Friday, October 22, 2010

What a Feminist Learned Today

Today I learned that when men grow hair on their faces, it's funny, it's adorable, it's endearing, it's wonderful.

Today I learned that when women grow hair on their legs, it's disgusting, it's unspeakable, it should not be discussed in polite company, it puts one off one's lunch.

Today I learned how angry I am, that this double standard should be so casually assumed by so many people.

It seems as though Blogger won't let you embed video any more, so here. Go and watch this. Pay close attention (I'm using my teacher voice right now) to the last thirty seconds or so.

And then, maybe, the next time someone says that leg hair on a human being is shameful and degrading, we can do what I was not brave enough to do today - we can say a massive and collective screw you to the masses who think we are less than human because we are women.

Friday, October 8, 2010

On being thankful for your own damn self

without any assistance or guidance from you 
i have loved you assiduously for 8 months 2 wks & a day 
i have been stood up four times 
i’ve left 7 packages on yr doorstep 
forty poems 2 plants & 3 handmade notecards i left 
town so i cd send to you have been no help to me 
on my job 
you call at 3:00 in the mornin on weekdays 
so i cd drive 27 1/2 miles cross the bay before i go to work 
charmin charmin 
but you are of no assistance 
i want you to know 
this waz an experiment 
to see how selifsh i cd be 
if i wd really carry on to snare a possible lover 
if i waz capable of debasin my self for the love of another 
if i cd stand not being wanted 
when i wanted to be wanted 
& i cannot 
with no further assistance & no guidance from you 
i am endin this affair
this note is attached to a plant 
i’ve been waterin since the day i met you 
you may water it 
yr damn self
-ntozake shange

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Random, with Angst and Pictures

I just realized the other day that I've been working my butt off for three years, and I have, financially speaking, gotten exactly nowhere. Three years ago, you see, I was getting child support, and a whack of money from the government (Child Tax Benefit FTW). Now, no more child support, and I make too much money (oh, irony) to qualify for the Child Tax Benefit, and we've taken up riding and competitive swimming respectively, and if we want to keep doing that then our budget (and by "our" I mean "my," because only one of us works in this household, and it sure as hell ain't the dog) is very, very, very tight.

And I know I shouldn't complain, because there are so many people with less than I have, and when things are tight AFTER you've paid for all your bills and expenses and food and extra fun things (riding, swimming) then you have no one to blame but yourself, and I know that September is always hard because of back to school things, but HOLY COW, I would like things to be easier. Sometimes. Just once or twice, maybe, so I can see what it's like. I promise not to get used to it.

Anyway. Moving on.

Fall is, all financial disasters aside, my favourite season. It's the colours, the weather, the fact that it's not dark all the time yet, that golden light we get here over the fields, the excitement of a new school year. The air is cool and crisp and dry, and you can crunch leaves under your feet and smell their spicy scent, and sit in front of your fireplace at night, and wear your lovely knitted sweaters.

Most of all, I love fall because it isn't February.

I have decided that I want to knit a blanket - the Moderne Blanket from Mason-Dixon Knitting. Here's someone who's already done it, if you're curious. (If you're curious about why someone might want to knit a blanket, well, I just can't help you there. Some people like skiing, some people like knitting blankets. There's no accounting for weirdness.) I want my blanket's colours to be fallish, even though I made that word up and don't know quite what I mean. Like this, maybe:

Or this:

But probably this, for sure (maybe):

 I like the dark spruce green, the sage green of the fields, the dark red and the bright yellow of the leaves changing, the blue blue sky, the patches of green grass that last and last, the water that reflects the long autumn afternoon light, the blush of the sunrise.

Decisions, decisions.

Perhaps I will just go and make a pumpkin pie, instead.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Poem for Saturday - really sad edition

Dog's Death
By John Updike

She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car. 
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn 
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor 
And to win, wetting there, the words, “Good dog! 
Good dog!”
We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction. 
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver. 
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin 
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.
Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed 
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest’s bed. 
We found her twisted and limp but still alive. 
In the car to the vet’s, on my lap, she tried
To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur 
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears. 
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her, 
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.
Back home, we found that in the night her frame, 
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame 
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor 
To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's my blog, I can cry if I want to.

So I had one of those weird days - this thing happened, this (metaphorical) poke at a (metaphorical) sore spot I have that I thought was long since healed.

Turns out it isn't. It's still raw and oozing and didn't want to be poked at. It hurt, actually.

So on the way home I was thinking those negative thoughts, you know? The ones that say all the things you aren't, all the ways you have failed, all the ways in which you do not live up to the expectations you hold for yourself.

This happens to me all the freaking time.

When I get like this, I make a list. (I love lists; sometimes I will put something on a list that I've already done just so that I can have the pleasure of crossing it off.) The list I make when I'm feeling lost and lonely and like a big fat failure is the list of all the things I can do,  all the things I have accomplished, all the successes and the skills I have acquired over the years. The list includes the most mundane things: as long as I'm proud of my achievement, it goes on the list.

The list includes the following things:

  • I can drive a standard. The person who poked me cannot. Na na na na na na. (Nobody said the list isn't childish)
  • I can quiet a class of 32 grade 8 students without saying a word.
  • I am the queen of the knitters. Herewith is evidence: the Citron shawl I knit for my gramma. It is fabulous, and by the end I was knitting a row of 437 teeny tiny stitches and not even feeling the urge for a stiff drink.

  • I took up riding when I was 34. Not a lot of people do that, although my friend Holly knows a lady who started taking lessons when she was 65 and just did her first show at 72. And I'm not bad at it, either (especially now that I have cracked the canter).
  • I own my house. Well, the bank owns it, actually, but they let me live here. Me, a single, unmarried person without a second income. They looked at me and though I was a good risk for a mortgage.
  • I'm raising a boy child. On my own. I did not freak out (much) when I got pregnant, I did not run shrieking for the hills because it was not what I planned. I did not leave; I stayed and did my best and I didn't regret it for a moment. This boy here is my greatest achievement (even more than the canter, actually).

  • I have three university degrees. Irritating person who irritates me? Oh, they have NONE.
  • I make a mean pie. Any kind. Bring it on.
  • I have some awesome friends, one of whom swears that she would totally throw herself on a bee for me. Totally.
And this irritating person, who drove me to publishing a self-aggrandizing list of the ways in which I am fabulous, they do not get to make me feel like less of a great person with one poke. I'm not going to let them.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging.

I've been thinking for a long time (since April, actually, did you notice?) about blogging. I find that I have these huge expectations of myself - scintillating content, regularly updated, a few good jokes. At the same time, I have all these limitations: the things that I most want to write about are the things I can't say. All those tangled up stories of life that writing can magically smooth out, but which are not intended for a blogging public. I felt gagged, stuck in the trivial when I wanted to get a few good stones off my chest instead.

Then there's the issue of updating. I've never been good at regular output. The only time I wrote to a deadline which I never, ever missed was when I was an editor, and that ended in a nasty bit of burnout and resulted in a complete life change (and the decision to never write for a living again, which is kind of a shame because I liked it at the time). I'm kind of a sporadic person - something will occur to me as I drive, and I write about it later. Or not. Whatevs.

I never wanted to write one of those navel-gazing whiny blogs: "Woe is me, I weeded the asparagus patch today and my darling hubby took lean ground beef out of the freezer instead of extra-lean, the useless lump" but I've started to think that's what blogging is best suited to. Not so much the existential or the transcendent, but just the everyday. This is what happened to me today. Read it or don't - it doesn't matter.

So I'm back, with this: today I went to Spruce Meadows and saw Eric Lamaze do a clear round on Hickstead, and it was amazing.

Thanks. Come again soon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Poem on Friday because I'm really busy tomorrow

This one is for S., who just came down with stomach cancer. Because if anyone is going to be the old woman wearing purple, it will be her.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Well, something went "click" anyway.

I've been working and working on the canter in my riding lessons. Both my falls (and the rather embarrassing half-fall of which we do not speak) happened at the canter, and a few weeks ago I asked to go back on a lunge line and start over. Since then I've been working on strength and flexibility and position and the elusive "quiet hands." (I love that phrase: it's one of those lovely and evocative expressions that you understand perfectly even though it really doesn't make any sense.)

My teacher's been telling me that one day it would all come together - all the things I've been working on would mesh with the movement of the horse, and it would just click.

And it finally did.

But I still can't do this, though.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Waltzing's for Dreamers and Losers in Love

Some strange and wonderful (or odd, depends how you look at it) things:

1. My new riding helmet arrived. Fits perfectly. If you accuse me of having worried about it, I will deny it.

2. When my dog follows me around, insisting that she is most at home in whatever room I am in, I find it comforting and sweet. When my son does it, I find it extremely irritating.

3. There is a cold spot right between my shoulder blades. No matter what I do, it's cold... right... there. Last night I woke up in a sweat, except for that one spot on my back that feels like a cold draft is going down it.

4. My friend Holly says that people who don't like the smell of horses just aren't her kind of people. I find that I agree, completely.

5. I had my last first date six years ago today. I bet you that guy (another engineer - I just don't learn) is now happily married with 2.5 kids and a dog of his own. I bet he finds it annoying when the dog follows him around, and sweet when his son does.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Saturday Not a Poem

Because I can, that's why.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Worry, Worry, Worry

The other day I was driving to get my taxes done and heard this song on the radio  - I almost drove off the road, because apparently Rick Fines lives in my head:

You were born in the house of guilt
You’ve been worried all your time
You stay worried all the time
I wish there were some way
That I could ease your mind
You can barely get to sleep at night
Over some little thing you said
Some little thing you said
You worry was misread
But it keeps racin’
Round and round your head

The song ("Half-full Cup") now lives on my iPod, where hopefully I will learn to go a bit easier on myself while listening to it.

So I had that wonderful customer service moment the other day about my broken riding helmet (I didn't  land on my head or anything - a screw came loose on the inside, where the strap is attached to the shell of the helmet, I'm thinking it was a manufacturing defect) and now my new helmet is in the mail. But what if I told them to send size Large instead of Medium? I have a freakishly large head, the size isn't on the label, and I can't remember... What if I have to return it cause it's too big? Will that be a hassle, or what?

These, oh faithful readers, are the thoughts that go round and round my head. Scintillating, no?

On the plus side, I went to the doctor today and got some lovely medicine for the sinus infection that has been bugging me all week (Hello! I'm on vacation! Come on in, nasty infections!), and I still have more time off. To do my marking, you know.  Also, I have a good friend coming to visit over the weekend, and plans with other friends too.

So the cup is, I suppose, half full after all.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Break - return of the marking

It's a teacher's horror movie!

Although, to be honest, I haven't done any marking yet. I've gone to the library, and I've dropped off my taxes, and now I'm worrying. It's odd that I would worry about my taxes - I'm a law-abiding person, except for that one stop-sign incident with the cute Mountie, but I'm always convinced that the Canadian version of Big Brother is just waiting for me to make a mistake so he can pounce. Is there a word for that feeling, when you've done nothing wrong but you still feel guilty?

In other news, my riding helmet broke, and IRH is replacing it, no muss, no fuss. There are no words for how much I love good customer service.

AND, today the boy-child rode his bike to school. First time ever. Completely alone and unsupervised. I want to cry, and I'm so proud.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Back with a poem

Advice to the Young
Miriam Waddington

Keep bees and
grow asparagus,
watch the tides
and listen to the
wind instead of
the politicians
make up your own
stories and believe
them if you want to
live the good life.

All rituals
are instincts
never fully
trust them but
study to im-
prove biology
with reason.

Digging trenches
for asparagus
is good for the
muscles and
waiting for the
plants to settle
teaches patience
to those who are
usually in too
much of a hurry.

There is morality
in bee-keeping
it teaches how
not to be afraid
of the bee swarm
it teaches how
not to be afraid of
finding new places
and building in them
all over again.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Also, you should not look one in the mouth.

Gift Horses

He lives in the barrens, in dying neighborhoods   
and negligible countries. None with an address.   
But still the Devil finds him. Kills the wife   
or spoils the marriage. Publishes each place   
and makes it popular, makes it better, makes it   
unusable. Brings news of friends, all defeated,   
most sick or sad without reasons. Shows him   
photographs of the beautiful women in old movies   
whose luminous faces sixteen feet tall looked out   
at the boy in the dark where he grew his heart.   
Brings pictures of what they look like now.
Says how lively they are, and brave despite their age.   
Taking away everything. For the Devil is commissioned   
to harm, to keelhaul us with loss, with knowledge   
of how all things splendid are disfigured by small   
and small. Yet he allows us to eat roast goat   
on the mountain above Parakia. Lets us stumble   
for the first time, unprepared, onto the buildings   
of Palladio in moonlight. Maybe because he is not   
good at his job. I believe he loves us against   
his will. Because of the women and how the men   
struggle to hear inside them. Because we construe   
something important from trees and locomotives,
smell weeds on a hot July afternoon and are augmented.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

So close...

I have been lying low in an attempt to thwart the February Curse. This attempt has been moderately successful: to wit, a relative had brain surgery and did not die! (Interesting to note that if you have a c-section, they keep you in the hospital longer than if you have brain surgery.) On the other hand, I fell off my horse last week, and my boy spent all of today vomiting in various rooms of the house, so there you go. I guess it all kind of balances out in the end, doesn't it?

While blocking out the fact that it was February, I did some knitting: notably, I finished the Anti-February cardigan. (Wow. New blogger thingy for pictures. Strange.)

I love it. (The sweater. Not sure about the blogger picture thingy.) It's a top-down cardigan, in Noro Silk Garden - lovely to knit, and fabulous to wear. Very much Anti-February, as the name suggests.

Then I knit a vest, but I only took pictures of the back. (How much of the February curse, I ask myself, is self-inflicted?)

I'm also knitting a shawl for my gramma. I haven't gotten around to taking a picture of that yet, but the link to the pattern is here. I know I can safely discuss the gramma shawl, because she does not read the blog. ("You write something on the computer? That's nice, dear.")

AND, the top-secret Pirate Mittens for Kathy are done and given, and loved. Everybody say "Argh."

The February Curse did not affect my knitting at all, but it seems to have cast some kind of dark spell on my reading. I only finished one book last week! Honestly! Things are not at all well around here.

And so, in celebration of there being only five and a half more hours of February left, and that I have survived it, I give you the view from my bedroom window at 6:11 this very evening: please note that it is not yet dark.

Spring. It's in the air.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why are so many poems about love, anyway?

To his Coy Mistress
by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Feminist" is not a bad word.

First, my young onions, go look at this.

Then, once you've had a good slug of something to wash the bad taste out of your mouth, go on over here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Drove my Chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry.

Speaking of trips down memory lane, a colleague emailed me this link - you enter an address and it shows you a picture of that street. You can move the little man on the map up and down the block if you want, and see a 360 degree view of the houses. I've looked at every house I ever lived in... funny how the last apartment building I lived in while I was in Montreal still has that "for rent" sign in the front window. I wonder if it's Apartment 5 for rent?

Where does the time go?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

But what should we do after lunch?

Today I got up early (couldn't sleep) and washed the kitchen floor. I made breakfast, and dusted the whole house (except my office, where I pretend I can't see any dust because every square inch is covered with books). I zipped to Sobey's to buy a few things; I zipped home again and made an apple crisp. I did three loads of laundry. I made bread and set it to rise (I love saying that - very "Little House on the Prairie.") I made lunch. I went to a riding lesson, where I did not fall off but did get very dusty. I asked my riding teacher's husband for some advice about a leaking sink. (If I ever get married, it will be to someone like Keith - he is both handy and kind.) I came home, washed my riding clothes, (that was the fourth load), punched down the bread, and started split pea soup. I baked the bread (made it into rolls, sprinkled with rosemary and Maldon salt, cooked it in a cast iron pan), folded and put away the laundry, knit a couple rows on a new project, cleaned my bathroom. I read for a few minutes here and there, and took frequent breaks to admire my newly completed Anti-February cardigan, which is drying and which only needs its buttons to be perfect. I poured a bit of Drano down the non-leaking sink, and loaded up the dishwasher. I made two healthy lunches for tomorrow.

Now my kitchen is clean, my dog and my son are both fed, and I am filled with contentment. And pea soup.

I love weekends. They're so relaxing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I write poems in copies of Beowulf, too. (Not really.)

"Poem Written in a Copy of Beowulf"
by Borges (trans. by Alastair Reid)

At various times, I have asked myself what reasons
moved me to study, while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.

Used up by the years, my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history.

Then I tell myself: it must be that the soul
has some secret, sufficient way of knowing
that it is immortal, that its vast, encompassing
circle can take in all, can accomplish all.

Beyond my anxiety, beyond this writing,
the universe waits, inexhaustible, inviting.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sometimes you just have to say "amen." Even when you're an atheist.

This blogging thing is fun, but it can be very, very weird, too. I find myself in conversation with Real Live People and saying things like "well, my friend Screen Name says this" or "there was a hilarious discussion over on so-and-so's blog" and feeling like a bit of a fool. After all, the people who live in the screen of your computer aren't real... are they?

But they are, and I've been fortunate in reading some really awesome writers. One of those is Mrs. Spit, whose blog I stumbled on one day when I was looking for ways to teach my grade 7s about Subjects and Predicates. (I don't know what teachers did before Google. Honestly. Google has made everything easier.) Anyway, the Missus and I don't always agree on stuff, but I love her blog and she frequently leaves thoughtful and kind and intelligent comments on mine, which I also love.

The other day she wrote this post, which I think is one of the most intelligent things I have ever read. And so, without further ado, I would urge you all to go on over and read it, because I have nothing else to add.

Except for a heartfelt amen. (Which, coming from me, is something else.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Well, now I feel a whole lot better.

Because none other than Balzac Billy said it's going to be an early spring.

We can all relax.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beautifully Donne

by John Donne

I wonder by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not wean'd till then?
But suck'd on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers' den?
'Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

True Fact.

After Tuesday, even the calendar says WTF.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Comfort me with Pumpkin

Let's imagine, hypothetically of course, that you are really, really anxious. Your anxiety, in fact, is so off the scale that you really think it might be a good idea to just get into bed and stay there until it passes. (It's not a good idea, by the way.) Let's imagine that you went to your doctor and she gave you an anti-depressant that works by making you feel so physically wretched that you forget how emotionally wretched you are. (They're definitely on to something there.) Maybe you've spent weeks and weeks trying to find a counsellor, only to encounter answering machines that say no one can talk to you until you're so desperate that you're ready to drive yourself to the hospital, where they would probably have you committed. Also, the answering machines all give the number of the distress line. In case, you know, you're distressed.

And now let's imagine that you got out of bed this morning and your first thought was "I am going to re-arrange the pantry." And so you did, taking every single thing out of it and putting most of the stuff back in a far, far more pleasing and orderly manner. Then your friend called and asked if you wanted to come see her sister's new baby, so you went on over and cuddled a newborn for a while. Maybe when you got home you finished the pantry and decided to make a pumpkin pie. Then you did three loads of laundry and cleaned the house from top to bottom and only had one or two tiny moments of short breath and incipient panic. You roasted a chicken, you ran the dishwasher, you knitted a little on your Anti-February sweater, you read a book, you stayed out of bed.

Maybe you are thinking right now that counsellors and drugs are just fine, but sometimes what you need to do is take complete and utter control of everything around you that can be controlled - not your brain chemistry, not your fear, not your crying in inappropriate places - but your pantry, and a graham-cracker crust, and pumpkin filling, and chicken with lemon and rosemary.

Maybe some days, having a grip on those things (and a wickedly tidy pantry) is just enough to get you through.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Poem: this one has a great title.

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The things I do to earn a wage.

Today my grade 7 classes and I were talking about the Poet Laureate - who he is and what his job is. This led, as one would imagine, down all kinds of interesting paths.

"What do you think he might write about today?" I asked them.



"Math class!"

and finally....

"The Olympic torch!" [It passed through yesterday on the way to Vancouver, making a fabulous mess of traffic.]

"He might," I agreed. "But what rhymes with "torch"?"

"Porch!" everyone shouted.

I can't help myself - once we start down a path like this I am absolutely unable to stop, no matter how many warning signs I see.

"I bet he wrote one like this," said I:

I saw the torch
From my porch
It was hot
But I was not.

It's one for posterity, so it is.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Brevity being the soul of something or other...


The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

- Ezra Pound

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Poem for Saturday, Oldies Edition

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning
John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th'earth brings harms and fears;
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
- Whose soul is sense - cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th'other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th'other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The one I rode in on.

Our scene is set in the exam room of a chiropractor's office. Not just any chiropractor, either, but one who has known me for a really, really long time. We are engaged in Meaningless Social Chitchat - how's your family, fine, yadda yadda, how's yours, oh great, yadda yadda, keeping busy, five weeks in Maui (no, that was NOT me), too much marking (okay, that one was) and so on.

Chiropractor: Whoa. [Conversation interrupted by a series of snaps as my spine is coaxed back into position] This isn't looking too good. What are you in here for?

Me: muttering something indistinct, having face mushed down in exam table/bed thingy (is there a word for it? there should be)

[Crack, crack, gasp as something that was really tight between my shoulder blades suddenly lets go]

Chiropractor: Pardon?

Me: My neck and shoulders are killing me.

[Crack, crack, crunch]

Chiropractor: How come?

Me: I fell off a horse the other day.

[Snap, crackle, pop - the pop was a really good one, I think I'm taller now]

Chiropractor [laughing]: What on earth were you doing on a horse?

Me:[also laughing]: Jumping!

Chiropractor: Well, good for you. [Raises fancy table/bed thing, for which there may be no word] Are you going riding again?

Me; Hell ya! On Saturday, in fact.

Chiropractor: Okay. Well, come on back if you fall again!

He's a good egg.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

When I can't think of anything to write about, I give you a poem so you'll think I'm deep. Is it working?

Rite of Passage


As the guests arrive at our son’s party
they gather in the living room—
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fights
breaking out and calming. One says to another
How old are you? —Six. —I’m seven. —So?
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in the other’s pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
up, a seven says to a six,
the midnight cake, round and heavy as a
turret behind them on the table. My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin as the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
We could easily kill a two-year-old,
he says in his clear voice. The other
men agree, they clear their throats
like Generals, they relax and get down to
playing war, celebrating my son’s life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ups and Downs

One day last summer I was in the library (I know, I know). I was waiting for the boy, and they have these lovely squashy chairs in the periodical section, and one thing led to another, as it does, so I was reading.

There were two women standing not too far away and chatting - the acoustics in that library are something bizarre; if you stand in certain spots and have a perfectly average conversation at a reasonable volume, it sounds like you're shouting and everyone can hear you.

They were talking about work; one of them was off to an interview that afternoon, for a part-time job. They were in perfect agreement, these two women, that it was absolutely impossible to manage your family while working more than three days a week. Impossible! Couldn't be done!

If it wasn't for the oddness of the acoustics in the library, I would have snorted.

Because seriously - some of us manage perfectly well with full-time jobs, one income, and a really stupid dog.

Except when we don't manage perfectly well.

Today I taught all six classes and did okay. One kid made a huge breakthrough; one kid took a small step; two classes wrote part of a mid-term; I looked at a book I have to review; I examined my Huge Pile of Marking and decided to put it off for another day.

I forgot a book I promised a friend. I made it under the wire to the vet's to pick up dog food (I was actually there three minutes after closing, but I know one of the vet assistants and she let me in). I managed to scrape together dinner, but I ruined a tupperware container while doing so. I hauled the new sack of dog food in and emptied out the old one and made two lunches, one of which had to be appropriate for "Trashless Tuesday".

My budget for January is managed to the last penny, so of course the boy has a toothache that needs to be looked at, and my neck is sore from my spectacular equestrian moment the other day, so we're off to the chiropractor and the dentist, respectively, later this week. The dog has an eye that looks like it's irritated and might need attention from a Very Expensive Professional soon. Junior just reminded me that he needs new trunks for his new session of swim club. He also brought home a Scholastic book form with a Lego Star Wars guide in it that he proclaims would be "very useful, mummy."

And there are days when I am in perfect agreement with that lady who just couldn't manage her life if she had to work more than 24 hours a week. (There are times when I feel like I put in that many hours in an afternoon.) There are days when I would give everything up: my treasured independence; my solitude; all the things I love about being single; just for someone who would listen to all my worries and say "I know. Me too. But it will be fine. Really."

This was one of those days.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let us Now Praise Fancy Pants

When I started to ride (back in June) I wore my battered old Blundstone boots, my less-nice jeans (Joe brand from Superstore, yo), and whatever t-shirt first appeared when I opened my dresser drawer. I was not a fashion plate, but this is actually normal for me, so whatever. I grabbed any helmet in the tack room that would fit me (I have a freakishly large head) and off I went.

When my riding teacher moved to a new facility, the selection of helmets (one in size Freakishly Large) vanished, so I bought my own helmet.

When I was a kid there was a show on TV called "Harriet's Magic Hats." It was about a woman (Harriet) whose niece would visit and try on any of the hats from Harriet's trunk. The act of putting the hat on (bakers hat, farmer hat, artist hat, etc) would transport the girl to an adventure with people who do that work. I loved that show - not only because of its catchy intro (admit it - it's still in your head, isn't it?) but because of the possibility. You can be anyone! In the whole world! And all you need is a hat!

It is a matter of great sorrow to me that there is no teacher hat.


Wearing that helmet, I started to feel like a real rider, someone who had a clue about what they were doing.

Then, around September, I noticed that I had long red welts on my calves after riding - the stirrup leathers were rubbing on my legs. Solution? One pair of half-chaps, courtesy of Lammle's Western Wear. (I am a third generation Albertan. All of my great-grandparents were homesteaders. I have never in my life before purchased anything from Lammle's.)

That did the trick, I'll tell you. No more chafing, and a much better ability to grip with my legs (using muscles that I never knew I had, either).

And it was only a matter of time until I went the final step - now I have fancy riding breeches, too.

There's a noticeable difference - I feel more comfortable, and I have a better idea of what's going on with the horse because of what I can feel through my legs. Also, no more rubbing in sensitive places.

So off I went the other day to my riding lesson, all decked out in the same old Blundstones, half-chaps and breeches, a real live equestrian helmet, and the fleece I bought at MEC so long ago that it's not even black any more. I felt like the real deal. I put all the tack on the horse myself, even the bridle (which I've never done before). And I was riding really well, too...

Until I fell off.

Landed on my well-padded arse and rolled.

My dignity is bruised, and my fancy pants are dusty.

But damn, at least I look the part.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saturday Poem

If You Knew
By Ellen Bass

What if you knew you'd be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line's crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn't signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won't say Thank you, I don't remember
they're going to die.

A friend told me she'd been with her aunt.
They'd just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt's powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon's spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nothing to read here! Please move on!

Back at work Tuesday
Dog still dumb, boy still busy
When will it be spring?

(Can't write a witty post right now. Settled for a Haiku. Am either frightfully clever or very, very strange.)