Monday, December 29, 2014

An Aside to an Aside

For those of you concerned about Ansa's pets, allow me to reassure you.

There is a situation up the road with a subsidized independent living series of cabins for seniors and mentally challenged citizens in that they are not allowed to have animals, clotheslines, outside picnic area, planting a garden, etc., etc. I know. Cruel and unusual for people raised on the land with animals and a high level of social interactions.

So what they do is: feed any strays that come around but can't risk losing their living privileges by taking animals indoors.

Mama cat is extraordinarily well fed and sheltered (obviously) in my barn and her three kittens are thriving and safe from coyotes.

I am not interfering with this process in any way. There are many feral cats around here generated by people who can't afford to spay or neuter (most) or are careless. Cute puppies are also let loose when the cuteness morphs into a 100lb mastiff and usually they wind up as roadkill. Tragic and awful but a problem us animal lovers can't solve. I do not condone such callous treatment of animals. The nearest shelter is over 100K away and it is inundated with animals after Christmas and it doesn't pickup.

I've had many cats over the years along with dogs. And may choose to adopt one of the kittens in time. Or not.

Together with Ansa, I keep an eye on the wee creatures and I will feed them if needed but up to now the residents of the home are doing a fine job.

Too fine as you can see!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

An Aside

I have a factotum that I've written about before by the name of Leo. Well, Leo has fallen captive to the charms of a woman. The less said about this woman the better.

As a result of this, however, Leo has been neglecting his duties here. His firewood retrieval from the barn is sporadic at best so I've been getting my lumber myself. A challenging task with a large fish pan and a rope followed by some hefty towing down the meadow to the house. But I am grateful I have the physical energy to do it.

I had wondered for a while about the secret life of my dog, Ansa. I love when animals have secrets, a whole other life we are not privy to.

Ansa would take off up the meadow and go missing for a while and then come down to the back door grinning. She's a dog that portrays joy beautifully. See above. I wondered what was causing her such mirth and delight.

When I went into the barn today I noticed a flurry of activity around the corner where the cow was kept in the old days.

And there was Ansa playing with a momma cat and her kittens. Ansa had adopted pets behind my back.

It made me very aware of the hidden joy that can be found in what I had perceived as dismal drudgery in getting my wood from the barn to the house.

I only have to look more deeply to find a glint of gold.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Leaving Normal

In times of fierce and unrelenting grief, I notice this:

Reading is too intense, requiring too much concentration. Toss.

Even an intelligent TV series like The Good Wife Season 3 requires more brain cells than I can fire up. I have to replay and replay and the threads evaporate as readily as they hove into view. I miss key information, I get frustrated. Toss.

A friend, through her father's lingering death played endless games of FreeCell on her laptop. This was a good thing.

People don't share what they do on a deathwatch. There I said it. Deathwatch. Horrible word.

And why not the distractions? You can only stare and cry and moan so much, right? Then there's knitting. I tried that. I get frustrated. That concentration thing. Toss.

And there's the telephone, the chatter seems meaningless but then what can people say? The odd few I reach out to are never home. And tripling my efforts to connect is more energy than I can summon. Hell, getting dressed is climbing Everest.

I find my family is immeasurably supportive and understanding. Bricks. We don't realize this until we're going through hell. They support me through my missing daughter, through health issues and other miseries. They say the right things like "take care of you, don't forget."

So I fire up FreeCell and get intense about that. And Mah-jongg.

And yesterday I show up to this Boxing Day bash and to my surprise I stayed and had those wonderfully distracting conversations with authors and artists and doctors and others who knew nothing of my deep pain. And that was a good thing until I got home and I felt guilty for forgetting even briefly, like I was on a short vacation.

And innocuous stupid news services on line that normally insult my intelligence I now find gripping.

And I wonder where elusive and lovely Normal is.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sorrows Come

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions." - Hamlet.

There are so few people to run to when your heart breaks. At least for me.

My first thought, like a homing pigeon, was my sister. And she's out, wherever, whatever, 'tis the season.

Then my best friend.

Crazy that last thought. For my heart breaks for her. I can't run to her anymore. Or she to me.

I haven't written about her in a while. I wanted to live in my fantasy world where all would be well and she would be miraculously cured and we'd be back to the world of our daily emails with our lives laid bare to each other.

I had a long conversation with her husband today.

And it's dreadful news indeed.

The waiting game has started.

A tiny part of me knew this but I'd look at her picture on my wall and say: "Not you. Never you."

"Her life was writ so large!" said her husband a few hours ago.

Yes, it was. Like yesterday, I can still recall her running beside me as I biked home from school. In our over 65 years of friendship I don't recall us once having a fight or disagreement. We traded clothes and boyfriends and would comfort each other in the early losses of our mothers. We acted on stage together. We sang together. And on. Far, far too much.

So here I am blogging.

I don't feel there is anywhere else to turn to at the moment.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Solitary Moments

The beach. Yesterday.

Sometimes I am all alone and the pain and joy of living in this world overwhelms me.

Odd that.

I mean: I would never share, in anyone's presence, these tears. They are private.

Right now is one of those times.

When I've been over-peopled and have finally found myself alone by choice.

I mourn the death today of a dear long term blog friend no longer with us who shared every step of the dying process with her friends. Her bravery, love and courage in the face of a far too early death and a very tragic life inspires me and continues to do so.

And still.....there's always more to it.

It's that time of the year, isn't it?

Where so much hurts.

And so much inspires.

And there are memories.

And losses.

And yes, tears flow.

Friday, December 19, 2014

In Sync

Where I live

There's an enormous comfort to being in sync with others, isn't there?

To throw out thoughts and ideas, maybe argue a few points or laugh, or stick in an old jibe (ball-hopping we would call it in my family back in the day)or hang out a favourite old petard to test the temperature.

I looked around the fire last night and there the three of us were, curled up around our individual books, sharing the odd thought or passage with each other, the only sound that of the dog dreaming in little yips at our feet and the crackle of the logs in the fire, sated with a full candlelit meal in our bellies.

I loved cooking breakfast for the three of us this morning. Times are more precious when one realizes they are rare now, with Grandgirl in the middle of 3rd year university, heading off for India in May, still on the Dean's Honours List (her term results came in yesterday, yay!) and Living the Life.

I love how she debates economics and has such a good grasp of the volatile oil prices and their economic effects on all.

Life is good.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I get more charge out of spring, more bang out of the changing amber colours of autumn.

No, I'm not a Christmas fan. And truth to tell, never have been. In that way of things I made up for my lack of enthusiasm when my children were small. I'd have loads of people in, gallons of drink and food, hundreds of gifts stacked up against the blinking lights of the tree. And I'd still feel empty and try and fill the emptiness with alcohol, feeling defective and wondering what the eff was wrong with me anyway. As if all could be resolved and I'd be happy and jolly if only I could find the right button to push within myself.

Years later now and I do have the answer. I don't join in the merrymaking hysteria around me, the carts pouring out of Walmart and Costco loaded down with Chinese tat, grumpy, cranky faces at the helm, glaring at the world. Yeah, that was me. I can relate.

Now it's all very simple. Grandgirl has flown out here to the edge for 8 days and we (Daughter, Grandgirl, me, Ansa the dog and Sam the cat) will just spend it quietly, mainly in front of the fires in each others' places. Exchanging meaningful small gifts on Solstice and just hanging.


Together is such a powerful word.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Imagine No Possessions

I think the most beautiful version of this song is by Eva Cassidy, who died far, far too young. Much like John Lennon himself. I've always found it somewhat ironic that John Lennon would write about no possessions, etc. when he was so incredibly wealthy. But there you go. We aspire. We all aspire.

Which is all in the way of saying that I am simplifying even more. I'm looking at the artifacts, the sentimental artifacts like china tea services (2 full sets) Waterford crystal tchotchkes - far too much, glasses, bowls, jugs. Platters, casseroles. You know. Glassware for vast parties of cocktailites with pinky fingers lifted. I've no idea why all this stuff surrounds me, still holding the spirits of long-dead aunts and grandparents and parents (the gifters). It seems like there was a world where all this was important but no more.

I take the bling out for an airing at my annual Nollaig Na mBan and then back it goes again into sundry cupboards to entertain the spiders for another year. It has to go. I'm a bit too distracted to start ebaying or kiijiiing, the bubble-wrapping and running to the post office would drive me mad.

So I wrap and box and wonder why the hell this stuff has trailed me around to so many houses over the years. Became this unwanted liability, this deadweight of possessions choking me.

I saw a post from a friend about lightening herself of possessions. 10 a day for 100 days. Just 10. And the thought appealed. And I've started to evaluate everything in my life.

And I know exactly where all the books are going.

Now the movies are nudder story.....but I may have the solution for that too.....

Any hints or thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Joys of the Simple Life

Daughter gave me a bread maker. I'd always wanted one but couldn't justify the cost. My wrists are the weakest part of me and kneading dough was always a challenge, so I'd make my Irish soda bread and leave yeasty concoctions to professional bakers.

See, she had this rather nice one she'd used before she became gluten-free for health reasons. It's hard to believe these kind of machines exist. They do ALL the work. You just measure out all the ingredients and put them into the unit in order. And push a button.

I can't tell you what this means to me. The scent of baking bread filling up the house fills up my soul.

I'm a pioneer woman, making her own yogurt and jams and breads.

There's no stopping me now.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bravery, thy name is Ansa

My dog is getting very old.

Oh lawd.

According to the people she was taken from, she will be 16 in January. Extreme old age for a mainly border collie mixed with a vast unknown canine gene pool.

Arthritis, cataracts, poor old dear. Every morning, I give her a low-dosage aspirin for the arthritis. The stairs are becoming a huge challenge for her. It breaks my heart.

I've trained her to never go in front of me and to wait for commands when it comes to the stairs.

But these commands fail us badly when it comes to those stairs. Today, she fell down them again as she tried to go up and landed safely in the lower hall. She will not go ahead of me up the stairs even when I raise my voice.

I've got mats everywhere so she staggered up from her fall and went off to her downstairs bed and I went about my business upstairs only to find her curled up in her bed in my bedroom when I came out of the utility room. She had silently followed me up, in spite of the fall. Her love/protection of me outweighs her fears every single time.

It terrifies me that she will do serious harm to herself one of these days. She is smart enough for a "slow" command as she would always race down the stairs. Now she comes down slowly as she's also tripped coming down. I wait for her at the bottom, my heart pounding.

She still greets every day with joy, eats well and is continent even though she's drinking more water than usual.

In the moment: that's my girl.

As we all need to be.
In spite of.
Because of.

She has taught me so much.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Outport Stories

There's this couple. Nobody likes to visit them as he is an angry old bastard, pushing 90 and his emotional baggage could knock you sideways.

I'm a CFA* so I don't have any kind of history with them but his niece, who avoids him, filled me in. He calls me now and again and if I can spare the hour, I visit Denis.

Twenty years ago, he built this house, a truly lovely spot overlooking the bay, a long, long ranch of a log house, finished in polished wood inside, a house built for great parties with white leather sofas and a big roary fire and a dining room full of hand carved pieces. Except no one would ever come to those parties.

He's tried to sell the place for 4 years but he was so nasty to deal with purchasers ran.

He and his American wife retired here, his place of birth, from Boston where he had a successful construction business but, according to him, he was run out of Boston by the mafia, he had inadvertently married into a Mafioso family. According to him, as I said. And he was unwilling to pay them "commission" on his sales.

Within three months of coming home to live, he banished the wife and took up with his girlfriend of forty years before who moved into his house when the bed was still warm from the wife. He tells me that the wife (the mother of his children) was a b****.

In that way of karma, the new partner, Ellen, has been most unhappy for about 19-1/2 of those years but had sold up her own place in anticipation of the Great Romance and had nowhere to return to.

So there they are, the house was sold ("it was an insult, that price," he says to me) and he was selling all the contents and moving down to Boston to an apartment because "the b**** had poisoned all their children against him." And he needed to fix it. "Good luck with that, pal," I thought.

Ellen told me when he went off to the bathroom that in spite of the fact he thinks she's going to move to Boston with him, she's not. Her daughter is picking her up on the closing date of the house - a week from now - and she's riding off in the sunset with her. "This separation was a long time coming," she says.

Then apropos of nothing really, she fetches a box and out pours all these documents.

"21 birth certificates," she says to me, "Me and my sisters and brothers."

My only reaction to this kind of history, and I've seen so much of it here and in Ireland is: "Oh my gawd, your poor mother!"

She started to cry.

"21 children in 22 years," she said, tears pouring down her cheeks, "And dead from kidney failure after she delivered her last at the age of 46."

"What happened to you all?" and I'm crying too.

"Farmed out everywhere, the eldest was a new bride herself and raised 4 of us including me but our father took off for the Boston States and we never saw him again."

Women are and were such disposable grow-bags for the patriarchal RC church starting with the ban on contraception and proscribing alternative forms of sexual expression.

Around the many fires of my childhood I'd be unobtrusively tucked in a corner, and would overhear the women chat about sex and how awful it was (we'd call it rape today) but that "it was his right and the priest wouldn't like it if I refused."

What a truly grim business it was then. Not to mention the fear of another pregnancy.

Our foremothers were the unsung real heroes.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hold Still. Do Nothing.

One of those things that's hard to believe. I've always had dead straight hair. I envied my little sister's curls, the most curly hair you could possibly imagine. One of my daughters inherited it. Neither of Sister's daughters did. They got mine, straight and true. And then, yesterday morning, I wake up with curly hair. So many curls that at our annual card party last night everyone remarked on my "gorgeous perm". I didn't explain it wasn't a perm, as I knew it would sound like a lie but magic. It's still curly today. Me like. Lots.

My mind wanders down weird alleyways. I was wondering what would be the last smell of someone's life? It must be awful if you're in hospital and inhaling cabbage/antiseptic/urine/faeces/floor polish/bleach as your very last breath. Something so sad about that. When it should be lavender. The ocean spray. A good curry. Wild roses. A baby. I warned you I was weird.

I was out and about in a cardigan today so it looks like the freakish winter of last year is giving us a pass. Very mild, a few cold nights but on the whole back to our normally mild early winter. We usually don't get snow until February. Fingers crossed for a green December.

I was practising going around without any money on me. I know. Weird again. An experiment. And people, seriously, kept giving me money. I was asked over to a house as Commissioner of Oaths (I know, me, hysterical, right?) and the couple stuck $20 in my pocket for witnessing some papers. And then last night at the party, as everyone "knows I don't drink otherwise it would have been a bottle" I was given $50 as part of the card playing "profit-sharing" plan. The organizers have now converted the normal annual donation to the church as an annual benefit split amongst the card players. The RC church threw the seniors out on the street over a year ago when they closed the parish hall (land donated and built free by residents) and put it up for sale. We now have a new town hall, town owned and operated, a truly lovely space, and everyone is delighted. And next, this morning, the post mistress comes over from across the bay and buys 6 of my cards for $20. So within a day or two I have $90 without lifting a finger.

This could have something to do with my brand new curly head, you think? Magic.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Birthday Blues

Building to a crescendo in December
Each morning pierces a remember
The golden child, the laughing face
The quick wit, the stunning grace.

Happy birthday darling girl, wherever you are, whatever you are, whoever you are.

You are cherished and loved and missed so much.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Tribe

Sunset at Holyrood Pond - Newfoundland.

Once upon a time I decided to do something about my drinking, known as "The Failing" where I come from. The Failing was an exclusive classification given to drunken old priests in large stone mansions with a doddery old housekeeper cleaning up after them. Or a gawd-luv-'im bank manager soaking his braincells to mush every night in the pub while his wife and childer hid behind the curtains, starving and waiting for another smashup of the remaining sticks of furniture. Status was everything when it came to categorizing these swanky alcoholics.

A drunken woman wouldn't be spoken about in the same breath. She'd deserve a fresh gulp of air and a brand new paragraph full of words like "a drunken slut", or "she should cop herself on" or "her poor suffering husband should leave that terrible wan, the church would give him an annulment for sure, they'd understand."

The old double standard, still rampant to this day I'm sorry to say, especially out on this Rock where women die in droves from untreated alcoholism, too ashamed to make themselves visible in recovery houses or detox centres. Small island, endless gossip syndrome.

I hang around recovered alcoholics. They're my tribe since June 1986.

I've learned a lot about the disease. Yes, much of it is hereditary, some of it can be environmental. You get the old nature vs nurture argument. But the debating society can continue without me. I yam who(m)I yam. Whether it was because of grandparents or aunties having it, I really can't be arsed. I did once. But it's just a distraction from the recovery. The drinking is merely a symptom for all the emotional shyte underneath, festering, needing a regular airing. With those who understand completely.

All I know is if I walk into a function/party/wedding/funeral and one or two or three of my tribe are there we will seek each other out with an ESP that would astonish you and immediately zero in for an often silent hug before we move on.

Why? You might ask.

Because we live in spite of.

When so very many died because of.

My tribe.

My life.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

True Story.

So I was a wee bit sad, a lovely old lady died a week after celebrating her 90th birthday. A blast of a party in the local golf club was that event, band, food, hundreds of guests, full page announcement in the newspaper.

Dying at 90 has an air of jollity about it. Imagine living that long, dying in your own home, a widow for yonks, raising 4 boys just about alone (often slaving over long steel tables gutting fish in a fishplant, feet sloshing around salt water floors) and they're all lawyers and judges. Important fellahs. Job well done, missus.

So I write up my card and fire off my donation to my favourite local charity. I don't believe in BigCorpoCharity. Not one bit. Even if you tell me on the obit to donate to Cancer/Kidney Foundation/MS/Diabetes. I disobey. I will not line the pockets of those CEOs and those marketing fool-tools.

But I digress, for this is a story about how I adjust reality to suit me. Fatal flaw or comic genius? You tell me after you read onwards.

I get to the wake. We have a grandish wake room as an offshoot to the church. It would pass the litmus test of non-sectarian space if it weren't for the Holy Marys crowding the walls and the statue of Saint Joseph doing a bit of carpentry.

So I drop off the card in the little carousel set on a table for this purpsoe and face the corpse. And I think, Mein Gott, she has changed substantially in the week I last saw her. Shrunken, cheeks fallen in, a tinge of yellow on her. Death can wring your neck.

And I sit down next to some friends. And share this. And they tell me she's now 68 lbs, an awful change. And my brain fires off and I think, she must have lost 40lbs in a week, they must have syphoned it out of her and why for gawd's sake?

Marguerite was my next door neighbour for about 10 years until she moved, offers Thomas.

I shake my head and say: I never knew she had another name, I always called her Anne.

Oh, really? says Ruth, baffled, maybe when she moved to your outport she went to her middle name?

Duh, obviously, I think.

Have you met all the family? says Don.

Yeah, I know all four boys, I say, preening slightly. Anne/Marguerite had made a point of introducing me to her 4 sons when they were in town, they are scattered across the country in the judicial systems of various provinces. All good-looking runners too.

That's odd, says Thomas, she has 3 girls and 2 boys.

I can be slow but when I can shove my own reality out of the way in exchange for someone else's I show surprising quick-wittedness.

That is Anne Bishop in the casket? I say, very softly in case anyone's eavesdropping.

Ah no, no. That's Marguerite Ryan, says Thomas, looking at me funny, Anne Bishop's in the church next door.

I reflect: Life was more understandable when I was drinking. Now I have to get up, fish the card off the carousel if I can find it amongst the 100 already there and then, red-faced, walk down this aisle and into the church.

And these poor innocent people, gawd help them, voted me into public office.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


I really don't care what happens to any of my work. Seriously. I'm just having the time of my life writing, writing, writing.

Some of my friends request work to read, I send it on. They comment. I love the feedback. I love when they're touched. But you know? It doesn't matter how anyone 'feels' about it. I'm writing just for me really. If it jells or sticks I'll be happy. If it doesn't, oh next!

The rolling cart containing all the tools of my trade is hauled over in front of the fire every morning. I added hooks for wires and headsets and backup flash and a nice pot of pencils and pens and wee note pads and it's a ready steady go for winter writing and easily shoved out of the way.

I took a break today and went off to an afternoon tea and a lovely performance by a top notch choir. We had a charming time, meaning we had our nice manners and clothes on and were totally charmed in turn. Several of my friends performed and it was all very festive and jolly and the food was delish. And the choir were sequinned which always pleases me. Not the guys though, they looked rather drab but wore nice smiles. And one had a bodhran.

There was a cute song about Mrs. Claus doing all the work behind the scenes keeping her man on track, the unsung busy heroine. It was very well received. And understood.

There's a sprinkle of Christmassy snow on everything. I've always wondered about that, the disconnect of saying it is so Christmassy as the snow laces our trees when Bethlehem was baking in the heat back in the day and Jesus was well, brown, a desert boots kind of guy. He would not have felt at home in snow. Or in Ferguson for that matter.

Monday, November 24, 2014


A view from the Tigeen today. Gorgeous November weather.

Thanks for all the support, some private, some commenting on my last post.

I surprised myself by climbing back on the saddle almost immediately and I must say my output has been prodigious in the last while. Two short stories, one brand new and a play sent off for performance in February. Off. Did you hear that? Off.

I do apologise for not visiting all of you as frequently as I did. But amends will be made.

I have to put the head down and novelize in the next wee while as the creative juices have never been better. In quite a long while.

I wish I could bottle it when I feel this engaged with writing and over the hump of personal misery and/or writer's block you know? And give it away for free to all you toiling writers out there.

I decided to move the writer's domain out of the office and into what I call the family room (the old kitchen). I keyboard and edit in front of the fire with a rolling unit that holds printer and laptop and files and binders I can shove out of the way as needs be. It seems to really work quite well. I shut down the Tigeen today. The lowering sun does not charge up the panels in the winter and the outside rain barrel hosepipe to the sink freezes in the frost.

A friend and I are working on a small supplemental wind turbine to provide additional power.

And this, my friends, is what's happening next door. In its third month of digging. The camera can't quite capture the vastness of landscape destruction. I just about cry when I look over. So I won't.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Self Doubt

What do you do when self-doubt overwhelms you? Please tell me.

I received one of those letters yesterday. So far I only shared the contents with a friend over dinner. A friend going through her own troubles. Who couldn't offer me anything as she is riddled with SD herself.

I spent a week in September putting all the paperwork together for a grant application, excerpts, letters of reference, past successes. Wads of paper. These Grant Givers don't believe in the interwebz. I was fairly confident I'd get it. It wasn't very much, enough to tide me through final novel completion, editing, first readership feedback, etc.

I didn't expect to be demolished IF they turned me down. Note the big IF. I didn't believe that big IF for a second.

But they did. By letter (quaint, right?). Yesterday. Blah. Blah. I know the drill of these letters.

And yesterday and today I lose the faith and tell myself you are one shitty writer living in fecking fantasy land.

I am way too old to be a starving artist living in a garret reusing my teabag 99 times and fighting the dog for bits of kibble once a day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Raining and Pouring

It has been very mild outside but the lashings of rain are matching my mood.

I've been over-peopled in the last while and desperately needed downtime so I grabbed it today.

I wanted to do mindless for the whole day. I watched Season 2 of The Good Wife and read my latest book and pushed some tiles around virtual Lexulous while looking for sheep farmers on the peninsula as a favour for a journalist friend. I never said my life was dull, did I?Through FB I assembled a whole bunch of sheep farmers, some of whom I know face to face along with their baa-baas (sorry). It's a tough business to be in and the invasion of coyotes - I hear they hang off the ferries to get here and then hide on the trucks on board - has made survival of the lambs an iffy prospect and an enormous challenge for farmers.

Then I get one of those emails, you know the ones that make your heart stop. I hadn't returned a call (I am phone-phobic at the mo) and it turns out the friend who had called is facing a life and death surgery this week and asked another friend to let me know. *hang head*.

It's rough on her and on all out there who face such incredible odds.

And, selfishly, I don't know whether I can take any more of such bits of "news". There should be another word for it.

The penalties of aging.

And yeah, I know, Dad.

You did warn me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hit and Miss

English Harbour Newfoundland.

In my nearly 10 years of thought plops here I don't think I've neglected my blog for so long. My blog is hurt. One might say our relationship is rocky at best, distant at worse. And in the course of this flagrant disregard I'm neglecting its buddies too.

I hasten to make some amends. I miss all the readings, the debates, the differences of opinion my blogiverse offers.

Busy is a word I dropped from my lexicon. Extremely negative connotations. Not to mention how I overused it in the many years behind me.

It's meaningless and helpless and well, irritating. And I only became aware of it when others, who take on far too much, overuse it. Like I did. As if it were an answer. Well no, it isn't.

OK. My plate hath runneth over with much. Much to celebrate, and much to grieve too.

I was at a wonderful gala with Daughter and a dear friend to celebrate a wee publication. Now that was fun.

And the following day I attended a wonderful convention/retreat where my door ticket won what I thought was a basket full of all those delicious smellies we never buy for ourselves. But no it wasn't that. It was the entire enormous table load covered in goodies like movie passes and books and movies and crystal bowls and homemade scarves and socks and wooden carved treasures. I will photograph it when I lay it all out on my own large dining room table. Solstice arrived in two enormous bags. And I made a new friend. You know how that is when one is young but I am old and I made a new friend. She is nearly old too and rides a Harley and carves wooden treasures and writes. I am talking chronological age not spirit age but you know that.

I was off up north giving workshops and planning more - we are having glorious weather here on the island. Sweater weather. Hiking weather. Clean out the lungs weather. Breathe in and out weather. Gratitude weather I call it. See picture above.

And yes, working away on the writing. And the old muse, my Scriobhnarin comes and goes. But never, ever on my time table. She's aloof that way.

And my wee village is having its first town hall gathering today. I am looking forward to this open forum for presentation of ideas and connection with other residents.

And some dear friends struggle on with their health challenges. All enormous challenges. All of their precious spirits dear to my heart. And I am mindful of them everywhere I go.

I am out and about for four rather than for just me.

I love you all so very much.

Helen, Irene and Dianne.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Diamonds and Stones

I'm back again.

First of all the stone:

We had some nasty stuff happening in CBC Canada - our national partially tax funded broadcaster - when a very popular male host of one internationally popular programme "Q" was outed as a sexual predator par excellence. It turns out he'd been abusing women for nearly thirty years. Horribly. Hitting interns on the head, etc. etc., beating girlfriends around and filming the acts. It has opened up a can of worms for women very rarely seen in this quiet, polite little land of ours. I won't link to all of it here BUT if you Google "Jian Ghomeshi" you will get a shyteload of disgusting and upsetting material. Trigger Warning.

Then the diamond:

It has opened up a dialogue about the rape culture and feminism the likes of which I've never seen before. Women coming forward, like myself, to discuss their own sexual assaults, hidden because of the hopelessness of dragging the cases through court and rarely succeeding and meanwhile wrecking one's own life in the process. Some of my blog friends have also come forward. Rape and sexual assaults are breathtaking in their scope and seeing the final light of day on so much of it is validating and heartening and so very wonderful. To breathe the air of truth again is so very powerful. As is the solidarity. I truly believe I don't have one single close female friend who hasn't been sexually assaulted or molested or any one of the filthy perversions of it and just kept quiet. Often as a child. Like I was. Or as an adult again I kept quiet. We've been trained to do this, keep quiet, be nice, don't say dirty things. He didn't mean it. Or better yet - he'll make life hell for you. I wasn't believed or heard and told to shut up. No more.

This whole horrible secret and depraved sexual violence of the CBC's cash cow has been split wide open. Much like Jimmy Savile and the BBC.

We just didn't have to wait till JG was dead before it was out there for all to see.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thank you!

The scene on the shore opposite my house

Thank you!
For just being out there.
For all your wonderful comments.
For the support.
For the cheering squad.
For the writerly buddies I have out there in blogland.

Just thank you!

PS. They hit bogland and marsh next door when they dug and dug so they decided to drain. And drain. It involved moving tons of earth, tons of rock. Disruption, noise, earthen brown dust everywhere. And the inn on the other side of them and me on this side? Not one word of apology or "excuse us." Old merchant family, hat-tipping peasants.

Oh did I mention the noise? Dozers, trucks, scraping, pounding, lifting, moving.

It's hard to believe I came here for peace. And some days are very much worse than others with the constant banging and chugging. It reminds me a lot of when I lived next door to a railway station. But noisier. I still jump when one of the trucks bangs against the rocks as it offloads another load onto the shore.

On the good side - weather has been wonderful, Gonzolo ignored us and the book is coming together. And I have homemade pea-soup on the stove. And earbuds. And I'm booked to give a writing workshop.

And my nerves? Edgy. If I could have afforded it I would have gone away for a week or two to finish the book. Anywhere quiet and restful, like downtown Toronto.

I plan to read YOUR blogs.

Very soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Check In

OK. So there's a first reader delay of this novel to the end of the month. October 31st it will be ready. Today went well. Some days haven't. Noise. Diggers to be specific. Land that has lain fallow beside my property is being clear cut and shovelled away. Huge tunnels are being burrowed all the way to China. Ready for a monster home and monster shed. I grieved the trees. Hundreds of them massacred. There's no land use legislation out here on the edge of the Atlantic. You can do what you want. Changes need to be made. Obviously. And I will make them. Or, you know, die trying.

And the noise level? My dears. Some days were worse than others up there in the Tigeen. But today, I keep focussing on today, it was a very good day. I flayed the prior challenges, got ruthless with excess, trimmed the dialogue, expanded other sections. Cried. I cry at the sad parts. Always. And croon along with Ella to the happies.

Now I'm reviewing all the notes, all the workshop scribbles, all the annotations I made on the public readings I did of the chapters. This is the dog work. And the little envelopes and index cards with quick jottings made on planes and trains and boats and in cafes? Use. Discard. It is chaotic, this final stage.

And I do hope the noise will abate next door. It is not conducive to scholarly and intense perusal. Ha!

Thanks for hanging in there with me. Especially to my first readers.

I think to myself: If I didn't write I'd go mental.


My alternate universe keeps me sane.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Taking Down the Scaffolding Part 2

See Part 1 here.

By scaffolding I mean memories. Pieces of the memory banks no longer shared with the participants. And my friend Allen held a chunk of joint memories.

I met him and his family through his sister, Judy, a dear friend. But I'll back up even further on the lives of the Butons (last name changed to protect their anonymity).

They were staunch Quebecers. And in that gifted way of most Quebecers spoke both English and French fluently.

The first tragedy in their family befell them when Judy was 13, Allen was 15 and their baby brother, Michel, was 3. Their father went off to hunt in the woods one Saturday morning and killed himself in their cabin with his own shotgun. No note. No reason. Just a legacy of puzzlement and grief and anger and despair.

Their mother, Cecile, had to go outside the home and find work just about immediately as Papa had left them virtually bankrupt.

Allen worked part-time to help the family and also attended college for a business degree and then started up his own small company.

He then married his high school sweetheart who had sustained him during the crisis of his father's death.

There was an economic meltdown in Quebec in the eighties (most Quebec based English businesses and head offices moved to Ontario during that period due to the enforcement of the French language by the language police).

It broke the Butons' hearts to leave their birth province but they did. The impact of so many corporations abandoning Quebec for Ontario put Allen's own small business (an import/export) in jeopardy so they "jumped ship". Successfully as it turned out.

To be continued.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Taking Down the Scaffolding.

I don't know whether anyone else feels this way. Like any time a friend dies there's another piece of their scaffolding taken down?

Maybe I'm weird that way? But I imagine that if I started out as a building, mine would be a higgledy-piggledy one, bright colours, odd windows with a bit of a tower (for reading) and a grand piano in the foyer with a solitary lamp. I saw a hall like that once when I'd run Forest Hill at night in Toronto near where I lived. I loved that house with its stark meaningful space in an otherwise busy home.

I have lots of doors, French doors, a half-door like an Irish cottage, a garden door with a shelf. a storm door like the real one I have out front, especially built for me by a craftsman recently. For battening down the hatches.

My building is always under construction but never finished. Held together by beautiful scaffolding. Mixed colours, blue, red, purple, bright silly green, laughing yellow.

And when there's a death of a loved one, a chunk of scaffolding detaches and there's a slight upheaval in the building, maybe a tilt to the right or the left or a subsidence. A couple of bricks falling down or a window popping out.

My scaffolding just had a major chunk taken out of it. No, not my Irish friend. This one took me from left field and I'm still processing.

I will write about him when my breath comes back and I can do him justice. He would never have thought he was a hero. But he was to me.

My building's at a weird angle.

I need to take time to shore up the foundations.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The General Dumbing Down of the Human Race

Grumpy Geezer Gripes.

I give you this:

Pods. Kuerig machines et al. Coffee Pods.

It seems like everyone's into da pods.

Did you know that pods, environmental harm be damned, increase the price of your pound of the most expensive java by THREE TIMES. Yeah, 3 times. Plus disposing of those little cups into the landfill/ocean/air. Take your pick. Because: Nothing is recyclable. Think about it.

And on to washing machines and dishwashers.

Pods. More than twice the price of your regular cardboard box of detergent when you work out the poundage and load usage(always overestimated in the pods -h'm I wonder why?).

And they all need spiffy containers of their very, very own.

And oopsy! they poison children because they look like candy! And yes, elders beware. Because grandchildren!)

And premeasured lotioned arsewipes in a pop-up plastic box for those disdaining toilet paper. Septic system or stinky garbage can or sewer-ocean disposal? - take your pick again.

Like some of us can't be arsed to measure our coffee or detergent or toilet paper.

Or have lost the ability.

Or we're so far into idiocy that we're more to be pitied than blamed.

More grinding nasty labour for the Third World.

Less thinking for the so-called First.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


It's odd this. But I have 3 places to stay in France. Free. And other distant places too, truth be known. And I can't afford the travel costs. Not just the airfare, though that would be a bit of a slice of money. But travelling around once I reach the destination. And food. And wee giftees. It all adds up. Until I have the bestseller. Ha.

Then another friend has decided to spend her fortune when she retires renting exotic places around the world for a month or two and then inviting her close friends to visit her and stay as long as they wanted. All they'd have to pay are their airfares and then head for Patagonia or Hong Kong or the Outer Hebrides where she'd be. Food and shelter provided. Again, I have to laugh. Airfares being a huge chunk of change for this pensioner.

A beloved niece sent me a lovely note about her upcoming wedding. Advance warning. A year in fact. To please be there. I'm going to try. I'd like to be there as I'm extremely fond of her. As I am of all my nieces.

The more I read of elders' writing (mainly solitary women, but some men) the more I realize how many of us are impoverished. Dreading expensive dental work or intensive house repairs or increases in rent or a new car. On the edge of financial catastrophe so to speak. Travel is in the class of bon-bon, a frippery.

I'm not complaining, in case you think I am. Not at all. I have my health, my writing and the odd wee fee for workshops, etc. And my knitting. And my photo-cards. And my books. And my darling Tigeen with a bonus of some rentals thrown my way.

And I buy the very best coffee beans. Always. One thing in my life is simply not negotiable.

Luxurious living is all in the mind.

And excellent coffee helps.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Blog Friends

Over the years I've made a few good friends through this blog. It's extraordinary this world of the internetz and webz isn't it?

I've exchanged personal emails, offered and been given support and meeting some in the flesh too has only affirmed the on-line friendships. In every single case. Remarkable that, yeah?

Yesterday, in the mail, I received a gift of handmade soaps from a good blog friend in the USA. No further identity will I provide to maintain her privacy.

Beautiful soaps. Something I wouldn't normally buy as they would be a bit out of the old league, price wise.

I'm thinkin' I must knit her some Newfoundland dishcloths.

Thank you lovely lady!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Story to Dine Out On.

My brother tells this true story. Every time I think of it I burst out laughing. Now, you might have to be Irish to get the humour in it but I'll take my chances as the story truly deserves the light of a bigger audience.

Bro is an engineer and would travel a lot up and down Ireland. You might think being an engineer would be an awful bore of an old job. But no. It had its moments.

He was up in the backside of Mayo one day and was running out of petrol and he found this old shop off the beaten track with a petrol pump outside and pulled in. An oul fellah came out, a dirty, greasy oul fellah and filled up the car.

"Where would I get a bite to eat?" sez Bro, noting it was well past his lunch time and he was starving.

"Ah, sure, I can take care of yez," sez Yer Man.

So Bro follows Yer Man into the shop which reflected the condition of Yer Man himself. It hadn't seen a duster or a wipe down since God was an altar boy.

"I'll be fixing yez up so, a good thick sammich," sez Yer Man, hauling out a big round of brown soda bread and slapping it on the filthy counter. Next, he retrieves a huge slab of ham from somewhere and Bro notes it is crawling with bluebottles (big flies). Yer Man then goes into a drawer and selects a rusty, dusty carving knife and with a flourish pulls out a filthy rag from his back pocket and proceeds to wipe down the knife.

It's at this point in the proceedings that he catches the appalled look on Bro's face. Completely misinterpreting the look as approval for how well he's conducting his lunch preparation, he says proudly:

"Arragh I'm a hoor for the hygiene."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jazz Writin'

Charlie Parker.

Diana Krall.

Ella Fitzgerald

Peggy Lee

Thelonius Monk.

Oscar Peterson.

Today I was up in the Tigeen writing some complicated dialogue that needed to read well and effortlessly.

Normally I just listen to the sound of the ocean, its distant soughing on the stones of the beach, trees sighing and rustling around me, birds flitting mindful of my privacy.

But today I tried a jazz soundtrack in the background. I created a playlist for the book I'm winding up. My protagonist is a jazz singer in the style of Peggy/Ella evolving towards Diana. And I wanted the rhythm of jazz in the talk. If that makes sense.

And I was surprised.

It worked.

Monday, September 22, 2014

September Month

First blasty winds of winter scoop down today, shovelling leaves from trees, flattening the blades of grass to a green ocean, scattering the cornflowers.

Shoulds crowd my head. I should make rosehip jam. I should paint the spare bedroom.

Oh yeah, and deadline for first readership lineup of book looms ever closer. I should be editing, should be fixing that last chapter.

But I worry. Next door they are burn-clearing a hill. Smoke hangs like a pall over everything and then gets scooped up by the wind and filters through windows and doors and lurks, gasping, over the bay until the wind snarls it up again and throws it against distant houses.

What if?

I run to the post office to send back some library books. So I don't have to look at the flames licking the vast hill about 500 metres from my house. But I smell it even 5 km away.

Yeah, they ran hoses across my property as a precaution. I gave them permission for this. But the fire starters/carers are about 12 years old. How would they know anything about flame-killing if the trees catch? Or maybe it will leap across the grass over the fence and on to my house?


Now unfounded.

Day is done.

The winds are intense and noisy but warm.

I will take the dog for a walk along the shore. As is our wont at this time of day. I love watching the waves pound up the cliff on the other side of the bay and then fall back exhausted.

Much like me.

Worrying about nothing knocks me right out.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


When I was growing up emotional extremes were a defect of character. As if I could change my intrinsic nature. Even though at times I wanted, badly, to toughen up.

Yes, I feel life too intensely. And my feelings are often worn on my sleeve. Or shut away so tightly (you might see the real me, you know) that it hurts.

Like those quilts in the wake-room. All hand created by my friend Patricia. Thrown over every surface, every chair. Every piece of scattered fabric in her life tied together so beautifully, so creatively. Colours of the land and the ocean and the boats and the wonderful drenching of colour that residents flood their buildings with. All you had to say was "I wish I had one of your quilts" and next thing, she was on your doorstep with one.

Picasso is honoured. Why aren't these handcrafters of such beauty so respected? Women's work of course. There should be many female only art galleries, flooded with the colours of the creations of artists like Patricia. With knitting and embroidery and weavings and crochet and lace. And many, many quilts.

It seemed like my floodgates opened today. I had been locking so many tears inside me, for what seemed like a month or two.

It was Jennifer Johnston who started it. I am reading "The Gingerbread Woman". And it struck chords. And more chords.

Life is about loss, isn't it? Mainly the loss of what went before. What formed us. What ignited us. What sustained us. What we leave behind. She writes of this like no other I've read.

And I had myself a really good cry.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Humble Heroes

I wrote about her here she's one of those dear ones locked in my heart who will forever inspire me.

Today she lies in her casket up in the wake-room of the church. I haven't visited yet. Though I will. The finality of death is never more enforced than in a wake-room with an open casket and yes, I'm deferring the moment.

She was a dignified, pretty woman who kept her light under a bushel. Always superbly dressed even in a tracksuit for her road training.

"Hush," she'd say to me when I'd congratulate her on yet another Tely 10. She hated being in the limelight.

She had 9 children, all university graduates. Her husband was twenty years older than her and died in his nineties. She would speak of how wonderful he was. It always brought back my granny's advice of being with a man twenty years older: "Better be an old man's darling than a young man's slave." And Granny lived it also, being married at 18 to a man of 38.

Patricia hated being alone and could never understand my desire and choice to live in such a manner.

"I was born lonely," she said to me more than once as we played cards, "From then on I always wanted company".

Rest in peace, Patricia.

You never did believe me when I told you that you are one of my stars.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mind Control

I'm up at the Tigeen. Replete with deadlines. Replete. What a great word. Let me think about that for a minute or two.

I say to Leo a few hours ago as he shoots up and down the back 40 7+acres - please bring up a few logs to the Tigeen, it's a fire lighting day and I'm nearly fresh out. Leo nods, agrees and then ignores me. He does this a lot. I have to accept it. On his own time. And here he is now.....

As I pondered the shortfall of wood for the wee stove I thought: I have a lot of old wool there, I should knit a carrier for wood. Wool and wood. With a long wood handle. Open ended. Something to design and make up here when my muse, Scriobhnarin, flees. As she has done.

Knitting pushes the writing around, fills my head with fresh thoughts and approaches. I need to read, edit, add notes, descriptions, fill in the voids of symphonic phraseology(!). Attempt lyricism. Knitting plays the counterpoint to this.

And Sister gave me a brand new knitting bag when I was back home.

As if I don't have enough already.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lemony Prune Mouth

I have to watch myself.

A dear friend maintains that as we get older our character defects become more emphasised and more entrenched.

Evidence corroborates.

If you're messy and cluttered the habits get worse as the energy dissipates with which to deal with them. The debris piles up in the face of decreased desire and perhaps a lifelong ennui. Whatever the cause.

I have to watch my inner judgemental self .

Particularly around drunks.

I was at a dinner party Saturday night. I should have left earlier than I did. Before it descended into loud arguments and hot debates and facets of friends that turn antagonistic/weepy/belligerent/ridiculous. Take your pick.

None of them will remember any of it in the morn. But I will. Alone in my rigid sobriety. Apart from one other. Who also engages in these mindless debates. He hosts and can't go to bed and leave his living room to an iffy scenario of mess and slop.

I sometimes have difficult with timing. Part of me doesn't want to desert the sinking ship of drunken debate and leave him alone on his island of sobriety.

And for a while, before the ocean of booze tips everyone into incoherence, the chat and food are enthralling and interesting.

And then.

Timing is everything. I can't seem to assess the best time to leave.

I think: I can't believe these people, all in their sixties, still behave like frat boys/girls when it comes to booze.

And I feel my mouth prune up and inner tut-tuts bang around in my head.

But I do manage to escape before the spliffs get passed around.

Not that anyone notices.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Over the Edge and Into Laughter

Seriously. My house is a construction zone. Grit covers my floors, my windows have been semi-replaced (11 of them), wet paint hangs off doors and foundations, thingies are propped open or shut. Bins of debris surround the house, abandoned scaffolding lines the deck. The only living beings who enjoy this mess are the blue jays who patrol the railings and dive bomb the bird feeders. And that's just the front of the house.

At the back of the house Leo is sawing wood for the winter. He treks up the hill into the woodlot with his noisy ATV and trailer and drags down logs and chain-saws them into stove-shapes.

And then: friends I haven't seen in 10+ years show up from Ontario, I'm very easily found on this island. Ask in most shops on the Avalon Peninsula and you'll get excellent directions. Normally I don't mind and this has happened a few times in the past.

But today? It was a chaos of hammering, stamping, banging, sawing, dragging, accompanied by indoor window fixings, dust flying everywhere and debris crunching underfoot.

On top of all this, Ansa watchdogged like a mad thing trying to keep track of all the invaders and barking while protecting me by sitting on my feet and glaring and sniffing and yapping at Those Who Dared Enter the Holy of Holies.

Timing? Sweet Jeebus. Couldn't be better.

And speaking of Jeebus.

My friends had found Him a few years ago.

And wanted to share the Good News.

It was then I broke all the way down and laughed and laughed like a lunatic.

A tonic, I tell ya, a tonic.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Whatever happened to wearing the world like a loose garment anyway?

I can't seem to settle into my own skin.

It's been hectic since I got back, workers still crawling around the house, municipal matters piled up while I was gone now scream for attention and the plans for finishing off Book 3 and sending it around recede into the background. I don't think my brain could cope.

Yeah, I'm living in chaos.

On top of that my android phone appears to have been stolen while I was gone. The wee shelf where it lives and sucks power is bare. Daughter hunted high and low while she was staying here. As did I when I returned. That leaves me feeling queasy.

Dozers and other machinery tear up and down next door building monster summer homes for the sons of the local merchant.

Discombobulated is what I am. Restless and irritable. And anxious. About what I couldn't tell you. Pileup it feels like.

This could be seasonal, or it might be the noise and banging around me not to mention the crunch of scrapings, dust and debris underfoot. Summer people are now leaving for warmer climes and that makes me sad.

Oh yes, good news in that a play I submitted to a St. John's theatre is being "considered" for production.

And no news on the artist's grant I applied for.

I can really see now how elders/artists living alone make a monthly choice between food and heat.


Nudge: To the Universe - grant, please, now. I need this grant!

Then it will be loose garment time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


My friend is home.

First telephone conversation with me after all she's been through:

"I'm only on the phone with you because you're so worried. I'm not supposed to be on the phone at all. You're the first phone-call. Now. Relax. I am perfect."

"But the surgery? The recovery? The prognosis?"

"Listen to me, I am perfect. My doctors say that I am in such great physical shape I can have the chemotherapy at home and have six weeks of radiation in the hospital in conjunction."

"I can't believe how you're sounding."


"I'm eating like a pig again, all lovely foods, I'm being spoiled I tell you. They all run out of the house and get exactly what I want. Like a 5 star hotel."

"You had me in bits - and now listen to you."

"Listen: I went all through this before with the breast cancer and I had so many other stresses in my life, remember the trouble I had with Daughter at the same time?"

"Yes, you got through that and no flies on you."

"And right, this time is perfect. I am older and no worries and this is an absolute doddle compared with then."

"Well, not a doddle....."

"It's a perfect doddle. So stop all the fuss. I am perfect."

Yes, ma'am.

Sunday, September 07, 2014


I am still processing a trip back to my home country.

A trip which started with an enormous shadow cast over it.

A shadow which crept into every aspect of it, which had me telling extended family members or close friends as I sat down to table or met them in cheerful places:

"I'm really, really sorry if I appear sad and distracted. It's not you."

And then I would creep off stage to take or make a phone-call on my Irish mobile.

My very best friend, my friend of over 60 years (how rare that is, a friend from kindergarten, from everything and everyone important in one's life who knows all your secrets and you hers)was sick when I arrived. Doctors had thrown anti-depressants at her, she wasn't eating, her brain wasn't functioning, her balance was precarious. This I saw when I arrived.

I was shocked, appalled, frightened. She is a livewire, had completed a marathon in June, was on the Irish bridge team, formed her own successful book club and was a host, along with her husband, of salon type gatherings of interesting, wonderful people, one of which she'd planned for me the following night.

The wheels were set in motion from that point. Immediate medical attention from other consultants if necessary.

Within days, she was under a surgical team of 4. The brain tumour was huge, 5 centimetres. And they didn't get all of its evil tendrils as it would have impacted her mobility and intelligence.

And I haven't written about it until now, even my personal hand written journaling of the whole scattered time of it brings me to tears.

I am frozen in the processing, something inside went numb and scared and can't get up.

I don't know what her comprehension is of what is going down. Only her husband's. He is being so brave and positive for their adult children but lets more of his bewilderment and loss and fear out with me.

To say we are stunned is to put it mildly. To say we are lost for words when words are lost to us seems trite.

The magnitude is incomprehensible.

I can't imagine my life without her, without her cheerleading, without her daily emails, without her chat. Without her, my glorious, wonderful friend.

I had thought to stay on in Ireland to dither around the edges of the pain and loss and helplessness.

I thought long and hard and alone on this but decided against it. Our usefulness can often be more helpful in the simple carrying on of our own lives.

Pretending everything is okay.

When the heart is shattered.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nasty Job

My house in the throes of massive repairs and painting.

There is always one nasty ugly job in my life that I keep putting off and putting off.

Almost like sticking my head into a bush with my bum sticking out thinking no one could see me. Don't laugh. I had a dog that did that. I'd be calling her: "Tara, Tara!" and she'd head for a bush and hide and I'd have to laugh, watching how she'd let her bum hang out and tuck her tail around it and lie perfectly still. She was always amazed when I'd stick my head in the other side of the bush and go "na-na-na I'm smarter than you!"

But I digress. Today I was in my office up the road all morning. I want to put a park in our town. With a BBQ pit and nice benches and maybe a stretch of boardwalk on the shore.

But that put-off nasty job in my house? it kept jumping into my brain.

It's like this: I get infested in my utility room with ants every July and put down bait and spray and powder and eco-friendly solutions (baking powder and icing sugar mixed 50/50), etc. And all this takes place behind a freezer and all over a window where they get in and down from the ceiling where there are gaps (old wood ceilings and I do like them, the ceilings, not the ants). And the mess this year, people?

Do you know that ants cart off their dead for they have their very own graveyards near wherever the hell their nests are? Yeah, they do. But this year I killed so many I imagine I must have been lucky and killed the graveyard attendants plus the funeral corteges and the mourners too. So the massacre sites on windows, in poison buckets and behind freezer? Beyond imagining

This avoidance had to come to an end. I am leaving for Ireland this Friday and I thought the job is too awful for Emma, my twice/month cleaning treasure to deal with. There are limits to demands I can make on her or on anyone else for that matter.

So I had to bribe myself. I talk myself into doing deferred nasty jobs. I have been doing it since I was, like, 4.

"I will make you the best BLT in the world after you finish this. Homegrown Swiss chard, lashings of crisp bacon, home grown perfectly sliced tomatoes AND some smoked salmon, and yeah, okay, cream cheese on - wait-for-it - 12 grain artisan bread from the best bakery in the world. Toasted to gold."

And rubber gloves, bleach, buckets and vacuum to hand I did it. And I only came close to gagging once.

And I was so proud.

And the sandwich? Heaven on a plate.

Bribery sure works on this wuss.

Monday, August 18, 2014


I'm applying for an arts grant. A few pennies to throw food on the table as I write WW1 scenes for this novel and edit it and wind it up. Yeah it's work, it's a struggle, but when it goes right, I'm in my bliss. And no, there's no daddywarbucks in my life. Just me on a fixed paltry income.

I've already assembled my team of First Readers, except for maybe one more. If you'd like to be on it, drop me a line, see email addie on the left side of the blog. October 15th is my deadline to release to the team.

There I've said it. October 15th.

Anyways. I'm here today, with pictures and details of the Battle of the Somme, careful graphs of dates and ages. Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1970. Etc. It's intense. I saw the inside of the Ritz once. 1965. Close enough, right? unless they made changes without telling me.

And then, sweet Dog, the work starts on my house. Not simple work understand. Complicated banging, scraping and unfolding rotting foundations work. So much so that the dog crawls under my desk and whimpers, "Sorry I can't defend you against these ravening hordes. Sometimes it's just all too much for me. I'm old, see."

A simple scrape and slap on the paint job is just not happening. Rot. Old doors. Damp buildup. 11 window panes need replacing. Fresh new lumber trucked over from the lumberyard across the bay for part of the foundations. Banging, did I talk banging? And how do I afford this add-on horror to the original barely manageable financially job?

And I think as I write: this is nothing. Imagine those WW1 trenches.

And no, I can't go to my Tigeen. There's a 3 foot drop outside my back door. Into mud. I am moated with extreme sound effects while I summarize my 75% completed book begging for a measley arts grant.

And you think you've got problems.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I see a meme being tossed around on FB of three things to be grateful for for 5 days and then roping in 3 more friends to do the same.

It's interesting reading these lists and I become mindful of all I have to be grateful for.

I'm making lists at the moment. A few lists.

List #1.
Packing: For my trip to the Oul Sod. Keeping it lighter, keeping it useful. I'm good at packing. I never, like some of my friends, pack anything I don't wear or use. Everything's interchangeable with another item. I gave up dresses and skirts a while back so clothes are simple. Dress pants, cargo pants, jeans. A few tops. A cardie. A rain jacket. A few pairs of socks. Undies. Scarves. I've always loved scarves, they can dress up sombre (blacks, neutrals) like nothing else. I struggled with the EReader again. For the last time. No. Back to paper. Pack 2 books, buy another or two when I'm there. Knitting? Maybe.
List #2.
The Dog List: For when I'm away: Ansa's foods, the way it's fixed in the morning, her baby aspirin for her arthritis, her carry-kit for the car (leash, water, flask, doggie bags), her commands (example: she only comes down the stairs with verbal permission, the poor baby could be stuck up there all day if not given permission to come down), etc.
List #3.
Gratitude. (1)So many well-wishers pouring forth lovely thoughts for my birthday yesterday. I was quite overwhelmed.
(2)A day with Daughter who arrived early with baked goodies and crops from her garden (she has this strange farming gene)with the gift of a day with her, wandering where the wind took us with brunch and a seafood dinner thrown into the mix. And a walk by the ocean afterwards.
(3)Lady Day (August 15th)in Newfoundland arrived two days ago. On the Newfoundland calendar this is the start of fall. Summer here is a quick blast of heat, incredible growth spurts in vegetation in a matter of weeks, and the longest autumn - often running 4 months. I just love it. My favourite season. For many reasons.
And Bonus:
(4) Each day I wake up to in reasonable and joyful good health.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Taking Offence

Dear Diary:

Some of the gang went off to have lunch at a theatre event yesterday and then visited an older friend now in a swishy home for the aged followed by dinner at one of my favourite Chinese restaurants. A jam-packed-with-activity day.

I didn't even get a token invitation: you know, along the lines of: you must be up to your neck but hey, would you like to....

I admit it. I was hurt. That lasted about 4 minutes.

And then I started to laugh and laugh and laugh.

At myself.

Because seriously, Diary, it totally sounds like a day from hell for me: 12 hours of constant company and being "on", a horrific dinner/lunch theatre thing that every year involves at least one male actor in drag playing a simplistic, overly sexual (huge balloon breasts),short-skirted, simpering, grotesque, stupid woman that would have me gnashing my teeth in rage as all about me fall down in thigh-slapping, helpless laughter.

Thank you for small mercies.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another One

I don't personally know these famous people who choose to die by their own hands. Alone. No goodbyes. Unable to go on. Unable to suffer another hour in addiction or depression or hopelessness or all three or even more.

Feeling their lives are worthless, placing no value on themselves or their gifts. Feeling their pain is unheard, their connection to others severed, strained, vanished.

Seeing no other way out. None.

Thinking everyone and everything shallow and hopeless, their lives one big sham. One never-ending pretence of laughing on the outside and dying inside. Wanting it over. Finished.

Nothing does the "trick": Expensive clinics or the love of a spouse or lover or child. Or grandchild. Or a parent, a sibling, a best friend.

This death. This death. I understand. I know how he felt.

And the extraordinary thing, the most extraordinary thing today, when the news was released: Two of my dearest family members in far flung countries reached out in a tight little circle to me to write communally about this. It was a group hug of the finest love. The awareness of each other and our common familial struggle with those demons of Robin Williams. And Philip Seymour Hoffman and so many others.

We three have been there. Their pain is our intimate.

And we can never, ever be complacent in our recovery.

RIP Sweet Robin.

Thanks for the laughs and the genius of your mind.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


View from the Tigeen

I'm up over the trees and the birds and the ocean in my Tigeen. Where good stuff happens. Like writing. Like musing.

And then, a half an hour ago, I hear the sounds of the cemetery mass floating on the air towards me. Crystal clear. Something I'd never hear in my house below.

This is a combination of the placement of the Tigeen, the prevailing breeze and acoustics.

The sermon arrives at me intact. The bits of singing, the readings. The sounds of my childhood and some adult years. The pray-for-usses, the pleadings, the begging of Himself, the Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper, to do what he is requested but only if it is his will - a wonderful form of circular thinking. And a win-win for those requested to intercede to end the suffering, or grant the wishes. I used to wonder - even when practising these rituals - about that. As in why bother praying (and paying) if he's going to do what he damn well pleases anyway?

I am so detached from all of that mumbo-jumbo now, a bemused ear is thrown over to the graveyard. A reflection on all the money collected for these lamentations and laundry lists.

"Oh Lamb of God" I hear as I type this, "Fear not I will come for thee". Yelled very loudly by he who officiates, white biscuit held high above his head I would imagine.

And then I imagine ICH convulsed on a cloud, snorting uncontrollably, finally collapsing in helpless laughter.

Saturday, August 09, 2014


I realize I think in extremes. I'm not late to this realization but it tends to darken perception.

I'm writing in the midst of a power outage. We had a bad thunderstorm an hour or so ago. And as is the way of it, I do not have water stockpiled or a back up generator for the house utilities. Oil lamps, yes. A propane mini-stove, yes. Normally I keep water on hand but in summer, who needs backup?

Maybe being brought up with the possibility of nuclear disaster/and the Fatima end of the world scenario - a distinct possibility reinforced by the Catholic school system on a regular basis - had something to do with this bleakness of outlook.

So I think: what happens if the power never comes back again? OMG freezer and contents?

Meanwhile I have this battery back up in the office - thus enabling internet and laptop, good for an hour or so.

I remind myself this is not the end of days. Even though, seriously, it feels like it.

I remind myself how fragile we humans are, how dependent on the niceties of the power grid, the internet, water, fuel.

And the antidote: Right now, I am safe, housed and coffeed.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Natural Selection

Today (for Dog knows I wasn't up for it yesterday)I wonder about life's manifestations and nuances.

And birth order.

And how some in the same gene pool escape the afflictions of the others.

And nature vs nurture.

And hereditary vs environment.

Is everything in life a balancing act - i.e. a vs?

Like some eat and never gain weight.

While others can't even look at an ice cream without some kind of osmosis taking place.

Are there trade-offs - like you get so many talents but you also get all the angst, whereas you, you over there, get none but you're oh-so-happy-all-the-time. Because money/beauty/wit/Harvard.

And addiction? Is that genetic roulette?

Is adult life all about unmet needs from childhood?

Existential moments.

From me.

Who doesn't feel quite all there, right now.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Holding Your End Up

I was commenting on John Gray's blog this morning when I was reminded, as we are, of this old phrase of my mother's.

The life lessons of an Irish mammy.

Along with never marching off to visit anyone with "your arms the same length", "holding your end up" was another essential one.

"Holding your end up" involved:

Writing thank you notes for everything and anything tossed your way no matter how awful or badly knitted or even wrapped in newspaper.

Never letting the family secrets out of the cupboard.

Not wearing raggedy underwear in case there was an accident and then the whole hospital would be talking about you and yours. Forever amen.

As soon as you landed on Irish soil, no matter how long away, you were put on the phone to every aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparent to tell them you'd arrived and to give them all the news. Hours I'm telling you. Hours.

Table manners: The right and the wrong way to hold the fork. And always decline seconds of everything. Never be the first one into the chocolate box.

QED: Make sure everyone knows how well you were raised.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Blending Reality and Fiction.

I read. I read a lot. I always have. I gain so much from reading. Insight into the lives of others. Insight into the minds of writers. Massive escapism. Understanding. Being understood.

Some have it that to be a good writer one needs to be a voracious reader. My jury is out on that one. I would like to hear the other side of that argument. As a voracious reader and voracious writer I link the two processes. But how I would I know? I've always read. Since I was four, thank you Daddy.

In mid-July I finished a large tome: "The Novel" by James Michener.

And he put into words something I'd been mulling about for a while.


As so often happens with writers, my imaginary terrain had become more real to me than the physical one that surrounded me.

I have exactly that feeling with one of my unpublished (but complete) books. When I am back in the town in Ireland I write about (but disguise)I see my own imaginary characters on the roads and in the houses and churches.

I know these people.

They walk with me.