Saturday, November 28, 2015

What the man said

This is what the Calgary, Alberta, Canada mayor said after a public meeting:

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi:

"I had a meeting this morning where we had a community forum on refugees. And I was a little bit nervous walking in because it was an open invitation, anybody could come, and I thought there might be some angry people or people with a lot of very difficult questions. And who was there were churches and synagogues and temples and mosques and grandmothers and volunteers and people from across the community, who were just asking the same question, which is by the way still by far the most common question I get, how can I help? And at one point a First Nations woman stood up. I only knew that because she said, I am a First Nations woman. I thought she was going to say, why are we having all this focus on these refugees when we have so many problems closer to home? And what she actually said was, I need some help. Because I need to understand how and when they’re coming because I want to make sure, and many of my First Nations colleagues, want to make sure that when these people come, we have an opportunity to have the elders there to drum them in and to do a smudge ceremony so we can welcome them to this land... I might have lost it at that point."

This is served to you as an antidote to all the hate, prejudice and racism out there.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Being Present

Fogo Island at yesternight taken by Paddy Barry, enbiggen to take your breath away

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with people's kindness. Today, and I hope all days, I will notice and be grateful.

In the last few minutes, an acquaintance, a boat captain, dropped off a passel of freshly caught cod.

After lunch at a friend's today, she gifted me with fresh limes, more cod, moose and my dinner for later.

Then my cousin called from Ireland, it was "free calls to Canada" day on her service.

And it looks like my two person play is going to fly with wings now and play here and maybe Ireland in the fall of next year.

I feel like I'm coming out of an awful, stumbling, numbing fog. I haven't shared a lot of it here as, seriously, I thought I was losing my mind along with my health. I can't thank my grief therapist enough. My treatment is ongoing and his assistance in my process is invaluable. It's far from over. It's almost like I have to reinvent myself and focus more, much more, on my existing support network and forcibly interact at a level I'm comfortable with, with those who care for my wellbeing. For a gregarious loner like me that can be a bit of a mountain but I'll put on the climbing boots. I was making streams of excuses about old friends being far better than new friends, why invest time in new friends when they could drop off the face of the earth too, blah-blah. And no joint history doncha know. I'm awfully good at shopping from the excuses wagon.

As the man said, I had lost all trust in myself and now it's filtering through.

Being present. Meditating. Suiting up and showing up. All is beginning to feel well.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Small Things Noticed & Praised.

Petals of Asiago cheese.

Jars of red jewels - partridgeberry jam - on my counter. I can't put them away.

My dog, Ansa, who now sleeps in in the morning and has to be awakened. A reversal if ever there was one.

The smell of wood-smoke and a beautiful meatloaf in the oven at this very moment.

A nearly completed knitted "window worm" for another drafty window.

Playing around with the book cover possibilities for the anthology I put together with the writers in the writers' workshop (see above) - I wish to incorporate the old and the new. And now that I look at it again I think the addition of an oil-lamp alongside the laptop would be a nice touch, what do you think? The intent for the image on the cover will be fairly blurry but catchy.

Blood sugars manageable.

Another session tomorrow with my grief counsellor.

Thanks for all the comments, so heartfelt and helpful, on my last blog post.

I sure am at the stage of life where stuff is not added but rather taken away.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Carol Doesn't Say Goodbye

I wrote about her a while back. Here. Just over 4 years ago. Carol* moved away to the city and we stayed in sporadic touch. She finally met the man of her dreams she told me only a week ago. And sent a picture.

And then, her daughter, who gave birth to Carol's first grandchild a few months ago, messages me today that Carol took her own life yesterday.
I can only conclude that the latest knight in shining armour had clay feet too. Or Carol just gave up on her dream.

After my initial shock and a welter of tears, I am still baffled. Carol was beautiful in an exotic way. Dainty. Petite. Her childhood was one of the worst I'd ever heard of, full of foster homes and abusive men. She lost a brother she was very close to about 5 years ago and told me she could never get over it. He was her pillar of strength.

I met some of the men she was involved with but not the latest. I was not impressed with any of them for a variety of reasons.

Over the years, I got to know Carol at a deep level and understood far too well her motivation in wanting a safe life with her very own fellah and security. Security was important to her as she'd never, ever had it in her entire life.

I don't think she really understood what it meant. Apart from the fairytales depicted on television. I had suggested a few times that the only security she could ever find and hang on to was the security residing within herself.

I weep tonight for all the Carols out there.

And for all the "if-onlys" of life.

*a pseudonym

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Kindness takes many forms, doesn't it? And I can miss it. It gallops by sometimes when I am focussing on past unkindness, the sort that slaps you in the face from loved ones, trusted loved ones.

So awareness. A long time ago, a cousin mailed me a treasured book on awareness. The waking up to spirit, to the world around, to truth, to reality. I open it now and again and reflect on its messages.

Awareness to kindness. Not taking for granted even the smallest act or loving words. To really see and savour.

My washing machine is on the blink. It can manage small loads but not sheets and towels. It gets overwhelmed and won't spin. It galls me that it is only 6 years old, purchased with a legacy from an aunt. And I already spent ill-afforded cash on a repairman who couldn't fix it but had to charge me for his time. So as I save up for another, Daughter takes my sheets and towels. Very kind, you think. But more than that, and this brings me to tears: every single item is folded so neatly and perfectly and put into cardboard boxes so they stay that way. You have to know that Daughter is not a folder. I am and Other Daughter is. I'm talking sheets, pillowcases, towels. Folded perfectly by a non-folder. Kindness.

And Friend. I can't count the number of times she's dropped off tasty soups, stews, muffins and a book along with loving words and cheery predictions about life once I get back into the saddle of it but take all the time I want.

And others who assure me: "I know what you're going through. I've been there."

I posted this on my BFF's FB memory page today. One of her daughters is now the head off her - as we say back home - so much so that my heart skips a beat when I see her photos. That is the legacy for some, the faces of their mothers or fathers on them to light a candle of hope or elicit a cry of anguish for the observer depending on the day that's in it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Me and Da Couch

It's been a while since I had "outside help" - I'd say close on 30 years now. Well actually "outside help" is a misnomer for surely it is "inside help". Stuff for the spirit, soul and psyche. If you believe in that kind of thing. Which I do. It's either that or pills and I am surrounded by sedative/tranquilizer and anti-depressant takers. I'd rather take the therapy route. I don't judge the others who opt for the chemical solution. Ever. It's a very personal choice, some like to keep the daemons buried. I wanted to stop feeling so discombobulated and raging after sobering up so had no hesitation about unlocking all the childhood misery so many decades ago.

I just looked up my therapist from close on 30 years ago and found his obituary. He was 93 when he died last year. An amazing man, he brought me from darkness into a place of peace with my past.

The thing is when I seek this kind of help I'm always hesitant and almost apologetic. So much serious crap in the world and here I am sullying your doorstep with my trivial concerns.

Was I set to rights rather quickly with my case review yesterday. Dr. Patrick (pseudonym)looked at me intently and said:

"I have rarely seen anyone in my long practice with so much devastation in 8 months. Actually, come to think of it, never."

And I bawled my eyes out when he said "you've lost 3 anam caras", using the Irish language. Anam cara means, literally: friend of my soul.

And over an hour and a half I poured my heart out and he said to me then:
"The privilege in my job is that I really, really get to know dead people and the families supporting or abandoning the bereaved."

And he proceeded to gently cast a light on behaviours that have hurt and baffled me and the ongoing pain and loss of creativity that have me plagued and the overwhelming tides of grief that take me unaware.

He told me to try and find one small moment in every day that brings me a sliver of joy until he sees me again.

I feel the beginning of hope and renewal today, a little match struck in the darkness.

Monday, November 09, 2015


I just finished binge-watching Season 5 of Downton Abbey.

It's addictive, like Belgian chocolate. A secret public indulgence.

And like good chocolate, once you savour it all down and lick the lips, the memory is gone.

It's a fleeting "feels", Downton Abbey, for it's basically a more classy form of soap opera: plotlines (plot?!)push the credibility metre all the way to the top of the forehead.

Sure and it's all about the frocks. They're gorgeous. And endless in their variety and detail and fit. I was an excellent dressmaker in my time so I appreciate a good cut and fabric and draping and fine stitching and French seams and pleats. So the frocks please me on many levels.

I had an aunt who worked in such a great house. Life below stairs was a form of slavery. Long days, pitiful wages and one half-day a week off where she would sometimes catch a bus and visit us in the great metropolis of Cork. Nothing like the gadding about and free weekends of the servants in DA. But as she said to me, there was no time to spend those wages so she could save them. She wore uniforms and was fed quite well at the Hall where she worked so she had no overhead. I loved her stories about the guests who stayed and their conversations about travelling and hunting and balls.

There was an old beat-up piano off the kitchen in the bowels and here she taught herself to play. Her bedroom was in the attic dormitory where the rest of the servants slept. You always needed a hot water bottle she told me and there was hardly any privacy. And you had to watch your "things". I'm sure her tale of life below stairs was the reality of so many servant's lives.

But I suspend my disbelief and indulge myself and gaze with admiration on all those delicious frocks.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

In Real Life

You FBers. Have you ever gazed upon the glamourous, clean lives full of magic unicorns and cuddly kittens that your friends live on FB?

I know. Some of you are not on FB. Well done, y'all.

But for those who are on FB, you understand what I'm saying, I'm sure. Always smiling, children so well behaved and clean, mein gott, how do they manage that - not a bib or a spit-up or sagging leak in sight and smiles on those kids reflecting the beaming pride on their parents' faces. In my time, it would have taken me an hour to wrangle my kids, their father and the assorted animals into a tidy pile, not to mention cleaning them up beforehand and begging them to smile. I had one kid who timed her dreadful faces to the moment the money shot was being clicked.

But I digress.

Yesterday I caught two couples in real life. Really glamourous couples on FB. The first couple (restaurateurs) - loads of happy pics on FB - were staggering out of Walmart with bockity trollies loaded down with tat and were grim-faced and putting out that "don't even look at me vibe" so intensely that they didn't spot me as I pulled into the parking lot close by their jangling, screeching carts.

The next couple (both artistes of some renown, she's about 30 years younger than him) were heading into Starbucks as I was stepping out, clutching my bag of decaff. espresso - I think it's the only company in NL that stocks this nectar of the gods for my late-night snarfling - and I did a double take on them. I don't often see them in real life you see, but the shots I do see have them glammed up and laid back and at spiffy events. Here he was cranky and feeble and honestly, she looked like his granddaughter.

I love catching people in real life. It humanizes them. Makes me realize that the FB status that is projected into the ether does not reflect a normal life balance.



Tuesday, November 03, 2015


It's a sin, that coveting business. Neighbour's wife, neighbour's goods. Those ten commandments never did mention neighbour's husband though, did they. I guess it was assumed women weren't capable of coveting. I remember, being the awkward one with awkward questions all the time about everything, asking one of the holy nuns who were married to Holy God Himself, (the world's most prolific polygamist of all time) why couldn't women covet. At times I just got vicious, shrivelling, silent, mean looks when asking awkward questions. That was one of those times.

Anyway. Today. I toddled into Home Hardware desperately in need of a pair of sawhorses. More on that later. No, it's not for what you think. And if you could believe, they had one sawhorse. One. I was outraged. What the eff good is one sawhorse to anyone? I didn't keep this thought to myself. It was a cranky day for me so I collared the store manager and demanded an answer - see above re awkward questions. Why? said I imperiously. What good is one sawhorse to anyone? He scratched his head and mumbled something about one could break, it could be a replacement. I harrumphed and noted I sounded just like my father when foiled by stupid sales managers who should know better than to have one of something that should be presented as a pair.

So in the midst of my high dudgeon march as I left the store in the foyer I spotted this:

And I just about fell to my knees in adoration. And I was enveloped in a cloud of Satan's helpers whispering in my ear "and you thought you were way above coveting anyone and everything? - Ha!"

And I whimpered as I stroked this magnificent beast and imagined the soda bread hot out of its oven, plates warming in the high rack, the cast iron pots and pans on its ready range top. And its heat leaking into all my old drafty rooms.

I must be alive. Sinning feels almighty good.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Flotsam and Jetsam

I don't know about you, but I find that the creative energy can be sucked right out of you when life goes sideways. Like there's only room in the head for some flotsam and jetsam - no choice, take it or leave it - and it pushes everything else right out the ear. So you're left with maybe a book that you can climb into or various games of solitaire, the kind that you can get over involved with. I imagine if I had a teevee that I would be glued to it, anything to completely numb out and NOT THINK. Noise, distraction, meaningless repetitiveness.

The bench you see above is at Daughter's Place. I designed and knitted the cover for it back in August as the existing cover that was on it (a marvellous flea market find) was falling apart. The colours match her living room furniture.

I stayed with Daughter over the weekend and I kept staring at it. And then I took a picture of it. And then I thought: I have that old bench in my house, cover falling apart too. Maybe? And I took designing pen to paper and now I've started on another cover and the flotsam and jetsam can hardly breathe, I do believe they're choking.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I am struck so much by memory lately. Not in a morbid way or anything, strictly reflecting on its power.

I read "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" again for my book club. I loved it the first time around (2009) and the re-read was equally delightful.

I had thought in the past that it was such a shame most of us can't plumb the depths of our parents' memories. I spent a huge quantity of time (afternoon upon afternoon) with my mother when she had terminal cancer where she shared so many memories with me. I didn't take notes, much to my regret now, I thought it would embarrass her. But I could have written so much down in privacy later but it didn't occur to me caught up in my own grief and the care of my own two babies. She had fascinating memories. I'm trying to assemble them in a book. For instance, she recalled, in detail, the shock and horror of a barracks explosion in Castlemartyr, County Cork when she was a very small child. And contrary to many others, she remembered the kindness of the Black and Tans throwing her and her sisters English toffees as they rolled by her house in huge, loud trucks on their way to Youghal.

And then this line in the aforementioned book struck me:

"I am betraying you by dying, I am truly causing you to die....must we also put to death those who were still alive only through us."

And I think of living with my grandmother and grandfather for a while in that small village, and watching him, a labourer, set off for work in the morning and coming home at night with sausages in his back pocket (an enormous treat) and me helping him set the traps for the rabbits on the back acre, and tossing grain at my granny's chickens, and being kept up for all hours - don't tell yer mammy sitting on his lap while he and his pals set Ireland to rights and sang impossibly long olachons (laments) in the Sean Nos style. And one time, dancing with my granny while a fiddle and a harmonica and spoons and bones kept time. My granny was old to me then (in her late forties!)and I remember clapping my hands in glee at her agility on the flagstones.

I would be the only one remembering all of that (eldest grandchild)and I suppose, when I go, it'll be a second death for those, now long gone, who continue to live, and so very clearly, in my memory.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Round Pegs, Square Holes

I was cleaning off a kitchen shelf. I like open concept shelving. Things in jars can be akin to works of art: beans, coconut flakes, almonds, apricots, dried cranberries.

When it suddenly struck me that the designs of jars are to be so far wrong as to be ludicrous.

Walls and shelves are at right angles. Fridges are rectangular. Cupboards are square or rectangular. Jars are usually round. This design makes for an appalling waste of space. Everywhere.

I don't know why in all my born days I haven't drawn this conclusion before.

I just blindly accepted the antagonistic relationship of containers and their nemesis, the shelves they sit upon.

Think also of spice jars. And tins.

Shouldn't all containers be square?

Or is this crazy old lady ready for the bat-wing?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Into the Grief Room

Some trepidation in the parking lot.

Some downtalk as I enter the room, you know the drill: "what the hell are you doing here when so many others are so much worse off?"

Some tears. Gulping them back.

Recognition of others and others of me, my gawd, we're all in the same boat of anguish and pain. We're all new to this process wondering what to do next with our lives which have this meaningless, hollow ring to them.

Understanding. Everyone here gets this. Understands the absolutely crazy insane thinking inside of the skull of the bereaved.

Down to the total lack of comprehension of the process from family members. The sheer cruel isolation of it all.

I was totally at ease in that strange, loving, kleenexed room. For two hours.

My blood sugars were normal when I took a reading a few hours later.

For the first time in months and months.


I'm a believer.


There's a point in which life stops giving you things and starts to take them away.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Sometimes it's blowing the budget on $6 lavender candles.

Sometimes it's the view from my front deck (above) taken yesterday.

Sometimes it's the loaf of partridgeberry bread left in the front seat of my car (text: don't sit into your car without checking the front seat!)

Sometimes it's an engrossing read like "The Green Road" by Anne Enright with a line such as this which lifts me right out:

P70: "Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Everyone dies. It's the timing that matters. The first and second of it. The order in which we go."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Diversion & Distraction

A view of St. John's, capital city of Newfoundland & Labrador, taken a few days ago by moi.

A friend of over 40 years standing came and visited me for 6 days. Which accounts for my lack of attention to your blogs and to my own.

She couldn't have timed it better as it was her first visit here and I pulled out all the touristy stuff within easy reach. The weather was kind to us and the pace was leisurely. Art galleries, fossil sites (oldest fossils in the world), Signal Hill (see view up above)and Cape Spear - the most eastern point in North America, to name a few. And oh yes Thanksgiving dinner chez moi thrown in there too. We had long conversations into the small hours catching up on all the doings that phone-calling and emailing don't quite cover.

Now that she's gone I am taking the day off to regroup. My new grief counsellor phoned me and we had a lovely chat, he right away went into a recent grief process of his own which resulted also in physical health issues and he won me over. So my first F2F session is next Wednesday.

I can't thank everyone out there enough for all the support, both private and on comments, that has been offered so lovingly and with such compassion.

My sometimes difficult and challenging passages through life are rendered easier because of you, my web gang.

You are truly the family of my heart.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Mind over Matter

I would consider myself fairly in tune with my body, my emotions, my mind, you know?

Imagine my shock when my doctor adamantly, adamantly disagrees with me.

I thought I was cruising along nicely, yeah, it's been a shyte year, so many losses I can't count them at the moment.

And yeah, I feel on the edge a lot of the time. The edge of what I couldn't tell you. Disaster I suppose. Another awful thing maybe looming around the corner ready to grab me by the throat.

And Doctor tells me my health is really, really suffering. My blood pressure is now worse than before, my blood sugars are all over the place, my body is not happy, my outlook is depressing. And to top it off my eyes are red like I've been on a bender.

Surely to gawd, I say to him, grief couldn't cause all this havoc in my body.

And he laughs at me.

List all the griefs for me, he says, pen poised.

And I do. And I was surprised, the list was so very long.

And he says: death of many major friends, loss of family, loss of emotional connections, a dying dog, a long-time missing daughter - you need grief therapy. Stat. Meanwhile I'll up your meds again, but this is it. There's no more up, we ran out of ups today.

I've obviously lost the run of myself.

Monday, October 05, 2015

A Poem and a Picture

The dogberries in my meadow tell me it's going to be a long hard winter.

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.

And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.

It's winter again: the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living room windows because the heat's on too high in here, and I can't turn it off.

For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those

wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.

Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want

whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss -- we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,

say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:

I am living, I remember you.

~ Marie Howe

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Back in the Saddle.

I am sick and tired of this depraved and senseless world we live in. I look at the statistical map of mass killings in the US and think: no one does anything, those who are elected to serve and protect only protect the gun lobbies, the NRA. 'We the people' is a fallacy, truly. A sop to the masses.

I look at the murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada well over 1,000 and counting just about daily and think: no one gives a shyte. Our man Harper focuses on Niqabs and the wearing of them at citizen oath-taking ceremonies and the troops rally around that particular flag and sends him skyrocketing in the polls,(our election looms shortly)which says a whole pile about our electorate and their hidden prejudices and women hatred. Forgetting, of course, that not too long ago Xtian nuns were so garbed and in some cases hidden behind screens even from their parents, looking at you Carmelites.

I predicted, way back months ago, that Trump and Harper would be the kings of North America. Two first class manipulators, millionaires, man-beasts. Both held in thrall to the worst of capitalism and fundamentalism, slurping at the troughs of oil, the standards of industrial militarism held high, death to the brownies, the blackies, the other than Xtian belief systems. Not forgetting, in Harper's case, overt references to the "Old Stock" Canadians - i.e. the founding-rampaging-death-to-all-aboriginals "fathers". In Harperland your legitimate citizenship can be revoked if you don't behave. Even if you were born here. Stasi-land, Harper style. And I haven't gone into the spying network he has set in place to monitor the "New Stock" citizenry like yours truly and presumably those pesky First Nations people with their protests and marches against clear cutting and unbridled oil-derrick hoistings.

I backed away, consciously, several years ago from political commentary, it was frying up my brain. But it seems that lately the corruption, callousness and trampling of rights is breathtaking in its audacity and horror. I am compelled to vent.

Terrorism as 'out there' no longer exists, if it ever did.

Terrorism, in many forms, is right at our own front doors.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blog Jam

I take my front yard for granted sometimes. Until I catch other people taking pictures of my house or in one case an artist painting it from the beach.

And I look outside and catch views like this and it never fails to squeeze my heart. I mean, seriously, this is my front yard?

Things are a-hopping in my town, many interesting upcoming events like an art/artifact show. Plans in the works for a harvest fair next year with competition for the biggest potato, prettiest lettuce, etc. and sales of produce.

I am amazed at how much growing happens here. And then all those berries (12 berry seasons!) free for the picking on hill and dale. My freezer is full. Jamming season has begun. Pictures to follow.

More and more residents are truly seeing this beautiful town with new glasses.

We had a competition for the best photograph for a new sign - now installed - and the feedback has been amazing. A sailboat at sunset and two locals planted a matching flowerbed - all red and yellow and orange - underneath it. A stunning work of art on the roadside as you approach the town.

I am taking a simple joy in simple pleasures and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

An Observation

I attempted to post this a few days ago from my android but blogger was having none of it.

I was mulling. As I am wont to do.

I've noticed something new in people recently - as in what they tell you or what they humble-brag about, are in direct conflict with their actions.

For instance, they will talk of their compassion and charity to the 3rd world in a careless or humble way ("it was the least we could do")and then every behaviour they exhibit shows anything but, as they drive away in their huge jeeps wearing their designer clothes made in child labour sweat shops.

"We're never any trouble, are we dear?" the guests affirm to each other and then proceed to demand a 3rd cup of coffee over a staggeringly late breakfast (giggle - we're till on Alberta hours! - giggle)even though they've already emptied the pot and you now have to make another.

"I always give to the beggars on the street, poor unfortunates, unless they're drunk or drugged or plain filthy, you know?"

And what kind of beggar performance would please you today, ma'am/sir?