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.)