It’s Evening. . .

21 02 2018

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Of a foggy foggy day, filled with grey skies so low and looming that one could easily slip away in them, vanish like the ferry as it skims to and fro. The fog has finally cleared and the reflection of the lights on the water seems oddly bright. Even the ferry lights seem shinier than usual, against the fog-calmed sea.

Brain-Fog-Clouds-in-Xray-headI’ve been feeling foggy, myself. Lots going on, various family and non-family tragedies and worries, enough to keep my brain spinning unproductively in the mist. Toss in another school shooting, more horribleness about the fascist-leaning land to the south, and the fog deepens. A good friend of mine writes satire and humour about the Trump government – I’ve told him I can’t read it anymore. I used to keep track of the lies and foolishness through twitter and news sites; I can’t anymore.

Of course, this is what the “they” want. Numbness vs. outrage, passive acceptance. Our own Canadian government clothes platitudes in tight pants and expects us to not see their real plans. Meanwhile, the oligarchs plan and plot and gradually little bits of our life and our planet are teased away from us.

powerpuff-girls-key-art-smallBack when I was younger and full of piss and vinegar, I used to take this on (that’s me on the right, a rare thing). I wrote letters, went to protests, was active in party politics. I’d love to do that again, but I realize I can’t – my brain doesn’t hold onto facts anymore (if it ever could) and my arguments slide away into inappropriate confessions and parries and thrusts with blunt weapons. I embarrass myself. It’s truly awful. As I get older I keep my mouth closed more and more…or regret speaking more and more!

So I pull the fog blanket over me and go play with my art, wander around my ‘hood, filled as it is with comfortable people who smile and greet me, distract myself with movies from more innocent times, drink a glass of wine.

I need to pass the torch on images-6to others whose brains can formulate arguments and make sense. They need to keep their noses to the grindstone, their foot on the pedal, to blow away the fog of fatigue. I can’t anymore.

 

 

But maybe that’s okay. The kids know much more than I ever did.

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Black dogs, connections, loss

13 02 2018

I recently had two things happen to me that gave me pause. First, I went to visit a dear friend of mine, felled by a stroke, forced to spend the rest of his life in a “long term care facility”. To see an intelligent man knocked so far sideways was saddening; to see his family try to make things better for him was heartbreaking. When I left, I felt like I was kicking a brood of puppies- I’m retired, I could have stayed and helped longer, more, somehow. Not that I don’t have a full life here etc etc.

But, YOU KNOW. Doesn’t help that I’m a nurse and I could do the physio things he needs, or that I saw the light go out in his eyes as soon as they transferred him to the “waiting for placement” floor.

The stroke has brought out his depression, and I know how hard that is to fight. Add significant disability and it can seem impossible. He needs a full-time cheering section, and that’s not possible…

So I grieve. And try to cheer from the sidelines.

This same friend used to tease me about how I would talk to anyone. My kids used to hate how I “got caught in a conversation.” I do that. I chat with people at bus stops, I talk to shopkeepers, I build the fragile network that creates a neighbourhood. Apparently, I’ve been doing the right thing. A study passed over my email trail- might’ve been a TED talk about a study that looked at what it was that kept people living longer.

Yes, friends are important- good health is, too- but the best predictor of long life was this fragile network of contacts with your neighbourhood. I’m trying to convey this to my friend, though I am not sure how happy he is to contemplate long life. It certainly makes the world a nicer place and my life happier to smile with people, thank people, ask how their day is going, say something positive. Maybe, if he could see it, it would make his life more pleasant, anyway. Most people are interesting; many are enchanting; some are terrifying. It’s all grist for the imaginative mill.

It keeps my black dogs at bay, most of the time. Except when I envision a life ahead of drifting about in a wheelchair, begging for help with the littlest thing. Then my dogs join in with his for a good full-moonish HOWL.

Lord save us all.





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

13 01 2018

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

 





Oh Edgar…

26 12 2017

“Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature through the veil of the soul.’” — Edgar Allan Poe, Marginalia, 1844

via Quotable #33: Edgar Allan Poe’s Definition Of Art — Learn Fun Facts





On coming and going, despair and joy, excitement and dullness, writing and not writing, or how 2017 was a very busy year…

26 12 2017

Ah, 2017. Who needs it? It was the year of the orange man, the year of constant threats to democracy all over the globe, the year of broken promises and climate change and bad government (here in NS, too- Stephen MacNeil plus all opponents) (Trudeau plus all his opponents). I thank the gods for Elizabeth May and her courage in holding everyone to account. I swear she must never sleep.

goodbye-yellow-brick-road-meganne-peckGawshens, Auntie Em, sometimes Munchkin land, witches and all, seems more predictable than reality. At least there, the yellow brick road doesn’t lead to ripping off everyone but the top 1%…but then again… Emerald City???

I rant. And for me, in the trenches as Dorothy, it’s been a year full of unexpected delights and challenges, treats and slaps upside the head, a brief romance or two, and travels beyond my wildest dreams.

It started with a disappointment – I had promised myself I’d finish and send in some Br3f8SHIcAAgGQ7.jpg-largewriting before I went, but I jetted off to the Iceland Writers Retreat with nothing, feeling like a fraud. Ideas weren’t even percolating – it’s like my writerly mind had shut down. But then there was Iceland, a truly magical place, a group of kind and inspiring writers, and a mad cookbook writer (David Lebowitz) who managed to make me feel like I could write, and something useful, too. I left there completely enchanted, in love with the mists and steams and lava and people of Iceland. I vowed to return. The conference (which I highly recommend) was like a shimmering lagoon, filled with ideas swimming around in the warm water, cozy and enwrapping.

Of course, coming home to wintry Nova Scotia and my credit card balance sobered me up a bit. Yes, I said. I’ll go back. Maybe in 2020, when I’ve recovered. IF and only IF I actually get some things published again. It’s been a long time.

5ffc46fcc5ef4965901a498b32a28ddfA summer in the heat and awash in MS misery shut me down flat. Heat and MS are not friends. My then apartment had little air exchange, and I was sick sick sick all summer, too sick to truly enjoy the wonderful tall ships as they sailed right by my street corner, too sick to go out, too sick to stay in. Standing up became a question. My cat even grew bored with my company.

Usually, my MS and I have a working agreement. I leave it alone, it leaves me alone. But the problem with being ill with MS is that you don’t want to do anything. So you sit around. Which then deconditions you and you feel worse, etc etc. As with all chronic diseases, a little exercise goes a long way. I wasn’t doing anything in the heat except for brief walks to a local bar with cool cool beer.

So no writing. Brain sparking only occasionally. Had a couple of badly planned romances around that time. The frontal cortex is involved in my MS – my judgment centres were not fully operational. Ah well, live and learn. At least I knew enough to step back and not get myself into even more trouble.

imagesBut all this gawping like a beached carp meant that I didn’t have much time to create my felted animals for various shows, so once I mentally awoke as fall rolled in, I was nailed to the chair in my den, forcing creativity. Never a good plan. Still, managed some good things here and there, and dug into some volunteer things and in general, returned to normal-ish.

And then things started to happen fast and furiously. I was sitting at my computer mourning the loss of my brain as I struggled with transferring a five-digit number from one window to another when my phone rang. It was my lovely gallery owner, Adriana, telling me something unbelievable.

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We had an invitation to go to Greenland in November to talk about building cooperatives, and for me to demonstrate making woolen animals! Who could believe that?

But it was true, and I have to say I do love Greenland even more than Iceland. Part of it was that we had a fabulous guide who handled everything for us, so we could just glide from one thing to another, looking at incredible scenery, meeting wonderful, inspiring people, and just giggling madly at everything. It was completely unbelievable.  Even the flights were timed just right – IMG_0617we got a good soak in at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, rested between stops, and mysteriously had our bags make it from a tiny airport in the midst of nowhere to Halifax. I think Salik, our guide, has magical powers.

 

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Unlike Iceland, the new volcanic land, Greenland is made of old old rock from way below the sea. The Ice Shelf is magnificent, huge beyond imagining. The fjords made my heart sing.  Rocks poke up everywhere, the land slopes upward from the sea and presents vistas wherever you look. It’s quiet and clean, and the air and water are magnificent. And the people? Lovely, warm, glad to see we odd Canadians bearing polar bears and treats and ideas.

 

I loved everything about Greenland. It reminded me a bit of the time I visited Hawaii and very nearly stayed…very tempting to just miss the plane and hang out a bit longer…until I saw the prices of things. Whew. I fled, holding my credit card close so it would stop crying. But I still want to go back. There’s a peace there that doesn’t exist in busy Iceland.

Before I went to Greenland, though, I had to move to an airier apartment – across the street! It is my forever home, I think, thank heavens, as my son told me in no uncertain terms I was never to move again. (he helped me after we had to fire the movers at the last minute). Long story, but I felt strong lifting boxes and jumping in and out of the truck until I suddenly wasn’t anymore.

When I came back from Greenland, I still had to unpack, but once again MS stomach punched me, taught me not to take it for granted. The disease has progressed, tests show, and I have lost some things that were nice to have.  They may come back. It’s been several months since they went, though, so I fear that they, like sensation on most of my body, will be lost to me forever.

Toujours Gai, as Mehitabel the cat would say. I am warm and dry and can see the sea, and though writing is a challenge, I can still work on that book, maybe hire someone to see my little things to publication. I’m gradually getting organized in my apartment.

I’m alive and we haven’t been planted in a nuclear war scenario, I’ve been to see lands that claimed my heart two times in a single year, I have a loving family, and a clan of women friends (and a few guys, too) that sustain me. I am missing one of my dear friends who had a stroke and remains in recovery – I only hope to hear his voice again…

I’m so unbelievably grateful.

Now onwards into 2018!

 





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

22 10 2017

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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Sexist beer marketing: Meanwhile in Nova Scotia

21 09 2017

And another reason to love Nova Scotia…

Ben's Beer Blog

A  few months ago I wrote a blog post discussing sexist marketing in beer and I called out–and chatted with–some Ontario breweries about marketing efforts I felt objectified women.

In the interim, there have been some changes worth noting. Whitewater Brewing, the Ottawa Valley area brewer who makes “Farmer’s Daughter Blonde,” has quietly updated the branding for that can and appears to have renamed their seasonal “Farmer’s Daughter’s Melons” to the decidedly less cringe-inducing “Watermelon Blonde.”

Niagara Brewing Company, the makers of “Amber Eh!,” an American-style Amber that features a semi-naked female lumberjack on the can, took the less strategic but still effective approach of responding to my repeated inquiries by simply blocking me on social media. I guess that works.

The other breweries mentioned have, to date, continued business as usual; including continuing to use the cans that I discussed.

As first reported here in August

View original post 1,196 more words








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