Morning Prayer

5:50 a.m. In dark just lighter than pitch, the dog and I venture out for his morning relief. The spilled streak of stars we call the Milky Way fades as I glance up, as though my eyes mop heavens’ mess. The dog lifts his leg and anoints the road sign pole and I hear the splash of contact. He kicks his hind legs, rubs his paws on the grass making sure every bit of his scent graces his small patch of turf. Continue reading

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A Woman’s Best Garment is Silence

She crafted herself
a new blue suit
of worsted wool
gabardine,
stitched in
silence,
lined the jacket with
old friends,
abandoned mother,
Aunt Lee, Uncle Dean,
threaded
Old Man River,
dust bowl farms,
Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois
in each seam,
even though she’d
dreamed long
of leaving. Continue reading

Words Never Fail Me

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Montreal Botanical Gardens – August 2018

Silky morning breeze
sidles
around my neck
murmurs through
sun-scrubbed leaves.

Startled by tranquility
I lift my coffee cup,
taste bitter
wrapped in bliss,
and discover
syzygy.*

___

*What the heck, Susanne, you say, is syzygy? Sub i for y and the word is pronounced siz-i-jee. In the context of this poem it means “any two related things, either alike or opposite”.

It also means inspiration because as I sat pondering a piece of personal non-fiction I’m struggling to get just right (and write) and nothing worked, I found this word accidentally on Dictionary.com. The other implacable draft dropped away and off I went on this poem. One word changed the morning from self-flagellating defeat to a small victory.

Words never fail to inspire me.

“Tracking Happiness”

If Agatha Christie were alive she might have written “Tracking Happiness” in collaboration with P.G. Wodehouse but this cosy mystery is by Ellen Morris Prewitt. Ellen is a 21st century writer whose use of comic dialogue reminds me of Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories and who handles plot and red herring infusions like Agatha Christie. Think “Murder on the Orient Express” meets “My Man Jeeves”. Continue reading

The 42nd

PointPeleeSign

Mainland Canada’s southernmost tip is parallel to Rome and although there are no ancient monuments, the ecosystem is as old as the last ice age when glaciers slid into Lake Erie 11,000 years ago. Point Pelee National Park (pelée being a French word that means “bald”) is on the 42nd parallel and it pokes into the shallowest of the Great Lakes like Pinocchio’s nose. Varieties of plants, animals, insects and birds found within its bounds are unique in the country. It’s a complex ecosystem.

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Walking through the Carolinian forest of Point Pelee

To reach the Point you drive to a little town called Leamington, Ontario. Leamington is known as the tomato capital of Canada and the tourist office on the main street is housed in an enormous tomato replica – undoubtedly a beefsteak. It comfortably holds two people who peer out of its window and greet you, offer advice on what to see, where to go and how to get there. Continue reading

The Dog Shakes

Nearly three years ago I wrote a flash fiction story about a dog with “issues” and sent it around to a few journals. It was rejected many times. Then in June this year I attended a small press trade show in an Ottawa community centre and found Common Deer Press.  Their submission guidelines for the Short Tail section of their website said this,

We tend to prefer work that might be literary if it weren’t so genre….

and I thought “Hmm. Maybe Nelson would like to live here.”

Without further ado, here it is – The Dog Shakes

edited by Emily Stewart. Thank you, Common Deer Press for giving Nelson a home.

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Cheers!

 

 

For sale: red dress

RedDress

Vintage. Size 8. Worn three times in 1992.

The reason
I wore the dress for the first time at a Meeting Planners International (Ottawa Chapter) Gala. I won “Planner of the Year”, for which I received a plaque. Now when I hear the word plaque I think gum disease and heart attack but back then it meant achievement. I was good at a job that, among other things, demanded good feet. Back then when scouting a location for a 1200 delegate conference and 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, I walked every inch of too many hotel function rooms and concrete floored trade show halls – in stilettos. I tromped service corridors and loading bays. I hoofed the cobblestone streets of old Montreal surrounding the Montreal Convention Centre. I pounded the paved cruise ship docks beside the Vancouver Convention Centre and marched up and down Halifax’s hills to and from the harbour and up to the Citadel because back then there was no Google Earth or Mapquest to help situate the convention site within a city. I had to see it for myself. In stilletos. Because. Fashion. Continue reading

An Undrained Swamp

Greenest

We walk in a temple of green. If I was a perfumer I would describe the aroma as a blend of sawdust from mulched dead ash trees, blackened leaves dribbling at water’s edge warmed with pine needles and finished with a hint of irises and clover.

Night Crested Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron

The water birds are blase about our presence. Two common mergansers with their punk rock feathers streaming from the back of their heads sit placidly on the shore as we approach. Further in the green glow of underbrush a Black Crowned Night Heron holds his pose giving us his profile. A pair of Wood Ducks confidently ignore us as we tiptoe closer to take their photo.

Above us the birdsong is the sound of a tuning symphony. I can’t pick out a single note that I recognize.

BigPines

Mud Lake – an undrained swamp in the heart of Ottawa.

 

An American Goldfinch undulates from tree to tree. Five dive and swoop across a small clearing as though the sun released a few rays and turned them into birds

Irises

Imagine the smell.

Cedar Waxwings leap into the air in a weird see-saw flight from branch to branch. They reach up with their beaks to catch insects and then slap their wings together, which sound like fingers snapping, and then see-saw to the opposite tree whistling as they go. I’ve never heard their call before nor have I seen them feeding on anything other than seeds in our backyard feeder.

I feel like a birdwatcher again. It makes me happy to pay attention to something else other than work and worries.

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Swamp monster

 

 

 

 

 

Let me help you with that

A guest post from my husband, Chris.

Image result for Newspaper reports Juno Beach

Juno Beach, Normandy, France

Considering the rotten things Donald Trump has said about – and done to – his neighbours to the south, it seems almost churlish to complain about his latest insult to Canada. Hell, despite his patronizing tone he may even have been trying to be complimentary when he conceded that in the Second World War Canada “helped us out”.

But honest to God, for the benefit of the many thoughtful and fair-minded Americans who may not have the grasp of history that you would expect of a President, let me explain a few things.

Here’s a good one to start with: by an interesting trick of time travel we started helping America in September 1939, two years and three months before you joined the fight. During that time we helped you by flying in the Battle of Britain; escorting convoys across the North Atlantic; carrying out bombing raids over Europe; sending agents into Europe; and training thousands of American ex-pats to help us in the fight against fascism. Immediately following the disaster at Dunkirk and the fall of France, the First Canadian Division was the only large body of trained soldiers in England equipped to resist the expected invasion.

While you listened to “do-nothings” and quasi-fascist isolationists like Lindbergh, we got busy helping set up the Commonwealth Air Training Plan which put over 140,000 aircrew from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, Norway and other countries through training in Canada. Included in this number were a pretty healthy crop of Americans who needed our help to get into the fight. By the end of the war about 10,000 Canadian air crew lost their lives.

Canada fought in China at Hong Kong, in North Africa, in Sicily and Italy, in North West Europe and in south-east Asia. We took one of five beaches on D-Day.

With a population of only 11 million at the time, Canada had over one million people in uniform during World War II. Virtually every industry was a war industry. And we were never attacked! We did this when we could have sat back and relied on geography to see us through. Instead we stepped up. About 60,000 Canadians died in the war. And if it happened again, we’d do it again.

I don’t begrudge the United States the pride it takes in its contribution to the fight in the Second World War. You were an indispensable ally. But let’s get this straight. When you joined the war late in 1941, you helped Britain and its allies. Even the USSR, which took a savage toll in casualties, can’t claim that we were just their helper. It’s not something they like to be reminded of, but they only joined Britain, Canada and others after two years of trade with Germany – including trade in war materials – bought them time to get a little readier to face the inevitable. So, thanks America for doing the right thing. But remember, while your track record on fighting fascism may be good, on identifying fascists for what they are – not great.