Tag Archives: ukulele

Hanging out in a liminal space

liminal-space-definition-ofI have a feeling of being in transition, of being in between the not anymore and the not yet. I’ve been chewing on it ever since I saw my dear friend incarcerated in his body from a stroke, and struggling in a nursing home.

The push onto the threshold is also because this is my 60th year. My parents were wrapped in end-stage cancer by this age. I’d been married for a few years by that time, my children born before my mother left us. It is so hard to believe this was so long ago; also so hard to believe that I am this old. In my head, I am still a rollicking 45 – not as spry as a young ‘un, but no way am I as old as my parents were!

In a real life and space, I’d be planning for retirement, I’d be managing some poor employees, I’d be all serious and such. Maybe I’d even have learned to play golf. Instead, on my “freedom 50 get MS plan”, I’m looking down the wrong end of the telescope at a life that seems very far away.

Not that I don’t have one now – lucky me with friends and family and a view of the harbour and almost my health! I am definitely NOT complaining.

6c6a49f23bf8b7fb1bcff4f50f1a1971--love-birds-for-the-birdsI’m sensing a change coming, though, like a fresh wind. Maybe it’s the birds doing their still-chilly spring romantic dance. Maybe it’s the fact that sometimes, sometimes, I feel a bit like I can play the ukulele. Maybe it’s the repetitive strain injury from stabbing wool for hours…or the look of my still not right bedroom, covered in wool and still-waiting-to-be-unpacked necklaces and clothes.

I’m tempted to throw it all out. Sell it, give it up, start fresh. It seems to be on the backward side of the threshold. But what is on the other side? What can I do next?
When I was in first-year university, I didn’t have any money to buy my parents a160503_BOOKS_Allegory.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2 Christmas present. So I wrote them a story, about a unicorn and a girl making choices at a fork in the road. It was so dreadfully heavy with allegory I’m surprised my parents could lift it, let alone read it, but never mind, I can do a good preaching when I set my mind to it. They cried. My English teacher read it and told me it was trash.

images-8In the story, the Unicorn was there to help the girl along the rockier path she chose. It was meant to symbolize the coming of adulthood and the need to take on responsibilities, as it were. It had capital-B Bears in it who were my parents, who were ahead of me on this treacly road, who provided support from afar; it provided sympathy for what they’d lost by taking on adult responsibilities.

It was gruesome, I tell you. Whenever I am feeling too full of myself, I get it out and read it, and then go brush my teeth. Three times.

But I’m feeling that split in the road now. The need to figure out what this later bit of my life will come to mean. The tasks that will keep me sane. The things that will bring me joy. Housekeeping just ain’t it.

I know a few things will have to figure. Since my fall yesterday, I know I am going to have to throw myself back into physical fitness. My body is quitting on me, but that doesn’t mean I have to help it. It’s time to really allot time to exercise as I have done before. I’d say I should give up scotch, chocolate, and cheese, but let’s not get crazy here!

That means less crafting time, as all of that takes time and space.

I’m going to work on friendships, because I love them so much and often don’t get to meet up with my friends. (or family – that has to change, too) I don’t want to end up alone. I’ve seen how that can go, and it’s nasty.

This can also mean less crafting time, though most of my friends gather to do crafts, so maybe not…

Creativity is important to me, too – so I’ll have to work that in somewhere, somehow,00f5dde1205620d312e1ccceeabc3210 using words or needles and thread or wool or both.

So I’m standing on a doorstep. Time to step forward…just have to push myself through all of these piles of wool first…(but wait – I still want to try this, and make that, and there’s Alice and other stuff I could try and even little things …)

Maybe I’m not quite ready to step over that threshold … seems like I’ll be liminal for a while yet.



The pettiness of the long-distance writer…

Oh, I’m so fed up. With myself, with my not-writing, with this foolishness that I assign myself only to fail.

I find myself avoiding reading reviews of new books because the bitterness of “I shoulda been a images-11” is so strong, though I know full well I don’t have the stick-to-itiveness to finish my writing projects. I read about award winners and hiss inwardly through my teeth, begrudging other writers their moment in the sun, chewing on the regurgitated bile of my not quite able to pull it together dreams.

It’s bloody sickening. Originally, when I felt this feeling coming on, I decided to give myself a three-month writing fast, just so I could ENJOY reading again, stop doing the back-seat driving thing, just enjoy the road, wallow in others gift. And then I found myself signing up for things, giving myself deadlines that I could fight against again, setting myself up to fail and getting angrier at myself all the time.

Yesterday, I gave in. I spent the day playing with felt, hooking rugs, practicing my ukulele. In the evening I dipped my reading toes into the unexpectedly and thrillingly charming “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”. I laughed, I found myself in a local Chapters store reading silly joke books and crafting books and just plain enjoying myself. It was a great day.

And no writing.

I think I may have to do it again.

Serendipitous Connections



I’m all grown up now, no kids to tow to rugby games or class performances , no parent-teacher lineups or other shared parental volunteer activities to set up friendships with other grown ups. It used to be easy to meet new folks – we were doing the same things at the same time, our kids hung out together, we got to know each other over backyard BBQs and such.

We could hide behind our kids to get us out of bad friendships or conversations or activities. We could meet people we wanted to without seeming creepy or forward. It was all so easy back then.

Now that’s all gone. I meet a few people through my kids but most of the time we travel in very different circles.

So I have to make new connections, and that’s tougher. I was blessed in that I was married to a military guy for years, whose modus operandi was to move me away from everyone I knew and then abandon me and go to work. It was the best thing to ever happen to a gal like me, who was able to fake it til I made it, but who spent a fair bit of her time humming “Whistle a Happy Tune” under her breath.

So I learned to get out there, talk to strangers (and even strangers), join things, keep busy. I took up strange interests – pottery, ukulele, volunteer stuff, writing – in the hope that I’d meet interesting people. I signed up for classes and pretended to study. I joined dating sites and chatted with many many strange men (and some lovely ones). I met people.

But often the connections are so happenstance they are unpredictable. One of my best gal pals I worked with years ago, only to find she’d moved to NS and was living a block away from where I’d moved to – I would never have found her save for a political event attended by her minister, where we got to chatting…

And my other BFF is a lass I met at a ukulele concert – we happened to sit beside one other, got talking about the Halifax Ukulele Gang, both decided we wanted to go, and we’ve been friends ever since.

It’s serendipitous and wonderful, miribilia, as Rob Brezsny would say.

And now threads fly out from me to all those places where I once was, where I have left friends and family, connecting me to people around the globe. Some of those threads are thin and worn, but so many of them hum brightly when I touch them, making me feel supported and part of that ineffable something bigger.

I still sing that song, though. But that’s a topic for another day.


A humble joy

Once and awhile, I wonder what drove me to abandon all I knew and flee eastwards, where family is distant and old friends are further still. Here I perch on the edge of Canada, blasted by the Atlantic, covered by fog, quite quite alone a lot of the time (I am fortunate to have wonderful friends nearby, thank heavens).
It seems a crazy thing, and yet I knew it was the right thing three years ago and the longer I stay, the more right it feels.
Part of the rightness comes from simple pleasures, like tonight’s meeting of the Halifax Ukulele Gang (called so because, as our fearless leader Mike says, it sounds much fiercer than “group”). It’s a mad mad crowd of people who get together once a month to strum or air strum, depending on skill, and sing tunes of all sorts. Bless their furry little hearts – they haven’t tossed me out for my enthusiastically played missed chords or my not quite in tune voice – everyone just has a good time.
Tonight one woman played percussion on the table for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. Another sang falsetto for an AC/DC tune. We struggled through more songs about death and hangings than we should have for a fun group, but leader Jonathan was ready to lead us in a cheery version of “long black veil” and we ran along beside strumming madly all the way.
We even ended all together once or twice and the whole room erupted in cheers.
I don’t really know any of these people. Most of the time I attend alone, leave alone.
But not alone.
Tonight after we were done, you could see people carrying ukuleles dispersing everywhere through the mist, visible only by their smiles. We’ll meet again, next month, and greet each other like old friends.
And that’s why I’m so glad I moved here, after all.
Because as we Nova Scotians, old timers and come from always like myself, peer out into the sea bound fog together, we don’t hesitate to bring along whoever is standing beside us.
Twice in my life now, Nova Scotia has saved me. Once, 14 or more years ago, when I found myself somewhere in the Annapolis Valley. Now, here in the HRM, as they call it, where I hang out on the “dark side” with my fellow Dartmouthians.
This place is in my bones and flesh and heart and soul.
And in my ukulele.



I have a new love in my life. He’s quiet, a classic, comfy to hold and hug to me. He lets me touch him whenever I want, enjoys my cuddling with him on the couch while I watch tv, comes out with me to social events and joins in with enthusiasm.
He, like me, enjoys all kinds of music, from rock and roll to Peter, Paul and Mary. He’s as thrilled as me that I’ve found the music for Classical Gas by Mason Williams.
But, like most grown ups, he’s also good on his own. He’s content to do is own thing if I’m away doing mine. He’s not threatened by others like him.
One day, we hope to travel together, maybe to Newfoundland, where we can hang out in the pubs with the locals. Or just sit and watch the sunrise together, maybe singing a tune together. Maybe “Morning Has Broken” or something. We don’t know. He even understands I might leave him behind and take my shorter friend.
I don’t know how long my infatuation will last, but it’s pretty strong right now. I’ve known lots of other instruments, but none of them have taken to me the same way he has. It’s so easy being with him.
We simply seem right together. We have the same odd sense of the world, me and my ukulele.
I think this is the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

What do YOU love?


What Bertie dreams of doing with Dora…

It’s one of those “Whiskers on kittens” days, when I am thinking of my favourite things. I’m watching my parrotlets unsuccessfully try to cuddle (my girl, Dora, hates the boy, Bertie, but he likes her and has a twinkle in his eye and an urge to pursue. No wonder she’s plucking her feathers), and thinking about how much I love these little feisty birds.

I have my ukulele lesson today, and I smile whenever I think of my silly uke and how happy it makes me.

We all shower affection on animate and inanimate things, to a greater or lesser degree. Friends, pets, lovers, chocolate, wine, scotch, exercise, books, music, cool computer things, wind, clouds, sunsets, snow, crafts, religions, even special pencils.

We say, “ooh, I love those shoes!” or “Wow, I love a good steak!” with the same sort of enthusiasm (or more, alas) as we say “I love you!”.


So then we wonder, if love is so easy to buy, why is it so difficult to maintain? Well, except for in pets. And children. And Elvis with a ukulele…

Or maybe it’s the ease of buying things we love that makes it hard to try to keep them. Maybe, instead of maintaining love, we just trade it in for the newer, fresher model.

I hate buying things. I’m always balancing what I want with my money and what that money COULD represent: travel; chocolate bars; good scotch; even more books. So instead I rearrange things, remodel them, paint them, wear them out. Right now I’m wearing a 10 year old sweatshirt, with cuffs worn through. It’s too big for me, the arms bunch up, but it’s one of my usual things to wear. I love its comfort.

I sit on furniture my parents used. I love the style, contemporary and smooth, walnut and teak. Occasionally I wish for something new to look at – after all, I’ve seen these chairs and tables every day for 40 of my fifty years. But I love them, and the tie to my parents, who passed away years and years ago.Image

So, what do you love? And why? And would you trade it in? What makes you continue to love it?

Sometimes, I need the sea…

Okay, as Nanowrimo procrastination, I’ve wandered about the internet, looking for houses on Nova Scotia’s Southern Shore. It is true madness, but all it took was me seeing that there is a Ukulele ceilidh happening there every two years to make me wish to live in Liverpool. Well, that and the view of a multi-coloured house painted by mad artists who did full paintings on every stair riser.  It’s for sale, and my wild side wants it.

They are obviously characters in Liverpool, and that’s cool. And the ocean is right there, and that’s cool, too. Not that it’s far away here in Dartmouth, but I live in utter utter suburbia, quiet enough you can hear the water babbling in the creek that runs behind us here.

And sometimes, I wish for a good strong wind to blow the fur out of my brain, and the scent of salt. It doesn’t filter its way often way over here, surrounded as I am by “little houses, on a hillside, and they’re all made of ticky tacky“. . .

So today, my exercise and renovation buddy and I decided to take ourselves on a walk by the sea. Not the beach today – it’s just turned cold and we weren’t psychologically or physically ready for the full sea air treatment, but down around a harbour, and through a woodland path.

It was a good choice over the gym. They gym, nice as it is, always feels like I’ve been placed in a science museum with a bunch of research gerbils and we are all running endlessly on our exercise wheels, chirruping to ourselves. It feels very good to exercise, yes it does, but the wind is helpful, too.

Our legs gave out right by a well-positioned bench, so we sat and looked at the sea, and the wind tumbling the oak leaves together like hands clapping for our performance. The sea stretched out in front of us, vast and surprisingly calm and blue. The air was fresh, unused. It made my brain feel the way it does when I eat those intolerably strong peppermints – cool and a bit spicy and cold when I breathed in…

There’s a huge tree along our walking path, with a branch that looks like it was specifically set up for a rope swing. The whole experience made me long for a house of my own, with a bunch of my trees around it, and a view to the ocean, with windows to open to the breeze.

We staggered back, MS legs not quite ready for the distance, and ears freezing.

But better. So much better.



Tiptoeing through – no – stomping through the tulips

Last night I had an out-of-body experience.

I’ve been trying, half-heartedly, to learn how to play the ukulele for months now. I have my son’s old high school uke, a tuner given to me by my friend Bob, and a couple of books far too advanced for my skills.

So I’ve tinkered along, not learning much, letting dust accumulate.

Then I went to see a fabulous concert by James Hill and Anne Davison. They are such a sweet act and so lovely to watch together, on uke and cello, respectively.

At that concert I met a fellow wanna-uker who said she wanted to go to the monthly Halifax Ukulele Group meeting at the Celtic Corner pub in Dartmouth, NS. We promised each other we’d go together, and now that I was actually going to be playing somewhere in public, I started practicing in earnest, got a couple of more appropriate books, learned about six chords, sort of.

And then it was off to the H.U.G.

We thought we’d go a bit early to be sure we’d get seats.

We barely wedged into the room. There were fifty people, give or take, at least fifty-three ukes, and song books flying all over the room. The fearless leader, heaven help him, called out the song names. There was the sound of frantic page turning, then random chords here and there for a couple of minutes as everyone stretched out their fingers.

Then he counted off, and we flew into the songs. If you’ve never been in a crowded space with fifty people playing ukuleles and singing at the top of their lungs, well, all I can do is recommend it. I laughed so hard while I was playing I nearly fell off my bar stool.

Everyone is at a different level with their playing – many newbies who play the chords they can and hand-synch the others, people who can actually play the instrument but are learning the songs, and experts. Plus a few people along just for the singing and foot-stomping. It’s madness, but we all ended the songs on time, and I got pretty comfy with a few chords and strumming by the end. My heart was full with gratitude that such a thing as the H.U.G. exists.

But it’s not your gentle uke strumming like the above wahine. No, it’s a bit more like below.

So now I’m wondering, where can I get a leather suit?