Thursday, November 25, 2010


The third night in our new home, I hear the police siren. Or an ambulance. Fire truck, maybe. Though, I think I can differentiate. That it took three days surprises me.

Two weeks pass before the patter of mouse in the walls conjures a smirk. Guess if you move from one farmhouse to another, even if it's from a rural to an urban setting, there's no escaping the little creatures. Particularly not as the trees strip themselves bare. We all seek warmth once that happens.

Admittedly, I haven't heard him since.

Tonight is the first night I miss my old farmhouse. Not because of the mouse that kept me company there on and off. Nor because I wish I were back there. I love where we now reside. It's 'cause rain is falling as I lie in bed and type this. My son snores softly in the next room, oblivious to the storm stirring outside. Water droplets hit the roof as hard as they can, but see, this roof isn't made of tin. I sigh.

The wind howls like an injured wolf. In their frames, my bubbled glass rattles. Three or four days ago it was 13 degrees celcius here. A balmy day for late November and highly unusual. Moreso because Vancouver, which generally prides itself as the warmer climate, has been inundated with snow the past week. Mother Nature flipped her eggtimer upside down and reversed the status quo for the moment.

Is that my recycling bouncing all over the front porch? I'm afraid to check in case I get clocked by a can of Guinness. My uncle would have said there are worse ways to die than that, even if it's empty of black gold. My eyes jump to the ceiling as the roof moans. I tell myself hurricanes don't happen in the winter. Of course, in the winter, what happens are snowsqualls. And that is what the weather calls for tonight. That old witch's got one wicked courier service and she's delivering right on time.

One sound I never heard lying in my former abode is car wheels splashing through rain puddles as they pass. Hail showers against the glass, as though some giant is wandering through the streets and hurling tiny pebbles at the second-story windows of homes.

I think about Dorothy. At least I have some red footwear if the house is lifted up into the eye of some tornado. I've traded my rural wellies for something a tad more civilized. Still, I wonder where we'd land?

The tin roof I mourn. Crickets, too. But one sound erases any regret I may feel (and I don't feel much at all about having left my rural habitat). It's one I haven't heard for a decade: the train whistle. My new home is close enough to tracks that when that whistle blows, its haunting notes reach through the panes and caress my cheek, wipe any tears away, touch my lips. Close my lids.

I am lulled to sleep as the train rolls through town and its wheels meet the small space that divides each separate rail. Cli-clack. Cli-clack. Cli-clack.

My grandfather on my father's side drove trains all around Ireland. The love of them is in my blood, I guess. Passed down through the genes. Trains are the sound of home to me. As though it's my heart the engineer opens and shovels coal into, stoking the flames higher. Despite hail, sleet, snowsquall, mice, we are safe. We are cozy. We are home now. Finally, my body surrenders to slumber.

"Goodnight," whisper the train wheels as they kiss the steel.

"Sleep tight, sleep tight, sleep tight. So long..."


Music: Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Savage Breast

A friend of mine constantly astounds me by posting music I fall in love with immediately. This morning, for instance, I learn that snow is falling in Vancouver and I open facebook and this person has posted, once again, an amazing band I've never heard. I give the song a listen and am flooded with feeling. Feelings. I cry and I can't tell you if it's from sorrow or joy. But likely it's both. For me, they tend to emote simultaneously.

And moments like that are few and far between these days. I mean, Life is busy, but in my heart I know they're few and far between because I try not to go there anymore these days. To open that part of myself and let those feelings flood me the way they do. The way they are doing right now.

Just, occasionally, I cannot help it if I listen to some song. It only takes one little song sometimes. Music has such power.

The day after we moved, I bought my son a wooden xylophone. For his first birthday, I bought him a little drum. I want to surround him with instruments as he's growing so that if he's in any way inclined, maybe he will take a real interest in it. He already shows great interest. One of the playlists I created months ago is simply called Spring. Either the songs have something to do with that season or they evoke the season for me. The first song in the playlist is by an amazing artist called Sufjan Stevens. It's got a long title: Concerning the UFO Landing Near Highland, Illinois.

wings of desire

Well, just about every time I start that playlist and Sufjan's song begins, my son beams the widest smile imaginable. Suddenly he stops whatever he is doing. He looks at me and bares all of his teeth and he has at least 12 pearly whites now. Unbelievable. What he does then is he bends his knees a little and he starts to bob up and down and after he bobs up and down for a bit, he begins to sway his head from side to side like he's a jazz musician. Sometimes, swear to God, he closes his eyes. He REALLY gets into it. He dances through the whole song like he's in a trance.

This particular tune never lets me down. He rarely fusses in the car, but when he does begin to feel a bit restless I switch to this playlist and as soon as that piano begins, his lips unfurl and his eyes twinkle and his feet begin flopping around. It's almost as though he gives me a little wink when I turn my head to look at him. He understands that when I put this song on, what I'm saying is, "I love you more than the moon. More than the smell of cedar, the crackle of woodfires. More than an ocean full of water." He totally gets that. And so he beams at me. As if to say, "I love ya right back, mama." An unusual connection exists between the songs of this particular artist and this baby boy of mine for some reason. Has existed from the very beginning. Maybe his fetal hearing attuned itself that first morning my iPod played and he fell in love with the music, too. I especially love that this is the song that has caught my son's heart. "In the spirit of three stars," sings Sufjan. And my own heart catches in my throat. I think of the three stars out there, my three little babies I've lost. One in '98. One in 2003. And my son's twin. His twin. Two years ago October. I have always thought of them as stars. My son's siblings shining up there in the sky watching over him. "Incarnation," sings Sufjan, "three stars, delivering signs and dusting from their eyes."

What is it about music, hey? Why do I carry this crazed gene that just can't get enough of it? Especially when I took music lessons. As a young girl, I laboured through them. Not once were they easy for me! Still to this day, I have trouble reading music. I couldn't tell you which note was what if someone played one for me. But maybe that's why I can't get enough of it. It is something I covet. I turn green with envy when I hear a band play amazing music. I wish I had their incredible talent. Often, when I hear a song I fall in love with, I do wish I were getting up on stage and singing that song, fretting that guitar. I know I'm not alone there, though I don't sing in the shower. I sing a lot to my son, however. For some crazy reason, he loves when I sing to him. (Thank Gawwwd because most of the time I suck at it. But his face lights up when I sing to him. Maybe he's tone deaf.)

The other night, I put him to bed and descend the stairs to tidy up and emitting from the second floor is this endless giggling. I can hear him chatting to his bear. You oughta see this bear. A very dear friend gifted him with it and it's bigger than him. Every night he wraps his arms around this bear and snuggles with it. And the other night, the two of them would not shut up. Constant squeals of delight and low mumblings. Then silence. I guess, the two of them must have decided it was time to sleep. They stop whispering and drift off to slumberland. It's not all that strange to talk to bears is my point.

It's Saturday night. 2:00 am. Okay, okay. Sunday morning. I just finished trying to catch up on the third season of Mad Men. And I wanted to write something. I wanted to write an email. But I can't. I just can't. It's harder for me than reading music. A gazillion times harder than finding Middle C. (For me.)

So I sit here writing this because it's all I've got. Right now. It's the only thing I can communicate with at 2:00am. On a Saturday night. Early on a Sunday morning. I hope someone out there can hear me.

Here's what I want to convey. It's a message.

The song I heard today made me smile and cry. As I listened the image I got was of a bear running through the forest. It's hungry. Not a black bear. The coat is brown. It's a grizzly. But it's not full grown yet. It's a grizzly because it's out West somewhere. Somewhere still pristine. As pristine as you can get. And its paws hit this stream and suddenly it stops. It tilts its head. Its nostrils widen. The small, beady eyes try to focus as best they can. There's a message coming through. In the form of a song. It flies through the forest. Through the wind in the leaves of the trees. Over the mountains. The bear listens and the pump in its heart opens and shuts, opens and shuts as it ingests each note. Its ears perk. The notes shoot into its blood and sinew and get sucked into its ventricles like heroin.

In my mind's eye, I can see through the shaggy coat for a moment to the pomegranate red of the heart in his chest beating wildly and a camera zooms to the slow motion drops of water sliding off the bear's hide then begins to speed through the trees and, just as suddenly, takes another slow-mo circuitous path around a second bear halted with head tilted. The tongue has stopped lolling. The mouth shuts in concentration. The camera again races off in a maze of tree trunks to a third set of black button eyes, ears straining, nostrils flaring. Then up, up, up through the trees, flying backwards through the leaves and fir and cones, the camera pulls above the tree line and from this great height one can see tiny, red, glowing hearts burning in savage breasts as every bear stops to listen. They beat simultaneously, dotted like campfires all over the mountains. Each bear frozen in its path, yearning to decipher the message.

Someone is pretending to forget...


Oh, and on that note. Here's another song. It's not for the grizzly. But I send it out West, over the Rockies, through the forests and down Main St. where I know for a fact that flakes can fall big as your fist. Plummeting much more slowly than the heart of a bear or anyone's.

Mine, for instance.

Music: Message to Bears, Found You and You're Safe
This post dedicated to Ciara over at Milkmoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010


When I enter the recovery room, I know instinctively the hysterical howling from the back corner is his. A nurse attempts to soothe him as I rush over. The first thing I notice is the blood seeping from his right nostril. They tell me to remove my coat, to sit in the rocker. I reach for him and he opens his eyes slightly, tiny slits to check that I'm finally here. His little hand reaches up to the tiny bump of skin just beneath my chin. It's a spot his fingers constantly seek and caress. In the dark of early morning, the bump assures him the person holding him is his mama. I fumble at the clasp of my bra. He is crying so hard, his mouth has trouble focusing on the nipple.  It closes and then opens in complaint again before trying to suck. Another howl interrupts my attempt at nursing. He will not be consoled so easily. Not after this. This betrayal.

The sobs do not let up for a good half hour. 40 minutes. He weeps uncontrollably. "How could I let them take him away?" his sobs shout.  "How could I let them stick him with needles?" they demand. They accuse me in no uncertain terms. "How could I let them put him under? And how could I not be there when he woke up from surgery?"

Daily annoyance.

I rock, rock, rock the damn rocker like I'm riding a bucking bronco. Finally, he begins to calm. This is the day I've been dreading forever. It's not his fault. Entirely my decision that he has undergone surgery. His blocked tear duct was supposed to mend itself by the time he turned a year old. The doctors showed me how to push the creamy goop out of his eye, in the hopes of healing without surgery. But at 18 months, he still awoke with the lid crusted closed, puss weeping out of the duct all day. His little hands perpetually rubbing it such that his eyelid became raw and red. I decided to pursue the alternative option: minor surgery.

Before surgery...

I know it was the right decision, but no one described to me the feeling of watching them walk him away from me to the operating room on his own, oblivious of what lies ahead. Strangers taking him. No one told me how the seconds would feel like hours sitting there in the waiting room. No one told me how fear increases exponentially along with the terrors of one's imagination: what if they give him too much anaesthetic? Would he die? Could they accidentally blind him? Stupid, irrational fears flying through his mama's head while he is unconscious. I almost cannot breathe sitting there alone drinking cold coffee. Not caring that the sandwich I packed is now stale, tasteless. Who can eat? Why did I do this to him? I am a cruel, thoughtless mommy to make him go in there alone so young and have them strap him down. Stick him with needles. Maybe we should have waited...

This moment, I can honestly say, is perhaps the first time since before he was born I have felt so acutely the absence of a spouse. I accept I'm a single parent. I don't think about it much. Generally, I don't have time to dwell on it. I just handle it. There's no self-pity involved or anything. It was my decision to pursue motherhood on my own. I'm a strong person. I'm his rock. But this moment. Sitting here in the waiting room. I am a puddle. Powerless. Vulnerable. How I long for a hand to hold mine at this moment, to reassure me. To comfort me. To share the burden of missing him, worrying over him. I'm a wreck. A total fucking mess, sitting here. What have I done to my poor little boy making such a huge decision on his behalf?

His hysteria when I arrive in recovery only exacerbates my guilt.

After an hour we are transferred to another recovery room and I lie back on the hospital bed as he clings to me, his sobs starting to slow, to quieten. Gradually they become softer, more infrequent, as exhaustion and stress surrender to slumber. He curls his body as close to mine as he possibly can and the catches in breath finally morph to tiny, purring snores. We lie there for another hour before I gently remove the hospital's striped pajamas and dress him for the stroll home.

Post surgery. Finally asleep.

His nose continues to bleed, a normal symptom of this particular surgery. He is drowsy walking around the kitchen. Still unstable, like a drunken sailor, weaving around the legs of the table. But he is smiling and giggling, giddy to be home again.

This is the first time his right eye has been clear since he was born. I note that his eyelashes are shorter on that lid. They have not had the chance to spread and grow as long and lush as those on the left eyelid. Perhaps now they'll have their chance to bloom.

Tonight I let him fall asleep in my bed, intent on assuring him I won't abandon him anytime soon again.

The next morning he wakes. His right nostril is crusted with blood, but his right eye is clear and his little fingers touch it momentarily in surprise. He realizes he does not need to finger the crust from his lashes. He opens both eyes no problem. He can see. All the stress of the previous day is worth it somehow.

I look deep into his irises, smile and say, "hi." He repeats it back to me. This is the first time ever he says "hi" back. It is as though he is acknowledging that this is the first moment he feels fully present. He can see out of both eyes. He is invincible. "Hi," he whispers shyly, smiling up at me. As if to say, "I see you now. You're my mama. Hi!"

My throat catches. "Gimme a kiss," I say. He throws his arms round my neck and touches his forehead to my lips. The blood from his nostril marks my breast. It's territorial.

"You are mine," it says.
"Don't leave me again, Mama," it says.
It says, "I forgive you."
"You made the right decision."
"Thank you," it says.

My lips form those two words, too, as they kiss the top of his pate.

"Thank you," they whisper.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Clean pair of eyes.

Music: David Gray, A Clean Pair of Eyes

Thursday, November 11, 2010


The other night was the first baby-free night out I'd had in maybe five months or more. A friend and I caught Royal Wood, in a much more intimate venue this time, right around the corner from where I now reside. Walkable, in fact, though I had to drive my car so that I could drop off and pick up my son at my parents' place.

I managed to walk part of the way. The night was crisp with nary a wisp o' wind so it felt a lot warmer than is usual for November. And let's just say my body temperature increased considerably once inside as not only Mr. Wood was clad in his trademark suit, but three other gentleman graced the stage similarly ensembled. Yum yum yum.


Now I am not the kind of gal who generally goes for a man in a suit. Honest. The kind of men who have won my heart have been, let's just say, a tad more casually clad. And that's an understatement. But there is a certain era of fashion I am enamoured with and it stretches from the 1930s through the 1940s. When women wore garters and men wore suspenders. There was just so much support back then, garment-wise. Maybe Casablanca is too damn hard for me to watch without my heart bleeding all over the damn place, but when a man dresses in that way, in such a way that evokes that era and makes you think of the past, of history, of a more romantic time. Well, that just makes my knees weak. He wouldn't even have to sing as beautifully as Royal does, so the fact that Mr. Wood has such dulcet tones. Well. You get the picture. It's enough to make a girl swoon. And I just don't get the chance to swoon very often of late. So I grab 'em when I can get 'em.

Part of the fun of the night, besides the exceptionally fine company I kept, was the fact that I became rebellious. And by that I mean, I brought my new Canon Rebel 2Ti with me and snapped away. It's one of a few fancy-ass gadgets I have purchased since moving. Once again, I'm having a lot of fun with photography, a near-perfect (though not quite) method of prolonging the memory of a moment. I'd missed a few months there due to the breakdown of an old camera I'd been using. It wasn't even my camera but one that my sister had graciously leant to me. Thankfully the Camera Gods have since smiled candidly upon me.

And thankfully the venue was so cozy that I was able to get up close and personal for some shots. In all honesty, I was thankful to have the distraction of the camera in my hands, the distraction of my friend and our chatter. Because sometimes the lyrics Royal sings are, as my ol' pal e.e. would describe, words "i cannot touch because they are too near."

Arousing not only the suspicion of the neighbours

And a few times, I admit, I weakened, along with my knees. And I listened a little too attentively to what he was singing (and I'm sure the G&T I was drinking didn't help matters), but the tears started flowing and I had to excuse myself to powder my nose.

See, remembrance isn't always joyful. It isn't always fun or funny. It's sometimes like the quick jab of an extremely sharp dagger. Right under the breastbone. In and out like lightning sometimes. Other times it ain't so quick. It can linger and haunt. It can feel like surgeon's hands exposing parts of your insides during some kind of intense, 8-hour operation while you are definitely not under. It can be, sometimes. Excruciating. In its clarity. And thoroughness.

Thankfully Royal's voice is soothing. Compassionate. Humble. And maybe these qualities are what is also evoking certain memories for you of Some Other. Whatever. My point is, remembering isn't always pleasant or painless. And sometimes, really, it's not supposed to be. Sometimes, compared to the kind of pain suffered by those who fought wars long before we lived, remembering is the very least we can do. Literally.

This morning at the cenotaph

After the concert, driving across town to get my baby boy, I turned on the radio. The CBC was repeating a broadcast of Stuart Mclean's most recent Remembrance Day episode of The Vinyl Cafe. It was close to midnight so I only caught the last bit of it. He was reading from a story written by a CBC listener. A young man named Chris Erwin. About Chris' trip to France with his family. How he had miraculously been able to locate the proper reed with which to play his bagpipes at the memorial at Vimy Ridge. And then, as Stuart finished reading this incredibly moving story, he introduced its author, Chris, who was waiting in the wings and had begun to warm up his bagpipes which he then slowly proceeded to play. The lament he played was The Flowers of the Forest which is the song that is apparently always played once wreaths are laid on every Remembrance Day.

I had just turned the corner near my parents' home and I had to pull the car over because my vision had blurred with tears. When I wiped my lashes, what I made out in the mist and cold of the night were three words lit up in the parking lot of the school beside which I'd parked.


My heart flooded with memories. Some of people I'd met. People I'd known, now gone. People I'd loved, not in the least forgotten. People who were absolute strangers to me who had moved me in some way or other.

I began to think about war. The World Wars were not so far removed from me. My grandparents and parents had lived through each of them. Had survived them. I thought about my parents' era. The 30s. The 40s. Maybe the reason that time seems so romantic is not because of films like Casablanca. Rather, films like Casablanca exist because what is romantic from that time is that everyone KNEW life was PRECIOUS. That any day could be your last one. Literally. No one living then needed that spelled out for them. So people squeezed in every emotion they could into the seconds they breathed, the steps they danced, the food they chewed and swallowed. The scripts they wrote. The celluloid they shot. The love they made. Each action was savoured and cherished.

When the bagpipes ended, I thought about that scene in Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement. It is the moment Mathilde is hoisted and carried on shoulders through the long, waving ocean of grass that had been such a desolate, barren scene of battle not so long before. I remembered sitting in the dark of the cinema when that scene begins and how it quite simply took my breath away. It is the absolute balm of that grass. The vibrancy, the verdancy of its new life. The hope of it. You cannot fathom that this green and peaceful place had been that same small patch of land where so many lives had been lost.

Regrowth of soil. Of spirit.

And I thought, whatever wounds we carry, war- and otherwise, may we all know such peace in our hearts. May we all stand in long grass and remember what was sacrificed in order to wade through it. To feel its blades caress our thighs. And not the barbs of wire it once sprouted.

Peace to you all.

Music: Royal Wood: Thinking About

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All Hallows Eve

Life has been crazy but a good crazy. A better crazy than the preceding months which had stress piled on top of the crazy. Though there are days. There are days. The other day he was teething again. Pretty sure it was a molar this time because he wailed and wailed almost non-stop, almost all day. There was no consoling him. Every little thing irked him. Every little thing set him off. As a devoted parent, you do your very utmost to soothe, to comfort - you try everything: bottle, boob, tickling, cookie, boob again, sippy cup this time? This book? That elephant? This wooden xylophone? Hug. Hug. Hug. Hug. Kiss. Kiss. Wail. Wail. Let's go for a stroll!!!!

You want to cry right along with them when there is nothing that consoles them. But you can't. Maybe you do once they're asleep. Maybe late at night. Maybe you feel so knackered and unsure of yourself, so tired and sad about feeling you failed that day to make him smile, to stop the tears. Maybe you send an e-mail you shouldn't. One you feel sorry 'bout. A weak moment you hope can be forgiven...

Sometimes being a single parent on the challenging days makes you question if you are always doing the right thing, if you are making the right decisions, the best ones. There is no second parent to assure you so you just cross your fingers and hope you're doing your best. Late at night, maybe doubt slips in. Fear. Exhaustion. Worry. Grief. Loneliness. In my heart, I know that no day is bad enough I could EVER regret my decision to pursue motherhood. I would never trade this in for anything. Truly, I gladly take the hard days right along with the easy ones. I feel like a heel because I know no matter how hard my hard days are, others on the planet are experiencing REAL hardship elsewhere. What do I have to complain about at the end of the day? Absolutely nothing. I am blessed. So very blessed.

Thankfully the next day dawns and he is giggling when he first awakens. You whisper little prayers of thanks to gods you don't even believe in but maybe should. What a relief to see him so happy again, his usual self!

This week we get in the car and drive to buy a pumpkin out near where we used to live and I carve it (my first one since a little kid myself) and we dress up in costumes expecting hordes and hordes of trick-or-treaters. Only 12 kids actually brave the snow (yes, it snowed) and make the rounds and we have so much leftover candy, it's ridonculous. But what a treat to have kids come to our front door all decked out! To be in a neighbourhood! I hadn't had hallowe'en trick-or-treaters in a decade when I lived rurally. We had a lot of fun and our first trick-or-treaters were very special cousins to my Sonshine.

November 1st begins the Celtic New Year. The Festival of Samhain. And so we begin a new year in a new home all our own. Let's hope the next year brings less tears, much less stress, lots more laughter and joy!

Happy New Year, everyone! Enjoy the haunted pics below...

hitting pumpkin jackpot

dollar fitty for prime punkin 

don't be scared, come watch mommy carve the pumpkin!

oops. mommy broke the knife. merde.

hey! she has teeth, just like me!

hmmm. let's see. could I possibly be cuter? uh. nope.

mama, stop chasing me round the island!

grownup treats for the parents

a little kitten familiar for his witchy mama

these should last until Easter.  2012.

glow best in the dark...