I know it's your birthday tomorrow, but you're going to be so sick after drinking that 40 pounder of rum.

Leo (L) *giggle* yeah, I know.

M: So that means you won't be able to work for a couple of days.

L: Yeah. *Laugh*. I'll have a grand old time.

M: You'll have about 10 minutes of a good time, then about 48 hours of a really bad time.

L: Ah, who cares?

M: Well I do, because there's still wood to be sawed and put in the barn and you won't be around for a couple of days to fill the bin in the house.

L: I wish you drank with me.

M: No. You really wouldn't want to see that wish fulfilled, buddy. That bottle would end up in a right old battle between the two of us. I'd have to buy another two or three, or four hundred.

L: *excited* We could party for a week!!

M: Well, party wouldn't be the word I'd use. Alcoholic poisoning and wet brain comes in there somewhere!

L: Ah, it's a shame you had to stop!

M: No, buddy.  Everyone around me needed me to stop. And believe you me you wouldn't want to see me start!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Peace Bench

Cupids, NL. Yesterday.
If I could bring you all together. And you all could take turns sitting on this bench.

Yes,  I know it would take a long time.

But it would be worth it.

And then I would tell you to cast your eyes outward and tell me what you see.

And tell me what you hear.

And tell me your hopes and your dreams that didn't involve possession or theft or anger or self-righteousness or hurting anyone else. 

We could put an end to all of it now, couldn't we?

Monday, November 19, 2012


Parts of the story I remember. Not the most gruesome parts, but the ordinary stuff, the mundane. Ever find yourself looking at a photograph and just focusing on the everyday bits around the subject? The cups on the table, the glasses on the bureau behind them, even the blanket on the couch, the wallpaper on the walls? That's the way it was with me and this story.

He came back to the old place and patched and plastered, painted and puttered around it. It looked an awful mess from the outside but inside, if you got in and very few did, it was cozy. He'd even matched his dishes, white with a blue stripe. The old Enterprise stove was always glowing with the old black kettle on top.

You'd have to walk by the place when you went berry picking and he'd wave if he was outside. Friendly like. But he'd turn away right quick and you got the message he wasn't open for the chit chat.

You couldn't get the reasons for coming home out of him, though many tried. Why did he come back from all that money out in Alberta? And his boys left there, three he had, along with the wife, though Bernie had it she was Chinese.

What does it take to uproot yourself and come rushing home to the falling down old place that his father had died in twenty years before?

It was late Christmas Eve when they noticed the flames shooting up over the trees. And they all drove over and took the cover off the well and started passing buckets of water over the meadow and dumping them on the house. The firetruck came soon after and lashed the place with foam and flood but it was all too late.

The heat was intense and they had to wait for it all to cool down a bit and then they found him sitting on the remains of a chair next to the old Enterprise. Like he was warming himself.

When I was walking past there, and I was told the story, I noticed all the broken rum bottles in what used to be a flower garden. And then they told me he was deaf. From birth. Like his sister Jenny. Genetic or something. Second cousin stuff.

And I saw something white and blue in the grass and it was a dinner plate and I picked it up. Not a crack or a mark on it.

And I took it home.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dongles and E-Readers and Geraniums and an Author

My brave geraniums on the deck today, 2012/11/17

I read a few blogs on the topic of pleasure today. What makes us happy?

I commented on one blog that we all need to think about the things that don't cost money.

Well almost.

I tallied up my airmiles.  And realized that I could get two items on my wish list for free. One was a dongle for my computer that would allow me to listen to radio in my house rather than sitting in my car in my driveway.  You read that right. I can get reception in my driveway in my car but the house radio does not work unless I hang it off the deck and that gets mighty cold in the winter. So this dongle thing I saw in someone's house. It hooks up to the computer and you can set the speaker anywhere in the house wirelessly and endless radio stations are yours for the taking.

Next thing on my wish list was an E-Reader. And my airmiles covered that too. I can download from the library now without leaving my house. Imagine. You're all probably guffawing at this point. Many of my readers have been enjoying their  E-Readers for like, centuries, now. I'm a latecomer. I just love the feel of a real book with its paper and bookmark and often notes and how cosy it is in bed. I'll let you know how me and the dog cuddle up to the Ebook.

And like this is all free. Well I'm not a fool. I had to buy a lot over the past year to cover those two items. But once I found out I could get double the airmiles on my groceries I was off and running.

And then, Michael Redhill, AKA Inger Ash Wolfe,  whom I wrote about in Alter Ego was kind enough to comment on my blog. That pleased me. Muchly.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Outrage in Cork City yesterday.

A victim of the back rooms

Of clinking glasses

With the best brandies

Underlain with guffaws of the

Old Boys in striped school ties

And holy Roman Collars

In union with the hearty

Fellows of the Dail

All hardy-harring to keep uppity

Women in their places.

A world where zygotes in

Uteri are revered, unattainable

As the rest of their mythology.

Until birthed of course

When they are fair game.
Update: Here is a link to the Guardian's article on Savita.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Alter Ego

I just finished reading a rather long but engrossing book. "The Calling" by Inger Ash Wolfe. Not for the squeamish or faint-hearted, it is over 500 pages of unputdownable suspense.

The two main characters are a 61 year old police chief with a bad back and her 87 old mother who lives with her.

I scooped this review on the net and it puts my thoughts into words so well I just couldn't improve upon it.

But the really interesting thing about this book is that it was penned by a famous male author under the above pseudonym and I would never have found out about either of these if I hadn't listened to Writers and Company on CBC.

I won't disclose his name here but a quick web search will do it for you if you're so inclined.

It's such a joy to find books that are unashamedly Canadian (the story is based in small town Ontario) and also so unremittingly good. And are about older people doing their jobs, with interesting backstories: broken marriages, remote adult children, etc.

I love a good yarn.  And bonus, a yarn behind the yarn.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Muse has fled.

I've been struggling with this loss. I'm seeing how I can write umpteen and eleventy million posts on my blog but put a word into the plays (yes, there are two of them now) or the books (three) or the collection of short stories (2) and I sit here stumped, baffled and boggled.

I plead with Scriobhnarin, my writing muse, for one whit of enlightenment and realize that the last time I wrote was at the conference when I ploughed out 1500 words at one sitting. Maybe Scriobhnarin is exhausted, she is one age with me after all.

Be patient, they tell me, all will be well.

A couple of weeks now, I answer. And not a sparkle of concern do I show for the characters that lie languishing, wordless, silent, mute, crawling away from me defiantly.

It would be funny if it was happening to anyone else, right?

But it is happening to me.

So I am shutting down for the day, it is a denim day here at the edge of the Atlantic and I have chores to do in town. But I will take the camera and see what presents itself to the lens and maybe something will bounce off my brain and on to the page.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Charlotte on the Job

I think I'm the only person I know who does not have a fear of spiders. In fact I treat them like house pets. Working pets at that.

We've had an unseasonably warm November which has resulted in a few flies bouncing around. But not for long. Charlotte above has managed to capture them. I am in awe when I watch her work and was delighted when she agreed to pose for the picture above but only if I shot her from her best side. I agreed.

Apart from the intricacy of the web (click to embiggen) I am fascinated with the patience of spiders. I have much to learn. Even with prey many times their size trapped in the web, they will patiently surround it and parcel it up. It takes hours. And hours. And even if the web is broken, many more hours are taken to patiently repair it.

I never consciously break a web or kill a spider. They provide an absolutely essential service in the management of irritating flies. And this method is non-toxic to boot.

Charlotte is in my office window. She does like an ocean view as she works. Makes the time go by a little more serenely.

And of course, dinner is all the more succulent when you've put in a hard day at the office.

                             *    Definition of Arachnophobia

                                      1. Noun. A morbid fear of spiders.

Update - November 11 - Charlotte has packed up her web and gone away. Not a trace of her today.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Post Office Piss Off

Our post office was closed today. With no warning. A letter was in my mailbox telling me it was closing effective today. Another letter from the post office enclosed a key to the new mail box, which, they told me, would be installed up next to the community hall. If there were problems or delays, service would be provided at another outport 25km away. A 50km round trip.

I was driving Emma home as it was raining and blustery and we rolled by the community hall on the way and there wasn't a mailbox in sight.

Typical, she said, outports have always been treated like they are third class passengers.

Many of our villagers, like Emma, don't have cars and there's no public transit. 50km is an unimaginable trip to collect a piece of mail or drop off a letter.

I asked our now ex-post master when the new mailboxes would arrive. No one had given him any information, he shrugged.

Thank you, Canada Post.

It's no wonder you are held in such contempt by those you profess to serve.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Of Sheep and Oil

Out here on the edge of the Atlantic I have a meat man who delivers fresh local meat. Seriously.

A man who takes pride in his produce. Today he had fresh local lamb. Mein Gott! I find that frozen New Zealand lamb in the freezer section of the grocery store abhorrent. And this in a province that has sheep and lambs wandering all over our barrens.  Of course the fairly recent introduction of coyotes here (what do they do, build themselves little rafts in Labrador and sail off for better pickings on our island?) has proven a huge threat to the sheep farmers. But still.

Something should be made of local lamb. And the fleece. A friend is a sheep farmer. More like a hobby as he loses money feeding the coyotes with his produce and subsidizes his sheep with his fishery income. He's getting older. None of his children have followed in his path. The salt is in his blood, he tells me. He could never do anything else. And wonders why his children don't feel the same. They're all out at the oil in Alberta. Raising their children, his grandchildren, out of sight, smell and sound of the sea.

He decided to visit what held them all there last year. A first out of province trip for him.  They took him to the tar sands.  He couldn't find the words for it as he tried to tell me. Words don't exist, he finally said.

It had to be the money, the big money they all made to keep them there locked up tightly with their children at the local schools and big sad houses in new subdivisions where he and his wife had their own suite with a Jacuzzi they were afraid to use. A daughter was a petroleum lawyer (new one on me), a son was an engineer, another a pipe fitter. Pipe fitters make more money than anyone else. And no, he didn't know where all these pipes were going, must be a government secret.

He felt he couldn't breathe most of the time. He felt a huge unbreachable distance between himself and his children even as he pretended to admire all the trappings of wealth they had accumulated.

And wondered where he had failed them.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Phew, I'm normal!

There are certain things I've never talked about for fear of, you know, the fellahs in the white uniforms thundering into the house, a strait jacket at the ready. Well, with the exception of a trusted very, very few who've admitted the same kind of thing to me and we've nodded sagely, grimaced, grinned sheepishly and vowed never to talk about it again.

Until now.

And of course it's no longer private because it's here in black and white.

I'm talking hallucinations.

I was remembering my frequent childhood one. I'd be lying on my stomach in bed and I would be on a tobaggan. A magical one.  It would slide down a mountainside and then sail off over the ocean, over boats, lighthouses, birds, icebergs, desert islands. All in living colour. It was utterly marvellous.

And an adult one. Of driving on the 401 in Toronto and suddenly being overshadowed by an enormous silver disk in the sky, its humming hurting my ears, its menace terrifying me. I don't know how long this lasted. I felt suspended in another universe and the feeling of knowing everything there was to know about every single galaxy. When I came back to reality - as I say I don't know how long I was "out" - I felt weird for several days, as if my body had lost the run of itself and my mind was fragmented.  No alcohol or drugs involved.

Dr. Oliver Sacks , he of "Awakenings" et al, has now normalized all of this in an article published yesterday in the New York Times. See excerpt:

In other cultures, hallucinations have been regarded as gifts from the gods or the Muses, but in modern times they seem to carry an ominous significance in the public (and also the medical) mind, as portents of severe mental or neurological disorders. Having hallucinations is a fearful secret for many people — millions of people — never to be mentioned, hardly to be acknowledged to oneself, and yet far from uncommon. The vast majority are benign — and, indeed, in many circumstances, perfectly normal. Most of us have experienced them from time to time, during a fever or with the sensory monotony of a desert or empty road, or sometimes, seemingly, out of the blue.

Read the rest of the article here.

I am so relieved to know I'm not certifiable after all.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Words on Play, Play on Words

Podium where we all read at nightly salons last week.

I have this marvellous idea for a new play. All based on a story that was told to me and my friends on a mini high school reunion. We were on the floor, howling in disbelief. My friend who told it is one of those really serious people. She seems to attract family trouble and drama like pins to a magnet.

Her house is the original Dysfunction Junction where her husband lives on one floor of it and she on another. Where they have favourites amongst their adult children and entertain them separately and the daily policy is to take sides on each and every family argument, banishment, grandchild-sitting, dryout centres for various progeny and real estate difficulties.  And they own a shop in a small town and see absolutely nothing wrong with their lifestyle choices.

She is totally oblivious to the fact she is causing havoc in a room with the droll way she uses words. With the result that now all she has to do is enter a room and we all fall down. Her eyebrows are always elevated in shock at the instant hilarity that greets her.

"No, seriously now, what's so funny? You can't be laughing at me, as my hair was just done and my clothes are not loud or anything and I have sensible shoes, look....." and she sticks the shoes in our faces.

And the way she says this? Roseanne Barr would have serious competition. When we performed my play in Ireland, she barged right into the dressing room after and told us all that that kind of drama happened in her house all the time. No, boy, there was nothing new in my play for her and she walks out, shaking her head. We all fall down.

So this play based on one of her stories? Well, it is scattered throughout pieces of paper and notebooks and needs to be keyed onto my playwriting software and submitted by December 15th, for performances in May 2013.

I would credit my friend Faye but she just wouldn't get it.

Thursday, November 01, 2012


(1) How do you deal with your FB friends who are still on your friends list but have died?

    (a) Unfriend them.

    (b) Suggest a memorial site to FB owners so they can be transferred.

(2) Refrigerator
    (a)Where does all the ice in your enviro-fridge come from?

    (b) Where does all the ice in your unenviro-frost-free fridge go?

(3) When you've always taken a principled stand against shopping Mallwart what do you do when all other shops and stores have been run out of town by them and you desperately need a type of wool that now only they carry.

(a) Skulk through its doors and buy the wool and feel bad for weeks?

(b) Suffer in silence and dream up some other projects with your stash?

Mallwart's Infestation of the U.S.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Those Autumn Leaves

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

My People

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

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Coming Home

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

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

Home. Simple.

I fall into its embrace.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start with The Dream Book.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Teapot and the Bed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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