Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon

Tonight is the final day of the best year I've experienced in my life thus far. I thought 2008 was pretty great. I'd spent some of it loving a (new) special someone. I spent the last part of it planning for my own special someone and realizing that dream via In Vitro Fertilization surgery. The fact that the surgery was successful on its first attempt was mindblowing and 2008 ended feeling the kick of a baby inside me that December for the very first time in my life (fourth pregnancy, first kick).

2009. Now there's a year that will be tough to beat. Hard to imagine topping the joy of experiencing the burgeoning of an unexpected (though hoped for) pregnancy and the elation of pushing your first child between your legs out into the world after you believed for more than a decade that you were infertile...2009 was one damned good year.

But that doesn't mean I'm not optimistic. I think 2010 promises a plethora of wonder and laughter and joy yet to come in my life thanks to my beautiful, blossoming son.

He's asleep right now in his crib, arms curled around the little, white, fluffy bunny one of his aunts gave him. There is a roaring fire in the woodstove and I'm getting ready to open a tiny bottle of bubbly and drop a couple of blackberries into the glass. At around 11:45 p.m., I will lift him silently out of his crib and try to keep him asleep while I dress him in his snowsuit. Then I'm going to wrap us both up and take him out onto the back deck for when midnight strikes so we can keep the pines company and get a clear glimpse of the moon.

See, tonight, on this very special New Year's Eve, a blue moon will be shining brightly, illluminating the start of 2010. And you know what they say about blue moons. They only come around once in a...well, you know. A blue moon happens when there are two full moons in one calendar month. But it's pretty rare for them to happen on New Year's Eve. That's about once in a generation.

The last time there was a blue moon on a New Year's Eve, I was 23 years old, just about to turn 24. Another decade had begun. It was December of 1990. The following year would be pretty damn special itself:  the summer of '91, I get lost on my own in the fog for hours on the Southwest coast of Ireland and this mystical experience affects me greatly; my outlook, my spirit, my future. That same summer, I head to England to study Yeats and Other Irish Poets as well as Modern British Drama at Cambridge University towards my English degree back home. It's the last time I see my Aunt Rita alive and spend time with her. That autumn, I finally begin the degree I truly want to pursue (Drama) and as winter nears, I meet my first love. Like I say, 1991 held some extraordinarily special moments. I was still so young, still figuring out my life the last time a blue moon happened on New Year's Eve. I still had my whole life ahead of me, so to speak.

I'm hoping I still have a good chunk of life ahead of me now. Haven't figured it out yet, but I'm winging it as I go and enjoying myself. And tonight feels extra special.

We're having a quiet New Year's, my son and I. I just wanted to share it alone with him. In this old farmhouse that I'll be sad to leave but must come spring.

Ending my marriage almost 3 years ago was the first of several monumental changes that have happened since in my life; becoming a mother not being the least, but the greatest, in every respect.

The next time a blue moon occurs on New Year's Eve, it will be 2028. My son will be 19 years old. I doubt he'll be spending that particular New Year's with me, but I know what I'll be doing. I'll be remembering tonight, the last time there was a blue moon, a second full moon, in the calendar month of December. The night of our first New Year's together. The night I held him as ma wee 7 1/2 month old laddie in my arms. The night I bundled him up against the cold and the snow and we strolled outside to gaze up at the rural sky above the farmhouse that was his first home (and mine).

And I'll be happy to remind him that the exuberant brightness of the full moon that night was still dull in comparison to the sonshine that he is, lighting up my arms and my heart and my soul and my life the way he has and, I'm sure, will continue to for many years to come. Yes, I think 2010 promises to be one amazing year! Though, with all the candles I have lit in this farmhouse, 2010 may never hold a candle to how wondrous 2009 was for me. Still, it may yet prove me wrong. ;)

At least this New Year's Eve, I can smile and truthfully sing,
Blue Moon, now I'm no longer alone...
without a dream in my heart,
without a love of my own...

Happy New Year, everyone!
All the best of health and happiness to you and yours in 2010...

Maternity Photography: Mattitude Photography
Music: Blue Moon, Ella Fitzgerald

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


There is a wall of cloud tonight as I race to the grocery store in the next town over and pick up some Indian take-out on the way home. It's one of the many things I love about living rurally. That you can often witness the approach of weather. Plus, the clouds towering in the sky like that make me imagine they are the shadows of the mountains I miss in British Columbia.

The way snow can whirl around and appear to stand and walk across the road in front of you is magical.  Over the field to my right, a funnel of the white stuff skips across the broken stalks toward a line of towering cedars. Ghostly fairies holding hands, dancing in a ring.

When I get home, the snowsquall arrives in full force. I love to hear there is a "weatherwatch" on the radio. Sometimes there is nothing I like better than to watch the weather from indoors and, in the winter, it's like the flickering of celluloid; some old, black-and-white classic unfolding through my window.

Actually, there is one thing I love just as much as watching the weather: hearing it; listening to the wind howl and the snow blow around as though my house is floating out at sea suddenly. I wonder what my son thinks of the wind whistling at him and rattling the windows as I lay him in his crib for the night. Sipping some hot cocoa, the logfire in the woodstove warms my eyes and, as I retire myself, the sweeping sound of this squall tonight makes me burrow a bit deeper under the blankets.

Tomorrow morning, my car will likely be buried and I must await the plow to dig out my driveway before I can go anywhere, though the feeling of being snowbound rurally out here is both magical and humbling. Like Mother Nature giving us both (and this old, fieldstone farmhouse) one massive, snowy hug...

How I love winter!

Music: Let It Snow, Dean Martin

Monday, December 28, 2009

Old Flame (Part I)

Last night, I saw a very old flame. Excitement coursed through my veins. Seeing this flame took my breath away. I almost cried.

I was standing on the curb of my hometown, right beside the railway tracks that go through uptown and that's when this flame ran by me and sent a shiver down my spine right into my toes.

This was one torch that has been carried a long time and, ever since, all I keep thinking about is Vancouver.

This flame was first rekindled in 1928.

What? Yeah, I know. I wasn't alive then. (Or was I? Reincarnation is one neato idea.)

The flame was originally lit in 776 BC. We're talking one OLD flame. Some guy stole some fire from another guy. Kay, they weren't mortal or anything, but it's a symbol. Prometheus gifted the fire to humankind much to Zeus' chagrin and the first Olympic games in ancient Greece lit a flame to represent that achievement, in the heart of humankind and under its feet. To inspire us all to be chariots of fire. If they had couches back then, this was the original symbol to inspire people to get off it. Get active. Get Olympic!

Yes, last night, Sonshine and I witness history in the making. A piece of history and, simultaneously, a piece of the future. We watch the Olympic torch relay wind its way toward the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Before the torch runs through the streets of town, people line up to stand and have their photo taken holding it. Unfortunately, my crappo camera is acting up again (besides which, I'm newly hoping to get over holding another torch I'm now trying to extinguish). Plus, the lineup is considerably longer than the 500 metre dash. Consequently, I wheel my son's stroller up to the spot where photos are being taken. I am on my way to one sister's home because another sister has finally flown in from out East and last night is our official Christmas family get-together. Our immediate family (siblings, their spouses and children and my mother and father) total 25 people right now. It's no small celebration when we gather. And I am already running late because I want to see the torch. I am determined that my son see the torch.

I wheel him up to the photography booth and, quickly between shoots, I call out to the woman in the booth. I say, "I have a big family and we're holding our Christmas celebration tonight." I say, "My camera isn't working. I wonder if you'd let my son touch the torch? Just touch it?" She smiles at me. Her name, I learn is Katia. And the next thing I know, the Olympic relay torch is carefully thrust into my baby's stroller. I take his tiny hand and help him stroke it for a few seconds and quite a large lump forms in my throat. I have a camera on my cell phone that works, but I don't even bother to try to capture this moment in any other way. It is just too grand to record digitally.

We then hurry over to our spot as the streets are already lining with crowds to catch the torch make its way out West. There are people even on the roof of the parkade. The trees along King St. have had blue lights strung through them for weeks, but they seem to glow even brighter with the energy of the mass of people who gather beneath them. Only an hour before, I was complaining to a Starbucks barista that we hadn't had enough snow to my liking by the time Christmas rolled around. I am sitting indoors, sipping my latté, waiting for festivities to begin, when the snow starts to fall from the sky. The flakes are Olympic sized and my heart leaps to see them. I bundle my beautiful son up for the big event and we leave the warmth of lattés and leisure behind. We literally get up off the couch and race into the cold.

Today I learn that the idea to relay the Olympic torch on its way to the host city of the Games is credited to Carl Diem who introduced it for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. In 1902, at the ripe old age of 20, Diem is hired by the German Sports Authority for Athletics and, a year later, sits on its board of directors. Wikipedia further states that Diem "was an ardent believer in the heroic Olympian ideal, and in the contributions that international sport could make to harmony between nations". Berlin, as a result of Diem's hard work and dedication to sport, is named host city by the IOC two years before the Nazis take power. Diem is terrified when Hitler comes to reign that his dream of the Games in Berlin will be crushed. Hitler instead is convinced by Goebbels, his propaganda minister, to use the Games as an opportunity to flaunt and affirm Aryan superiority to the rest of the world.

Things don't go exactly as planned for old Adolf when Jesse Owens wins four gold medals. (Talk about a heroic Olympian ideal!)

Carl Diem is described as a devoted disciple of Baron Pierre de Courbetin, the founder of modern-day Olympics, begun (again) in Athens in 1896.

de Courbetin writes, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Wow. Amen.

Of the torch itself, he writes, "May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic Torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure."

Citius, Altius, Fortius
(Swifter, Higher, Stronger)

That's the Olympic motto, also penned by de Courbetin.

There is a hush for a moment and then a roar of cheering when the actual torch comes into sight. I push his stroller forward a bit and gasp. There it is. The Olympic flame!

After the torch lights up the irises of my son bundled in his buggy, we run, ourselves, back through King Street to our car to join my family celebration. I feel like a salmon struggling against a tide of people wanting to pull us in the opposite direction. My heart is singing. And I can tell I'm not the only one. Everyone who came to see the torch is smiling. To a man. They're giggling, laughing. They're giddy. I look at the light still glowing in my son's denim-coloured eyes.

The torch has lit something inside of everybody who witnessed its passing.

I think it's safe to say they are more enthusiastic.
More courageous, somehow.
That what their hearts carry this moment is somehow more pure.

Otherwise known as Olympic spirit.

It's catching! Grab some of it yourself if you can...

Music: Chariots of Fire theme, Vangelis

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Gift

When I was a little girl, my mother would take my twin sister and I with her on Saturday mornings to shop at the Kitchener Farmer's Market. This is the oldest farmer's market in Canada, founded over 130 years ago by Mennonite settlers to the area. We have four older siblings, but this is a special morning only my twin and I spend with my mum, weaving around tables, ogling merchandise at eye-level, wondering how our wise Irish mother knows one cabbage is better than another. She teaches us how to feel if an avocado is ripe, but not overripe, and what fruits make the best pies and jams. A lot of the vendors sell locally farmed produce obviously, but other vendors specialize in craft sales. One table in particular is my favourite: handmade clothes for Barbie dolls.

Now, I don't remember the Christmas I was given my first Barbie doll, but I do recall what she looked like. Blue eyes. Shoulder-length brown hair. Pale pink lips. I recall being a little weirded out that her toes were slightly webbed between the digits. Years later, I watch Local Hero and smile to myself.

Sometimes, if there is a special day nearing (like our birthday or Christmas) and, other times, for no special reason at all other than being the Best Mom in the World, my mother walks us across the street after the market jaunt to a German bakery for some tea and dessert. Because even though my mother is one phenomenal baker, she can concede (along with the rest of the planet) that the local German women in town make strudel much better than she ever could herself. It is on one of these extra special Saturdays, I notice a satin Barbie dress at my favourite vendor's table. It is the soft, dusty colour of pink roses that are dying. A colour sometimes found in clouds during a July sunset after it rains. A burnt, rosy blush.

For about a month and a half worth of Saturdays at least, I craftily steer my mother around the tables at the farmer's market towards the Barbie clothes and point at the dress and beg her to buy it for me. Each attempt proves futile and I am firmly told, "No." One Saturday morning, I veer her there and my heart sinks. The dress is gone. Sold. Someone else's Barbie will don it. It is four or five months later when I unwrap a gift under the Christmas tree and there is the dress! Along with comic timing, ripe avocadoes and how to make a perfect cup of tea, my mother teaches me the ecstasy of the element of surprise. Also, that patience is a great virtue to hone.

I remember being about 8 when I get a Barbie camper for Christmas. My twin gets the airplane cabin. The smell of new Barbie paraphernalia does for girls what new car smell does for adults. We have endless fun camping, then flying. Flying then camping. Flying to camping. Camping out on the way to the airport to fly away. Every day is a vacation, it seems. That is, until my brother sits on my Barbie "accidentally" one afternoon and her boobs indent. I didn't even realize this was possible. After this unfortunate event, even the handsewn clothes wouldn't exactly fit her. All those special, pointy darts in the tops to accommodate Barbie's bosom. I start dressing her in the fatigues of my brother's old GI Joe. They fit better. The next Christmas, I ask for a Barbie Jeep.

My first bicycle for Christmas is indelible. Its pink banana seat and streamers on the handlebars. Awesome!

The Adidas track suit, robin egg blue with navy stripes, is another favourite gift. Yes, in fact, I was a dork. Why do you ask?

When I'm just about to turn 15, the brother closest to me in age gives me the Christmas present I want the most: the Foreigner '4' album (on vinyl, naturally). I like to fantasize in my angst-filled, teenage heart that Mick Jones has been waiting for a girl just like me. The feeling surpasses even the summer three years before when my brother buys Get the Knack at a booth on the midway at the Canadian National Exhibition and I wish secretly that my name is Sharona.

So many Christmases I can recall now. Each with some special gift I remember receiving.

Let me be honest. In my 30s and for about a decade, I have loathed when December would roll around. Back in 1998, it happened to be the month the first baby I lost was due to be born. The last six years, December was also the month I learned I miscarried my second baby. On the 24th of December, 2003. That Christmas in particular is bittersweet as my twin sister gives birth to her second son a week or so earlier. She has a homebirth, the second one of hers I attend and I recall holding his perfect newborn form in my arms, thinking how exciting it is that we are having children seven months apart. The next week my husband and I don't attend any Christmas celebrations. We walk around the house for weeks dazed in grief. Moving around the rooms like zombies, holding each other for brief, wordless hugs and then moving apart again. Toast is all we can summon up the energy to ingest for Christmas dinner. Cups of tea, tiny balms to the soul.

You would think now that I'm over 40, Christmas couldn't necessarily hold the same kind of magic it once did when I was but a wee girl. Especially after dreading the month of December and its shadows for so long. But you'd be wrong.

This Christmas surpassed every one I've ever known!

The most amazing gift I've ever been given is the feel of my darling, bouncy boy in my arms. The sight of him reaching out so gently, almost timidly, to touch the tree ornaments. Gazing up at Santa with an open mouth and wide eyes, in silent awe over the length of his beard. The sound of contagious fits of giggles while I sing carols to him at feeding time.

Mary had nothing on me when it comes to celebrating the arrival of one very special son.

I hope you've all been given what you've dreamed of under the tree and that 2010 holds much more magic in store for all of us!

(I think that's pretty much guaranteed for me.) :)

Music: Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy, Bing Crosby and David Bowie

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice

Decorated the tree today. Just some images to wish you all a warm, merry and bright Solstice!

Music: Here Comes the Sun, The Beatles

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Blackberry Bog

Plans to go get ourselves a tree today were almost thwarted by the fact that my car died last night. I was 2 kilometres from home when several mishaps occur simultaneously: the "ABS" light came on, then the "Check Engine" warning (never a good sign) and "At Oil Temp" lit up, the headlights were snuffed out, the speedometer failed, the left turn indicator refused to flash and the radio/CD/iPod player became mute (the least of my worries by then). I think the car made it into my driveway through pure adrenaline at that point and I was saying a silent prayer of thanks for reaching home and not having to pull Sonshine out of his car seat and struggle to stroll him through snowy gravel to reach our rural farmhouse along a stretch of road where cars and trucks regularly go 80kms/hr.

I awake this morning saddened to think we may not have a tree up in time for the Winter Solstice tomorrow, never mind by Christmas Day on Friday when the phone rings. Brother-in-law to the rescue! My twin sister's husband, Geoff, a gem of a man, refuses to allow my son's first Yuletide and Christmas to pass without a proper tree under which to store his presents. Hooray!


Geoff arrives early afternoon with some Timmy Horton's coffee for the road and after finagling the switch of car seat from my automobile to his, we take off for Blackberry Bog. This is a Christmas Tree farm on some acreage near my home owned and operated by a jolly fellow named Stan. Basically, you wander through the woods, find your Yule or Christmas tree and cut it down yourself. The cost of purchasing the tree goes toward planting new ones for future harvesting.

When we arrive Stan is standing beside the fire that keeps him warm with a beautiful Scottish tam on his head. Last year when I went Yule tree hunting on my own, I was about 25 weeks pregnant and Stan accompanied me, cut down my tree, hauled it back to the car and stuffed it in for me. What a sweetheart! He belongs to the same local bagpipe band that my neighbour's son, Sam, plays for and they perform at the Fergus Highland Games each year. The sound of Sam practicing his pipes in the back field during the summer evenings is something I will sorely miss once I move next spring. But bagpipes, besides being melodic, carry a haunting sound so I will happily be haunted by them once I leave here.

Sonshine isn't sure what to make of a trek through the woods on a snowy afternoon, especially with his Uncle Geoff brandishing that saw. We make our way through a good number of evergreens and spruce, but have to veer to a different spot for my favourite kind of Yule tree: a Scotch pine.

Part of the original tradition of Yule logs is that people would choose a special tree each year, cut it down, bring it into the home and decorate it. The following winter, they would then use the log of that tree (or the whole of the tree) as the first wood to burn in the hearth. It was a kind of homage to the cycle of the sun; deference to the tree itself, the Goddess and the Winter Solstice, the 'birth' of the Sun on the longest night of the year. Many Christmas traditions hail from earlier pagan traditions and the Yule log is an especially lovely one. I will miss burning the log of this pine in my current woodstove next winter, but perhaps I'll have another woodstove in my new home, whereever we end up!


Marching through the woods, we find a suitable Scotch pine. Trees are among my favourite things on the planet, so it is with great reverence that I whisper a little prayer of thanks to the tree for allowing my laddie and I to take it back home with us. Sonshine eyes Geoff as he cuts the pine down and then we head back to Stan and the car. Geoff secures the tree to the car roof while I strap a sleepy boy into the carseat.

By the time we get home, dusk is nearing. Geoff turns down the offer of hot chocolate so he can try to stay ahead of the darkness of rural roads once the sun sets. My son is fast asleep on the cushion where he lays and I gaze out the window at my car, sigh and smile.

The scent of pine needles soothes my soul. Tomorrow, the darkest day of the year, will be a little brighter now and we will have fun decorating this beautiful Scotch pine in time to celebrate the Solstice.

Thank you, Uncle Geoffy!
Thank you, God and Goddess both.
Thank you, Scotch pine for bringing beauty to my home.
And to the season.

Here's wishing you all a bright and beautiful Solstice!
Happy, happy holly days!

Music: Charlie Brown Christmas Dance, Vince Guaraldi

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Black Ice

I'm writing this from my parents' kitchen table. It's 11:34p.m. and I'm staying over as I live a long drive away.

And other winters, other snowy nights, I'd have risked the drive back home myself. HAVE risked it. Many winters. Many other snowy nights. But I never had a baby in a carseat those winters. So I err on the side of caution tonight.

Sonshine and I were in town this evening when the snow starts falling pretty steadily and black ice forms. I had some errands to run and put him in his stroller, bundled under blankets while he and I skate around the sidewalks by foot and wheels in Uptown. These are the kind of snowy nights I adore (when one is not driving in them). It is the type of night where people who are going a little too fast in their cars when they thought they were going slow enough still skid into the intersection. So, not a good night for driving, but an absolutely stunning night to be walking/skating around amazed at the beauty of the season. (I'll add some photos when I get home tomorrow.)

This year they built a new gathering centre in the square for people to congregate and, new this winter, skate in a public, outdoor skating rink! Next to the rink stands a regal evergreen all alight and the outline of a flashing train glows alongside the train tracks which wind right through the middle of town. Trains still chug through there. I love when that happens! It's not often, but all the traffic has to stop while the train slowly crosses town through the main thoroughfare. Even as I write this, just now I hear the whistle of a train in the distance. It's an absolute crime to me that someone had the bright idea to decrease train travel in this country. To rip up railway ties and dismantle miles of tracks, remove routes and convert train stations into little stores and such. Europe got it right. Even when I've visited Chicago on and off the last twenty years since moving from just outside The Windy City in the early 80s back up to Canada, little towns are connected by rail to the famous Loop. Trains are my favourite method of travel and it's so magical hearing that train in the distance tonight. Something I don't get to hear at all where I live now. It's in my blood though. My love of it. My grandfather drove trains all around Ireland.

As I write this, both my parents are asleep. And my boy is asleep in the playpen in their living room. The couch has been made up for me. I insisted. There's a guestroom downstairs with a proper bed and everything, but I prefer to sleep by the Christmas tree, all lit up.

And tonight, my thoughts turn to Tracey. She had just turned 20, the night she and her boyfriend attended her parents' 25th wedding anniversary. She was the first official friend I made my first year of university. I was sat alone in my dorm room when there came a knock on the door. I opened it to a fresh-faced, smiling girl who said, "want to come to my room for popcorn and smarties?" To this day, I mix smarties in with my popcorn. Try it. It's outstanding. The heat of the popcorn melts the chocolate a little and it's all sweet and salty. Just perfect. Like her.

During our second year, I didn't see that much of Tracey. She was in Math and I was in English. And her dorm room had been assigned further away from mine. But I bumped into her sometime in March of our second year at the student centre and we bought ice cream cones together. She was down when I spoke with her. She was in the co-op program and she'd been placed for a summer job. But the job itself dissolved. The computer still had her recorded as having been placed though, so she hadn't been considered for another job and wasn't sure she'd find one or be placed in time for the next term. She was worried about it. She also confessed that she hated Math. That she was doing it because it was the program her parents wanted her to take. I could somewhat relate. Even though I liked English, I had wanted to study Theatre, but my parents did not want me to pursue that degree. They felt it would be a waste of time and not a dependable degree to acquire. It would be later that I realized the irony of the ice cream flavour she'd chosen: Heavenly Hash. It is the last time I see her alive. It's the Tuesday or Wednesday when we bump into each other and share the ice cream. By Saturday, she will be killed returning from her parents' anniversary party in Newmarket. Her boyfriend is driving. They will hit a patch of black ice, enter the oncoming lane and collide with another car head-on. When he turns to speak to her post impact, she will already be dead. Twenty years of age.

When I was in second year, I still hadn't stopped going to church yet. I was trying to give the Catholic faith a final chance even though I knew pretty much by then in my heart it was no longer for me. That Sunday, I recall waking up and not going to church in the morning. There is a 5:00 p.m. service I can catch later that day. And that's what I did. The strange thing was that I visit my parents. And they weren't home so I do their dishes while waiting for them to return from church that morning. And with my hands in soapy water, I am suddenly overcome with tears and have to sit down and let myself have a good cry. And just as suddenly, the feeling leaves me. I remember feeling odd and shocked at what had overcome me, unlike any prior crying session I'd ever had where I knew the reason. I finish drying the dishes. It's that evening when I attend the service at the campus chapel with a friend, a Chinese student named Mary, that I hear Tracey's name announced. During the service it's announced that she's been killed tragically the night before. I'm sure I've heard the name wrong. Your mind plays whatever tricks it wants to sometimes while you are grappling with the truth of what you hear or see. I approach the priest at the end of the service and ask about the girl who died. And he says, "I know she was from Niagara." And I knew it was Tracey. MY Tracey.

That Sunday, the temperature is unseasonably warm for March. All the black ice from the night before has melted. Disappeared. Just as she has. I had a real problem with God for a while after that. And I left university for a few years. Tracey had been unhappy. She'd spent the last two years of her very young life doing something she didn't have her heart set on and I didn't want to waste another moment of my life doing something I wasn't sure my heart was crazy about either. Years later I would complete what was required for a Joint Honours English AND Theatre B.A. and graduate to pursue acting because of Tracey.

Needless to say, I miss her. It's 22 years since she's been gone. And every time there is black ice, I think on her. And if I could right now, I'd make a big batch of popcorn like I sometimes do. And I'd sprinkle it with smarties. It's the way I celebrate her and her memory. It's the way I let HER know that I miss her and am thinking of her.

I only had that feeling again one other time since years later. The feeling of being overcome and racked with sobbing without knowing why and then it suddenly passing from my body. The second time was also connected to a death I would learn of within 24 hours of experiencing it. It is the kind of thing I dread to feel again. Seems to be some kind of physiological/emotional/spiritual beacon inside me, warning me of the approach of bad news. Of sad news. I hope not to be gripped by it again.

Tracey's loss was the first I'd experienced of someone my own age dying. It taught me valuable lessons I have carried in my life, thankful to have lived the life I have when others have had theirs cut short far too young. Lessons like not to risk bad weather like tonight. Lessons like definitely taking the sort of risks such as leaving university for a time and pursuing one's dreams.

I look at my sleeping son and know full well in the depths of my heart that whatever he wishes to pursue in his life will never be my agenda, but his own. I want him to live each moment happy and with his own purpose, driven by his own dreams. He's dreaming now, his little mouth moving in his sleep. A smile. Maybe he's talking to Tracey and she's talking with him. I've been writing/editing for over an hour now. There goes the train whistle again. My cue to head to bed.

Beside the tree. All lit up.
It's a comfort right now to see it. Aglow like that.
Like her smile the first time I ever saw her.

Keep safe out there, everyone.
Keep warm and keep safe.

Music: Barricades of Heaven, Jackson Browne

Thursday, December 10, 2009


  1. Meteorology.
    1. a condition, found in polar regions, in which uniform illumination from snow on the ground and from a low cloud layer makes features of the landscape indistinguishable.
    2. a condition of heavily falling or blowing snow in which visibility is very poor.
  2. an act or instance of whiting out with a correction fluid.
  3. a white correction fluid used for this: a bottle of whiteout.
  4. a mistake, as in typing, that has been whited out with a correction fluid.
Winter is my second favourite season, after autumn. There is something so clean and crisp about new fallen snow. And it does have the same effect as whiting out the past. A new snowfall is a fresh start. It wipes away old mistakes. It is a clean slate. Perhaps this is why the ancient Celts began their year with winter approaching. The Celtic New Year is celebrated on November 1st, when the earth is dying. Winter is the season of the wise and wizened crone. When the sun is born on the winter solstice. Yuletide. The longest night of the year gives birth to the beginning of longer days as the sun begins to stretch and lengthen his fingers towards the longest day of the year, the summer solstice.

This isn't why I love the winter, though. I do feel a thrill over how the earth is blanketed in white. I adore when boughs are laden, when fences look frosted. But the primary reason I {heart} winter is because it is the season when I've tended to fall deeply in love, to fall with the soft, sensual slowness of huge, fist-sized flakes. The bulk of my memories of feeling first love or new love are tied up somehow with the sound of crunching snow underfoot on a walk holding mittened hands. With the breath of whispered words hanging solid in the cold, crisp air. With the memory of the aurora dancing above a first kiss. Making out to the crackling sound and smoky scent of a logfire burning. The first-time, butterfly-flipping and laughter-drenched lesson on how to do donuts in your car. How a full moon lights up the trees during a midnight cross-country ski. The sparkling blue diamonds of a snowy landscape at dusk when one's heart is filled up to the brim like a steamy mug of hot chocolate.

Whiteouts make for poor visibility. Love is blind.

This is why I love winter. Tis the season for cuddling, snuggling, for bundling up. For seeking warmth. For finding someone to get warm with. And this winter I've my own little bundle to snuggle. To share sticking out of tongues and tasting of snowflakes. To eke out the imprint of angels with flapping arms.
 I look at the snow that fell from the sky last night and painted my landscape a bright, new white. I will let it be my clean slate, the erasure of long-ago mistakes. A new beginning in my breast. And this winter, for the first time, my very own newborn son to celebrate. Yuletide approaches... Hallelujah.
*definition taken from an online dictionary.
Music: River, Joni Mitchell

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sophistry versus Sense

So tonight the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) hosted a screening of the Munk debate on climate change going on live at the University of Toronto and because I'd been given a heads up by a woman involved in what is known as the "evening edition playgroup" (this is a group of moms getting out for a drink and a bite at a local pub on Wednesday nights sans enfants - of course, I bring my sonshine when I attend as I'm still nursing him) and because he and I were already in town, I stroll him over to hear the four speakers hash it out.

A quick aside that it literally astounds me a debate is still going on as to a need for the reduction of carbon emissions at this stage of a very real global warming crisis!

The resolution being debated, and I quote, "“Climate change is mankind's defining crisis, and demands a commensurate response.” Speaking for the PRO side of the debate were Green Party leader, Elizabeth May and environmental activist, George Monbiot. On the CON side, author and professor, Bjorn Lomborg as well as author and former politician, Lord Nigel Lawson.

Now, I've attended a few CIGI events before and it's always a distinct pleasure to walk into the former Seagram's museum that houses this organization. The building itself was part of the original distillery founded by Joseph Seagram in the mid-1800s. It's an architectural masterpiece, visually stunning, and its melding of 19th century copper piping and racks of oak barrels with 21st century technology is both fluid and cozy. It has an old-world vibe with a new-world vision.

Tonight's debate did not disappoint. It got pretty damn lively and both May and Lomberg were actually given a "time out" at one point so they could both calm down a little. May was right on the money about Lomborg's sophistry, in my opinion. He seemed all show and no substance. Of the four speakers, he was the one donning a t-shirt and jeans. No idea if this was simply an attempt to distract his audience into identifying themselves with him and what he was saying or an attempt to put the "cool" in his book, Cool It, which apparently argues a gross, global overreaction to global warming. He made some truly outlandish statements, in my view, leading me to question whether he'd smoked something before coming onstage and inspiring my new nickname for him "Bjorn Yesterday Lomborg". He actually accuses Monbiot, at one point, of wanting to embrace climate change at the expense of human lives. His solution versus focusing on cutting down CO2 emissions? Let's make the poor rich and that will help solve their problems, not focusing on climate change. Gee, why didn't we all think of that before, Lomborg? Let's eradicate poverty and just make the poor rich. Hear, hear, ol chap! Jolly good idea. Not entirely sure what kind of solution he proposes to make this happen since no one seems to have figured out how to resolve that conundrum before. Maybe it's laid out in one of his books. Too bad he came off as such a buffoon or I might have picked one up to see what he had to say. I'd make some more disparaging remarks, but he questions the meaning of the term "disparaging" at one point when he uses it during his own argument. Hmmm. Someone needs to buy a dictionary.

I will point out that I was equally disappointed at times with some of what May was saying. I have voted green the last few times I've marked an "X" so it was not that I disagreed with her, but she repeatedly seemed to verbally stick the finger to Lomborg's shoulder a few too many times, taking away, I thought, from the otherwise well-reasoned argument she was making. I just felt her repeated efforts to discredit Lomborg and single him out distracted from the real power of her statements and I would have liked her to do less fingerpointing and insulting and more focusing on the issue itself. She has style, sophistication and a great voice and she had an amazing platform to let it be heard tonight. Instead, unfortunately, the term "catty" was overheard afterwards in reference to the debate and I was disappointed she undermined herself and her message by getting a bit carried away with her focus on Lomborg as the green thorn in her side.

I found it difficult to make out many of Lawson's statements because he has this old British Establishment habit of mumbling a lot of his words followed by punching the point he wants to make. Maybe I'm biased but I find it very difficult to relate to a) an economist and b) one of his generation having much to say that is enlightened and relevant to the globe now revolving. His argument included that "oil is good and not bad" and climate change will cost too much. Blah blah boring blah. He actually claimed that there is no global warming at all and that the PRO debaters should be happy about this. At one point, he strayed completely off tangent and began to discuss China's focus on oil and where they are buying it all up and how "they're not stupid". I felt both CON speakers came off as people who didn't have their facts straight and were trying to dance a jig to distract from that fact.

Monbiot stole the show for me. He came across as the true voice of reason, never losing his cool and certainly not requiring jeans to enhance it. He made some truly effectual arguments, drawing much from his own experiences and work in Africa and how much climate change has directly affected people there. Kudos to him for a thoughtful, meaningful argument.

Of course, over the two hours the debate was screened, I was dealing with a teething baby, strolling him around the beautiful surroundings, rocking him in my arms and nursing him (not necessarily in that order) until he fell asleep and I could sit and knit (both the poncho I'm working on as a gift and my eyebrows over the points being made). All this made the debate even livelier for me! I could swear his teething outbursts were perfectly timed with what were, in my mind, absolutely ridiculous statements from both CON debaters.

What a smart, l'il Green Man I've got! As if I need another reason to support the fight against global warming and to want to slow climate change. All I have to do is gaze at him now, having safely transferred his slumbering self into his crib when we returned home at 10:00pm.

Let's hope the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen results in a move to make a real difference and an immediate one to reduce carbon emissions!

Music: It's Not Easy Bein' Green, Ray Charles on Sesame Street

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Knitallurgy. It's a science.

Okay, it's more rocker science than rocket science. Actually, at base, it's pretty damn simple. There are only two stitches: a knit and a purl (which is really a backwards knit). Everything else is a variation on those two stitches. It's easy!

I visited a great little store today called Greenwood Quiltery and am once again wrapped up in my current knitting project. The back of the store is devoted to us knitwits. Yarn spills over the shelves and it's like getting lost in a woolen forest. The quilting section of the store is also scrumptious. I wish I knew how to do that. I've never quilted (would LOVE to someday). My friend, Dan, just gifted my sonshine with his first handmade quilt, the theme of which is nursery rhymes and Dan did quite a beautiful job. Giving and receiving gifts that are handmade is one of my favourite things. Those gifts always seem to mean so much more. One of my older sisters, Colette, crocheted a beautiful blanket. Another friend, Zoe, made blankets for my baby shower. My friend, Kasia, sewed up two pairs of pants, and her husband, Graham, used his architectural prowess to handcarve a stack of blocks with holes in the middle and a holder for them, all made of wood. My twin sister handcrafted all the birds to hang around his room and she made him a mommy owl with her baby owl as stuffed toys. How very lucky my little boy is to have such creative aunts and uncles! Beautiful!

One of the best gifts my mother ever gave me was to teach me how to knit when I was but a wee lass of perhaps 8 years old. Nowadays, I find it is a form of manual yoga. Quite the meditative craft. You get into a rhythm and then your thoughts drift away. Maybe it's the click-clack of wooden needles. Maybe it's the deft digital dancing. Knitting is addictive and quite calming, mesmerizing. A craft of solace. And often, solitude.

This North American mentality in which the majority of Canadians and Americans reside has trouble allowing for moments of reflection. People are far too busy filling the hours of their day with technology, commerce, constant communication. Time alone. Time to oneself. It's a luxury I look forward to when I can grab such moments these days. For instance, lately I am REALLY missing yoga. I have yet to find a regular babysitter and there are no classes I've come across which encourage you to bring your 6-month old. So I exercise my hands, my fingers and enter into a trance-like state via knitting.

Not that you needs must knit alone. There are knitting circles gathering everywhere - look up your local bitch n' stitch or start one yourself! A space and place to tell a yarn, share some yarn. I'm thinking of doing just that once I move in the spring. Switch off having a book club one week and a bitch n' stitch another week. Meet some other crafty mums in my area.

So here's my current knitting project: I am creating a cardigan for my son. This is my first knitting project for him and I need to make sure I finish it in time for Winter Solstice (which is the gift-giving December holiday I celebrate - Yuletide). It will be my first handmade gift to him. I want it to be extra special.

Thus far, I'm only finished the back and almost finished the left front. I've a ways to go yet, but it's shaping up nicely. Are any of you out there knitting up something special? Or crafting any gifts for the upcoming holiday season? I'd love to know I'm not the only knitwit out here in blogland!

Music: She Blinded Me with Science, Thomas Dolby

Monday, November 16, 2009

Missing the City

I was 21 years old the first time I lived in Toronto for a two-year period from 1988 through 1990 in an area called Bloor West Village. It's a great community with a large Eastern European population, though perhaps not so much now as twenty years ago when I lived on Windermere. In 1995, I returned to the city again after graduating university with my Joint Honours English/Drama B.A., hoping to pursue an acting career in theatre and film.

This time, I lived East of the Don Valley Parkway at Broadview and Danforth, another great spot. This area, known as Greektown, is home to some amazing Greek restaurants, but it's where you can also find some classic Toronto landmarks like the Danforth Music Hall and Allen's, a truly authentic Irish restaurant-slash-home-away-from-home, whose owner, John Maxwell, sprouted another Irish gem, the Dora Keogh pub, right next door.

The Dora hosts Irish traditional music jam sessions on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Sonshine and I make a brief visit to Bloor West village (and Bread and Roses bakery) before heading out to my other old stomping grounds, the Danforth and the Dora Keogh pub. This beautiful, Irish haven was crawling distance (thankfully) from where I lived for 5 years on Ingham Avenue in a duplex my twin sister and I purchased together, when housing was still affordable in Toronto; a sort of secondary womb for us for a time. And the Dora is where he and I head yesterday to meet with some lovely friends from my past.

The first to show is Darren who directed me in a feature film he also wrote over a decade ago now. The film was an amazing experience and, no surprise, ended up winning Best Feature at the Planet Indie film festival that year. Our shared Celtic heritage served as a kind of "crazy glue" with my sailormouth causing much laughter and catharsis in between takes, apparently. Mutual Irish wit does make for fast friends!

The last time I saw Darren, he and his friend took an autumnal motorcycle ride out of Toronto to visit myself and my ex-husband at our rural abode when we first moved here, maybe 9 years ago now. We kept in touch for a bit after that, but only recently reconnected again after a long absence from communication. Darren is still a truly soulful and insightful guy. We talk as though no time has passed at all, though we've plenty more catching up to do! Sitting there, sipping a pint of Guinness with him over copper tables to the sound of some good Irish fiddle, I realize how much I've missed him over the years and how great it feels to have old friends who never change whenever you reconnect with them. I mean, of course, they change or are changed. Hell knows I've changed! Life happens and events, emotions: so much can make you grow, stretch and transform over Time. But, at the heart's core, old friends whom you value in your life do not change so much. Instead, they remain a continuous thread in the tapestry of your days. It can be woven into different colours or patterns over Time, but also serves as a kind of throughline: a consistency and strength which helps maintain the friendship as special and intact.

Another recent reconnection is with my friend Kate, from university days. Kate shows up at the Dora pub with her husband, Cam, and all three fuss over my wee little laddie and put on a good show: entertaining him with tales, swinging him around and inventing funny faces and sounds. He is in heaven with so much attention showered on him not just from his mum for once! He falls asleep just before Darren splits to catch Where the Wild Things Are and for Kate and Cam and myself to pop next door for a fine dinner at Allen's over some really yummy, Ontario-grown, organic cab-merlot from Frogpond Farm, a Niagara-based vineyard. Lochie sleeps through the entire meal and bubbly conversation, not stirring a peep even amidst quite raucous cackling at moments. What an easy baby he is! And the wonderful company we have meeting up again with these old friends of mine makes the day just about perfect.

Before leaving the city, I speak with a Dora bartender as well as a waitress at Allen's, both new to the city only months ago and they each wax in their sweet, Irish lilt about their love of Toronto, how safe, how varied it is, how welcoming to many cultures, how exciting. As much as I love living rurally and value what the countryside offers me on a daily basis, I make a vow not to make my jaunts to my former urban haunts, or the rest of this amazing city, so few and far between anymore. Toronto is one vast and wondrous melting pot of a creative and artistic place and offers so much for diversion and exploration.

After all these years, I find The Big Smoke still holds its allure. Not the least of which is being home to some of the best people I've met in my life whom I am thrilled to still call my good friends. Midnight has come and gone as we leave the brightness of city lights. The indigo of night turns to stars by the time the wheels hit my gravel driveway again. I step out under a blanket of them as I lift my sleeping son from his carseat into my arms and gaze skyward. Life is good.

Music: Bobcaygeon, Tragically Hip

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Writer Friends

And speaking of knowing other people who blog! I want to mention my friend, Carrie Anne Snyder. She writes a fabulous blog: Obscure CanLit Mama, and she's also a published writer offline, among several writer friends I'm proud to know.

I've been enjoying her work, The Juliet Stories, set in Nicaragua, in the latest issue of The New Quarterly, a magazine which features Canadian writers and writing. They're wonderful! Definitely pick up a copy. Carrie lived in Nicaragua herself when she was younger and she also waxes poetically in the issue about the question so many writers must face (and often fend off somehow): how "autobiographical" one's work is or is not. She also took some amazing photography while down there and one of her photos graces the cover of this latest issue. Yum!

A couple of Thursdays ago, Carrie read some of her published work aloud locally at the Art Bar in Kitchener. I, unfortunately, could not attend as I was taking my sonshine and a friend to a concert of the Skydiggers the same night at a local cinema. I hear I missed an amazing read and look forward to the next opportunity that will feature Carrie, as I'm sure, one cannot be long in coming.

Do check her out. She writes candidly, poignantly and humourously about raising four beautiful, redheaded kids, as well as food, politics, feminism and so much more. I find her blog truly enlightening and always a breath of fresh air.

And I feel especially blessed and lucky to call her a local pal o' mine. She's as inspiring a person in person as she is onscreen/on the page. Kudos, Carrie!

I last saw Carrie when my son and I attended Bookstravaganza: an evening of authors and poets reading from their published works at a local club. It was a great night and I want to give a shout out to another lovely person and talented writer, David Derry, with whom I shared a wonderful conversation afterwards and who has just had his first book, Sentimental Exorcisms, published by Coach House Books. Check him out, too, while you're at it. Some truly inventive and funny stuff.

I wish I could go on in more depth, but I've a wee one calling me and we're heading out of town today together for another adventure. Stay tuned...

Music: Every Day I Write the Book, Elvis Costello

Friday, November 13, 2009

Half a Year

My son turned 6 months old this week. How did that even HAPPEN? As I was nursing him in a local coffee shop I frequent, a pregnant woman walked by the window and I could recall so vividly the feeling of carrying that round belly, the weight of him inside me, suspended in water, the rolling, the hiccuping. The sheer Joy of it. Wasn't it only yesterday that I dreamt about what I get to do now on a daily basis: lift his sweet, smiling self out of a crib each morning? Wasn't it only a month or so ago, I pushed him, wriggling and kicking, out between my limbs? Surely not HALF A YEAR ago?

Turning 6 months old was a milestone for his diet, as well. This is the first week he got to eat actual FOOD (other than boob-milk or formula supplement). I was concerned about how he'd react. For one thing, the day of delivery, when my water broke, the midwife had detected meconium in it. That was the reason I didn't end up having a homebirth. It's a baby's first bowel movement and it can be pretty serious if the baby has swallowed or inhaled it in utero. I was rushed to the hospital as a result. The presence of meconium also meant that, within his first few seconds of life, instead of the doctor thrusting his squirmy, newborn body on top of mine with the cord still intact until it stopped beating so that we could bond immediately, he was severed from me right away and rushed to a sidetable to have his trachea suctioned. Imagine this is your first experience of life outside the womb: you've just begun breathing for the first time, a new experience in itself, and something is forced into your mouth to vacuum out your throat. It can be pretty traumatic on a little person. And having something new/strange thrust into his mouth may not be his favourite thing in the world after such trauma.

So I wondered how he'd react to a) the spoon and b) the rice cereal, itself. He was very brave. Obviously the texture was different for him. But he opened his mouth and continued to test it and digest it. As well, he messed it. All over his mouth, his hands, his bib, even his hair. It was a thrill to watch him figure it all out, this eating stuff. This isn't sucking. This is hmmmm...chewing. Moving around in the mouth. The texture is...creamy, yet somehow slightly lumpy. Substance. Not liquid. Hmmmmm...mmmmmm. Yummmmmm?

In June of 2007, I traveled to Guatemala with Habitat for Humanity (something I've yet to properly devote a blog or two towards and will hope to rectify soon). Our group bookmarked the construction of two homes in San Marcos in the West with a stay in Antigua at the beginning and end of the trip. We found a beautiful (and affordable) breakfast place there (photos of which I took below) and I remember ordering what is known as "mosh" in a cup or bowl. Mosh is, essentially, oatmeal with milk and a little cinnamon. It reminded me of a cereal my mother used to make me when I was a little girl: Cream of Wheat. The rice cereal I fed my son this week had the same consistency.

And he seems to like it! A victory on the food front and considering his rough start seconds after being born. But he is a baby very open to trying new things and widening his horizons.

My parents and his aunt oooo'd and ahhhhh'd over his talent for gobbling up this Brave New World of real live food. We held a little "half-birthday" party to celebrate him turning half a year. Wow. I can feel the tiremarks burned into the road, here. Where has the Time gone?


The other equally lovely part of today was meeting a woman whose blog I've only recently discovered and, even more recently, learned that she's in my locale. She is the talented and hilarious "blogHer", Mimi on the Breach, and, after introducing herself via a comment on my blog (post me initially leaving a comment on her blog), we ran into each other today and got to shake hands offline! What a thrill to put a face to the blog (and such a lovely face, too)! I never believe in happenstance or just plain old coincidence. I think connections are made like this for reasons unknown. All the connections in my life are important to me and I know they contribute to enhancing my life in some way: either through a lesson learned, a desire or need fulfilled, an opportunity for growth or revelation or just plain old fun, a new friend made. Could the day get any better, but then I discover she wrote about me on her much traveled blog, pointing people in my direction? How very generous and lovely! Thanks, Mimi. I very mosh appreciate it! You're bloggy wonderful!

My son is sleeping in his crib as I "pen" this, dreaming no doubt of food, glorious food. Whether in one's mouth or on one's cardigan ;), all in all, a very yummy day!

Music: Food, Glorious Food, Oliver!