Size matters

“You have to be a Skinny Minnie to fit in these seats,” the giant man by the window said as I unfolded the seat belt and wrapped it around my hips. It didn’t fit. I lifted the metal flap and pulled the nylon web looser and buckled it. I’m no Skinny Minnie, that’s for sure.

For the next fifty minutes me and the giant man, whose knees butted against the seat in front of him, and whose right hip spilled over the crack dividing our seats and made contact with my left hip, barely contained our bodies in the 18-seater Dash-8 airplane. As I read “Outside of Ordinary-Women’s Travel Stories” and he read “Talk Like a CEO”, we sat shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, me refusing to budge an inch, owning every scrap of fabric on my seat. In the past, I would have done my utmost to give the man more space – crossed my left leg over my right, rounded my left arm and shoulder inward, put my feet together under the seat in front of me, made myself small, small, small.

How many times have I sat next to a man on a plane or a bus or in a waiting room who took up space by spreading his knees wide in a huge V, like an invading Viking, marauding and menacing my space? How many times have I shifted my body away so I don’t have to touch him, so I don’t have to feel him, so I don’t have to be aware of him, so I can simply be in my seat and fly/bus/wait?

Never have I been in this situation where a man crosses his legs, or shifts away, giving me my allotted spot. Never have I seen a man squeeze his knees close and tight or plant his feet together like he was bound by invisible rope about to be bagged and tossed into an umarked grave. Never have I seen a man relinquish the middle armrest.

Maybe it was the news of the past few weeks that made me refuse to budge and reduce myself to accommodate the giant. My fatigue with forgiving someone else their size while trying to make myself disappear for their comfort has been transformed into determination to use the space I need and am equally entitled to.

No, I’m no Skinny Minnie. Give me my space.


Miracles by mail

It was late winter in New Zealand when Pauline tucked her gift in a diaphanous gold pouch and pulled the stings tight to close it. Inside it glittered and prisms quivered through the fabric and spread across her face. Then she wrapped it in a styrofoam sheet and packed her gift in a box measuring 4 x 2 inches. It weighed 1.3 pounds.  Continue reading

Culture vulture

I know nothing about classical music except that I like Strauss waltzes because I saw a documentary years ago with the Lipizzaner stallions performing to Strauss.

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Performing Lippizzner stallion

I know nada about how music is composed and how those black squiggles on the page tell a musician what to play as well as the speed and volume to play. It might as well be quantum mechanics.

When a kind woman from the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) called three years ago encouraging me to buy season’s tickets I balked. I imagined Sibelius on a frosty winter night, bearded men – and maybe bearded women, too – nodding knowingly in their cushy seats, conducting with their pointer fingers as I slumped snoring in my seat. I said as much to the nice sales lady on the phone.

“Oh no, no, no,” she said. “There’s so much more to offer. Have you considered….” and off she went extolling the virtues of the Pops series. Hmm, I thought, Pops sounds like something old dads go to so they can say they went to hear the orchestra on Saturday night, like they were hobnobbing with the culture class all tuxedoed and shiny shoed. But then she said yatta yatta Broadway Divas yatta yatta and I said what? And that was that. She hooked me.

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My husband chose half the orchestra performances last year. Turns out he likes Sibelius. We went. I fell asleep.  This year I chose all the performances again. No Sibelius for us!

Shall I display my ignorance further? The season opener for the orchestra this year was headlined by Itzhak Perlman. I’d heard of him. Had I heard anything he’d played? Nope. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Apparently he played on a Billy Joel album back in the late ‘80’s which I have heard but he was anonymous at the time of recording.

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Billy Joel and Itzhak Perlman in concert, 2015

You can listen here.

The audience for the performance we attended was the musical cognoscenti mixed with the glitterati seekers – those who attend concerts of famous musicians because they’re famous musicians. Me? Call me the ignorati. There were lots of shiny shoes but no tuxedos. My husband wore his best Hawaiian shirt and clean low-cut hiking shoes. I wore sparkly earrings and red patent (shiny) leather flats.

But enough about fashion.

Have you ever been at a concert where the audience was silent at the end of a performance? Ever wondered why an audience would be silent? I know now. When Perlman played the theme from “Far and Away” I leaned forward in my seat straining to hear the last note, the last reverberation of the strings. I filled my lungs and held my breath so as not to disturb the air around me, to allow the sound to reach my ears. The note, as strong as spider gossamer, hangs in my memory even now. It was as though I’d climbed to the top of a long mountain path and arrived at a lookout over Shangri-la, the world green, fresh, perfect.

The moral of the story? None, except that not all telemarketers call to tell you that you have a compromised hard drive and you better let them fix it or your life will be over, or claim to be calling from Revenue Canada and that if you don’t pay up pronto your bank account will be frozen forever. Sometimes the telemarketer will change you into an orchestra-going culture vulture. So be careful. It could happen to you.

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The half-truths and lies of my photos

I cobbled together a sampling of where we went and what we did from mid-June to September first. What struck me about these images is what they don’t tell you and what I may not remember ten years from now – the temperatures, smells, and feelings behind each shot. Maybe most importantly, why the photo was taken and the context.

None of these photos will be printed and saved. It has been years since I made a photo album either digitally or the old-school method of printing and placing them in tidy chronological order. I justify this as a blessing to my children who won’t have to sift through dozens of albums after I die and toss out 99% of them because they will have no meaning to them at all.

So, kind reader, indulge me in a September wallow down recent memory lane. Below each photo you’ll find a short background story. Continue reading

Yoga for Yoda*

Do or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

Several times a month, I write a post for this blog whether I want to or not. Kind of like having sex after being married for 37 years. It can be a grind. It starts slowly, reluctantly even, then gradually it starts to work. The brain and body connect and everything starts to flow – blog-wise I’m talking. Well, sex-wise too I suppose. Continue reading


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Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa”

I felt no different when I woke at 2:00 a.m. than when I had fallen into bed four hours earlier but, as is my habit when I wake in the wee hours, I checked my phone for the daily horoscope – to be prepared. The usual exhortations about my love life and relationships glowed in front of my eyes. Then I read the “If today is your birthday…” bit which said:

 There will be numerous occasions over the coming year when it seems as if you are at the mercy of events, and to a large extent you will be. But that does not mean you cannot bend those events to your will. You’re smart enough to make it happen.

I stumbled out of bed in the dark to the bathroom, flicked on the light and looked in the mirror to inspect the damage of a 4th consecutive night of crappy sleep. A strange woman with grey hair looked back at me. Continue reading