Glass Shards

“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.” ― Natsuki Takaya

Months ago I dropped a little glass desert bowl on my tiled kitchen floor

and tiny glass shards shattered at an impressive radius around the drop site.

I swept and vacuumed.

Then swept some more.

Then vacuumed.

Then mopped and then vacuumed some more.

Still I found shards

clinging to the bottom of my sock,

and sometimes, to my chagrin, embedded in the heel of my foot.

No matter how hard I looked for the miniscule bits -the remnants of my clumsiness ,

I could never find them.

But,

I would come across them at the most inopportune moment –

when I was hopping out the door, one foot shod, the other bare,

or when I was shuffling to get a glass of water before going off to bed.

And I’d have to find pair of tweezers and perform minor surgery and then find the broom and give the floor another going over.

When we throw out insult or hurt someone we love,

it’s like breaking a little glass bowl.

Instead of a slip of the hand it is a slip of the tongue.

A clumsy handling of emotion.

And no matter how hard we try to pick up the pieces and make amends,

there will always be little sharp glass grains of sand

that will hide in wait.

Reminding us that what we say, or don’t say, can haunt us for months.

Little Christmas Memories

Happy, happy Christmas that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

As a little girl

Christmas on the farm was simply wonderful.

Because we didn’t have much growing up, my parents made to make the holiday chock-full of special experiences. These little gold nugget memories have stayed brightly glittering as remembrances of my childhood.

There were years when Dad would fire up the tractor, attach a sleigh and slowly drive up to the bush along the perimeter of the far field, taking his daughters, bundled and bouncing, along with him on the all-important mission of finding the Christmas tree of Christmas trees. The dogs would try to race the tractor, but the snow would be too deep and finally, they’d wise up and run along on the track made by the runners on the sleigh.

When we’d reach the bush, we’d tromp through (not an easy feat when wearing leotards, pants snowsuit, ski-doo boots, scarf wrapped around your face and hood tied tight) and look, and evaluate and debate which tree would make the cut and be “the chosen one”.

Finally, deciding on one we could all agree upon, we’d then make out way back to the house where mom would be waiting with all the decorations dug up from the trunk.

The “trunk” was a treat in and of itself and was only ever opened at Christmas. It was a brown steamer trunk with rusted metal brackets and leather fasteners. When she lifted the lid, it emitted a smell that was assuredly mothballs but, to me, smelled of history and memories that were not my own. Inside were glass ornaments of varying colours, a string of blue lights, silver tinsel, white gold and blue tinselled ropes, and the most special of pieces,

the angel.

The angel existed of gold star that held the most beautiful of ethereal beings, wrapped in clouds of white spun silk,

There she would stand on top of the tree, witnessing the love of the little family below.

We didn’t have “stockings” that were “hung up with care”. No, mom would pin our leotards to the side of the chair that faced the tree. Do you know how many oranges fit in a pair of leotards? Santa was able to fit at least half a dozen.

And then the nativity scene.

The crèche Mom made by hand.

My sisters and I found it enchanting. Mary and Joseph and Jesus. The three wise men and shepherds all made from plastic baby dolls bought at Woolworths. Mom would glue cotton balls on their heads and chins for hair and beards. She’d sew a veil and dress for Mary, brown and beige plain robes for Joseph and the shepherds. The wise men got bright red and purple robes trimmed in gold. And animals! Camels and sheep and a cow or two. (Totally out of proportion from the “people”, but we never noticed). One year my sisters and I, at a moment of bravery, peaked under the kings robes where we found feet and legs stuffed in glass mason jars so the dolls would stand up straight. They looked like preserved lab specimens, making the nativity scene even MORE intriguing!

And throughout it all, Mom would play her records. Something she only did during the holidays. We’d listen to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, Julie Andrews “My Favourite Things”, and Tchaikovsky’s Christmas Concertos.

As a little girl, I loved Christmas not necessarily for what “Santa” brought (although I really, REALLY liked my Sweet Sixteen Barbie) but for all of these activities I did with the family.

The bumping along with my sisters and my father on an excursion, the unwrapping of the angel, the “pickled” feet of the wise men and the crooning of Bing Crosby.

Wonderful.

Warm.

I feel truly blessed to look back at the Christmases of my childhood and feel nothing

but excitement

and love.

From Another Planet

Some days I feel temporary.


Like I’m just a visitor from another planet. Just here until the Mother Ship comes and takes me home.
And I think, “I have so much to do in such a small amount of time”. Spending more time making a list of all the important things that need to be done before I go.
Just to lose the list.


Or a holographic image. Seeming lifelike and tangible from a distance, but the closer you get, you see the fragility of my existence.
An image without substance.


On other days I feel sturdy and rooted and permanent. Absorbing information. Dendrites growing. Emitting my learning and my expertise. Building something of importance. Strong and sturdy for those who need to use me for support or for reference, or for ingenuity. Creating stories, strengthening relationships.
Contributing more than just carbon dioxide.


Neither feeling upsets or confuses me. I merely note the incongruity between the two and wonder what I will feel tomorrow and if anyone ever feels the same.


But most days, I feel as though I just think too much about how I feel.
And I’m tempted to be “sexist” and blame it on my gender.
Or “Freudian” and blame it on my upbringing.
Or “Catholic” and blame it on an examination of conscience.


And I realize that there is no one or nothing to blame.

When We Stop and Blink

Sometimes there are small quotes from books, another person’s gift of weaving images and metaphors in such a way that sums up exactly what is going on in the readers reality without clinically spelling it out.

One of the most poignant novels I’ve read is The Secret Scripture by Sabastian Barry. It’s the type of novel that must be read slowly, each paragraph sipped and held in your mouth until you really taste and appreciate the significance and intricacies of its style. The novel is filled with beautifully written paragraphs that cause the reader to stop and actually wonder how an author can so eloquently present a truth.

One such paragraph is:

“And the river itself, the Garrovoge, swelling up, the beautiful swans taken by surprise, riding the torrent, being swept down under the bridge and reappearing the other side like unsuccessful suicides, their mysterious eyes shocked and black, their mysterious grace unassailed” (page 125).

How often in life are we like these swans where we’re taken by surprise, and are uncontrollably swept under a bridge of sorts, tumbled and shocked and surprised to have actually made it to the other side? An event, or a circumstance in our life where, while in the midst, we wonder if we ever will make it through without crumbling and shattering to pieces?

But we do.

What I find to be the beauty of the paragraph is the image of the swan at the other side of the bridge. The harrowing tumultuousness of being sucked under, out of control and at the mercy of someone or something else, but yet making it through with an “unassailable” grace.

At the moment there are several people in my life who are being swept under bridges.

But in every case, EVERY case, each person I know will be like the swan and make it through to the other side. They may blink their eyes in surprise, but they will maintain a sense of grace through it all and be all the stronger.

Grace.

Memory as Metaphor

Memory is a funny thing.

Multi-metaphorical.

It’s like a tiny alligator.  Lurking in shallow water leisurely swimming by moving it’s tail. You wade tentatively in life feeling warmth and security.  Going further out and away. When suddenly it grabs your ankle in it’s sharp pointy teeth reminding you it’s there. And then leaving little pointed pricks in your skin.

Prickly, pint points of blood. Distracting reminders.

Or it’s like a shroud that falls over you when you’re going about your business. In the middle of routine.  And suddenly a smell or a taste or an image will act the trigger release of a safety catch. Letting drop a black and suffocating shroud. That settles on you for an hour, or a day, or sometimes a week.

Until you’re destracted by an occurrence or

a conversation or

a making of another memory that will not take it’s place but rather act as a distraction. Strong enough to put shreds in that shroud.

At times its like a Tuesday bruise on your knee on Thursday.  Not as sore and tender to the touch as the day you received it, but now dark and purple and obvious when you lift your pant leg to view it.  Only to cover it up again.  Then have it glare at you in the face when you’re in the tub, knees popping up through the bubbles reminding you that you fell.

A small injustice or failure.

And every once in a while it’s like a little spot of sunshine that moves about a room.  You have to consciously see it.  Move towards it.  Plant yourself in it so that you can have it warm you.  If even for a little while.

Like a cat.

Until it’s time to move on and out of the sunshine

and back into the momentum of life.

Only to experience new alligators, shrouds, bruises

and blessed patches of sunshine.

Purging in Purgatory

You know that place you sometimes go where you feel all itchy and unsettled inside. Like you don’t know if you should go out and run a mile

or just sit down on the floor in a puddle and try to cry?

You’re feeling something but you can’t quite name it? You’re not happy, you’re not sad, but somewhere in between and it’s definitely not content. You’re just feeling displaced and well,

feeling as though you’re visiting purgatory.

I visit the purgatory, in no way under my own volition, whenever get a little stressed or feel slightly out of control. And when I’m here, I feel the need to clean my house. To be the mistress of my domain. Participate in something, even if it’s something as insignificant as washing my kitchen floor, and feel as though I’ve facilitated change.

Accomplished something tangible.

Completed a task.

Success I can see.

When I linger in this purgatorial emotional space for a bit longer than usual, I start purging. But unlike Dante’s purgatory where time is spent purging sin, I purge articles and objects I’ve accumulated. I toss out plants that annoy me for needing more than water to survive. I pack up and donate clothing to the Salvation army (in one purging zeal, when I concluded that I had far too many black boots, I threw out several pairs, unintentionally including an expensive pair I had bought a month before…Now I’m a more discerning purger).

I will determine who, er I mean what will stay and what will stay within the walls of my sanctuary and what will go.

Today, frighteningly enough, I even tippy-toed my fingers through my three bookcases in an attempt to weed my library (almost two-hundred volumes) settling on only two that I could part with. So I must not be too far past the threshold of purgatory to feel compelled to part with my beloved books.

Fortunately (unfortunately?) I don’t visit this “purgatory” very often. At least not often enough to keep on top of a collection of shoes and magazines and club soda cans that accumulate at a rapid rate in my home.

But when I do, the mindless organizing

and tossing

and cleaning

takes my mind off the unsettledness inside and as an end result I have a spotless abode free of some clutter,

and a mind blessedly free of a bit of clutter as well

if only for a little while.

Shards of Bare Mute Blackness

I keep journals.  Journals possessing emotional streams of consciousness.  Travel journals.  Journals that read as an itemization of my day.  Journals with ideas and impressions from anything and everything.  But I also have a journal filled with quotes. Quotes from novels.  Lines from poems.  Dialogue from movies.  Chains of words I find especially poignant and sometimes beautiful in their conciseness or imagery.  One such quote comes from Brian Morton’s novel Starting Out in the Evening:

The world, the human world, is bound together not by protons and electrons, but by stories.  Nothing has meaning in itself:  all the objects in the world would be shards of bare mute blackness, spinning wildly out of orbit, if we didn’t bind them together with stories.  – Brian Morton

Stories are inextricably a human thing. We are entertained by them. We are lulled to sleep by them.  From them we not only learn about others, but more importantly we learn about ourselves.

Living a life that serves as a basis for our own stories.

My fear is that young people are indifferently coasting through life with no stories of their own to tell.  That families aren’t sharing anecdotes about growing up.  That there are no more tales starting with  “when I was your age” told around the supper table:

“What did you do today young man?”

“I dunno.  Played my video game.”

“What else did you do?”

“Nothin”.

“Nothing?  You must have done something else.”

“I dunno.  I can’t remember”.

What if we looked at each day as a story to be told?  Would the sky be bluer?  Would the people we work with be more interesting to behold?  Would what we say be more scintillating?

Everyone should go someplace somewhere all alone if only for a day.  Someplace new. Someplace never before seen by your eyes.  To discover and meet and smell and taste a new environment.

Be a new character in a new setting.  With a wide-eyed curiosity that is stronger than insecurity and indifference.

To take bits and pieces of information.  Data colored by emotion.

A life’s tapestry that is more than a history.

And string them all together

to form something

exclusively our own.

Corpora vs Spiritus

“The day of the corpora is the night for the spiritus.  When the bodies cease their labour the spirits in man begin their work.  The waking of the body is the sleep of the spirit and the spirit’s sleep a waking for the body.”  (Paracelsus cited in Lawrence Durrell’s “Justine”)

Well, this explains why I’m so tired some mornings.  My body may be at rest but my spirit is partying it up with the other spirits!

I find this passage fascinating.  If you only knew where your spirit goes when your body is recharging throughout the wee hours of the morning.  Does it soar in and out of the earth’s ether touching down only at places it’s never visited before like select iridescent cells of the Brazilian rain forest or the Monet-esque sunflower fields of Provence.  Or does it meet the spirits of others have also left their “corpora”, those we never see, those far away, those who have died?

A way to bridge distances if only with your imagination.

I also find it intriguing that the quote mentions that the spirit has “work” to do.  Could this mean righting wrongs, healing hurts, strengthening my own sense of spirituality with my God?  We are taught to say prayers before we go to sleep.  A preparation, perhaps, of a deeper communion with God.

If during the night, while we are asleep, our body healing and resting from the day in order to work to the best of its capacity when conscious it only goes to say that we should also take time out, even if it is at night, to restore and strengthen our spirit.

Maybe our spirits too have places to go, people to see, things to do.

If our spirits cross paths in the night be sure to wave “hello”!

A Meditation on Thornton Wilder

“There arose a perfume of tenderness, that ghost of passion which, in the most unexpected relationship, can make a whole lifetime devoted to irksome duty pass like a gracious dream” (pg. 74)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.

I have fallen in love with Thorton Wilder because of this quote.

How wonderful would a relationship like this be? Having to get close enough not only in physical proximity but emotional proximity as well, to one person and stay there long enough to inhale that “perfume of tenderness”

where your first instinct would be to wrap your arms around this person and hold them close.

Tenderness without forethought, without premeditation, without an agenda.

No pretension.

To be pleasantly surprised at a love that grows where you didn’t expect it to grow. And you look upon it in wonder, finding it near impossible to believe that it truly exists in you,

the most unlikely of places,

or so you believed.

Where obligation and duty never really existed in its denotative form. All business-like and astringent.

No boundaries set by written laws or verbal promises but rather

a fidelity that is unexpected and natural.

Some of us have found in our relationships some such a manifestation of Wilder’s love

and some of us are still waiting.

Whatever the case I hope we recognize it as such

and hold on to it as a dream come true,

feeling blessed.

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.

“Time Heals What Reason Cannot

Time heals what reason cannot. ~Seneca 

It’s interesting

how much difference a day can make.

I am continually amazed at how,

over the course of a measly twelve hours

a person can go from being mired in the deepest darkest pit of disappointment

to walking on sunshine.

This change cannot merely

be a matter of perspective.

Maybe it’s the alignment of stars?

or a shower of meteors?

or

the pull of the earths gravity with the passing of night into day?

“Time” has to play a part.

True, the passing of time wrecks havoc

but

it also creates miracles.

Time is not the erasing of memories,

but the blurring

and sanding

and softening the harshness

some memories can bring.

Patience is the key to living the cliché “this too shall pass”.

Because it does.

In the meantime you just need to remember

to breathe.

And wait with hope.

An Intelligent Hell

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

Interesting.

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,

well,

juvenile.

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.

Antonia Finds a Husband

Chapter 3

Once there was a young girl named Antonia Gigglegoose. Antonia came from a very large family. There were Gigglegoose brothers in the first and second grade, and Gigglegoose sisters in the fourth and fifth grade, and there were even Gigglegoose triplets in kindergarten! Antonia herself just finished the third grade. 

It was summer holidays, and Antonia was working as an Emergency Medical Technician, or, as the grown-ups called it, an EMT. She had started this job unexpectantly when Winnie Walker, her doll, unfortunately, got her leg caught in the spokes of Antonia’s bike when Antonia was pretending to be a school bus driver. It was a slow day as an EMT. No doll needed her immediate attention, so Antonia was thinking of going home and having an early supper.

“Dad! I’m hungry!” Antonia announced as she entered the house.

“Sorry Tony” (Tony was what Antonia’s dad called her when he was in a good mood), but supper won’t be ready for another hour. I just put the meatloaf in the oven, and I’m still waiting for the potatoes to boil.”

“But I’m huuuuuuuuuuungry” Antonia bellowed.

“Well, you’re just going to have to wait.”

“Well, that’s not good at all. My stomach is growling so loud I can barely hear my own thoughts” Antonia thought to herself, “I’m going to find my own husband so that I can have someone to cook my supper.”

“Where can I find a husband,” Antonia wondered to herself.  “I can look at books? Hmmm, Jack in Jack and Jill is too clumsy. He might spill soup or milk when he is cooking my dinner.” Prince Charming? No, he looks like he is dressed for a party or for church all the time. What if I looked at school? 

“Dad, I need the phone.”

“Why?”

“I want to ask a boy that was in my class if he wants to be my husband.”

“No, maybe when you’re older”.

“Ok, then can I ask a girl that was in my class if she wants to be my husband?”

“No, maybe when you’re older” her dad answered mindlessly as he tested the potatoes with a fork.

“Fine,” thought Antonia. “I’ll look somewhere else. Perhaps television will be helpful.”

Antonia went into the living room and turned on the T.V. There seemed to be a curling match taking place on channel 2.  Antonia watched and listened for a few minutes. She didn’t like the yelling the curlers were making “hurry, hard” “sweep faster” began to annoy Antonia and just before she was about to turn the T.V off her heard this wonderfully sonorous voice commenting on the game. “He sounds nice,” thought Antonia to herself. And sat with her chin in her hand to listen to more. It was at a commercial break that Antonia began to wonder what name was attached to the voice she heard. “

“Welcome back to curling corner. My name is Fred Ferguson, and we are in the middle of a riveting game with only 3 shots left.

“Fred”. Antonia said the name aloud. “Fred. That is a very suitable name for a husband.”

 “I should probably learn everything I can about his job so that we have something to talk about over supper”. So, Antonia went to find a notepad and pencil.

Antonia found her notepad and paper and made herself comfortable on the sofa. The curling commenter continued talking about curling and as he did, Antonia took notes. “Rock. Sweep. Key. Ok, I think I’ve got it”. 

After about 10 minutes of listening, Antonia thought she could understand curling enough to have Fred as her husband. Besides, she had lots of stuff of her own to talk to him about. Her job and an EMT, the family dog “Six Toes”, her breadbox playhouse provided lots of stories to share with a husband while he prepared her supper.

Antonia spent a wonderful hour with her new husband. Fred had prepared the most delicious meal. In fact it was her favourite imaginary spaghetti and meatballs!

“Antonia! Supper!” Antonia’s father yelled from the kitchen.

“Sorry, Dad, but I’m not hungry,” Antonia replied, wiping her face with a napkin after eating her supper.

“But you were complaining you were hungry an hour ago. Did you sneak a snack when I wasn’t looking?” Asked her father.

“No, my husband made me supper” Antonia retorted as she attempted to make her way out the door to play with Six Toe.

“Just wait there, young lady. Go wash your hands and sit yourself at the table.”

“Argh, alright. But it would be very rude of you not to invite Fred to dinner.” 

Antonia’s dad blinked at her in confusion. You want to invite who for supper?”

“ Fred. My husband.”

“Fred? Ohhhhkay’. So Antonia’s father squeezed an extra placemat, plate, fork, spoon and knife between Antonia and her sister Arabella.. 

“Who is sitting here?” Arabella asked, gesturing to the extra plate as she plunked herself down at the table.

“That place is reserved for Fred. He is my husband if you must know. He cooks me supper when I’m hungry.

“You’re so weird” Arabella muttered under her breath as she filled her glass with milk.

Every day, after Antonia had finished working as an EMT, she would come home and find Fred on the television. Fred was a very reliable husband. Antonia would turn on the television right at 6:45and there he was. “Hello, Fred. How was your day?”. Fred didn’t really answer her questions so Antonia would have to come up the answers herself. “That’s wonderful, Fred. I’m so glad your friend Bob is recovering from bonking his head on the ice. I do hope he will be out of the hospital soon and back at work soon.” 

Fred was lovely to have around for the remainder of the summer. By the end of the holidays, when school was about to start, Antonia often forgot about her husband and was starting to get excited about fourth grade. One Saturday afternoon, just before the beginning of the school year, Antonia turned on the television to watch Fred at work. Lo and behold Antonia could not find Fred on any of the channels. 


“Hmmmm. I wonder what happed to Fred?  He’s always here waiting for me at this time of day,. Oh well, I guess he had better things to do.” Antonia was momentarily melancholy thinking about how wonderful a husband Fred had been, but then she got distracted by the smell of fresh cookies coming from the kitchen. Her father was back to school baking!

“Would Fred like a cookie or two”, her father asked as Antonia came into the kitchen for her cookie. 

“No. I’ve decided I don’t have time in my life for a husband now that I am going into the fourth grade. I’ll be too busy with my friends.”

“Well just in case you change your mind, here is an extra cookie just in case you run into Fred”. 

“Thanks, Dad!” said Antonia and as she left, she shoved both of the cookies into her mouth.