Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 ~ 2008

Naw, this is not a good resolution list posting. Or bad resolution list for that matter.

This is always a time of reflection for me, the turning cusp of the year, looking over and slightly behind at 2007 with its dreams and aspirations, its joys and sorrows and ahead to 2008, looking like one of those piñatas, ready to be broken open but slowly and carefully and over the long stretch of twelve months ahead (with one bonus day – it’s Leap Year!).

2007 Sorrows:
A dear friend moved to the ether in the past year. I will never hear him sing “Mammy” again or hear his wicked Scottish jokes.
Another friend of forty years is so careless with our friendship that she never emails, writes or calls back while I am away. But she is also careless with herself and even though extremely wealthy lives in squalor, so I have my answer. Nothing to do with me but how she feels about herself. A life lesson learned late and very slowly.
Ongoing wars, famine, genocide.
Water shortages, global warming, common welfare being run for profit - health, education, water.

2007 Joys:
I find hard to count, there are so many. And I realize more and more as time moves on that none of the joys cost any kind of money. They are the whales that frolic, the hiking with the grandgirl, friends who come and stay, fish stews bubbling in the cast iron pot on the cast iron stove, writing, reading, knitting, ‘visiting’ and being visited, card games in the village hall, walks on the shore, the hope of one last great love, a gentleman caller who bakes for me and makes me a bowl and ‘visits’. The wild lynx on my property in Newfiondland, the bluejay who hops on the railing every morning, the gros-beaks who flood the trees in extravagant streaks of yellow, the otters who come and play at my front door.
Code Pink, Al Gore, Keith Olbermann, Rick Mercer, Michael Moore, The Green Party, Fellow Bloggers

I just finished a lovely road trip with my daughter, and I'm staying in her house for a few days until I move into another Toronto house I will be taking care of for four months while the owners are away. I want to see two movies tonight, New Year’s, and as the grandgirl’s plans have fallen through (oh, the uncertainty of a 13 year old’s life!) she is probably going to come with me. Which would be lovely.

I am kinda laying low, observing R come to the surface again, now that I am back and he wanting dinner with me tomorrow night and emailing me every day for the last two weeks. I am really, really curious as to where he’s at, but I don’t nurture any hope after our week together in the summer.

The grandgirl just read me a marvellous short story she wrote about Zimbabwe and a mother and daughter there. I was moved to tears and profoundly affected by her writing and recognise her awesome talent and take a teensy bit of credit for all the writing projects we have been doing together since she could read.

And here is my wish for all of you out there in Blogland for 2008 – an Irish Blessing.

May you always have
Walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain,
Tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire
Cosy beside you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Look Carefully

at the NASA photo above and you'll see a little white dot. This minute speck is Earth seen from the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it exits the solar system, nearly 4 billion miles away.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
– Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Currently I'm in: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
Why: Waiting for daughter's flight from Toronto.
Listening to: Maddie Prior, Steeleye Span ("all around my hat")
Watched: A lecture by Naomi Wolf on The end of America
Weather is: Unbelievably mild
Planning: A midnight picnic of seafood and salad
Wrote: A strange story of a marriage which falls apart.

My wish for everyone out there: Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís!

Which translates to: May we all be alive this time next year, which was said as a prayer during the nights of Advent when the candle in the window was lit by the youngest of the house when I was growing up in Ireland.

Thank you all, my faithful blog readers and writers!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happiness is an inside job

Picture is of the boats on a beach at sunset not too far from where I live.

You know what? I’ve come to the conclusion that most worries and anxieties never ever happen if we don’t pay too much attention to them. If we do pay an inordinate amount of attention I think there is something about the laws of attraction that actualizes the worry for us. A subconscious willingness for the dreaded event to happen – the husband to leave, the money to be gone, the job to disintegrate.

“If only” is the mantra of those who believe that they can’t create their own happiness from within.

If only the kids were grown, if only I was retired, if only he didn’t drink so much, if only she’d lose weight, if only she wasn’t on my case so much, if only the mortgage was paid, if only I could get that Mercedes, if only I could have that big house in the burbs.

I was thinking of a good friend of mine, A, who never seems to be happy. She’s a lovely woman, from my neck of the woods back home. Generous to a fault, puts her money where her mouth is politically, socially very aware. But never, ever happy.

Her mother died when she was nine and she took care of her father and younger siblings and became a teacher. She had a doomed love affair in Ireland. He went off to be a priest and subsequently it didn’t agree with him and he left the priesthood and married someone else. By that stage she had long moved to Toronto and had married a second best. She had three children in three years, a pair of twins following a singleton. Husband was an abusive alcoholic and she left him.

A raised the kids by herself with the help of friends. She‘s the type of person that everyone loves. A brilliant pianist and wonderful conversationalist, active politically, a committed feminist.

When the kids were in their early teens she was at an Irish party and who should walk in but her old love, H. He was a visiting lecturer at U of T. Their love was reignited and within a year he had left his wife and four kids in Ireland and moved to Canada to marry her.

That would make A happy, yes? Well, no. His youngest was still very young so H would spend Christmases and part of the summer in Ireland (staying with his ex-wife). That didn’t make A happy. She felt she deserved all of him. She understood about the kids but thought they should come to him for the holidays. He wanted to be there in his children’s home to give them what they were missing during the year.

This, to me, was the classic example of everyone putting themselves out to make others happy with no one happy as a result.

In the past few years H has been diagnosed with a slow terminal illness and A is now worried about money and the fact that her kids are now grown and have moved off to other continents doing amazing work. She had raised them as socially aware, compassionate world citizens. She had hoped the kids would be around her forever, geographically speaking. A has got a great job, so does H, they have loads of money. But not in her mind.

I came to the conclusion that no matter what happens, A will never be happy.

Like a lot of others. The classic case of always feeling there is something missing. Like the enlightened priest said about confessions:

Isn’t it odd, he said, that when a prostitute comes to the confessional all she can talk about is God and when a priest comes in all he can talk about is sex?

What would make you happy? My ex-husband said to me, way back in the day, I gave you everything you ever wanted: a daughter, a house, a dog and a piano. And you’re still not happy. And he was right.

I still had to grow up then and learn a lot of life lessons that were painful But it is only through pain we grow and I know for sure we can’t skip around it to do that, but we have to walk through it.

How can you be happy, they now say to me. You live alone, you must be sad there is no one there to share your life.

I’m very happy, I say, if HE shows up, all well and good. But meanwhile there’s a life to be lived, and it’s my one and only wild and precious one so I’m going to live it. I make a choice to be happy every morning.

And it’s got nothing to do with my kids or my house or my stuff or my car or my other. But everything to do with how I’m feeling about ME today. And if I’m not feeling that good about me I’d better take a good long hard look at myself and fix what’s ailing me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Tis the Season

This scene (looking out my front door) was a meditation to me today, the pink blush of sunset tinting the bay, the very little snow we have whitening up the world like fresh laundry. It is warm - +10C. The Gulf Stream swathes this part of Newfoundland in a warm cuddle.

I am reminded of friends and relatives not doing so well at this time of the year.

One dear friend has got bone marrow tests coming up very shortly, her white blood cell count is very low and we are worried for her.

My daughter, who has MS, is going through a very bad cycle with tremors and joint pain.

My nephew has a court appearance tomorrow due to his ongoing addiction to drugs and his methods of securing them. All history now (we pray) as he has been clean and sober for over a year and we are hoping the judge will take that into account in the sentencing.

Last year another friend moved to BC with her partner to take care of her mother who was blind and debilitated due to diabetes. And her mother just died unexpectedly with the house all decorated. She died in my friend's arms as she was putting her to bed.

And all around me the shopping continues, the last minutes stresses. I'm glad I backed away from the insanity years ago and celebrate winter solstice - and very quietly at that.

A friend who used to work on the 911 lines in Toronto said it was the worst time of the year for domestic violence and suicides.

I'll be on the road on Christmas Day, heading back to Toronto for several months.

I was asking my daughter about seasonal memories and the one that stands out for us is the time we jumped in the car with my granddaughter and headed down to South Carolina in one stretch of shared driving on Christmas Eve and walked on the beach on Christmas Day. Myrtle Beach was abandoned, we had it all to ourselves and it was wonderful.

The big gatherings in Ireland were good but not really memorable. It is funny, that. I find in my family that we all revert to our old familial childish patterns when we get together, some of which should have been thrown out years ago. The big gatherings in Toronto, likewise. So much work and so much stress choosing the gifts, cooking and baking for often upwards of twenty people (who always seemed to stay over for Boxing Day Brunch!) and this total anti-climactic feeling afterwards. And the wreckage to clean up.

I'll probably celebrate "Nollaig na Mban" when I get back to Toronto. This is "Women's Christmas" which was my mother's big event of the season when all the females would get together on January 6th and dispose of the old year and welcome in the new.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Bare Naked Ladies

Over at Medbh's there is a terrific post on the Ryan Air Calendar full of their naked or nearly naked employees - but not employees to them, of course, but referred to by their bosses as "girls". I honestly thought that sort of lingo had fled Ireland, which was one of the reasons I fled Ireland, back in the day. Silly me.

I am heartily sick of the plastic nudity around me. Mainly female flesh on display to entice the male into opening his wallet, I would think. Are men disappointed when they see an honest-to-goodness female naked beside them? I mean most of us come without airbrushing or those odd stagnant silicone breasts. Unless we've been under the knife. Which I haven't. I've been tempted a few times, to be honest, just to get rid of the loose chin. But the friends that have taken the plunge never seem to know when to stop. And that has stopped me.

One of my friends, a fairly well to do architect, has spent nearly $100,000 on her T&A along with lipo on the stomach and so many procedures on her face that she no longer looks like herself and I keep checking her, trying the find the old L lurking in there somewhere in the unnatural smoothness of her fifty-five year old face. Like a death's head. Her breasts are perma-perked and she sleeps with men twenty years younger than herself.

What do you talk about with them? I ask her.
Who's talking? She laughs at me.

God sometimes I feel unbearably prudish and wrinkly skinned (and saggy-breasted - let's not go there!)

And then, Sweet Jaybuzz, I think I've now seen it all but I haven't.

There is more to come as evidenced by this woman baring it all in her local pub to raise cash for her local football team. She's 102!!!!

Can we stop now please? Is nothing sacred?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bali and the Forty Thieves

I've missed posting and reading posts. Briefly, power outage, telephone downed lines due to storm, followed quickly by personal flu downtime. Wobbly but vertical today. Catching some news.

Bali is a small beacon in the wilderness but it is shadowed by much evil:

This environmental criminal activity absolutely enraged me and causes me shame as a Canadian. We are tinkering dangerously to begin with on the Kyoto Protocol, Harper being the new Bush poodle.

BP is the usual corporate sleazebag, bleating green whilst destroying vast swathes of pristine forest and diverting more and more water in a world running out of it.

On the upside I was heartened to read of the fresh new Blairless England of Brown
and this wonderful news

And the strong commitment to the Kyoto of the new Rudd government in Australia is also cheering.

I'd better start printing some new placards and marching again on Ottawa.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Good Boys

No, not good ol’ boys, or good little boys, I’m writing of good men that I’ve met in the last wee while here in this microcosm of life that is Newfoundland. And I’m particularly writing of men around their mothers. I don’t have sons so have never experienced this directly.

My mother was dead before her four sons had a chance to be men around her though I did get a small taste with my eldest brother who had this jocular almost flirtatious manner with her. Her face would light up when he walked into a room and he was the spit of her own father, which helped. But I’d watch him cajole money from her or attempt to get her to intercede with Dad or tell her she was the only special woman in his life as he dropped a kiss on her cheek. She was putty in his hands.

My series of husband/serious relationships men all had troubles of some kind with their mothers. In some cases they avoided their mothers, or would vocally castigate the relationship a la Dick and Tommy Smothers, saying that Mom always preferred a brother. And in one case a sister. For some, their mothers had not approved of their marital choices or their children. I had an odd set up with my own mother-in-law. She really didn’t like my husband very much (she definitely preferred his brother) and when he and I broke up she refused to have contact with him and befriended me completely. It might have helped that I had custody of her goddesses, the granddaughters.

My father adored his mother and she him, a fact that troubled my mother greatly and had them (she and her mother-in-law) set up a lose-lose scenario where her enemy became her mother-in-law and vice versa. My mother was never present when my father and his mother interacted but I observed his courtesy and courtly attention and was bemused by this previously hidden facet of my father.

I play cards with my fellow villagers here every week and our large group encompass all ages. Many mothers and their middle-aged sons play. It is their ‘evening out’ together and in most cases the wives/daughters-in-law are elsewhere.

It is a joy to be around the kind of energy these, in some cases, crusty old fishermen, exhibit towards their mothers – this courtly behaviour I had first observed in my own father. Retrieving their lacy shawls, linking them proudly into the village hall before and after the game. Fetching them little sandwiches and cups of tea.

“Are you alright there, now Mum?”

“Ah, you’re such a good boy. What would I do without my boy?”

And for one brief, shining moment you catch a glimpse of the freckled ten-year-old boy in the face of the sixty-plus year old wind-burned, bald fisherman, himself a grandfather.

Good boys.

The world needs more of them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Me and Mother (Big Corp. Father?) Church, Part 2

Sweet Jaybuzz, what gives here ?

As if there hasn't been enough scandals.

And this is a mighty serious business - retailing Christian tchotchkes pushes nearly 5 billion in annual sales.

Buy a crucifix and ward off the possibility that you too might wind up in a Chinese sweatshop making a Baby Jaybuzz?

With the current tanking of the U.S. economy, it might be a distinct possibility.


Friday, November 23, 2007


Picture is of a bowl made out of local wood by my friend, "G.C."

It hit me again last night as I was driving home from meeting friends. As it has hit me many, many times over the years. The reality of worry.

A worry had been perking all the way through our many cups of coffee, stealing my presence throughout much of the night.

Why, sez I to myself do I let this happen? Let a stupid thing like a blocked up toilet in my bathroom at home interfere with a nice evening out?

And then, next thought, when has a worry actually actualized itself, inserted itself into reality?
And I laughed out loud as I drove.
And came home. And got the plunger out again and rammed that sucker into the toilet and next thing, it flushes. Duh.
What makes me this way?
Well, the last time the toilet got blocked my genius of a handyman was out at the fish for a week and unavailable and I couldn’t get anyone to fix the toilet (nobody from the nearby town would drive out) until I dragged myself literally into the publicity of the local shop and bawled my question out loud after four days of using a bucket.

“Anyone here can fix a toilet? It’s really, really badly blocked!!” When I’m whipped and beaten and down for the count I lose all pride. I become shameless. Not a bad thing.

Well, the town drunk who is a you-have-to-be-desperate-to-hire-me kind of fellow volunteered. And he sorted me out. Early in the day before the fairies took him. He had to take the whole thing off the floor. What some people do for a living - or a bottle - has me in awe. I mean I used to gag changing my babies’ nappies. I tipped him well for his efforts. And knew who to call the next time. At his mother's. He's 55. Doesn't believe in wasting money on a phone when he can use his mother's. He doesn't live there. She has ways of getting hold of him. She even lets him borrow her truck if he has housecalls like mine. But I was sorted. No worries.

No matter what, I get taken care of. Time and time again. Septics, wells, wiring shite, no firewood and no chainsaw, no backdoor. It all gets taken care of.

So why, why, why do I worry about insane stuff?? Stuff that has no intention of ever happening?

Like my gentleman caller. I worried for a while he would make some kind of move on me. I haven’t the slightest shred of attraction to him (maybe the way R felt about me, there’s a thought!). So sometimes I avoided him. All for the worry of losing his friendship when I was forced to reject him. Jaybuzz, the insides of my brain frighten even me.

Well, in the last few weeks, I’ve helped him a few times with his computer issues and he gave me one of his beautiful hand crafted bowls (picture above, taken a few minutes ago), a loaf of his home baked bread and told me he is very much open to having a friend like me and he’d like to cook me dinner and talk some more and play a spot of cribbage, maybe. I do not feel threatened in any way. We have the most interesting conversations (ship wrecks, WW1, artistry, words, poetry, paintings, aging) and never once has he even touched me.
Never happens.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Wise Words of George Carlin

***Picture was taken today of driftwood on the beach by my house, just as sunset enveloped us***

I thought this worth repeating, even though most of you have probably seen/heard it before.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Luscious words

"The Dictionary of Newfoundland English" is a massive tome, 770 pages plus a forward. And I read it like a novel. Many words have the scent of Ireland about them, words of my grandparents and particularly the words of my great-grandmother who was a cranky old wan, disliked by many, but kind to me. "I only have room for the one," she said to my grandmother and her daughters, "Just the one great-grand one!" and she pointed to me and that was it. She refused to have the other great grandchildren around her.

She made a bit of an effort with me. She'd call me her "angashore", not quite the equivalent of "dotey pet" which was used by my Granny. Angashore might have been a bit of a step down from dotey pet but coming from the Great and Fearful Nana S., this was a total endearment. Angashore: a weak little thing, a thing to be pitied, coddled, protected and fed, in a correct translation for that era.

Newfoundlanders have made of the word their very own.
Here, in the dictionary we get:
Angashore, Angyshore
(1) A poverty stricken creature
(2) A weak, sickly person, an unlucky person deserving pity.
(3) A man regarded as too lazy to fish.
(4) An idle, mischievous child or person.
(5) A migratory fisherman from Newfoundland who conducts a summer fishery from a fixed station on the coast of Labrador.

In the tradition of Gaeilge, the Irish language, words beginning with vowels were aspirated (an h put in front) when used in complex sentences. Angashore was packed on board the fishing boats leaving from Wexford and Cork sailing for the new found land, along with the bait, hooks, nets and lines way back in the seventeenth century.

And it emerged at the other side of the Atlantic, sometimes, as "hangashore", thus the new definition in (5) above. A stationary fisherman: "hang a shore".

I just love the evolution of language and I particularly like the special connection for me in this one gorgeous word.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Writing

A hard to get along with dose of writer’s block is behind me. I try not to put judgements around that anymore, it just is, it happens to all writers, I had a hard time with it but don’t we all.
It’s behind me now is all I can say and I’m living and writing to tell about it and there’s a bonus of a couple of new stories for the collection. The characters stir and stretch for a while, sometimes it takes a while for them to introduce themselves. They’re shy. Or in the case of this new one, who remains nameless, she’s always made a habit of waiting so she took her own sweet time coming over and then took another long ream of it before she filled me in, just a little on what exactly made her this way. Not that she had any understanding of it at all, even after her years of therapy. But I thought I could understand it, and have compassion for it and hope that my precious readers do as well when they finally get to meet her and not be as impatient with her as I was at the beginning. For an ideal life for someone else could be far, far from what we’d want for ourselves.
Some people are meant to react to life most of the time. And some of us are gifted with a proactive gene. I know I’m the latter, I was born that way but then it got submerged for more years than I’d like to think about but when it blossomed again, I was pretty thrilled to welcome it back. I’d forgotten about it, you see. Thought it dead and buried. But it was only sleeping. I had put all those years of excellence: winning writing competitions and publishing the school magazine and writing school plays behind me. I diminished them by telling myself I was under twenty then and those were childish things. I put them all away.
And they all woke up about ten years ago. And I started writing again. There were huge globs of it inside me waiting to see the light. And before I knew it, I was published and people were writing to me and telling me I’d helped them in some way to get their own feet stuck by the side of the fire when they’d been out in the cold so long.
And that’s it, I say. Now you’ve got it, there’s room for all of us, it’s a nice big fire giving off loads of heat.
And I quote myself at myself and whoever else would care to listen:
“It is only because I’ve felt the deepest cold that I appreciate so much the warm sunshine”.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Gathering

***spoiler alert***

Anybody up for discussion on the Booker winner of this year, Anne Enright's "The Gathering"?

I just finished it and overall I enjoyed it very much but was a little confused in parts.

Jem (one of the twins) appeared to be female in parts of the book and male in other parts. Perhaps deliberate?

At times, I was gobsmacked at her sentences, at her use of language and metaphor and the way she describes love and hate and the endless variations in between.

The dark Lamb is always moving in the shadows but had such a profound effect on all who came in contact with him.

I loved how her perception of her family changed with the introduction of Rowan.

Overall I would give it a 9 out of 10, a totally enjoyable read, at times even sublime.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What a relief!

It was all just a huge scam!

We can all bask happily ever after!

Sunday, November 04, 2007


I was appalled to read The Guardian on line today and catch Climate Wars Threaten Billions when prior to that, over breakfast, I was reading Cold Rush, the Coming Fight for the Melting North in hard copy Harper's. As you have to subscribe to read Harper's on line, I'll sum the very long article up : There is a battle going on for access to the magnificent new trade route opened up by, yep, the Big Melt. Canada is trying to defend her rights to three coastlines now, rather than the two we've had. But when confronted by the neighbour down south has backed away with the plea (I'm again summing up here):

"OK.OK., alright, you can borrow it, but you're going to have to tell us about it before you use it, eh? When you remember, if it's not too much trouble, eh?"

Meanwhile Canada is patrolling the waters and trying to stay out of the way of the new warrior tourists who are busy venturing on to the lands that were formerly frozen tundra and icepacks.

My head hurts so bad after all this, that I go back to sit in front of the fire and work on my niece's Christmas gift.

I say to her a month ago: Would you like me to knit you something?
Yes, she says, knit me an afghan (lap blanket, couch throw, to those uninitiated to the finer arts of knitting stuff).
And how would you like it? I say.
Like all the colours of the waves on the ocean of Newfoundland, she says, every single one.
Righto, I say.
And here it is.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Elder Revelation or HawHeyWhoYah!

I'm a fan of Padraic Colum and have always admired his poem "The Old Woman of the Roads.
I was forced to learn it in school but over the years, it comes back to me and I get this overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Maybe the Sisters of Mercy knew what they were doing, making us memorize all those poems!

Picture is that famous old optical illusion of the young woman/old woman.

I've come to this conclusion:
This suits me: The age I am, the distance I am from everything that used to be important. In this place I now call home, I’ve always felt as if I received a second chance to live. I play house here. I only put up my own artwork, or cards from friends, or photos I like, or my mother’s embroidery. Even the odd poem gets a wall to itself. I use mismatched china and mismatched chairs. And boil a ratty old kettle on the woodstove for my tea. I invite people I like in to my house to share meals with me. And show them some chairs from 1860 that someone found and gave to me, as there were only three of them. Who’d want three? Well, me. I’m so far away that no one can check up on me.

I find I don’t really truly miss the familiar as much as I’d thought. I’d lived on the same street as my daughter and granddaughter forever it seemed. I co-parented my granddaughter to all intents and purposes and saw her every day and she did her homework in my Toronto office. I even went to her PTA meetings when her parents were working and did the parent teacher thing all over again. I thought one day, I might be doing this for my great-granddaughter, who knows. Does it ever stop? You’d think I’d miss the grandgirl. People tell me I must miss her dreadfully, all the daily doings. Well, yes. And no.

It seemed like every time the phone rang in my old life, someone needed something from me. Nearly always. I got tired of that. Call me selfish. I won’t justify myself. My grandy-friends, left behind, complain about all the demands on their time. They’re the sandwich generation, taking care of their senile parents and their rambunctious grandchildren, sometimes all in the same day. They’re fed up. No time for themselves at all. Lucky, lucky you, they say to me. You got out.
Self-preservation has always been my strongest suit. I make no apologies for that. Enough sacrifice, I say. Did I mention I called off two engagements, negated them, because in each case a daughter took a dislike to the situation and threatened to leave home? That’s how enmeshed I was. How much I didn’t know myself. I thought taking care of myself meant keeping my daughters happy no matter what the cost to me.

Now I’ve disentangled myself. I’m left to my own thoughts, my own books, my own writing, my truly, truly own space. Yes, it would be nice to share it with someone, a soul-mate of my own choosing. Maybe that will happen, maybe not. Meanwhile, I think I’ve gotten to know me and like me and honour me for the first time in my life. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s alright actually. And we all deserve a bit of the alright.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Double Life (or on second thoughts, make that a triple or more).

(Photo, taken by, ahem, me, is of Cape St. Mary's, Newfoundland & Labrador, home to - literally - millions of seabirds) Cape St. Mary's

I think many of us are leading more than one life these days. I know I am. And the odd thing is they are all weirdly separate. I say weird, because I’m an old fart now and these simultaneous multiple lives of mine weren’t even imaginable just a few short years ago.

I can be consulting with a client in China (and China is soooo economically hot right now!) for a couple of hours in the morning, while he is having his late dinner. I can be writing an article in the afternoon for an Irish magazine, I can be taking photographs of the ocean at five, trying to capture a hitherto unseen shade of blue on film, and by night, in front of the fire, I can be designing a new knitting pattern or chatting with knitters (or Knitwits as we call ourselves!) around the globe - one in Connemara, on the West Coast of Ireland, I particularly enjoy.

And what has made all these parallel lives possible? The wonderful world of the internet of course. The World Wide Web.

“You should be written up, Mum,” my eldest daughter, who is extremely high tech, says to me, “You must be one of the few sixty-mumbles who has so utterly embraced the information technology highway.”

Well, yes and no. I meet my compatriots out there blogging well into their eighties. My good friend Miriam, seventy-five, was forced into going on line. By whom? Her mother, who is ninety-three and says it’s the only way to keep in touch with her great-grandchildren and Miriam should be ashamed as they are her grandchildren. Miriam’s mother gave her some lessons on the fine art of e-mailing and now she, too, climbs on board every day.

What I truly love about all of this multiple personality way of life is that I can work in my underwear if I want, and be anywhere I want, which for me is by the ocean in an outport of Newfoundland most of the time, and at any time I want, like 2.00 a.m., which for an incorrigible nighthawk like me works out beautifully.

I still have a lot to learn about I.T., but I suppose being ready, willing and able is half the battle.

And PS, I used to be sooooo jealous of you guys who could link so effortlessly.....and I finally did it, see above, wahoo..

Now if I could only figure out how to link and list my favourite blogs, I'll be, like, so totally insufferable...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Aging (Dis)gracefully

I couldn't resist posting this, sent to me by a friend today......


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Shore Thoughts

It has been a solitary life, these past few days here. I’ve wanted it that way to get at the book, now that reminders are coming in from the editors. And something stops me and I let it.

I walk a lot by the shore with the dog. I’ve started to follow the example of my neighbour down the way and pick up the bits and bobs that float in with the tides. The ubiquitous water bottles, shot gun shells, plastic bags, chip bags, motor oil bottles. I don’t take any great pride in this, it just is. Part of my responsibility for the planet and this tiny section of it.

I observe how water changes landscape on an extremely intimate level. It has been heavily raining and it stopped today and I watch the many residual streams and rivulets pour into the bay, altering the landscape, washing out some muddy bridges and building new ones. Creating new moats and demolishing old islands of shrubs. The power of water!

I pick up kindling for the fire and collect some interesting twists and turns of driftwood. I compose wonderful poems in my head that vanish before I can get back to the house and put them on paper or computer.

I think about friends and friendships and how sometimes I’ve been a “filler-friend” for others who drop me when they meet someone new. R has done this to me. From a daily contact for a very long time, to zero now that he has met someone. He did not tell me this. A mutual friend did as I was puzzled by his unresponsiveness to my emails. I must admit to being hurt. And saddened. And I try not to let my heart harden up to any future friendships with the males of our species. And I reflect on my male friendships that survive. And the female ones that always do, come hell or high-water or the best new lover in the world.

I sort many things out on these long shore-walks. And bring my life into today and the moment and doing the next right thing like picking up another tossed plastic bag on the beach

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Me and Mother Church

There were many nudges along the way. Many ‘clicks’ – you know, that little ting, like a bicycle bell, a little alert that the world and more specifically Mother Church was not as sane and sanctified as all around me believed.

I think my first awakening, or more a little frisson, was at the Catholic Convent School I attended. We would go to mass in the convent chapel on a fairly regular basis. None of us were allowed near the sacred place, the altar. We couldn’t touch anything, the vestments, the altar cloths, the hardware, or go anywhere in front of the altar rail. The nuns, of course, were allowed to launder and steam-press the precious linens, and they did so in gratitude and humility, being the brides of Christ.

They couldn’t serve at Mass. But my ten-year-old brother could. He was an altar boy and had higher standing than any of the nuns and of course stood head and shoulders above us, the convent girls. In the eyes of Mother Church. My filthy, nasty, little brother was now on Godplanet while those of us sans penis were consigned to the trash heap outside the altar rails? Ting.

And then there was the matter of my mother’s last ‘confinement’ – a lovely old-fashioned word. She was forty-three. I was thirteen. On a blog entry a while ago, I wrote about an experience she had with a ‘young pup’ of a priest, whilst in this pregnancy:
A Bit of Mutton

My mother told me many things,
When breathing deeply of the morning air
As we walked together to First Friday Mass
So our souls would be saved at the last minute.
No matter what we did in between.

Our Lord had promised this, you see.
If we made nine of these First Fridays in a row.
And we did. I don’t remember the masses
I remember our walking and talking
And how we would breathe together.

She would swing her arms and look to the still
Early sky. Breathe, she said, breathe.
It’s good to get the early oxygen into the blood
And leave all the men in the house behind us.
It’s a change for us women to be alone together.

She believed and carried me on the wings
Of her belief in Our Lady first and Our Lord second.
Until the great man behind the red curtain
Told her it was a sin to eat meat on Friday
Even though she was expecting her last.

She was forty-three then, saying she was thirty-nine
And had an irresistible craving for the meat.
She was outraged she told me, that this
Young pup of a priest could tell an aging
Expecting woman her soul was damned.

Forever, she said to me, in spite of the
Nine First Fridays, for eating a piece of meat.
She would burn in hell for all eternity.
How could he know, this young pup,
Of varicose veins and a tired swollen body?

Life is a terrible mystery, girleen,
I don’t know what to make of it at all
I just can’t make sense of him telling me that,
Me old enough to be his mother, that I was
Now damned and going to hell for a bit of mutton?

I got up and walked out of that box so I did.
I did not want the penance or the forgiveness
For this great sin. I walked all the way out the door
And came straight home this past Saturday
And I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------But that wasn’t the end of it in this pregnancy for my mother. In those days, in Ireland, when women had difficulty in childbirth, when labour ceased or there was fetal distress or a myriad other challenges, and the woman happened to be Catholic, a Caesarian section was forbidden by the Catholic Church in collusion with the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Dublin. The procedure approved was the Symphysiotomy: See the section on Irish women.

My mother had horrific side effects after the birth of my sister. Her pelvis was shattered and she was unable to sit, walk or stand for six weeks. My sister had to be bottle-fed and my brothers and I took turns with this as my mother was unable to sit and hold her baby and my father was of the era where his masculinity would be suspect if he was ever caught holding an infant. After several months of agony my mother had another operation which involved breaking her pelvis yet again so that this time the bones would knit correctly. She never fully recovered and was not too long for the world afterwards.

When my sister was nine months old and my mother had the use of her legs again, she asked me to accompany her for a special service in the church. Women only and the holy priest officiating.

Childbirth was considered ‘unclean’ then so she had to be cleansed from her unholy act in a ritual called ‘Churching’ – now obsolete.

And I could go on, but as this is far too long as it is, I’ll stop and continue some other time.

So ask me again why I no longer believe in The Great Invisible Cloud Being?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A brilliant analysis of U.S. Politics {LINK}

Jane Smiley is one of my very favourite writers and she churns up some riveting stuff in the above link - well worth reading.

Like the late, great Molly Ivens, she is fearless in her analysis of how things went so terribly wrong in her country.

The Iraq quagmire is sucking the life out of our neighbour down south, the dollar shrinking, housing markets decimated, personal bankruptcies through the roof, no health care for its citizens, New Orleans a no-go for the people who used to live there, one out of every 150 of its citizens in jail and more jails being built every day, its military outsourced to private and for profit mercenaries (was there ever a name with such a death knell ring to it as 'Blackwater'?), and the Patriot Act in all its permutations stripping the Constitution of any of the 'freedoms' so proudly bandied about by the flag wavers. And the media operating at just about the level of a trained poodle (Blair, anyone?)

And Iran may be the next target for the bringing of 'democracy'?

Bumper Sticker seen on U.S. vehicle here in Newfoundland:

Be nice to me or I will bring democracy to your country too!

Thank heavens for Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann and Stephen Colbert who through satire and wit (and lately a healthy disgust) bring the actual truth to their audiences.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Past the tipping point? {LINK}

This blog started out, way back, as a commentary on the changing environment of the world I live in, mainly the impact of global warming. I slid into other musings and meanderings over the years but today I was brought up short with the above. I also get the feeling that most of us are not being kept abreast of the truly astounding changes in the North. A friend who goes to Greenland on work assignments every couple of months tells me that the ice is just about gone in that fair land and that now the country is being massively mined for diamonds and gold now that these minerals are accessible for the first time, and all the big corporations have moved in.

We are all the Neros, fiddling away while the planet burns up. I remember reading Sci-Fi years and years ago and all of this was foretold, not the warming per se but the complete and utter disregard for the disintegration around us by the planet's governments and citizens. All fiddling away at Walmart and tooling down the great highways in our SUVS while the airconditioning in our homes creaks out its last gasp of energy.

I know we are all saturated with reports, I know we all feel helpless though doing our best to combat it on a minescule individual level. Where are the protests on the streets?

The results of this great meltdown will be horrific and panic will ensue very rapidly when none of our services will be able to keep up with the health needs (new diseases), water depletion, flooding, massive food shortages, etc.

Now what have I done to combat this personally ( share yours and make me feel better!)

I've signed enough protests (Stop Big Corp running our governments!)
and recycling, reducing, reusing goes without saying.
I turn out lights,
I have a tiny car and drive it hardly ever,
I stopped flying (in a plane!),
I am converting my current home to off the grid,
I don't use plastic grocery bags,
I don't buy plastic containers anymore
I stopped using paper towels,
I bought organic seeds for planting a vegetable garden next year
I dug a well
I started a wood lot and harvest trees for winter heating
I try and shop for stuff grown within 100 miles of where I live (a bit of a challenge in a small outport in Newfoundland!) but this quest found me yesterday buying from a bakery that makes scrumptious pies out of local apples, Yay!
I use rechargeable batteries
I do not buy Big Box ever
I buy second hand just about everything
I bought a hand-cranked washing machine (yes, they can be found and yes it is fun!)
I make all my own gifts, all my own celebratory cards

And there's more but they don't come to mind at the moment.

Maybe there's nothing any of us can do to stop this rapid descent into End of Days.

Maybe all we can do is live in the moment and do our own little bit.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Darwin Award Candidate?

Sometimes, like yesterday, the local newspaper yields a nugget.
A 46 year old man in St. John's was up on charges for exposing himself in public. He had a previous conviction in 1991 for the same thing.

He chased two women (separately) on the same morning in a distinctive green van and exposed himself. They individually called 911 and he was easily spotted in his van by police and immediately arrested.

Now get this. His day in court arrives and I hereby quote from the newspaper, The Telegram:

McCormack, wearing a T-shirt bearing the Vienna Sausages logo with the words "King of Sausages," appeared nervous and wiped his hands with a tissue as he testified at his sentencing hearing in front of Judge Gloria Harding on Wednesday.

P.S. The women were unharmed, when accosted one even went so far as to tell him: "Put that thing away!"

P.P.S. He got sixty days.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thank you, Joni Mitchell, you rock! {LINK}

A long awaited new album from one of my true favourites, released yesterday.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------SHINE BY JONI MITCHELL

Oh let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on Wall Street and Vegas
Place your bets
Shine on the fishermen
With nothing in their nets
Shine on rising oceans and evaporating seas
Shine on our Frankenstein technologies
Shine on science
With its tunnel vision
Shine on fertile farmland
Buried under subdivisions

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on the dazzling darkness
That restores us in deep sleep
Shine on what we throw away
And what we keep

Shine on Reverend Pearson
Who threw away
The vain old God
kept Dickens and Rembrandt and Beethoven
And fresh plowed sod
Shine on good earth, good air, good water
And a safe place
For kids to play
Shine on bombs exploding
Half a mile away

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on world-wide traffic jams
Honking day and night
Shine on another asshole
Passing on the right!
Shine on the red light runners
Busy talking on their cell phones
Shine on the Catholic Church
And the prisons that it owns
Shine on all the Churches
They all love less and less
Shine on a hopeful girl
In a dreamy dress

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on good humor
Shine on good will
Shine on lousy leadership
Licensed to kill
Shine on dying soldiers
In patriotic pain
Shine on mass destruction
In some God’s name!
Shine on the pioneers
Those seekers of mental health
Craving simplicity
They traveled inward
Past themselves…
May all their little lights shine
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------YAY JONI!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pornography Part 4 ({LINK}

I was more than gratified to read the above which reinforces my own concerns and thoughts on the subject of pornography.

So----- it hits the main stream media and written by a man, to boot. He really does get it.

Now let's hope that it causes some serious debate.

It is long, but well worth reading, particularly the comments of the women in the shelter.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An antidote to the 12 year-old Australian runway model {LINK}

The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question, and I would ponder it, and let her know.

Old Age, I decided, is a gift !

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother!), but I don't agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become more kind to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon?
I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50,60&70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.

They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day. (If I feel like it ...! )

Monday, September 17, 2007

Much to mull

I get into these modes periodically. Reflective, overly analytical, perhaps too self-indulgent. Many thoughts and ideas percolate, I always carry a mini-journal with me. So I jot things down throughout the day as I read or observe or reflect.

I was reading the life-journal/biography of a now elderly man who "came out" publicly and on television in the early seventies in Toronto. A professor, well respected, an activist, husband and father. It took enormous courage to do what he did. I admire such bravery and wonder if I could have done the same in his shoes and doubt it. His book is almost heart-breakingly personal.

He has a fetish for younger men that consumes him in tandem with a fear of being alone. His childhood was sad, he and his brother abandoned to foster homes by a drug addled mother. His whole life is about finding that perfect younger companion who, along with being sexually stimulating, is his intellectual equal. A herculean goal, never to be met, of course. So he has a revolving door of a life. So many men being test driven for the role of lover and companion.

But it is in the failures and the hurts and the savaging of his heart that I find inspiration. To this day, he never gives up. Mid seventies now. Still hopeful. He cherishes his friends amongst whom are his ex-wife who remains loyal as do his ex-in-laws.

I think he does not quite perceive his own heroism as he is full of self-doubt at times and touchingly grateful, so grateful, when his birthday is remembered. This man was and is an icon of gay liberation in Toronto, a hugely successful author and talking head, revered professor, activist, well-known, and yet takes sleeping pills on Christmas Eve (and feeds a small measure to his dogs) so he (and they) can sleep through Christmas and wake up on Boxing Day, bypassing the day completely. He succeeds. That is how terrifyinly lonely he is.

But he drops many nuggets and quotes on the way to a conclusion of his lifelong desire - the belief that serenity trumps loneliness. And finally - I like to think - embraces it.

Some thoughts of his: The world's not made up of atoms but of stories.
And this: There is no duty we so much under-rate as the duty to be happy.
And this: Loneliness and love create each other.
And this: A person is not best known by his abilities but by his choices.
And finally: We are what we want to be.

This last on the surface almost too simplistic, but quite profound.

Thank you, John Alan Lee, for giving me much to ponder over the course of reading your book. Gay, straight, asexual or whatever, our lives have such common threads, not the least of which is the eternal search for that perfect soulmate who will know and understand us like no other.

Here is the link for anyone interested in reading this groundbreaking work, though I need to warn you that the sex (homosexual)can be quite graphic so avoid if squeamish.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

We the sheeple, or why I don't do Big Box.

Moving past boarded up small shops, little hardware stores, plumbing supplies centres , I am more than saddened at the passing of these small landmarks of a slower pace of life. These old corner store reliables with their personal touch - the proprietor knowing the customers, their likes and dislikes along with their hatchings, matchings and dispatchings, now all ending in an inconspicuous death rattle - strangled by the creeping virus of Big Box Blobbery.

The outskirts of every town is now looking just about the same. Even the restaurants are just about all chains, plonked down in the competitive sprawl of feuding chainstores, Mike’s, Kelsey’s, Australian Outback, Boston Pizza.

Maybe it’s me. I just can’t bear those monolithic impersonal yawning caverns of endless aisles and know-nothing student staffers (oops, ‘associates’). I resolved, four years ago now, that I would never darken the doorway of a Walmart, Home Depot, et al, again. Since then I have watched the documentary “The High Cost of Low Price” which explores the rotten underbelly of the business practices of Walmart and other such chains.

I don’t feel particularly virtuous about this resolution of mine. It is fairly self-serving. I like the little stores, the personal attention, the “I’ll order it in for you.” I can wait. The first sign of maturity after all is deferred gratification and that has been one of my bugaroos all my life: immediate satisfaction. So if I can wait until (s)he orders it in I can bask a little in the arms of my own ‘I’m all grown up now, mother’ state.

Little bookstores are another victim of the super-large cavernous virus. How few of these are left, I wonder. I counted one in downtown St. John’s, very few in downtown Toronto. Indigo and Chapters have taken over, along with Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Is this a good thing? I do use Amazon along with Abe’s for used and out of print. Am I part of the problem then?

Recently I read a book called “The King’s English” which I highly recommend, about the survival of a small bookstore in the states. Against all odds. So it is possible to buck the sweeping incoming tide of impersonality.

The world is getting more and more cookie-cutter. I keep thinking we are not too far away from “Soylent Green” the movie that predicts a future of blank sameness, even to our food, even when we run out of food.

Big Corp along with Big Pharm and Big Agro are slowly seeping into our very souls, our governments have already been swallowed up by them – some more than others.

Some days, like today, I feel kind of hopeless about it all.

Other days, I just concentrate on my own path and what I can do to make a difference. To keep bucking the system and step back and say “wait a minute, here!”

Friday, August 31, 2007

On the road again...

This time on my way back to the city, much against my desire or wishes but yielding to the plea of my beloved granddaughter for our annual road-trip. I think I will head back in a matter of a month or so to the fair land I've left behind.

Some random observations:

(1) I have a book offer from a publisher, very, very thrilling. A collection of my short stories. However, I am currently suspended in a form of writer's amber. Paralyzed. Numb. Frightened. The realization of a dream is the running up against myself. Now what? My babies toddling off by themselves into the real world with real critics. Lash of noodle on self. Get to it girl, stop the dithering. Stop the distraction of the day-job now. Screw the money. Let go of the fear. Stay in your bliss, in your life-long dream!

(2) A RANT: Why, in this twenty-first century of ours, hasn't some genius perfected the design of the toilet roll holder? With what dread do I enter every single stall of every ferry, every restaurant, every hotel room, to be greeted by kicked in huge plastic containers that hurt someone's fingers one time too many as they scrabbled for a hold on a skinny sheet underneath its deadly saw-edges. Yes, they finally cracked up, whimpered, and took off the stilletto shoe and beat the thing to death, leaving its huge rolls floating on the wet floor. And for variety, the gaping jaws of long empty containers greet me after I have urgently done my business so I am left perched and waiting for a kind soul to enter and pass me something, anything, an old Kleenex from their purse, under the door. The crammed single sheet metal box dispenser that doesn't, is another challenge. The tightly jammed paper will not yield to any type of pressure and is often a victim of a nervous breakdown, beaten to a pulp by an irate user, its contents thrown into an over-flowing toilet. We've come up with the automatic toilet flusher, ditto soap and water dispensers and hand dryers, even automatic paper towel dispensers and we cannot come to grips with a design for a functioning fool-proof dispensing toilet roll??? Come on!!!!

(3) MUSIC: We have a long ride, 3000 klicks, the grandgirl and I. We take turns with the music selections. Some, I'm pleased to report, we agree on (Abba, Beatles, John Denver (John Denver!!!!)Joni Mitchell, Elvis (Long live the King!!)) but I'm up against my own creeping decrepitude on some of her choices. Isn't this the way of the world, though. But yay Nora Jones and Motor Five, not bad, not bad at all.....

(4) SIDEBAR: My beloved niece tells me she has found me a lovely man who is very keen to meet me. This will have to wait as he is a Newfoundlander but has all the criteria that appeals to an ideal me in an ideal world.

More from the road later.

Monday, August 20, 2007

You can't force romantic love

And I sorta kinda tried. So much of possibility boils down to Pheronomes. They weren't there. I had this past week with R, long planned, and long longed-for. My widower friend. A very lovely man. Still grieving his dead wife. Still wearing his wedding ring.
It was his first vacation in forty years without her. We talked solid for the whole week. We picnicked. We went to a house party. We hiked. We ate long leisurely dinners. We meditated together. And oh how we talked. We touched, though as brother and sister would. We washed and dried dishes together at the end of the day. And had little injokes, some revolving around a 'moose god' I have on the counter. You have to touch him before you leave so you can avoid encounters on the highways and biways. Moose are everywhere here and a serious danger. The moose god works. So far.
He told me sex was over-rated, never had done much for him. Ahem.
He told me one of his regrets about his wife was that he had rarely touched her. He should have touched her more.
He played with his toy bucket and spade that I had bought him. And made sand castles.
We took photos together and I helped him with some.
Did I say we laughed a lot? We did.
But we slept in separate bedrooms.
And the advice from my brothers, whom I deeply respect, was to let him make the first move.
And he didn't.
And he forgot my birthday, even though I had talked about it the day before.
But we are still good friends.
And he wrote in my guest book that we are more bonded than we ever were.
And I take him to the airport and we kiss, as we always do, on the lips, tightly and chastely. And he leaves. And doesn't stand on the pavement and wave. As most leave-takers of mine do. As I do. One last wave of thanks and love and see-ya-soon.
And he told me he is very excited about a grief counselling group he will be attending in September. One of the reasons is that he hopes to meet a potential partner there.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pornography Part 3

Pornography creates victims. We can talk about sexual liberation and the freedom to choose our turn-ons, feed our fetishes, procure our proclivities but isn’t there always a victim?

The women (with the exception of one) and one man that I’ve gotten to know who had first hand experience of ‘selling’ their bodies would say today that they were victims. In all cases, apart from the afore-mentioned one woman, they were addicts. Drugs and alcohol.

One was an exotic dancer, was there ever such a misnomer. Very little was exotic or even erotic about her stage work. She performed in a place called “Cheaters” in the city of Toronto. As the name hints, this was a place where married men came to watch the girls and to negotiate a sliding scale of pricing dependent on what the need was. All the way from a private dance in a private room ($50) to full unprotected sex ($500) with all the variables in between which I will leave to the imagination. She fed her coke habit with the money she earned, often thousands on a good night, but coke is expensive. She can’t remember much about the men, except to say they were sad and middle-aged. She had several surgeries on her genitals to keep them presentable for stage work. Many of the girls in her line of work did. Her family had disowned her and the focus of her life was the drugs that helped her forget what she called a ‘sordid’ life. She counts herself lucky she got out of it in time before her drug habit finished her and threw her on the street like many of her colleagues. Today she is married but has never told her husband of her past life and has pledged her friends and family to secrecy.

Another, I’ll call her D, thought it was all rather a hoot and enjoyed the thrill of being a desirable ‘escort’. Here there was a variable rate scale as well depending on the whims of the clients. D drank to get through the nights with the more unappetizing of her clients. She would do anything for a price; sometimes it involved more than one man. Or couples.

D confessed to me, now that she is out of the lifestyle and off the booze, that it has left her completely desensitized to normal sex and has resulted in her seeking pain and chains in private clubs that cater to fetishes. She is smart enough and ‘therapied’ enough to realise she is seeking punishment for her past life. However, she is still terrified of any kind of equality in a relationship and actively seeks much younger men to carry out her more outlandish desires without any kind of emotional investment.

One other, S, was a person I met at a meet and greet at a Connections Event at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The gathering was ostensibly to meet available people of the opposite sex in an educational environment (there was a lecturer) with wine and cheese and much mingling but ironically, women were going off by themselves with new friends and making it more of a female networking event. That was how I met S. S was a former hooker, a very successful un-addicted hooker, who had parlayed her money into real estate. She had been off the game for over a year and was living well on her property management skills, both commercial and residential.

She wanted to go straight, thus her attendance at the specific event, as she hadn’t been lucky in meeting (read keeping)an eligible male through the internet or other ads. It soon became clear as to why she wasn’t successful. She was absolutely beautiful in appearance, in her late thirties, auburn hair, tall and ‘stacked’ to use an old-fashioned term. S would never have called herself a victim. But she was, in the worst way. She had an underlying contempt for men that bordered on psychopathic. She was amusing and cutting in her remarks about them. It was only in the afterward that I was able to see what her years on the street (actually in stretch limos – her ‘brothel’ was a limo – I’ve never been able to look at a stretch limo with its darkened glass in the same light again!) had done to her and her scathing, belittling outlook on men. Truly a victim.

Some might argue I haven’t drawn a line between porn and prostitution but I believe it is all sides of the same coin. The women I met did pose for photos and act in videos and perform various sexual acts on film. That is pornography surely?

To me, there is something desperate, sad and dark lurking in the souls of both the purchaser and the seller of sex whether it be in the titillation of images or actuality of experience. It seems to be that there is nothing that is joyful and honest or that deepens and transforms this most intimate of human experiences into a higher plane.

Call me old-fashioned but I like my sex sublime.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Life's Like This

You have plans.
They change.
We change.
My friend B dies and I can't be at the memorial service.
B loved attention but his personally planned funeral is the Simple Alternative, no flowers, casket, mourners. Just a little service. A post mortem shock for those of us who know him and his fondess for centre stage.
I planned Part 3 of the Pornography Series. It hasn't been written yet.
I have a houseguest who is staying far too long but leaves this Tuesday. Today we entertained a disparate group to a midday "dinner" and she did most of the work.
The conversation soared and swooped and I was asked to read some of my short stories publicly. One particularly wonderful - and true - story told by a guest today involved a cross-dressing tough old cod fisherman. Tremendous Monty Python factor.
Since I had a dream about reading my stories aloud I am more than thrilled at the theatre possibility mentioned today. I've always wanted to read my work to an audience.
My article for the month of July didn't get written.
My shelter and food work is way behind.
I want to blame the over-extended guest but this would not be truthful.
It is my own disorganization and procrastination.
My own immaturity that cannot defer gratification.
We had some lovely days on the beach and I showed her my own stunning Newfoundland.
We played Scrabble every night by candlelight though I must admit to being pissed tonight when she got all her letters off twice and beat me soundly. Sometimes I feel I am three years old.
She is a very nice, intelligent, interesting woman but I struggle when people are around too much, I struggle with liking them. I realize my inner recluse needs a lot of attention and she doesn't get it when I have to host graciously.
I decided to build a small cabin way back on the hill on the property here. Somewhere to escape to and write no matter who inhabits the house.
I feel I'm on display in the main house. Newfoundlanders are very friendly, they love to pop in and see what's going on and think writing is a fairly silly pursuit and of no value when compared to boat-building or trench-digging. They wait for me to do something important like plant potatoes.
Blackflies are making a meal out of my head. I have lumps where I didn't think lumps were possible.
I have a gentleman caller who is a very alert and lively jean-clad eighty-five year old who makes bowls and incredible artifacts out of local trees. Exquisite work. He is full of stories and very courtly and gracious. I am enchanted. He moves like a man in his twenties and entertains me with lovely anecdotes. He also calls to hear my outgoing message on my telephone line when I'm not here. Sometimes ten times a day. He is unaware I installed call-display a week ago. He could be a stalker. But I think he is lonely and also thirsty for a paramour.
I also had an email from a very, very long-ago boyfriend who found me through my published work. He was very much in love with me at one point (egads over forty years ago) but, alas, not I with him, and this out-of-the-blue attempted re-ignition has piqued my curiosity meter.
R arrives here on August 11th and I find myself greatly amused that from an absolute dearth of a possiblity of a relationship over a month ago, there are now three.
Much like a dessert table at a buffet.
A veritable feast of choice. Or not.
But it is terrific to feel alive and savour the potential.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pornography Part 2

I do not write as an academic on pornography. I only write from my own experience and readings on the topic.

Field research has revealed that most acts of despicable vileness and inhumanity produce in its aftermath a record of the depravities committed. A pornography, if you will. I need only look at the Holocaust. There is a ritualism and rigidity to the meticulous record keeping so that the degradation can be relived again and again by the perpetrators. The victims are reduced to numbers; their very humanity has been eliminated. And in more recent times (and I believe it is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak)we only have to look at the horrors of Abu Ghraib with their violent sexual components.

The same with modern pornographers. For example, the slightest research on Hugh Hefner, pornographer extraordinaire, reveals that from a very early age, he became infatuated with photographs of naked women. He parlayed this into a billion dollar industry, filling his mansion with beautiful young women who were featured in his Playboy magazine and sundry spin–off media. Of course, what is revealed here is that Hugh is incapable of intimacy with a partner. As of this writing he is living with three women, all in their twenties. All assisting him, even in his eighties and with the self-admitted usage of Viagra, to continue his life fantasy of ever-willing and able women constantly at the ready to satisfy his every sexual whim.

I find racism, homophobia and misogyny close counterparts to pornography, maybe even going so far as to saying they are flipsides to the same coin - the Negro, the gay man or woman, the female, are thus defined by their perpetrators. Their humanity, intellectual capacity, their very souls are completely denied and made invisible to justify the position of the discriminator.

From a sign on the doors of factories looking for help in New York in the middle of the nineteenth century “ No Jews or Irish need apply”.

Even poverty is condemned in some parts of the world, as if is self-causated. Then oppression becomes possible as being poor and dirty are so interconnected in people’s mind. Which brings me to the word 'dirty' itself.

In my time, in Canada, those from Pakistan are labeled ‘dirty Pakis' by many. This has been considered a generally acceptable condemnation. I have been invited for meals into Pakistani homes here and am astonished at the level of cleanliness practiced at mealtimes, down to washing the hands in between courses. Thus the perjorative 'dirty' has no place in reality.

I am reminded that this is how Nazi Germany started, the condemnation of the Jews as somehow despoiled, ‘dirty’. The same with the Irish under eight hundred years of oppression. The lands stolen and the inhabitants condemned to poverty through landlord avarice. Then subsequently classified as ‘dirty’ and thus ‘undeserving’ of education or justice.

When I was growing up in Ireland, a girl who had gotten pregnant, no matter if it were rape, incest or the local priest, was labeled ‘dirty’. She was despoiled, unfit, and until very recently, her innocent child was called a ‘dirty bastard’ and by the arcane laws of the land was deemed unfit to inherit.

Thus a girl/woman acting in a pornographic film or featuring in photos is condemned as ‘dirty’. Her intellect and spirit erased under the label. What is she after all but a ‘dirty’ whore, unworthy of respect? She can be subjugated in any way we see fit. Being dirty, she enjoys it, as being dirty she is closer to living an animal’s existence anyway.

The reality of womanhood is sanitized for male porn consumption. In pornography menstruation is eliminated, as are childbirth and contraceptives, stretch marks and caesarian scars. The ideal woman emanating from the ranks of the soft-focus pictures is free of all such earthly markings. The porn-addicted man is protected from the reality of her bodily functions. She lives and breathes to service him. He will never be contaminated by her reality. Unlike his wife/partner, she is capable of multiple orgasms with minimal effort on his part and will fall to her knees at his slightest whim.

“He then sat naked on his couch and called me over and said to me ‘just worship it, baby, just worship it.’”

An actual quote from a young woman I know who ran laughing from the hotel room of a Toronto Blue Jays player (and the only explanation I can come up with for his behaviour is too much porn – whether live or virtual).

And in Part 3 I will write of the experience of women I know who have lived as ‘puppets of porn’.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pornography Part 1.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and knew I’d have to post it on my blog as the more out there publications for which I write would not be interested in it.

I write from a range of personal reflections, personal observations, lovers who enjoyed it and from hearing the thoughts of women who had to participate in pornographic productions.

The dictionary definition of pornography is above and here is one of the definitions of obscene:

ob·scene (ŏb-sēn', əb-)
1. Offensive to accepted standards of decency or modesty.
2. Inciting lustful feelings; lewd.
3. Repulsive; disgusting: "The way he writes about the disease that killed her is simply obscene" (Michael Korda).
4. So large in amount as to be objectionable or outrageous: "local merchants in nearby stores get hammered by stratospheric rents and obscene taxes" (Joe Queenan).

I find that the words pornography and obscenity are not limited to sexuality only but can be applied to other horrific acts and places (the obscenity of the incarcerations in Gitmo, the pornography of the Holocaust or the Irish Famine, for example).Because it is all about abasement and debasement, isn’t it.

Let me say at the outset I am no prude, I have watched pornographic films and though I would like to say I was completely revolted and repelled by what I saw that would not be the truth. I was stimulated, but not in a pleasant way, not in any way that would be akin to being in the arms of a loved partner. It was more in a shameful way; there was a primitive urgency to it, a desire that had nothing to do with another but with my own selfish satisfaction. I felt debased as a sentient human being.

About four years ago, I had a two-year relationship with a man who was very handsome, very Irish. He had more marriages and relationships under his belt than I could count.

I had decided earlier on that I would not be with him in the carnal sense. He had slept with some of my friends and bragged openly at a party he was like Georges Simenon, the author, he had lost track of the women he had bedded. I was turned off rather than turned on by this and told him so and he accepted this.

So through these two years, we shared our writings and he divulged some highly personal details about himself. He would often cook for me and I for him and we would have long walks and talks and read to each other.

He told me he was addicted to pornography, something of which he had never spoken to anyone in his life before. This man could have any live woman he wanted but he viewed pornography twice a week. Porn where women were chained and debased, where women were silent and forced to look as if they were enjoying themselves.

It had started when his older sister would tease him by lifting her skirts and showing him her underwear when he was twelve. He would head for the stash of his older brother’s Playboy magazines hidden under the mattress and masturbate to the images. Much like many pubescent boys I would imagine. With him, though, the image of his sister combined with the magazine created a fetish. If he was seeing someone he was having intercourse with, he would always buy her underwear (she’d be charmed, of course) and he would gradually ask her to pose in the manner in which his sister had in order to maximize the intensity of his experience.

I asked him the obvious.

“Is it your sister you’re making love to then?”

He looked at me shamefaced, defiant.

“Of course”.

And the penny dropped with me. He was never ‘with’ any woman he had married or partnered. In the most intimate of moments, he was with the pornographic image of his teenage sister. A now sixty-year old woman. Of course, he had never experienced the actuality of it. So he was in complete fantasy. He was incapable of seeing, hearing, feeling, communicating, sharing with anyone. Or of being in sexual reality.

When we decided not to see each other in the dating sense anymore, we were having dinner in one of our favourite restaurants. As I hadn’t slept with him, I didn’t have the usual emotional/sensual/intimate withdrawal most women suffer under such circumstances. He had met someone that had triggered his libido and wanted to see her intimately (that lasted two months until he was on to the next). He took my hands across the table (we had rarely touched physically) and said to me with tears in his eyes:

“I’ve never been more intimate with a woman than I have with you”.

I was a little surprised but I believed him, he had never bared his soul to anyone as he had with me. He recognized it but he was incapable of moving beyond the entrapment of the pornographization of any woman he slept with.

And this is what porn does, it removes the reality of the sexual experience, it demeans both the protagonist and the victim, the watcher and the participant. It becomes a meaningless act when it should be the highest of human experiences. And he is just one example.

And further field studies in Part 2.