Covid Conundrum

I wanted to read.
But I couldn’t
I wanted to write.
But I didn’t.
I am at a time in life that is opaque, where there are no bold lines,

only shadow and shades.

So I have begun to redefine myself.

On the cusp of retirement, a time when I aspire to hone my passions and strengths (without being guided by a paycheck) I take solace in the fact that there is one thing I will always be-

a reader.

It has only been in my later years, where I have become confident enough to identify as a writer. To claim that I am one.

And as I begin to wind down in my career (after 30 years), I have full intentions to read more, and write more

and grow creatively and profoundly in voice

and in imagination.

I aspire to be the embodiment of a sentient library where those seeking stories can come and confer. Suggestions of titles would trip off my tongue like water over rock.

To read.
To write reviews.
To write short stories.
To finish that novel.And then…

A global pandemic.

Oh, I thought, now that my life is limited in both act and engagement, I will have copious amounts of time to read and write and create.

But alas, I have yet to take advantage of the circumstances in which I find myself.

I check updates,
And outbreak patterns,
And my temperature.

My concentration is non-existent. Sadly I can scarcely focus long enough to live in another world if even for a minute.

And all of this has been heartbreakingly disconcerting.

So not only has my identity been challenged, but the one place where I used to be able to claim respite from reality has slammed the door without giving me a key.

I long to wander freely in fiction where I can think of nothing else but plot points and protagonists.


The Sound of Lightening

We are having a bout of hot weather and lightning storms before the arrival of autumn.

I love the sound of lightning.

No, I don’t mean thunder. I don’t like thunder. It sounds ominous and threatening and downright mean.

But lightening…the flash in the distance.  The moments of silence.

The beauty without the boom.

It’s seems to be a revelation before an announcement a power has arrived.

It reminds me of little gleams of insight. Glimpses of pure truth

before the racket and fuss distracts us from the light.

How often is the truth this simple.

Backlighting the clouds

helping us to see what lies behind.

Rarely the need to cover our ears.

An Intelligent Hell

“An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise” Victor Hugo


Once in a while I’ll have a day where I find it difficult being nice to stupid people.

Now, I know that doesn’t sound very kind of me but I seriously have no patience for anyone who just seems,



And by juvenile I mean having a blatant disregard to anything or anyone other than themselves.

They spill a cup of coffee and expect someone else to wipe it up.

They drink and drive and drink and drive and drink and drive

until they get caught.

They grumble and complain about organizations and institutions they are a part of without ever attempting to facilitate change.

And stupid people are often mean.

Taking out their insecurities on innocent servers at Tim Hortons, or the service department at Best Buy.

I’ve often thought that the older one gets the more grace and patience one acquires. That wisdom and gentleness are cultivated and expressed no matter how irksome or heartbreaking the situation.

But I’ve learned stupidity knows no age.

There are a lot of grown up pouters out there as well as those that revel in melodrama created over the most superfluous of reasons. But, in my opinion, melodrama only exacerbates the stupidity.

Because nowhere, in all of this,

not in complaints,

not in cruelty,

is there any attempt in the acquisition or the application of knowledge or understanding in any way shape or form.

At least not the way I see it.

Contemplating Plato

“The life which is not examined is not worth living” – Plato

Plato has a point.

But examining your life can be a difficult thing. I know it is for me.

Self-examination, of the physical sense is especially traumatizing. I’ve found a grey hair. Ok I’ve found a multitude of grey hairs. And a couple of hairs in my eyebrows are doing some REALLY “interesting” things. Once in awhile, all of a sudden one hair will flip up, and I’ll catch a glimpse of myself looking something like my dad, or my Uncle Johnny. Also, I chipped my front tooth and didn’t realize it until one little grade four student I’m working with pointed it out to me. So I’ve been going around, living life unaware of a renegade LONG eyebrow hair that bizarrely springs outward and up, and a chipped tooth.

Oh, and a pimple.

On my chin.

That I will name if it sticks around longer than the three day’s it’s already been with me.

Note to self; check self out in the mirror a little more closely in the morning before leaving the house.

Now, if you can emotionally get through the physical examination, life is indeed worth living.

However, a mental examination of self is slightly more difficult.

Especially if you’re slightly neurotic

like me.

I can mull and stew and over think a minute scenario, a casual interaction, and a miniscule glance for hours and evenings and days. And 100% of the time I’ve over-reacted. I’m learning not to do this as much. Telling myself that worry is a useless emotion. This self talk helps. I’m a master worrier. Experts have told me so. Not that I take pride in the fact, but just knowing that this is indeed part of who I am makes it less scary. I own this trait. I’m beginning to control it and shape it and chip it away.

Doing so has definitely made life worth living.

Examining the goodness specific to my life is also worthwhile. I have the best of families. Loving and devoted parents, sisters who are the best of friends, nieces I love more than life itself and brother-in-laws that are supportive and have adopted me as a sister of their own (or so it seems to me). I am a teacher. I have taught the most amazing people. People who will indeed make the world a better place not just for the cliché of “being in it” but because they are students of CHANGE. They are smart and sensitive and innovative. It is comforting to know how wonderful our future leaders will be. Over all the years they have proven to be GOOD people who will do GOOD in the world. Simply and succinctly.

In examining all of these people in my life, they indeed make life worth living.

Little accessible things in life, that on the surface appear insignificant, but in reality absolutely contribute to a life worth living: the smell and taste of fresh coffee in the morning (bonus for the Baileys). Saturday’s Globe and Mail. A good, NEW, screams to be read, latest novel from my favourite writer. A DVD box set release of my favourite show. Fresh flowers. A glass of an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon. Belly laughs.

And to en-capture and embrace all of this worthiness , I live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I fall asleep to blazing red sunsets and wake up to the sound of chickadees. I can witness the northern lights and an intimidating lightning storm over the course of the same evening. I live a year with four distinct seasons. Spring is quintessentially spring with pussywillows and the hatching of mallard eggs. Summer has the smell of cut lawns and the greenery of trees and the swell of mosquitoes. Fall, glorious colours, the haunting cry of geese flying south and the emergence of deer and moose (sometime bear) out of the bush. And winter. Snow. Sub zero temperatures. Hoar Frost. All coming together in Christmas card charm.

Definitely a wonderful setting for the gradual unveiling of my life.

A life worth living.

It’s the Little Things. In Honour of Father’s Day

In honour of Father’s Day I thought I’d share some little things my father used to do that made my sisters and I feel loved:

1. He would sharpen our pencil crayons with his jack-knife.

2. When my sisters and I would come home off the school bus he’d leave us a little note on the counter telling us where he was working on the farm. He’d always include a little stick drawing of himself and the cat.

3. Every morning he’d wake us up for school and keep us company while we ate breakfast. He’d be the one to dollop porridge in our bowls.

4. He’d find where the mother cat had her kittens, or where the dog had her puppies and would crawl in prickly, cramped, claustrophobic places to pluck out the babies so we could hold them…even it if was only for a minute or two.

5. He’d make Cheez Whiz toast for us when we were sick, and cut the bread into four equal quarters.

6. He’d shovel off the dugout in the bush so we would have our own little skating rink.

7. He’d make sure the night-light was always lit.

8. Every morning during the school year he’d watch us toddle out to the end of the driveway and cross the road . He’d then patiently wait until we all safely got on the school bus.

9. He would be more gentle than my mother when taking out splinters.

10. He would discover baby mice or partridge eggs or newly hatched ducklings and would always find the time to share his discoveries with us.

Oh he did all the grandiose fatherly things too like put food on the table, teach us to drive and help pay for our education…

but it’s the little things that stick closest to the heart.

When Roses Smell as Raspberries and Foyers Smell as Boyfriends

The sense of smell is a peculiar thing.
The raspberry scent of a particular red rose sends me back to my childhood when my mother grew a beautiful rose-bush in a bucket painted white. It was SO beautiful she took pictures of her three daughters standing beside it.

New plastic binders smell like the Barbie camper I unwrapped Christmas morning when I was eight years old.

A peppermint/chocolate combination makes my stomach turn because, at ten, I ate 6 and promptly got sick to my stomach. I ended up in the hospital for two months…not from the peppermint but from something totally unrelated.
I still can’t help but associate mint with trauma.

But yesterday was unusual. The temperature must have been just right, the amount of humidity and dust in the air perfect, for conjuring up the memory of an emotional summer and an old boyfriend from (literally) the days of yore.

It was a hot summer, and I was in love. Seriously, I was. But things weren’t going as they were supposed to go as things tend not to do with matters concerning the heart.
Nothing was simple.
Nothing was consistent.
And I reeked of insecurity. Wore it like a thick oozing blanket actually. I would spend a lot of time with the boy trying to figure out exactly what the reality of our situation was.

But he was mostly blurred lines and abstract innuendo.

Late into the night, we’d talk, and I’d try to understand
and then I’d drive home in the dark into my parking lot and walk up into my condo.
And I remember the smell.
The dryness. The heat. The stale air that hadn’t been stirred in what seemed like a lifetime.
It was the smell of confusion.
The smell of disappointment.
And simply the smell of sadness.

Yesterday, when I smelled little twinges of that same smell in the foyer of my building, I was transported to that summer,
but this time without the heavy heart.

It was amusement I felt. A sense of how much emotional growth can occur over time. A recognition that I am wiser than I was (sometimes it’s really difficult to tell as my default setting to most emotional situations is “uber-melodramatic”).

And it really is wondrous, the interconnectedness of it all. The past visiting through smell,

triggering a memory,

recognizing a lesson,

acknowledging growth.

All we have to do is pay attention.

The Big Giant Hand

The older I get, the more difficult it is to sleep in on weekends. I can understand that when you’re really young, the world is a new and astonishing place and you’re little neurons, and dendrites cry out to be developed and elongated (or whatever neurons and dendrites do when they’re being used). As babies, we stood in our cribs and shook the sides with impatience calling out to whatever parental unit will come and release us from the confines of our bumper-padded cell.
So that we can crawl and smell and touch and taste every and any new thing.
Then we get older. And the world calls out for us to use it as our canvas or our stage. And there doesn’t seem like enough daylight hours to build the best fort ever built, or paint enough empty milk cartons with mud (or our own bodies for that matter) and a stick that serves as a painter’s brush.
And we live as though our life was made up a thousand summers to be lived and tweaked and lived again.
Then we get even older, and there doesn’t seem like we can sleep in long enough. No amount can be stockpiled high enough to give us the energy to get out from beneath the covers and bounce into the day unrestrained and unfettered by insecurities and boredom. We want it dark and quiet and tomb-like. A room that is a refuge. We are made hostile by the sound of the vacuum or the clanking of pots and pans and therefore strike out with venomous words to the unsuspecting parent whose task it is to probe and prod the mass of blankets and quilts to see what, or if life exists underneath.
To sleep perchance to dream, of boys and clothes and songs. Imaginings far more enchanting than the teenage existence that exists.
As an adult, I wrestle with feelings of guilt. What won’t be accomplished throughout the day if I stay for long in a state of inertia. It is guilt and anxiety that serve as motivating forces that compel then propel me up and out of bed. I wish for a big giant hand to pin me down. Nothing quite so heavy as to suffocate me or contribute to claustrophobia, but exerting just enough pressure to serve as an excuse not to leave the confines of my quilts. “Well I WOULD get up, but this giant hand is keeping me here. Guess I’ll just have to stay cocooned in my covers…now if I could just reach the novel I” m reading.” But I feel as though I’m running out of time. I have things to do, places to go, and people to see. It no longer feels as though there are endless summers before me.
This Saturday I’m going to try to stay in bed AT LEAST until 8:00 am. I’ll let you know how it goes.

When Literature Fraternizes with Mathematics

My mind rejects numbers.

I only do math if I have to: figuring out the tip at a restaurant, calculating the time of arrival for a drive to the big city.

But now there are Apps for both.

It’s sad but true, but there was a time when I would withdraw five dollars from the bank machine just to see what my balance was…but now I can just go online.

The “numbers” part of my brain has been seriously stagnating as of late


it hasn’t always been this way.

When I was young (before I hit double digits) I enjoyed math with the multiplication table taped to the refrigerator, practicing the “six times” table with my father (and getting all of them right) and the nine times table with my mother (and getting most of them wrong).

I enjoyed the language of word problems introduced in junior high, viewing them as mini-mysteries (how old WAS Joe if his sister was born four years after his cousin Henry who was born two months shy of a decade younger than Joe?).

But then

math all got fuzzy.

The steps the teacher wrote on the board didn’t seem to make sense; there didn’t seem any rhyme or reason to the logic. Maybe that was it…there was no rhyme, I saw no art and had no emotional connection

other than confusion.

And my average dropped. I did end up graduating with the math course I needed but I waiting for my exam results was an exercise in torture.

Now, my mind turns to mush when I sit in front of my banker and he talks of compound interest and amortization. If I have to count money from fundraisers I start over and over again because my thoughts drift to colour and metaphor and numbers slip smoothly from my focus and I eventually have to find someone to do the counting for me.

And just to add insult to imagery, the news this evening ran a story of a shown a  dog in China who can solve simple division.

Not to be outdone by a canine, I’ve downloaded Sudoku to my iPad just to keep the “numbers” part of my brain in shape. I’ve researched “the mathematics of poetry” so I can FEEL something for numbers.

AND, I’ve discovered something. There is a whole genre of fiction called “math fiction”. Sounds almost heretical doesn’t’ it? Like two lovers from different sides of the “tracks” running off together and having a book baby.

I’ve read the novel “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” and liked it. I am now looking at reading “A Certain Ambiguity” by Gaurav Suri and “Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture: A Novel of Mathematical Obsession” by Apostolos Doxiadis. Booth look intriguing. I’m particularly interested in “Flatland: A Romance in Many Directions” by Edwin A. Abbott…a mathematical romance! Who knew!

So there is hope. I just have to appreciate the patterns and connections in math that I gravitate towards in literature.

A True Hero Wears No Mask

“Then, when he was all shipshape, his father put his big arms around him, and held him close to him for a few moments. Like an actor on a stage. It was not a thing you would see in real life anyway, and there was a faraway look on his father’s face, like it was all years ago and otherwise and maybe they were still in Dalkey and he was a little lad. But he was a soldier now of some nineteen years and for all that he was glad of his father’s arms around him strange as it was, strange and comforting as it was.” (A Long, Long Way by Sabastian Barry)

The image of a man embracing his child, even if that child is 19,

is one that should be captured in marble.

It is more heroic than any giant slayer, or Roman gladiator and would melt any heart.

Women very easily fall in love with men who show the vulnerability of loving without limits – those who don’t place the parameters of machismo, or entitlement around a type of love.

To me, the father in this excerpt epitomizes manhood. He is characterized as six-foot six Goliath, and is a policeman who regularly knocks together people’s heads. But, this man’s son has gone to war and a flesh and blood piece of himself has placed himself in harm’s way, intentionally.

His son has come out as nothing short of heroic himself and has become mighty ,not in stature perhaps, but in courage.

This father, a man who has the law and his size in his favour can do

absolutely nothing to “save” his son,

except fold him warmly in his arms, feel his heart beat close to his own,

and hold him tight.

When fathers embrace their adult sons- that image should be plastered on every street corner and projected from every sky rise,

so that everyone will know that the true heroes in life wear no mask.