I'm a writer, artist, advocate, volunteer, and former nurse. I write literary fiction, creative non-fiction, humour, and when I need to exorcise my dark side, mysteries and thrillers. I love the feeling of getting a word right.
I live in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, with my cat Bendicks, and the occasional and welcome visits of my two children.
I do needle felting, knit badly, hook the occasional rug, and play the ukulele.
Oh, and I live with MS. It's good for existential angst.
We seem to be stuck in a holding pattern- stuck in a growing pandemic, stuck with the defeated US president clinging to power, even stuck in autumn- we’ve had warm weather here in Ontario and, though lovely, I can’t help but feel like winter is waiting on the edge, ready to spring.
It all reminds me of a time we were in the Everglades watching a nature scene take place before us. A frog was catching insects. A snake was watching the frog, ready to spring. An egret was watching the snake, preparing an attack, and behind the egret we could see the watchful eyes of an alligator, looking for dinner.
In one instant, the frog leapt for a big, the snake leapt for the frog, the egret pounced on the snake, and slurp, the food chain played out. Fortunately for the egret, the alligator was just that bit too slow, and missed taking his place at the top.
So here I am feeling a bit like that egret. Or is it the frog? Waiting for winter to leap and release the Covid virus again, all while knowing there’s a democratic confrontation awaiting in the wings to gobble the whole disaster up.
Will the alligator be able to take the whole mass down? Or will we have a narrow escape as the egret did and fly away with a full tummy and the will to fight another day?
Or will everything leap forward and manage to continue unabated- winter, Covid, democracy-undoing…
In trying to remain optimistic, but I can feel the tension like the sound of a violin A string, scraping along the bow.
Like so many people, I am having a stressful night. It’s the US election, and as I am watching the results dribble in I am astonished and depressed. I’m consumed with questions, like:
Who would re-elect Mitch McConnell? He doesn’t have a pleasant word to say to anyone and you can see the lines of graft steaming off of him. Or is that brimstone?
But be that as it may…and I do understand that, living in Canada, I really have no say in the US election…what REALLY bothered me in this election run up was the number of people who ACTUALLY BELIEVED that Democrats are running a pedophile ring and or eating children.
I mean, really. Are these flat-earthers? How can they suspend their critical thinking processes to think this actually occurred? It boggles the mind. I went to school in the US of A so I know the education is limited (even in my swanky privileged town) but the level of ignorance is gob-smacking. Is it the lead in the pipes?
I also noticed that Trump’s campaign consisted mainly of accusing the Democrats of all of the things his administration has been accused of (and in many cases, found guilty and incarcerated for). Again, do his supporters really feel he is a goodly man, a Christian? Why? How?
And Biden, a Catholic, a church that stands firmly against abortion and birth control, was portrayed as someone in favour of those ‘late term abortions’ that never ever occur or or desired by anyone.
Biden has a plan, policies. Trump has blather. Has the US sunk so low as to prefer yelling to common sense? Why?
Again, I am stunned. I used to be proud to have lived in the US. I love the astonishing scenery, the cultures, the many and varied people. This administration has cut back on wild spaces, damned many cultures, and created hatred between all sorts of people.
My last post was one of my Pollyanna type ones about the past few years. I don’t like to bleat about my life’s sorrows…I know everyone has a sackful of their own…so I can sound a bit like I’m living the life of Riley*.
I’m trying to give myself relevance as I struggle with MS, depression, and isolation.
It’s keep busy or give up, really.
And, of course, thank heavens for better living through pharmaceuticals.
There’s been a fair chunk of grief. Losses. Of relationships, of work, of the ability to move without knocking things over. There’s a reason why everything I wear is machine-washable.
Hugely, I’ve lost my firstborn- he’s still alive, just not speaking to me. It is wrenching. Years of therapy haven’t made that hurt go away. I doubt it ever will.
Thank God I still have my brilliant and funny other sons and their delightful partners. They brighten my heart.
MS isn’t a pleasant thing to live with – the fatigue can be overwhelming and even given my relatively benign course, it’s like aging at speed. I live alone by choice, unwilling to inflict my challenged self on others. When I’m tired, I say things I don’t mean to say. I am moody, depressed, grumpy as hell. I walk funny. I sleep funny. I can’t speak properly. I develop terrible things like trigeminal neuralgia.
Sometimes a mere conversation can require I rest for the next day or more. I can fake normalcy as long as I can slip back to my den and rest up between outings…but I need that respite.
As someone who was raised to define people by what they do, all this resting is demoralizing.
I’m not complaining, truly. Life has been gentle with me overall. But it hasn’t been easy, and I do my fellow MS folks a disservice if I pretend otherwise.
It’s Thanksgiving, so in a brief return to Pollyannishness, I’ll add I am intensely thankful for the adventures I’ve been able to have, the ones still ahead (I will learn ukulele or perish), and the wonderful friends I’ve met on my travels. I’ve been incredibly fortunate.
The sun is shining, and as Emily Dickinson wrote:
I dwell in possibilities…
* I went and looked up “The life of Riley” on Wikipedia to see if My mum used the phrase to describe a life of no care, just fun. Turns out it wasn’t about that, more about a goon who stumbles through life as those around him prevent him from his worst errors. So I guess I am living the life of Riley. Grateful for those who guard me from myself…
I moved back to my old ‘home town’ recently. Now, as the former wife of a military member, child of a nuclear family, restless Sagittarius sort, the concept of ‘home town’ is a bit nebulous.
But this place, this place is so full of memories it seems to really have me by the heart. I was here for university, and the limestone buildings and pathways of the campus play back one scene.
(Well, as do the bars, but let’s not linger on that too long…)(The memories are slightly fuzzy, anyway.)
I came back here when my kids were in elementary school and saw them launched into the world from here. Everywhere I go there are memories of spending time with them – the trees by the lake remind me of a blissful day when my youngest and I went for a swim just ahead of a thunderstorm…the martial arts gym reminds me of taking my middle son to learn karate…the back roads around the city remind me of the times I drove my eldest to parties with friends who lived out in the woods.
The library down the street, where I studied for my epidemiology degree, is filled with visuals of the kids coming to ‘visit’ me while I studied (their dad would always bring them, for some reason).
I don’t know whether it is the introspection brought through extended isolation (thanks, pandemic), but it seems like everywhere I turn I have a movie reel of my past lives scrolling through my mind.
In one way, it’s a bit sad – the kids I miss, the choices I’ve made, the things I’ve done wrong…
But in another way, I am realizing I have done an awful lot with my misspent life. I’ve leapt at challenges, I’ve fallen to the wayside, but I’ve BEEN there, from running for political office, to travelling the world, to working with the deeply poor and the wildly rich, to trying new skills to failing at crochet, to finishing a book and making 100’s of felted animals with disturbing personalities, to playing a variety of instruments badly. I’ve even blown glass! Steamed in the Blue Lagoon while sipping Prosecco and feeling hail land on my head…So much fun was had.
In the end, I probably will have little to show for these adventures. Today I was listening to a grandchild going on about how cool their grandparent was and I realized that it’s unlikely I will ever be considered cool by a junior relative – in fact, there will likely be a smaller and smaller crowd of people who even care if I breathe.
In a way, this is freeing. I used to live to perform for my parents, then my spouse, and latterly for my kids. Now, should I so desire, I could drag about in sweatpants and scraggly hair (wait…what?) and no one would really care if I ever did anything with myself. I could let myself go. (Okay, more than I have already…)
It’s tempting. But then a tiny voice starts whining at me: what about your books? What about your desire to learn new things? What about music? Books? Company?
So I go forward, girding my loins for another new adventure, pandemic notwithstanding. It’s time for me to redefine myself as being in Kingston as a solo act. What memories will it give me this time?
I mean, come on, lazy journalists! Isn’t it time for a different phrase to describe out current state of ambiguity? Sure, maybe we haven’t experienced these things in exactly the same way before but certainly by now, after all these months, we can stop saying this phrase as if we had never had a concert rescheduled to the internet, or classes being taught by zoom, or shops closed down, or whatever.
We are becoming experienced in the ways of the deadly Covid-19, and so many of the messes we continue to experience should NO LONGER BE A SURPRISE. We are running out of things we can truly say haven’t happened before. Quite recently.
So the phrase is becoming almost as annoying as the drum music I’ve been forced to listen to for days on TD Meloche Monnex’s insurance site while I try to cancel a policy I no longer need. Days. I am not exaggerating. I have the bing-bang-da bing-bang stuck in my head so completely I will be forced to play Patsy Cline tunes to push it out. Or maybe some John Denver.
Even the phrase Covid-19 is wearing thin. I know, I know, it is the NAME for the thing, and to be precise, one should use it, but couldn’t we shorten things a bit now? Call it Cody, or Vid, or George or Sid. Anything. (Sorry, it seems a male entity for some reason – how very gender-inappropriate of me!) Or Nancy, or Mavis, or Ophelia? We might listen better with a different sound to grab our attention?
Ah, it’s Covid fatigue speaking. It’s so BORING being encapsulated still, after all these months. Grocery shopping in my new town is simply exhausting – trying to learn the proper pathways around the store, trying not to have to double back, lest I collapse in exhaustion. I can feel the glares of the afraid at my back when I step into the wrong aisle, sense the anxiety of everyone around me as we do the distancing dance. Similar to a square dance…like no other.
Like everyone else, I want to go see a movie, eat in a restaurant without feeling like I am sharing spit with the devil, laugh with other people without worrying about how moist my laugh is (or theirs are). But I know it isn’t time yet. We have to hunker down for a bit longer, probably til spring, until the flu season…like no other… is done with for another year.
Argh. Where are my socially acceptable dancing shoes? I’ll have to dance alone in my apartment, but at least I can still dance… Maybe the music will finally block out the TD hold song….
Two more days in paradise (aka Nova Scotia), and then on to new adventures in Kingston, On. Well, new and old adventures, Kingston being a familiar place from my college years and some other years where I thrashed my way through a career.
I’m excited. But this IS 2020, the year of random hellishness being sprayed hither and yon in a rather too excessive manner. So there’s a line of anxiety running along the excitement.
And it is sad saying goodbye to my lovely friends from my ten years here. They are warm and funny and smart and supportive and I’m going to miss them like crazy. In this insane world, I don’t know when I’ll see them again…
It’s at times like this that I am ridiculously thankful for the interwebs. I’m not a huge fan of zooming, but I’ve got to admit being able to see and talk to people in real time is pretty nice. Say what you will about the deadly virus that is spreading like wildfire, I’ve selfishly enjoyed the excuse to chat for endless hours face to face with my sister and my kids, the online games and messages from friends here and there. I’m so hoping that part will continue even after we wrestle this horrible thing to the ground.
Because I can remember when it wasn’t like this. When long distance calls had to be budgeted for, where even when you made them, you couldn’t see the speaker, and every minute was rationed.
See, with the internet, I feel I can step away from Nova Scotia and still have a chance to “see” my chums. There are also the wonderful Nova Scotia webcams, which I watched for hours before I moved here, that I can watch again. If I miss the froth from Peggy’s Cove, I can dial up that view and see those waves crash against the everlasting rocks, giggle at the tourists who insist on walking on the black rocks, gasp as they risk their lives…
It’s nowhere near perfect, but it does make it slightly easier to say “see you later” to my near and dears and spring into the future, devices in hand.
I can’t help but worry, though, as we grind into gear again, everyone will get busy, and we’ll become too fussed by everyday things to connect, even virtually. This horrible horrible year has encouraged us to become closer, to spend more time on relationships.
Of course that’s why I’m moving- I’ve been missing my family, and they are closer to Ontario than here. So it’s westwards ho…while trailing cords from various devices, And leaving a little bit of my heart behind.
“Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes Watchin’ the ships roll in Then I watch ’em roll away again..”
Ah, Otis. Such an apt description of my last weeks here in paradise (aka Nova Scotia). It has been perishingly hot and humid and I’ve been forced to sit, beached carp-like, gasping for breath as my MS and the humidity do their little dance.
And then, mid-August, the cool nights arrived, the decreasing dampness. It happens every year and it is always a surprising gift – people start to walk about again, there are some twinkling eyes above the inevitable masks, the mackerel are running and the dock is filled with men casting their hooks into the sea. Sometimes they even catch things…and I fall in love with the place again.
It’s been an odder time here, of course, what with the constant refrain “stay home, stay home”, mixed with the hymn of “get out and shop local” buzzing in my ears. I am overdue for a voyage across the harbour on my sweet ferry to see one of my favourite art galleries (Argyle Fine Art), but the whole idea seems so daunting after months of hiding out at home it requires loin-girding of an unusual degree.
So I sit on my balcony with its wonderful view of harbour happenings and the occasional street crime (this IS Dartmouth, after all) and watch the tide roll in and out and in.
My motivation isn’t helped by the fact that 90% of my belongings are packed. Including most of my clothing. I have, of course, chosen the things to leave out unwisely. Getting dressed to go out to do the “shop local” part of my inner dialogue is usually a melee of shirt and dress-tossing, trying to adapt to the changing weather – a shift of 15 degrees Celsius is common these days – and somehow I have hidden all the things that go together.
My friends are kindly silent about my selections, bless them.
No matter. Tomorrow the junk company comes by to en-lighten (unnecessarily hyphenation added in honour of LD) me of a great many things (they say they will donate much of it and I am grateful, if slightly skeptical, but at this point, I just do not want to know). Today’s task is to complete the junk assembly into a digestible chunk. After that, I’m down to the last lingering few things…
And back to:
“I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay Watchin’ the tide roll away I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay, wastin’ time..”
I suppose there are worse ways to spend the next few days…
I’m at the end of my tether. It’s so humid here every bit of my furniture is soggy. The boxes I’ve already packed for my move are looking saggy. And the cat is three times his normal size.
I love the Maritimes. I love the smell of the sea, the ships going by, the feel of sand between my toes.
I do not love the 100% humidity.
Seems like this year it’s been hotter and stickier than in past years. Or maybe it’s the additional stress of the pandemic, the madman south of the border, the inability to do anything without gloom hanging over, the impending election season…
So maybe that’s all contributing to the ultimate hair disaster. All I know is that I am now unusually tall (for me) and am having trouble getting through doorways. There’s a wee struggle, and then a “pop” as I squeeze through. It would alarm the cat but he’s stuck behind me.
The thing is, there’s so little I can do anything about. Like the fog that brings the humidity, the news clouds over everything, putting me into a state of suspended animation, visibility reduced, with only the foghorns as guides.
So, fiction. It’s time to put my head into a world I create and play there, where I can control things, where the characters can get the punishment they deserve, where all is controllable.
Back to the computer I go, brain sparking, even if it agitates the head fluff even more…
There’s a seagull who flies by my balcony every morning that has a broken tail – her tail feathers stand straight up, like a mast on a seagull ship…looks a bit like she’s punking out.
She swoops by and I wonder, how do the other seagulls treat her? Do they mock her behind her back and comment about how she just likes to be the centre of attention?
Do they feel sorry for her and whisper behind their wings about how brave she is and the inner strength she is showing?
Or do they accept her, let her mate, share their food with her?
Of course, it’s hard to see seagull interactions – they don’t generally mass together around here and it is an odd day when they would all call together- maybe fish have been dumped into the sea? Maybe the crows are pestering?
The crows come to hang out when there are eggs in nests, as do blue jays, but I suspect the delicate aerial movements needed to steal the eggs from under building edges can be a bit challenging for your average huge seagull.
So I am left to wonder, a seagull with a broken wing myself- where does she fit in?
Of course, I can’t help but think of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, whose main character is a seagull looking for … something…