Friday, 19 May 2017

Off Grid for the Week

I am off work for the next week and will be away from Internet access, so you won't be hearing from me for a while. Thought I'd better let you know so you don't worry I've fallen off the face of the planet. Just rejuvenating.  Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, 14 May 2017


And dandelions. Lots of dandelions. Can't forget to mention those.

I actually like them. I don't know why people don't. Great swaths of cheerful yellow, like buttercups. Followed by swaths of fuzzy white.

Well, and then bare spikes that just bend over instead of cut when I mow over them. Not so pretty then.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Explosions of Colour

Overnight, the earth has woken up and put on its finery. All at once there are lilacs, crabapple trees, trillium, wild columbine, tulips, flowering almond, and grape hyacinth, all vying for attention. To go from the blah grays and browns of winter to the shrieking pink of blossom time is almost staggering. I keep having to stop dead in the middle of the sidewalk to just look and look. I can't drink it in deeply enough.

Spring blossom time and autumn harvest time are the times I feel the most blessed. What abundance! What generosity! What a wonderful earth we live on!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Silent Retreat

I have had laryngitis since Saturday. Not a squeak. My husband says it's a dream come true.

But it's difficult to rest my voice, as instructed, when I have to work in an office full of people. So yesterday I finally put a sign on my cubicle and pinned one to my shirt that says "In silence. Namaste" and pretending I was on silent retreat.

A couple of interesting results came from this. First was the realization that I can, in fact, just drop out of spoken interaction and do a silent "retreat" any time I want to. Why not? It counts as a religious thing, and people in Toronto are hyper-sensitive around religious things. You don't have to explain it or apologize for it; you just declare it. No one questions it. People actually go out of their way to help you do it. Secondly, it's amazing how much you hear when you stop talking. I had no idea I talk so much. It's an embarrassing realization. And thirdly, all day long, if I really had to whisper something to someone, they would whisper back to me. It worked at home with my son, too. I got a kick out of reminding them that I'm the one who has to whisper; they don't! But a soft answer does indeed turn away wrath---or at least, turn down the volume of all concerned. It's an interesting phenomenon.

I also find it interesting that, as I searched for Hindi silence signs on the Internet, I found the phrase "In silence." Not "Being silent" or "On silent retreat," but "In silence." As if it's a room you enter, or a pond you swim in. And it does end up feeling a bit like that, after you've tried to be silent an entire day. A sort of cocooning bubble forms around you, a hushed sphere that others sense (maybe that's why they whisper too). It's a peaceful, empowering place. And I look forward to entering it again today.


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Too Old to Pretend

At 5:30 this morning, on my way to the bus station, I saw two racoons. One stayed in the trees, but the other dashed across an open area and took cover – impossibly – in a dead-end surrounded by chain link fence. I stopped to try to see where it had gone, because the only hiding place I could see was the ventilation system of the Community Centre swimming pool. (Someone’s not going to be happy.)

As I stood there, I caught the scent of chlorine from the pool, and immediately I was transported back to childhood and the wonderful summers spent at the three pools on the local university campus. The indoor pool where you had to wear their issued swimsuits made of some black stretchy material that sagged when it got wet. The outdoor pool at Helaman Halls where you could always smell a barbecue going somewhere. And the one at Deseret Towers, where they played the radio. I’ll always remember swimming to “I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you…” (which, when you consider that double negative, isn’t actually a very complimentary song!).

My cousin Janice and I would commandeer a set of the pool concrete steps and pretend it was a reef and we were mermaids (back before mer-ism was fashionable). Somehow, without really even discussing it, we formed a make-believe world in high detail, and each assumed (correctly) that the other saw what we imagined.

When I was probably 6 or 7, I once sat before the open doors of a living room cabinet, where my parents kept LPs, and pretended that it was a kitchen. I spent hours “cooking” and entertaining guests, lost in play. But when I went back to it days later, I couldn’t seem to recapture the magic. No matter how I tried to recreate it, the cabinet remained boringly a cabinet. Even at that age, I feared I was “growing up” and losing the ability to imagine. I knew someday I’d be too old to pretend. I realized that imagination wasn’t real.

I was wrong, of course. As a writer, I’ve learned that you never get too old to pretend. That’s all fiction writers do. We enter imagined worlds and take dictation from what happens around us. I don’t know how it is for other writers, but sometimes that imagined world is more real to me than my real life. My characters become my friends or alter-egos. I look at the street and see it as it was in 1880, and I'm startled by the passing of motorcycles. Bits of imagination trickle over into my real world, and I find myself using words from past centuries, like “forsooth” and “alas” and “hence.” I carry on conversations with people who aren’t there (and yes, I know they aren’t there, but that’s irrelevant).

I suspect all writers are a little bit mad.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Foraging on the Way Home

As I was walking home from the bus today, I saw an elderly man out in the brush, collecting dandelion greens. When he noticed me observing him, he straightened and looked a bit embarrassed. If I hadn't had laryngitis, I would have gone over and told him that there were other edibles at his feet that he was missing -- burdock root, plantain, lamb's quarters, garlic mustard, violet, purslane...

If there was a sudden famine, I think I could support us at least for a while on weeds. I just hope we're never hungry enough to put my skills to the test.