Category Archives: tactile adventures

The Art of Intimacy, or how we can lose it as we grow older


922fdc71b4b3d56d004b2e3f4e1aad93That old yellow wall phone. We had one with an unnaturally long cord in the kitchen of our house. It was the conduit of intimacy. We all spent hours on this phone over the years – it was out of the hearing of the rest of the family once they retired to the den upstairs. I must have spent weeks of time on the phone – with girlfriends, with (giggle) boyfriends, with everyone. The cord was long enough we could jump onto the counter and pull up our legs and feel all cozied in while we talked of – what? I don’t remember much – usual things about school or latest likes or plans and dreams. My siblings did the same. My mother lived on it when she was at home during the day.

It seemed as if the handset was slightly warm all the time, handed over with no time to cool. The cord got all stretched out of shape as we dragged the handset into different rooms, all over the kitchen, around corners.

In my family, kids were at home on school nights, and that phone was our connection to 3f635ff0e340055f44c2cfe7394f19da--old-phone-on-the-phonepeople outside – fellow entrapped kids, the secret boy who walked me home from school, the plots and games of outside life. The time we spent on the phone was intimate time, endless hours of it, getting to know each other intensely, one to one. Even during university, I spent hours on that phone – either to the family when I was away or to friends when I was home. So many words, feelings, thoughts.

When my kids were little, we moms formed tight bonds, the coziness of babies crawling all over us opening our talks, making us friends in the trenches. We’d call each other at 4 PM, the witching hour when being with small children was grinding us down. But, like work friends, when our kids grew up and went away, often the friends went, too. We got competitive, or marriages broke up, or jobs moved us into new relationships. The friendships often didn’t survive.

I was asked recently if I had “intimate” friends, people who I knew well, who knew me well, and my first answer was no. After all, I’ve moved all over. I left high school in my senior year and moved across the country, inadvertently severing ties from my school year friends. I spent two years in Seattle and then moved to Canada. More severed ties. And then I married a military guy and moved and moved and moved. With all the moves and the kids and general messiness, friends made slipped away. Was it my fault? Theirs? Probably both sides got busy and forgot to make the regular connections needed to keep friendships alive. It’s tough to keep in touch.

So now I’ve settled on the very edge of the continent and am using FaceBook as my yellow wall phone. I find old chums and meet new ones, chat with cousins and family and friends  – but most of these conversations aren’t close, don’t share reality. They don’t fill the need for the intimacy of face-to-face relationships. I truly miss those long conversations about nothing and everything, especially with people who know a bit of my background. I long for them.

2fa5e5a110cb1c7f82925997be5811a6I’ve grown accustomed to my distance, that long spiraled phone cord that hides the mess I sit in on the other end of the line. I push aside that stack of bills, the dirty dishes, the detritus of my lives, and put on my happy voice, or sad voice, or whatever seems right for that conversation, whether face to face or not. Which is usually nowhere near what I am really feeling. Interactions are shorter, busier, and I miss that one to one concentration and mutual sharing.

I had a phone buddy – a man far away who would call me almost every day, for no reason. We chatted about all sorts of things, for foolish amounts of time. Of all of my chums, he was the closest. Now he has become ill and can’t talk on the phone. I’m missing him so very much.

I’ve loved living a life of travel, of moving here and there. As I get older, though, I realize more what I’ve lost through it – the chance to have those friends from elementary school still around, the ability to refer to our shared past and add to it. The close crowd of family members who know me and love me anyway. As a Come-From-Away here in Nova Scotia, I’ve lived seven years without a bosom buddy, and it gets lonely at times.

Time to pick up the phone, and arrange a get-together…texting just won’t be enough.SC554Ylg

 

Jumping from here to there, or why I am still Anne of Green Gables in my heart


anne-of-green-gablesSometimes I wish I hadn’t read Anne of Green Gables. Not that I necessarily believe in her character, but I seem to be as restless as she is. My kids think it’s because I’m unhappy. I’m not unhappy. Clinically depressed, yes, but not unhappy! With good medication, I can laugh and create and live and sing and play my ukulele and loll in the sun and read and write and laugh and be silly.

People wonder why I move a lot, why my dating life is so … interesting, why I overcommit and then have to back out.  Why I try new things or toss myself into books, or travel when I can barely afford it. They, again, think that I am unhappy. I’m not. I don’t think I’ve ever been ‘unhappy’ – mad, sad, bored, I’ve been all of these, but I haven’t been unhappy, not ever. My approach for years has been if I don’t like something, I work to change it, whether in myself or in my neighbourhood. And why not? Even if sometimes it doesn’t work out, I can always try, can’t I?

“I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more… though I know that IS the noblest ambition… but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me… to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

(Not sure how that blends with my dating life, but you can’t win them all…)

Like Anne, I refuse to settle. For much of my life, I had to accept things as they were allowed to me – everything from love to places to live, to time to read, to food. I was granted lots before I married, I was loved and spoiled, and people thought highly of me. I confess I got used to that, a bit.

Then I got married, and I learned to distrust words. And to write them. It’s easier to write fiction when you live it, I think.

Be that as it may, since I left, I have tried to do the things I feel are right for me and those around me. I volunteer where I can, I try to be creative, I try to help out.

But that doesn’t mean I need to put up with things that I don’t like. Heck, I’ve got MS, and arthritis, and depression – that’s enough to accept. I have a son who refuses to speak to me. That’s more than enough.

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So for the rest of my life, I change what I can and make the best of the rest.

Since I moved to paradise (aka Nova Scotia), things haven’t always been easy. I’ve been lonely at times, I’ve missed friends and family, but I know it’s where I’ve been meant to be. The sea, the air, the climate – they all make me feel whole. I’ve found a home here with a great community, good friends, meaningful volunteer work and craft.

But I’ve always wanted to be able to see the sea from where I live. If I dangle out of my current Juliet balcony, I can spot the sea to my left, but where I am moving this time I can see it out of my windows, I can sit on my balcony and sniff the salty air. Grow flowers and plants, step outside and see people. Because of my MS, some days I can’t get out of my apartment. A pleasant place is very important to me.

“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I’ve found I love living downtown, walking to everything, sampling the stimulating environment that is downtown Dartmouth. Not so keen on inhaling diesel fumes every day or living just above an intersection.

So I am taking my not-unhappy self across the street to a new place. My Anne heart tells me you don’t have to be unhappy to want to upgrade or make a change. Life is an endless buffet of options. And don’t think I am ungrateful for the chance to make changes – I am, profoundly. I hope I won’t feel the need to move again, though every time I do, I hone myself into more of what I am. I feel like I am carving away the outer layers I’ve put on over the years, gradually getting closer to who I am, what I am.

“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.” Anne of Green Gables

anne-green-gables-1920-770x470But hey, as I toss things from my old self, moving gets easier and easier! I may pick up and go to someplace else that calls to me at some point, and why not? I only have so many fit years left – maybe I’ll feel a need to move to Paris for a year, or Scotland, or Portland, NH. Who knows?

I’m excited. Weary from doing too much, but thrilled by what lies ahead.

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” Anne of Green Gables

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Fireworks


I’m feeling a little misty-eyed lately over my ratbag children. It’s the season of fireworks and where I’m living we’ve already had four nights of them, and another one tonight. It’s Natal Day weekend in Nova Scotia, an event celebrated with even more enthusiasm than Canada Day. This surprised me the first year I was here, but I’m getting used to it, dropping my central Canada snobbery.

But tonight I wandered across the street to the harbour, and was immediately swamped with kids all waving those hugely expensive light wand things (these ones use hearing aid batteries so will cause even more damage and expense as time goes on, but they were WAY COOL. Especially when rapidly swung around.) And it brought me back to all the times we’d driven to see fireworks with our kids, all the different places we’d seen fireworks at together, and well, it made me a bit nostalgic….

 

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This girl is nowhere near cold enough

The fireworks in Ottawa, in winter, on Spark Street. Freezing cold, as Ottawa is. The display for children was held in the dark evening so the little ones could a. get to bed early and b. not be run over in the later melee. Some of the fireworks didn’t explode immediately, and the kids, as one wave, raced towards the snow hill where they were placed. The parents, shouting “NOOOOOOOOOOO(N)” leaped after the kids and fortunately, no one was exploded. I nearly lost my sight though as little knee biters were all waving sparklers at the fullest extent of their arms…my eye height…

 

Then there were the fireworks when we lived in Kansas, on the Leavenworth Army Base.12502224-12502224 Those fireworks went on and on and on and ON. It was astonishing. HOURS passed. In between, there were bands and flag parades and a whole bunch of patriotic stuff we simply don’t do up here. I remember trying to make things sound exciting for the kids, who were actually bored at the lengthy display.

 

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Photo credit: Matthew Guy

The next year we were in Annapolis Royal, a tiny but very serious town (has a huge entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia, bigger than Toronto’s). We raced down to see the fireworks that had been funded through cans on store counters, a quarter at a time. They were over in five minutes if that – we almost missed them. I was expecting a holler of protest from the kids – they were still little and had seen the equivalent of the Canadian Armed Forces budget blown up the year before, but there wasn’t anything. My middle son, a thoughtful bloke, said, “It’s actually better this way, mommy – this way you can appreciate every single one!” The other two agreed. I think it helped that we had fallen in love with our new town.

 

But at every fireworks display, except the Annapolis Royal one, there was the dragging the kids early so we’d get good seats, the long traffic laden drive home, the calls for expensive light things. My ex and I used to argue about them – I thought we may as well get them, to make it more of an occasion; he ground his teeth at the expense.

It gladdened my heart to see how easy it was for most people to get down to the harbour to watch them here. It reinforced my feelings that living in the Maritimes is the equivalent of living in heaven, even including the fog as it rolled in, Clouds for angels to sit on…

I’ve been feeling a bit mawkish over the kids lately, too, as I am writing/editing/beating to death a young adult novel that has kids in their pre-teens in it. So I’ve been casting back for memories, language, relative surliness.

It WAS a surly time, filled with negotiations that rivaled the G-20 over even the desire to go for a walk. Sometimes the argument wasn’t worth it and I gave up and threw my hands in the air wildly. But most of the time, at that age, the kids were still up for an adventure.

It didn’t have to be a big adventure, either. It could be a simple walk down an old train track, or as complicated as a train drive to Montreal. They didn’t all like the same things. Or the same things as me. We all whined at times. But I was blessed to have curious children, and I am grateful, and I know that they will be alright.

Why? Because I sat through all those fireworks displays with them, and they found something different about each one and enjoyed them all.

It made me wish they were all here with me tonight, though we’d probably have watched the show from a patio, with beers in our hands. The two youngest would have spent the time arguing over some point in philosophy. They would both be right. And I’d, as always, be listening, my heart bursting with delight as the fireworks burst overhead.

Visions


Every once and awhile a vision passes by me, on the computer or otherwise, that immediately starts my mind burbling. This is one, by drone photographer Gabriel Scanu, who is apparently all of 20 and blessed with an excellent eye.

This photo speaks to my wet-felting soul. I can see it evolving with tracings of silk for foam, with needle felted people and shadows after the base has dried. I love the contrast of the shadows on the sand and in the water, the view of a tiny kayak braving the waves. I know local artists who could paint this, beautifully.

There’s something about looking at the world from way way up that is consoling these days – being above the world on an impossibly sunny day, not even hearing the quibbles of the people below, the children whining for ice cream, the couples fighting… This photographer has given me a vision to think about, a respite from the worries around me.

It’s a pleasant thought to be above trouble and sorrow. It seems most everywhere I look in the past month, people are dealing with challenges, losses, changes that are unpleasant and require strength to manage.

Support-356x253I know artists and musicians who are dangling, unbought, while the world takes advantage of the Maude Lewis story and millions go into Hollywood coffers while the poor woman lived and died in pain and poverty. I was talking to a friend of mine who also finds this enraging. No one seems to feel the urge to donate to starving artists after the film, or to donate to the arthritis society, or to do anything other than buying reproduced Lewis art calendars (just the small ones, they aren’t too expensive), while our world, especially here in the Maritimes, is full of fresh new art, folk and other, that could use a loving touch, a new home.

I’ve been trying to buy a bit of art on my tight budget. I’ve been blessed with a few artist friends who started my collection, and I am meeting more all the time, thanks to the patient gallery owners that let me linger among the small pieces and put things on hold, or trade what I’ve made. I adore each and every one I’ve chosen, both for the beauty of the piece and for the fact that I know the artist.

Art brings visions to us, places and thoughts we have never seen, joy. I live in a smallish, somewhat dark apartment, but around every corner now I have a little spot of brightness, a view of an artist’s vision of life. They make me smile, every time I look at them.

I’d like to encourage everyone to spend a little on art, especially local art. It seems like an extravagance when bills speak loudly in the corner. But for a relatively small amount of money, you can bring beauty to the world, both your own space and in the artists’.

And couldn’t we all use a little bit of joy (and vision) these days?

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FREAKING OUT


Well, that has to be said in all caps. no?

I am scurrying about mentally. What the Buddhists say about “monkey mind” – well, I’m waaaaay past that. I am German Tanzmaus scurrying…

We saw these guys in a pet store in Germany and they actually never stop. I figure I have about three of these in my mind at the moment.

  1. Iceland!!! I haven’t been overseas since my firstborn was 18 months old. 28 years ago! (Well, except Havana, but that’s on this side of the ocean, seems familiar somehow, and besides I had my kids with me). I’m travelling alone. I am so sick of travelling alone. I’ve gone to Newfoundland and across Canada alone and I know I can do it, but I find my anxiety grows as the spaces between travel widen. Plus I’ll be meeting 175 new people; I will be meeting wowza authors; I will be fighting my MS every step of the way. I have to say that in general I like travelling alone cos it forces me to talk to people, but I am becoming severely in need of a bosom buddy. Project one for when I come back. Seek bosom buddy.
  2. Writing: got a few books out for editing, got one back and have to work on that but my tanzmaus mind isn’t ready to focus yet. The one I’m working on I would like to get published by a real publisher ® as I think it’s important blah blah blah, so that means it has to be good and preferably I’ll have another book in the wings so a publisher will take a chance with me. My MS book is evolving into a website, so I can keep info updated, but for that I need a Pseudonym (the things I do for my one son! I don’t imagine the other two would be embarrassed about me writing about sex). Trying a few on. Got to get on that – I already have lots of material and such but again, the Tanzmice dance.
  3. My health – it’s always an interesting thing, inhabiting my second-rate body. I’ve never asked it to do anything for me that it hasn’t let me down on, except recovery from my bilateral knee replacement. Had to have C-sections, got MS, been chubby forever despite trying to change. After my surgery I exercised mightily. Then my body got better. It felt good, strong. Same when I was swimming three times a week. But then the MS came back, and I tore my rotator cuff, I started with the hip spasms, blah blah blah. I’m beginning to think that I might need to get into a gym routine, but the one close to me is closing. So now I am off sugar officially (lest I lose my sight) – (eventually being idle and overweight does things to your pancreas) which means no more of my beloved chocolate. Tanzmaus mind. What does this mean for my single malt? And will I be able to manage five hectic days and two transatlantic flights in this untrustworthy body?

So the three dance about mixed with little aggravations like losing my keys and bits of important papers and forgetting things. In behind there is the thought of craft fairs coming up and the need to make more of my felties to partially pay for my excessive overspending going to Iceland. Or eat. Hahahaha. But then, YOLO, right? And with my crapped out system, I gotta grab it now. Although, as my son has told me, I’ve used this as an excuse for overspending on trips for the last few years.

(PS: dear son – if you had a vision of being trapped in your body unable to move in your admittedly distant future as I do, you’d be out of the door like a shot and devvil take the expense)(Lord save me)

I’ve been knitting socks like a maniac  – if I’m knitting a lot you know I am anxious. If I can relax I will be felting. Or reading. Or enjoying something. (Where IS that bosom buddy when I need him?)

Must go dance and try to find those damn keys. And/or race to the library where Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods awaits me.

PS: Dancing Mice are fascinating – I felt sorry for them when I saw them – turns out they are bred to run endlessly. Apparently they are deaf, too, some mess up in their vestibulary system.

Happier rodents here:

 

Caw!


In my continual desire to improve myself, I sign up like a madwoman for many online courses. Right now I am taking two such from Coursera (one on American historical fiction, another on witchcraft – from the University of Barcelona, no less), two embroidery classes from Craftsy, a ukulele class or two, and one on healing through journaling from Daily OM.

I don’t know why I signed up for the last one, as I am far too busy what with all these classes to worry about healing, but I hoped in a way it would help me start journaling again and thus writing, etc, etc. Kind like buying a new writing instrument or a new notebook. Force me to think with a pen.

It’s an interesting course, though. Lots of meditative visualization – of one’s soul, of one’s dark side, of one’s self-house. What might be like Sherlock’s memory palace, though my me-house is a smallish white clapboard house, surrounded by shrub roses and sand and salt grass. Which is nowhere in my memory.

I’ve always envisioned my soul as a candle burning somewhere near my chest, flickering and weak some times, strong others. I can summon it up while meditating, make the candle burn brighter, wiggle the flame. It reminds me of the game in WiiFit, where you have to sit very still or a mean person shouts at you in Japanese and blows the candle out.

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Baba Yaga, in her pestle…

But it’s such a blah visual for my soul. I need something more vibrant, more out there. When I needle felted a Baba Yaga, she spoke to me. Her hag-like face, world damaged. Her hairy chin and excessive eyebrows. The startling eyes that see too many things. She seems more like my soul. Capable of many things, some good, some bad. Helpful if you ask her properly.

But powerful.

I don’t know why I am perceived as powerful, me in my short round frame (hardly the skinny legs of Baba Yaga, but I’ve inherited my dad’s nose…), but the perception seems to have stuck, so I guess, approaching 60, I should wear it. I have to thank my mother for it, I think. She could dominate a room in a second, even while wearing discount clothing far too old to be seen outside the house.

In the Daily OM course, you are also asked to visualize your dark side, and the image that came to me instantly was a crow, yawking from the top of a scrawny pine.american-crow-perched-top-pine-tree-calling-alarm-62539764

Crows are not “good” animals. They bear grudges. They eat those smaller than themselves. They have a sense of inquisitiveness and mischief that gets them into trouble. Their sense of humour is often inappropriate to the audience. They can be loud and disturbing. In so many cultures, they are a trickster animal, clever but not precisely helpful. People either love crows, or they hate them. I’ve admired them and wanted to spray them with buckshot, depending on how many of them are in my immediate vicinity.

Like many people, I have an outer self, the one that hangs around most of the time and tries to make me acceptable to the world. It’s the smiling happy me, the one who cheers everyone on, etc, etc. But there’s another me, the one who loses patience with things, that raises its voice, that bites and claws. When it appears, people are shocked, unable to make the connection. It doesn’t come out often enough not to startle.

In my dark self, I know the crow. I know its loneliness. I also know it survives.

Odd that both of my visualizations, soul and dark, have two sides. Though unsurprising, given the many times I’ve had to redefine myself through the years. Two takeaways, I guess – if you treat me well, I’ll do you good, and if you don’t, well, there’s no way to predict how I’ll act. Mwah hah hah!

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Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged house, scene of many impromptu meals.

Needle-felting an animal on an Armature


So, you’ve always wanted to make a dog, or a horse, or a goat, or a sheep. Better still if you could pose them…

I’m teaching a two part class at the Trainyard General Store February 18 & 25, 2017. You can get in touch with them here:
53 Portland Street
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

(902) 407-5242

Cost of the workshop is $50 plus taxes. All materials will be included to make your very own posable felted four-footed animal.

Some examples:

 

Nanowrimo, or why it’s a darn good thing I’m an introvert


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Ah, blissful solitude.

Solitude with the sounds of silence or rock and roll or even really old-time gospel music, while my fingers make strange movements and my brain creates a world in my head.
It’s a strange thing I spend most of my time doing – creating. Either I am wrestling with tiny bits of fluff and very very very sharp needles (with barbs), or I’m trying to get my  stabbed fingers to type coherent sentences, to create emotions with words.
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It can’t be done in polite company.

I’ve just spent the last two weekends at craft sales, filled with delightful people who create worlds, too, who toil in obscurity for the love of what they do. Filled, too, with the people who like created objects, the ones who may shop at Walmart for this and that, but who appreciate the time that crating from nothingness takes.

And of course the others, the scoffers, the bargainers. “Is that your final price,”
one woman asked me, for a handstabbed sculpture that I worked on for hours. I wonder if she’d accept the same treatment from her boss. “So, I didn’t really appreciate that hour you put in the other day – how about we just split the difference in your hourly wage and what I think you’re worth and let it go for that?” Or the ones who asked, “Are those made out of dryer lint?” Sigh.

I find it amazing that it is only women who ask to bargain, even professional, well-paid women, like C D on CTV, who tried to get a sale price on one of my critters. It’s like they feel fellow women don’t deserve a just wage.

But I digress. Most of the passers by were lovely and I particularly enjoyed when they’d smile at the things on my table, their eyes lighting up, even if they didn’t stop.

But I’m full up with people now. I need to extrude them onto paper, take the characters and the facial expressions, the sayings and the smiles and extract the good stuff and make them into new real people on paper. Maybe.

I signed up for the Iceland Writers Retreat next April. Why? It’s a silly thing, really – I haven’t been published in years, I write here rarely, I’ve taken enough writing seminars by now that I can never make back the money in writing.

BUT! Iceland!!! Northern Lights!!! Writers!!! ICELAND!!!

(many many handsome northern men)f3b4ba47b9e999a871f1a618a12cdc9e

So I tell myself that the only way I can rationalize such unreasonable expense is if I get published before I go and by ye gods I shall do it if I perish in the attempt. I’m using Nanowrimo this year to jump start my writing, to force my unwilling hands and brain to the keyboard. Tomorrow, around working on some commissions from my sales: two chihuahuas, a gecko, a moose, etc., I’ll be looking for places to publish my past work and writing more to spec. I have a hot date with the Writer’s Market and Duotrope and Places for Writers and more to find people looking for what I can write. Nanowrimo is for the first drafts of these projects. I know it’s supposed to be so you can write your novel, etc etc etc, but I prefer to write short. 50,000 words is a lot of articles written, a short story or two, a novella and change. It can be done.

And bliss, I can do it in my solitude, with dear cat Bendicks and Betta fish Bob for company and the sounds of life outside my windows. And of course, the occasional refreshing foray into the world for refills of inspiration and madness. And characters. I’ll be looking at you….

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I hope….

On the Tragically Hip, terrible diagnoses, and the joy of embracing life


CjOMqSUWUAAHMwpThere was a moment at the end of last Friday’s epic Tragically Hip concert when Gord Downie broke down in tears. No one made a comment. No one has commented since, as far as I can tell. But he was sobbing, his face spasmed in grief, his chest rising with deep, gut-wrenching sobs.

It was a moment. He flipped, made a face, motioned to the audience, and was ON again.

I am curious. Of course he has lots of reasons to sob – his diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, the end of a tour filled with love and affirmation of his life’s work, pure fatigue. He must be exhausted after such a tour, coming fast on the heels of surgery and radiation.

But the rest of the evening, he was so obviously enjoying himself. What turned his emotions on their heel at that moment? I wanted to send him a hug and chicken soup and some dark but not too dark chocolate and some really good whiskey all at once.

I’ve kind of been there, a bit. Before I was finally diagnosed with MS, they thought I had his very same cancer. The doctors told me it was probably a glioma, in my cerebellum. Those who know brain anatomy know that this is a sudden death sentence. I was 49 at the time.

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Not my brain but apparently a “low grade glioma”

In retrospect, I handled it badly. I had just separated from my husband of 23 years. My kids were still in shock at that. I couldn’t, in all conscience, visit this upon them, so I joked about it. “Hey,” I said to my youngest, “You’re good with graphic design. Could you make me a ‘Catch her before she croaks world tour’ shirt?” I told them my plan was to cash in all my savings and travel as long as I could. I didn’t tell them what I told my friends – that my plan was to kiss men in every country I went, to see if they tasted different.

My goal in joking about it was to make the kids not take it seriously. I don’t think they did, and in that respect I think I was successful.

But I grieved alone. Grieved the potential loss of seeing the kids grow up, see how their lives went. Grieved the loss of accomplishment I could have had,  the joys, the sorrows, the fun, the CHOCOLATE. On the other hand, the dieting I have done my whole life in spasms seemed unnecessary now. I knew the cancer would eat my body, pare it away.

Of course, I looked up gliomas on the internet. I figured I had six months before the vomiting and horrors started. I knew I wasn’t going to do chemo – had seen both parents through this and it wasn’t going to happen, ever. I did all of this research alone, numb, unable to take it on, not really.

I waited. Waited for the MRI that would let me know what was going on. I waited for two months – an impossibly short/long time. Short enough to make me worry I really WAS going to die. Long enough to give me time to chew my stomach raw. In Canada, our tests are rationed by degree of necessity. Usually, MRIs take over a year. The night I had gone to emergency with my vanishing vision, when they found the spot, they wanted to do an MRI that very night. Terrifying. I didn’t show it, but I was gazing at a precipice then, seeing darkness open in front of me. I didn’t show much to my dear friend Bob, who was there, or my ex, who came. I’d called them when I had to sign for the dye in the CT scan, thinking that if I did react to it, it might be good to have someone explain things to the kids.

Eventually, after I’d just gotten to the idea that perishing in six months might not be so horrible after all – no more icy winters, no more work, no more responsibilities – I got the results. Nope, I wasn’t dying. They had no idea what that spot was. They still don’t know. It is still there, probably has been there since I was a kid.

MS-MRI_gadolinium_535x314-01

More like my brain

Instead, they found lesions and holes all over my brain and spinal column. I had MS. Instead of spending all my money (and to be fair, my ex’s) in a wild play spree, I would have to hoard it, guard it, keep it safe so I could afford a good care facility should my disability take hold. Because MS doesn’t kill you. It just takes things way bit by bit until your body gives up, lets infection take hold, and you die in septicaemia, riddled with infection and unable to wipe your own runny nose.

It’s funny, but at the time, that seemed worse than the alternative. I remain undecided. But merciful gods have made my progress slow, and I’ve had lots of good times since the diagnosis.

So Gord, I hear you, man. I liked the way the announcers said “what MAY be their last concert”, offering that thread of hope that you, like me, might be offered a lifeline, a chance to see more, live more, sing more, write more. I so hope so, for you, though at some times the rapid exit might seem like a blessed release.

And thank you for letting your emotions show for that second. All of us who have been in your position, even partly, appreciate your openness.

Wishing you good times, however things go…

gord-downie-quotes-5

Becoming an urbanite


scenes-from-suburbia-ppart-1I’ve lived a lot of my life in the grimness of suburbia. You know – the large lawns, the well-spaced houses, located around schools and playing fields. The places from which you must drive to get anywhere exciting – or you can walk around your suburban block and watch other’s lawns grow, admire their gardens, comment on the lack of maintenance or the amazing maintenance, dodge lawn sprinklers and skateboards and bored teenagers with cars.

Some of them were nice suburbs – my home town of Winchester, Ma, for example, but I never really lived there. I lived in my house and yard and went downtown as a treat – it was a long walk and my parents were too watchful for me to go down there much (though I was allowed to go skating on an unmonitored lake whenever I wanted – I think my mother was afraid I’d take to drinking or smoking or hanging out with the fast crowd. As if they’d have me.) The bad kids in my crowd would go to the drug store, for heaven’s sake, and hang around buying makeup, or stealing it. We were even in the part of town that missed D’Agostino’s and the fun had by hanging out there. We were in the ultra suburb. We had one Jewish family in town. No black children until we bused them in from Boston.

Not a natural environment for the curious.

homeI’ve even lived in a suburb without an urb – the town of Shilo, Manitoba – a cluster of suburban roundabouts and 1950’s homes on a military base, in the middle of the short grass prairie, equally inconvenient to anywhere in North America as it was smack dab in the middle of the continent. When I first moved there, I slipped into a time warp, started wearing an apron, and cooked five batches of chocolate chips in the first week to share with the local kids before my natural anti-50’s soul rebelled. Still, I spent a heck of a lot of time house-cleaning there, my brain slowly leaking out with every bucket of pine-sol laden water poured out of the bucket. I wasn’t allowed to speak to men there, as every woman was pre-supposed to be on the hunt for a better husband (higher in rank). I also was reproved for speaking to the other ranks’ wives. I bought TUPPERWARE. In my defence, I had to, because the CO’s wife sold it. I still have it, 25 years later, a cautionary tale about being forced to conform.

I wasn’t brave then. I was unsure of who to be – I didn’t fit into the military wife drink and gossip gang, and there were so few kindred spirits and I was afraid to reveal myself to them. I was half my age now when I lived there, and my husband was establishing himself at the same time and it was rough for both of us to squeeze into the military mode. He stuck it out longer than I did, but then he had my support. I didn’t have his.

So suburbs, suburbs, suburbs. And now I’m making a change. I’m moving on down, as the Jefferson’s might have sung, truly – from my deluxe apartment in the sky, to a smaller, darker, less glamorous one in the nest of the downtown. Yes, Dartmouth rather than Halifax, but I remember so well the words of a couple I met when I first moved here – “We lived in Halifax and looked at Dartmouth – if we’d been smart, we would have done the opposite!”

Oct-Nov-2015-089-smaller-600x400(My house! (to the right))

I found a place right in the heart of everything. I look out at the downtown main street – I’ve often dreamed of living above a shop and I have that now, though it’s a holistic health centre (fewer food smells). The local bars are clustered across the street, as is the library. Little shops and dental offices and restaurants and theatres and music are within a few steps. The street noise is a wonderful melange of people talking, fog horns, train bells, ship calls, and the occasional “I have no balls so I am going to pull out the muffler on my motorcycle” jerks. Poor and wealthy walk by my windows, commuters stride by to catch the ferry, buses gasp as they make the turn. I can step across the street and inhale the harbour, get fresh fish and chips, go to the farmer’s market, grab an ungodly rich croissant.

I’m thinking of selling my car, trusting to legs and bus and ferry and car share and rentals when I want to go afield. I CAN DO THAT! I did that before, in cold as hell and hot as hades Ottawa, and gave in after winter. I’m in a better climate now, and I know this place. The prospect excites me.

I’m going to be an urbanite! It feels like a new cloak, a new identity. Onwards, ever onwards.

amandine-urruty-spitz

If I hate it? Well, there’s always the country….