Not in My Lane

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I stood on the pool deck, without my glasses, squinting at the four lanes marked leisure, slow, medium, and fast. A man powered through the water in the fast section, performed a swimmer’s flip at the deep end wall, and motored back in a long, smooth front crawl.

“Nope, definitely not going in that lane,” I thought, slightly intimidated. Continue reading

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My Type

Helvetica’s Viking vengeance
pounds rage, warns
despoiler alert,
sorts ill-suited,
sperm-whipped wimps,
Dick pimps,
into type
I like.

Times Roman’s time’s up,
his sagging crown
molding, three-day-old
burned coffee and
three teaspoons of sugar
congealed in a chipped mug
has nothing fresh to say
but what the hell,
at least is true
to type.

Trust me, Didot ain’t it,
linked by sonorific
association to an object – also
not my type. Neither is
a slab-serif screeching
hoary huckster grabbing
space above the fold.

No! Give me
a soft touch. Open Sans
for me, baby.
A daisy scented field
where I read
between the lines,
sans self-editing,
sans erasers,
sans question.
Believe me,
that’s my type.

 

152 Reasons Why

152 reasons I love Canada, in no particular order.

Universal health care (Okay, already I lied. This is the best reason for loving Canada.)
Gun laws (A tie for first. And now the rest in no particular order.)
Jody Wilson-Raybould, PC, MP – for speaking truth to power. Canadian politics.
Jane Philpott, PC, MP – for speaking truth to power. Canadian politics
The Toronto Star – for seeking the truth and counting lies
The Toronto Globe and Mail – for giving a voice to memoir writers via “First Person”, a column of personal essays
The New Quarterly – My favourite Canadian lit mag
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, also known as CBC – The lefties we love to hate and love anyway.
Shelagh Rodgers – She makes reading fun.
Fishhook restaurant in Victoria, BC – Best fucking fish chowder ANYWHERE.
Oso Negro Coffee Shop, Nelson, BC – I defy you to find a funkier place to have a cuppa joe anywhere in the world.
Saskatoon berries
Salmon berries
Gooseberries
Blackberries from Vancouver Island – slightly salted by the breezes from the Strait of Georgia
Logy Bay blueberry thing – my sister’s recipe, best served with family from coast to coast
Bay Bulls Whale Watching – Love the rock and roll of Witless Bay
Cape St Mary’s Ecological Reserve – finest kind of sea birds in North America
Great Big Sea – “Ordinary Day”
The Rankin Family – “We Rise Again”
Gordon Lightfoot – “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”
Blue Rodeo – Jim Cuddy singing “Try” – *sigh*
Donovan Woods – because oldest daughter loves him
Justin Bieber – because youngest daughter loves him
Whitehorse – because middle daughter loves them
Cirque du Soleil – “Bend me, shape me, any way you want me….”
Hannah Georgas – because I fucking love this song.
Burton Cummings – Best Canadian rock voice. Period. “These Eyes”
Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne”. Thank you, Lenny.
kd Lang – singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”
Alex Colville
Mary Pratt
Emily Carr
The Group of Seven
Ron Hynes – “Sonny’s Dream”
Chess’ Fish and Chips, St. John’s, NL – not the best fish and chips but where else do you get fries with stuffing and gravy?
The Ship – St. John’s, NL, folk music mecca
Bruce Cockburn – Ottawa’s own – “Lover’s In a Dangerous Time” writer
The Barenaked Ladies – best version of “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”
Sandra Oh – Ottawa’s own – Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve
The Rideau Canal skateway – no where better to be in January in -20
Beavertails – Grant Hooker’s – another Ottawa boy – creation. Hot fried dough with sugar, cinnamon and lemon eaten after skating all 7 km of the Rideau Canal in -20.
Drake
The Raptors – Woo Hoo! Winners!
The Ottawa Senators hockey team  – Losers but we love them anyway despite Eugene Melnyck.
K-os – Crabbuckit
Montreal’s rue St-Laurent, Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, Atwater Market, Walensky’s.
Quebec City – Mon dieu! Je t’adore!
Margaret Atwood -The Handmaid’s Tale
Alice Munro – Lives of Girls and Women
Mavis Gallant – The Pegnitz Junction
Margaret Laurence – The Diviners
Eden Robinson – Son of a Trickster
David Adams Richards – Mercy Among the Children
Wayne Johnston – The Story of Bobby O’Malley
Mr. Dressup
The Friendly Giant
Jim Carrey
Catherine O’Hara
Mary Walsh – funniest woman in Canada
Lorne Michaels – Saturday Night Live producer
Alex Trebek – Jeopardy! host
Donna Strickland, winner of 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics from the University of Waterloo, a publicly funded university.
James Naismith, inventor of basketball
Buffy St. Marie
Douglas Cardinal, architect
Tommy Douglas, father of universal healthcare
Kiefer Sutherland, Tommy Douglas’ grandson
The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill
The Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in West Vancouver – Taking the ferry home.
The Goose Spit in Comox on Vancouver Island – for the beach parties of my youth
Kye Bay on Vancouver Island – for the stinky low tide
Ainsworth Hot Springs, Nelson BC
Swimming in Meech Lake
Kayaking on the Rideau River in Ottawa
Cross country skiing in Gatineau Park’s 300 km of groomed trails
Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Fall fairs in the Ottawa valley, especially the zucchini carving contest
Sunday Bike Days in Ottawa – when the city closes the parkway streets for 5 hours of traffic free cycling every Sunday in the summer.
The Grouse Mountain Gondola ride in North Vancouver
Kayaking in Deep Cove, Vancouver
Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler
The ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Gibson’s Landing on the Sunshine Coast
Lawrencetown Beach, Nova Scotia  – for the surfing
Baddeck, Nova Scotia, for the ceilidhs
Drumheller, Alberta – Badlands and dinosaur museum. Sage scented air. Sagebrush. Cactuses. Canyons and hoodoos. You. Gotta. Go.
The Redneck Cafe, Cranbrook, BC – Best peach pie.
Butter tarts from Doo Doo’s in Bailieboro, Ontario. Orgasms with pastry.
The Winnipeg Folk Festival
Aust’s General Store, Big Beaver, Saskatchewan. My husband says he’s never seen anything like it.
The twisty road from Nanaimo to Ucluelet
Dundarave Pier, West Vancouver – where to watch fireworks and sunsets
Signal Hill, St. John’s for iceberg spotting and sunrises
Centre Island, Toronto for its kiddie amusement park
Rick Mercer – maybe Canada’s best political satirist
Stella Luna ice cream, Bank Street, Ottawa – frozen orgasms
“Sorry” is our national word.
Eh is for Canada.
Samantha Bee – Yep. She’s ours too.
Ryan Gosling
Shania Twain
Banting and Best, discoverers of insulin
Labrador Retrievers
Newfoundland Dogs
Nova Scotia Duck Tollers
Our two official languages – French and English
Roch Carrier – The Hockey Sweater
Emma Donoghue – Room
The Stanley Cup
The Grey Cup
Hayley Wickenheiser
Ketchup potato chips
John Fluevog shoes

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Fluevog Shoes

Lululemon
The weather – you gotta want to live here!
Canada Dry Ginger Ale
Nanaimo Bars
Poutine – Fries, cheese curds and spicy gravy – mmm good
The snowmobile – invented by Joseph Armand Bombardier
Muskoka chairs – I know you think they’re Adirondack chairs but you’re wrong. Sorry.
Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables
The Tragically Hip – Ahead by a Century
Stephen Leacock – Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
Joni Mitchell – for me an acquired taste, like coffee, but now I can’t live without her
David Foote – Canadian demographer, writer of “Boom, Bust, and Echo”
Tessa and Scott – 2018 Olympic ice dance gold medalists
Toller Cranston
Elvis Stojko
Sydney Crosby
Wayne Gretsky
Gordie Howe
Bobby Orr
Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first woman astronaut
Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, PC, MP, Canada’s first woman prime minister
Maple syrup – liquid gold.
Tim Horton’s double double – If you have to ask, you’re not Canadian.
Montreal style bagels from St. Viateur or Fairmount Bagels. So worth the two hour drive.
Montreal smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz’s on Rue St-Laurent
Giant Tiger – Canada’s discount chain commonly called GT Boutique.
Canadian Tire hardware stores. Because. The name.
Caesar cocktail – Clamato juice and vodka. Protein meets a Russian in Canada and makes a baby with a stick of celery. Only in Canada, eh?
Jos Louis cakes – I didn’t know what I was missing until I moved to Ottawa.
Hawkins Cheezies
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Abhkazi Garden, Victoria, BC
Banff, Alberta – sweetest air in Canada
Stompin’ Tom Connors – The Hockey Song
Ann Murray – Snowbird (Ronald Reagan loved her.)
Canada was the first country to celebrate Labour Day.
Robertson Davies – Fifth Business
Barbara Gowdy – Little Sister
Carol Shields – The Stone Diaries
Elizabeth Hay – His Whole Life
Frances Itani –  Tell

Oh, Canada!
Happy 152nd Canada Day.

 

 

Excuses

The ants came first. Her buds,
they said, asked for it.

Round and green, unopened yet –
you bet she asked for it.

Her nectar egged them on.
Don’t you forget who asked for it!

Her perfume and the bouncing skirt she wore,
she chose, and asked for it.

Look at her! Impossible to ignore
those carpels. Naturally, she asked for it.

What else could I do? Her beauty made me
helpless and asked for it.

Plucked and ruined, dropped inside a vase,
peony, bitch, you asked for it.

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The carpel, or pistil, is the female part of the peony. It includes the flower’s swollen base, called the ovary; the stalk going up from the ovary, called the style; and the pollen-receptive stalk-tip, called the stigma.

Scat!

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Alfie at the Central Experimental Farm – Ottawa, Canada

When Alfie arrived after eight years of pleading for a dog by our youngest daughter, he refused to join us when we occasionally watched t.v. in the basement. He would sit on the first landing – seven steps away – and watch us. His reluctance convinced our youngest daughter a ghost lived in the basement. Continue reading

Those Damn Millennials

Those Damn Millennials

Julie Ethan and I met when her blog was called “Waiting for a Star to Fall” and she still lived in Minnesota. Julie is a master-storyteller who is unafraid to show her heart as she reveals the challenges she’s encountered since she made a mid-life career change.

Village Healer

Second Half of Life Series Vol. 6

I know how to use the round dial on a vintage telephone, but I also have an active Snapchat account. I connect with my boomer and Gen X friends on Facebook, while keeping up with my millennial friends on Instagram.

I was born on the cusp of Gen X. I don’t consider myself a baby boomer per se, but technically I could claim either territory. I’ve read when you’re born between generations—1964 for me—you learn how to navigate both sides, and it makes you a generational mediator.

In my mid-forties, I returned to college and studied servant leadership in preparation for a new vocation—a midlife career transition, or so I thought. By the time I had completed my organizational leadership degree and moved on to completing a master’s in peace and justice studies—ready for hire—I found myself not only dodging intergenerational crossfire, but…

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Do As I Say, Not As I Do

 

Unsplash: Jaakko Kemppainen

Do as I Do was the copper-top
battery of the family. Do as I Say
was the mop inside the bucket.
Just saying, Disney princesses

don’t wear chipped glass
slippers or work in the Magic Kingdom
dressed in ball gowns from
Frederick’s of Hollywood.

Do as I Say’s glass slipper
tinkled like a wind chime
when she dropped it in the rock
garden. Do as I Do ground

her teeth and released
the fiz of juniper and quinine laced
tonic in her mouth. When she fled
to Vancouver, 1495 kilometres from

home – because distance makes
the heart ponder – Do as I Say stayed
home the night her shoe shattered.
Warning shoes were fired

but Do as I Do never did not
do and Do as I Say couldn’t
say for sure if the shoe fit the other
foot. So she limped in one shoe.

“You’re half an aphorism,”
said Do as I Do. But the shoe
fit. Because shade thrown.
I know, right?

“Stop moving. If I see you moving
I’ll put a curse on you.” The hot
cauldron of hate sizzled over
the family campfire of love.

An anvil blue sky pancaked
Do as I Do, her jam oozing
from under it, gluing her
legs and arms to the ground.

Do as I Say gurgled a confessional
song underwater.  Suzie did too but
choked. Do as I Say knew
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

You will love the bittersweet end
of melancholy though you’ll adjust
the recipe. “C’est la vie,” said Do as I Say.
Her shoes crooned “Dooby, dooby doo”.

She giggled. “You’re playing our song.”
In the rock garden, slivers of slipper
glass winked a semaphore of misdirection.
Jam glued the family together again.

This was created using a writing exercise called “Twenty Little Poetry Projects”. Fun has been missing from my writing lately and writing this felt playful. Its mostly nonsense but with some work it could make sense. 

I Know Where You Came From

Rain and muskeg. Noseeums and rain. Rain and skunk cabbage. Rain, rain, rain. Wet canvas sneakers, sopping socks, yellow rain slickers and wet wool that smelled like a sheep draped around your shoulders. Salmonberries, gooseberries, and rhubarb were the only fresh edible things I can remember. The rhubarb leaves were as big as my torso. That was Prince Rupert.

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Then we moved south to Comox on Vancouver Island when I was 10 where there was sun and rain. My mother said “You could shove a twig into the ground in Comox and it would be 100 feet tall the following year.”

Farms surrounded Comox. Not big operations with miles of corn fields, but mixed farms growing cucumbers and pumpkins and squash and tomatoes and beans galore. And strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries.

There were no farmers’ markets. Farmers sold their produce from wooden stands at the entrance to their driveways. Rough hand lettered signs told passers-by what was on offer that day. Mason jars held tall stalks of dill weed and dahlias. The bees could hardly keep up with their job and from April to September the air smelled like honey.

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Food growing from flowers seems miraculous, doesn’t it? Almost something you might read in science fiction. Beans emerging from red scarlet runner flowers. Honestly, what a crazy invention!

In Comox, salads suddenly appeared with dinner. No more canned vegetables and mushy peas. We picked fresh strawberries in June from Farquharson Farms pick-your-own fields. I willingly crouched in long rows of neat strawberry plants with a bucket beside me plucking fruit, a happy labourer working for nothing except the taste of a warm berry in my mouth.

But then I grew up and moved to a city and I forgot what real fresh food tasted like for years. Grocery stores suck the fun out of food. Everything looks the same and nothing has any flavour. How can a bag of romaine trucked from a California factory field taste like anything except the inside of a truck and maybe some exhaust sauce? Grocery shopping is like going to a mall in Toronto or Vancouver or Halifax or Milwaukee or Denver. Same stores, same colours, same smells. Even the fruit and vegetables have labels, like underwear.

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Thank the stars for farmers’ markets. Foraging among the stalls sniffing and sampling local cheese, jams, sauces, baking and wine is so fine. Expensive, though. You’d have to be Bill Gates to buy all your groceries from local growers because cheap it ain’t. But the food has flavour and brightness you don’t get from a basket of blackberries from Columbia or an avocado as hard as a Toronto Blue Jays baseball.

I like the tiny act of rebellion against the food giants, too, although it probably has the same effect on the big store chains as an ant kicking my shin. Nevertheless, once a week, I head to a farmers’ market and bring home a few items for Sunday supper. I feel all plumped up with virtue for supporting local farmers and I can say to the food on my plate “I know where you came from.”

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Coffee Ghost

white ceramic mug with coffee on brown wooden table

Photo credit: Annie Spratt via Upsplash

I dump the compacted coffee grounds from the basket of the stove top espresso maker into the compost and sweep my index finger in the metal basket to free the remaining grains. The day old coffee puck smells like an ashtray, and reminds me of my mother.

*

I used to lie in bed listening to the coffee percolator burble. I sniffed for the first whiff of coffee and singed tobacco tinged with freshly lit sulfur from a spent match. The signals. To be sure the moment was really right – that I could squeeze between an inhale, an exhale and a sip, when she would be happiest – I sang “Mary Had a Little Lamb” twice. And then I bubbled into the kitchen.  With an elbow propped on the counter, hand raised, mother gently held her cigarette. Beside her were an empty ashtray and a full cup of fresh coffee.

“I’ll make your cinnamon toast and vanilla milk in a minute. Just let me finish this first,” she said.

*

I press freshly ground beans into the espresso basket and set the Bialetti on the stove. Steam hisses from it as the water boils and rushes through the basket into the top compartment. At the kitchen table, I wait and look out at the chickadees gathering at the feeder. I wait for the day to pour open, liquid with possibility, for daylight, like cream swirling into coffee, to lighten the dark morning hours. I drink the quiet seconds before my children thunder into the kitchen.

*

Mid-afternoon my mother stopped time. In the living room, she gazed through the window to the harbour, waiting for Dad to come up the road from the fish plant where he worked. She waited with a full ashtray and a half cup of lukewarm coffee. I nestled into her, placing my fingertip into the pink cave of her longest fingernail – a small place I could hide and insert myself into her quiet time.

person holding cigarette near window

Photo credit: Bart Scholliers – Upsplash

 

Bird Calls

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Lake Huron, summer, 2018

I met my Waterloo in the loo of a Waterloo, Ontario Shopper’s Drug Mart.

“It’s Senior’s Day,” I said to my husband and daughter. Presciently, on my list was a large bottle of Extra-strength Advil. Lured by the 20% discount and bonus points on my loyalty card, we stopped en route to Point Pelee National Park.

For years, I’ve wanted to visit Point Pelee in early May to witness the massive annual spring migration of song birds heading north for the summer. Our Air BnB waited for us in Kingsville. We’d signed up for tours and workshops offered by Friends of Point Pelee. Binoculars and journals were packed. We were ready. Continue reading