the cottage

the squishy moss on the rock

God’s carpet he asked

a sweet memory made

the sound of the rain

tapping its messages

on the steel roof

the fog rolling, cotton

over the still water

enveloping my board

the loon calls out

I am nearby

this is home

the lily pads return

blanketing the bay

white dots on green

family gathers again

long sticks, white sugar

orange fire flickers

dad

I have a complicated set of emotions around the word ‘dad’.

I did not grow up with my own father in my life and when I did get to know him, the mysteries of who he was, the fantasy of who I thought he was – nothing got resolved in the few years we had together before he died in 2004.

I often said my dad was an uncomplicated man, that he had simple tastes and a simple life. I knew when I said those things that was untrue but it helped me to be okay with the fact that he never revealed much of himself to me.

After he tried to take his life, there was no denying that he was not only complicated but haunted. Depressed. A man without hope. He had lost his eyesight, his livelihood and his business.

It was not the first time he had lost his way. I hoped he could find a new purpose for living.

Cancer found him instead.

One of the last conversations I had with my dad was when he was heavily sedated, due to the cancer ravaging his body. He yelled at me to go to my room and do my homework.

This was a hallucination, not a memory. Later that day, one of my cousins came by and dad said “find me a goddamn scotch”. I had a glimpse of the angry, bitter man my mother left back in the 1960s.

Dad stopped drinking in his 30s, when he was diagnosed with diabetes, but the man he was then was resurfacing in his final days, under the wrong conditions.

A day or so later, dad had them dial back the sedation. We took him out of palliative care to sit in his chair at home, watching sports on his big screen tv, with family surrounding him as we ate Thanksgiving dinner.

We had to carry him out of the house to the car.

After we took him back to care, we said goodbye. Not so long. But goodbye.

He again went under heavy medication and he never came back.

My chance to know him is gone; what I hold on to is the fleeting feeling I had that we mattered to each other.

The best of the best

My hubby is a kid at heart. It’s not that he’s never grown up – he takes responsibility seriously.

But, he also takes his fun pretty seriously. Like cycling up mountains in Taiwan. Like he thinks it’s fun to get up at the crack of ridiculous and go out on his bike before work.

He loves to be on the water, in a kayak, a sailboat – jumping off the Tarzan swing at the cottage.

He likes to hike and sit in a park.

He likes to see the world from a hundred different angles.

And his greatest enjoyment comes from sharing it and passing on that love to his kids.

From day one, the question he asked, when he got home from work, was what did the kids get up to today? He wanted to be part of their adventures, he wanted to encourage them to love the outdoors, he wanted them to know that everything they did and everything they are mattered to him.

We grew adventurous children – and that is all him.

You are the best of the best, my love – and you learned so much of that from your own dad.

Love you to forever – thanks for being you.

aging – not for the faint of heart

In December, 1982, I met an inspiring lady for the first time. Tim’s aunt Evelyn, born in 1923, has travelled the world solo including Bermuda (21 times!), Europe, Scandanavia, Hawaii, and the Yukon; moved across the country to work in rural British Columbia in 1960, and worked at the United Church for 32 years. In all of those adventures and beyond, she took care of herself and others.

This week, she took a fall that has stalled her independent march and she now has to rely on others for things she has always done for herself. It’s a tough adjustment. She has faced it as she faces everything – with determination.

Everywhere I have been in her nursing home this week, people ask after her and they tell me stories of her many kindnesses and quirks. It’s been nice to get to know her from the perspective of those she lives with everyday.

When I saw the poem below, I thought of Evelyn, not only because it’s titled ‘Prayer’ and Evelyn is a very religious person, but because although overall her demeanor is quiet, she must have been considered ‘frisky’ and ‘risque’ at those times that she defied what women ‘were supposed to do’. I’ve never seen her dance, but I’m sure she’s cut a rug or two in her day.

Prayer, by Mary Oliver

May I never not be frisky,

May I never not be risqué.

May my ashes, when you have them, friend,

and give them to the ocean,

leap in the froth of the waves,

still loving movement,

still ready, beyond all else,

to dance for the world.

Ghosts or ancestors

This term, I am taking a course called Creative Writing through Reading and it has made me pay even closer attention to words. Yesterday, driving on my own for a few hours, I caught these words on the Broadway album for Bruce Springsteen.

We are ghosts or we are ancestors in our children’s lives. We either lay our mistakes, our burdens upon them, and we haunt them, or we assist them in laying those old burdens down, and we free them from the chain of our own flawed behavior. And as ancestors, we walk alongside of them, and we assist them in finding their own way, and some transcendence.

I am not going to pretend that, as much as I love his music, that Bruce is a profound philosopher. He is, though, able to articulate things for some people, give hope to others, and entertain millions.

The words quoted above make sense to me.

I believe that if we are self-aware, we can be better. We can be better parents, better citizens, better partners – simply better.

Not that I’ve been asked, but if I were to give advice to another parent, here it is: deal with your crap, whatever it is, deal with it.

Whatever you need to do to put down your burden, do it, so that you can walk alongside your children, and not be the barrier between them and the life they deserve.

 

Sunday Share

Today was a wonderfully busy day with one of my favourite people. We did some Doors Open, some gluten-free market tasting, some plant buying and a wonderful walk (and a few songs) down memory lane.

Wonderful stuff but stuff that left me behind in my blog post department.

No fear! I was introduced to this lovely/funny/chaotic poem this week in one of my classes. I loved it because I could feel myself relate on both sides of the equation – the mom thinking I knew what I needed to do to push someone out of their comfort zone ‘for their own good’ and being the child having to give something up which I was sure I was not ready to part with yet.

It’s a bit of a cheat to showcase someone else’s work perhaps – but there it is!

Enjoy

Self-Portrait with the Ashes of My Baby Blanket
By Diane Seuss

Ashes, because she set fire to it in the burn barrel.

Leave her alone, with your newfangledness.

I was a clingy, fearful thumb-sucker, and she knew I needed reinventing.

She tore it away and I screamed and she burned it.

Begone, soft, pale yellow. She knew if I kept it I’d stumble over it

the rest of my life, how far I would travel without it

and how many strange birds I would trap

in the story of its burning.

simple traditions

It started out simply enough – the sun was shining, a few birds were chirping.

We were getting married that day.

There was no large hall booked. No long flowing gown or tuxedo.

Six bottles of champagne were chilling and some deli trays were waiting.

We started our married life simply. It worked for us.

We wanted to get married. Beyond that, everything was just icing on the cake (there wasn’t even one of those).

This anniversary, our 36th, we’ll be 4176 km apart – hoping that the sun is shining and the birds are chirping on both ends of the country!

the dress

(this week’s assignment: write a story from the POV of the person in this painting)

This night, one that had all the markings of a triumph, now seemed destined for ruin. A girl plucked from the social margins, Charlotte had been chosen as the star of her school’s musical. She had delivered a flawless closing night performance. The arc of her narrative had captivated the entire community.

Yet, here she sat, dress torn, all alone.

Well, that’s typical, she thought.

No good comes from trying to be someone you’re not, her father always said.

Laying back on the bed, the crinoline of her designer gown scratching at her legs, Charlotte tried to ignore the urge to scream. Below her people were laughing, celebrating her success, without her.

The house was full of cast members, crew and school staff. And her mother, the woman she hadn’t seen in fifteen years.

God, what did she do to deserve this new layer of hell? That woman, whose only connection to Charlotte was her DNA, suddenly shows up.Tonight. The one time in her life when she thought, maybe it’ll be okay. Maybe I can fit in.

Her father always said, your mother is useless. A selfish bitch. A taker. Well, she definitely stole something from me, thought Charlotte.

My night. This was supposed to be my night.

Rolling onto her side, Charlotte noticed the ornate fixtures on the sink in the adjoining bathroom. One of the taps was dripping and although she could not hear the sound over the noise of the party below, she noted the rhythm of the drip and began to tap it out on the footboard.

You need to calm yourself, her father always said. Don’t be a hysterical woman like your mother.

By focusing on the drip, her breathing slowed, and her anger began to subside. She did not hear the door open, but the increased audio intensity of the party broke her meditative state.

“Charlie?”

Charlotte’s fingers stopped midair.

That’s a boy’s name, her father always said. No good comes from trying to be someone you’re not.

The woman entered the room cautiously, closed the door and leaned against it.

“I didn’t mean to upset you, and I really didn’t mean to rip your dress. It was my bracelet, it just caught…”

Charlotte stood up abruptly, placing her hands firmly on her hips. “Stop. Don’t make excuses. Father says that’s what you do.”

The woman flinched at the mention of her ex-husband.

Your mother’s the devil, she’ll scratch out your eyes if she gets close enough, her father always said. Who was he describing? Certainly not this mousey creature before her?

The older woman straightened up, trying to square her shoulders.

“Your friends are waiting for you. The hostess says there’s a sewing kit in the room next door, why don’t we see if we can fix your dress?”

Charlotte pushed her mother aside and began to open the door. “No good comes from trying to be someone you’re not.”

 

there is no way to do this wrong

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time – Mary Oliver

That piece of inspiration sits on my wall as a daily reminder to give the idea of writing power and time.

It’s hard – perhaps because I feel like an imposter some days.

What is a writer? Some people say a writer is someone who writes. Other people say you are a writer when you make a living as a writer. One of those definitions includes a whole whack of people, the other excludes a large swath who spend a great deal of time giving power to their writing.

I have always written – poems and stories. Even before I could write full stories, I had a storybook in my mind which I ‘flipped’ through nightly to tell myself bedtime stories (funny how now I use a meditation app for its sleep stories….).

I have always wanted to give more time and power to creative work. I think, as I go through the process of taking courses, I’ve come to realize that I feared finding out that my writing voice is not good enough, that I am not a ‘good enough’ writer (whatever that means).

That ‘aha’ moment for me was when I received the comments for my final assignment in my last course. I realized I’d been holding my breath, waiting for my instructor’s feedback. The other assignments I had submitted had not felt risky. This piece had felt like a huge leap of faith. I was not writing fiction; I was writing in my own voice, telling my own story.

The courses I am taking have a pass/fail grading system. It’s all about the comments. The instructor was incredibly supportive, while giving criticism. But, she validated the fact that I am now doing the right thing by taking time to give power to my writing.

A consistent theme with the books I’ve been reading about the writing life show that people often doubt, they always wonder, they throw their work away and start again.

That fear, that wondering if I’m getting it right, well, if nothing else has shown me I am pursuing a creative field – apparently, that’s the tell.

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong – Joseph Chilton Pearce

photo: a desktop inspiration quote from @hellowriter (the monthly subscription service from Firefly Creative Writing)

one day gone

one day gone

unpack my bag

the hand me ups

soft loved items

memories emerge

scented candle

subtle florals

a woolen hug

 

shoes at the door

sharp salt crystals

fall from the treads

memories emerge

walks to the beach

wind whipped our cheeks

frozen belly laughs

 

scroll the photos

your beauty wrapped

in bright orange

memories emerge

the electric track

tinged with fear

high on life

 

hear your voice

one day gone

a stuttered hello

memories emerge

child of my body

woman of your world

small of my heart