Archive for January, 2013

A fellow Sudbury poet, Irene Golas, who writes beautiful haiku pieces, suggested that I write a poem about a Facebook status I created the other day.

The post read: “Dearest Zucchini: now that I have discovered how best to cook you to unleash your most flavourful potential, I do believe we should spend more time together…especially at dinner, over a glass of white wine.” So, as promised, I’ve just written a little something zucchini-esque. (Is that like Puccini-esque, or even Fellini-esque?) I thought of William Carlos Williams when I wrote it. “This is Just to Say” is, after all, one of my all time favourite poems.

Just remember it’s a first draft, so it’s likely to evolve before it sees its way into print some day in the far-off future!



I have sautéed the zucchini
& plated it with care,
so that it waits for you,
as do I, with
semblance of patience,
but underlying
frisson of urgency.

For the rain has frozen,
the roads are slick,
and time ticks onward,
while I wait
in winter.

Addendum: Hmmm….makes me wonder who (or what) will arrive? Perhaps a side of quinoa or spaghetti squash? Or one of my many “secret husbands”? One never knows!

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Today is Robbie Burns Day. He’s definitely a poetic forefather of the highest order, especially because some of his most beautiful poems are set to music and make it even lovelier to sing in your kitchen. 🙂

At school right now, we’re into final exams for first semester. Imagine my delight when I received a copy of “A Red, Red Rose” in my mailbox this morning, given to me by a colleague who was once one of my favourite students. You know, I am well aware that teachers aren’t supposed to have ‘favourites’, but it’s something wonderful (and not the John Waters movie!) that I get to now work with two brilliantly creative young women whom I once taught. It speaks to the sense of renewal that is naturally present in the teaching profession. In any case, the poem’s magical arrival, with the annotation “Happy Robbie Burns Day!” on it, made my day lighter somehow. It proved to me, yet again, that a simple poem, on a simple piece of paper, can lift my heart and spirits. I only need to open a book of poems, by a favourite dead or living poet, to find myself well footed, rooted in the earth that is poetry.

One of my favourite versions of the poem, in song, is by the great Scottish singer/songwriter, Andy M. Stewart. He’s wonderful. (Actually, my favourite song is “Take her in your arms”, but that doesn’t match with the Burns theme this week, so I’ll just mention it in passing….while suggesting that you Google it or YouTube it to feel its divine music wash over you in the privacy of your own home!)

This brings me to the concept of true love. I’ve been thinking about it tonight….in relation to some news I received today. An old friend, in his late 60s, has been struggling with ill health of late. I spoke to him briefly on the phone before Christmas and he seemed fairly healthy. Then, my aunt called to tell me that he had suffered a stroke just after Christmas. All of this would be bad enough, but add to it that he had spent most of last year battling cancer and you have a perfect storm of sorts. When I got home tonight, I received a message from my aunt telling me that this mutual friend of ours, this dear dear man, is failing. He has terminal cancer. There’s a mass in his abdomen. The remission, the eye of that storm, is over. So, how does this link to true love? Let me tell you this story…because his is the story of a man who loves his wife fully, deeply and completely.

I am generally fascinated by couples. This is, I note, probably due to the fact that I am eternally single. I’m cool with it. Still, I do find myself observing couples as if they were little science experiments on the National Geographic Channel. I wonder what draws one towards another because some couples seem oddly matched to me. Soul chemistry is an intriguing concept.

So….this old friend of mine loves his wife with a dear passion. It is a true love that has lasted for decades. She has been ill for years and years, all the time dealing with a degenerative illness. We three met when my dad was in various health care institutions after he fell and became a quadriplegic in 2009. What always struck me was that this man cared enough about his wife to cook for her and bring food to her, to share meals with her twice a day. When she lost the use of her hands, he fed her. I recall many nights, when I left Dad and went home, when I saw the two of them talking over the fabric of their days and sharing a laugh together or debating something. Every single time I thought, “I want that kind of love.” It amazed me. It reminded me, too, of the love my father showed my mother as she was dying. There is a depth to this sort of love that you often don’t see these days. Most people, it seems from a purely observational and anthropological view, are working on a more superficial level.

So, now my old friend is very ill. His wife continues to decline, and she misses her husband’s visits as he struggles with his own very real health issues. They are in two separate health institutions. I am off to visit her on Sunday afternoon, with Gully in tow, with hopes of having the dog distract her for even just a short time. I can’t imagine her pain, her sense of loss. My heart breaks for the two of them…and it leaves me wondering why it is that some people seem to struggle more in life. Here is a man who dearly loves his wife, who has cared for her deeply for decades, and who is now facing his own end. Why, I wonder, do so many float through life without loss? They are, most certainly, less aware of the poignancy and vibrancy of life. It takes the loss, of someone near and dear, to know that life is precious and without guarantee.

I only think, tonight, of how Burns’s “A Red, Red Rose” speaks of love…and how this couple embodies it for me. I pray for their well being and peace during this difficult time. I hope their struggles lessen….but that their love grows. In the meantime, I plead with you to hug a loved one, to honour the earth, to recognize the beauty we live amidst each and every day. We are blessed. We are lucky.


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I’ve been thinking a lot about the orca whales that were trapped last week in Northern Quebec, near an Inuit community called Inukjuak. I first saw the news clip on CTV News in the middle of the week and found myself actually covering my mouth in horror. Here, a pod of orcas cast into a frenzy, circling and circling, propelling themselves up and out of the water, just to breach the surface and breathe. The ice had trapped them. By Friday, thankfully, the ice had naturally shifted and they were released. Still, they have over 1,000 kilometres to travel up through Hudson Bay, through the Hudson Strait, and into the North Atlantic Ocean. You have to wonder how they manage, traveling all that way, especially after having been so panicked and frantic for those few days.

It got me to thinking about a few things, all tangential in origin of course:

I thought, to begin, of my love of, and fascination with, whales. I find they draw me to them, or at least to the imaginative idea of what a whale represents and symbolizes. They are strong, spiritual and seem like ancient, wise souls. When I traveled to Newfoundland with my friend Christine in 2006, we spent an afternoon whale watching on a boat off Bay Bulls. It was August, so most of the whales had already left and begun their migration. I only ended up burned to a crisp, being the pale white Canadian girl of Irish ancestry. I did, however, manage to fall in love with puffins. They are now my favourite bird of all time. (I even have a pair of mitts with puffins on them which I wear every day!) After Bay Bulls, We found a lighthouse at Ferryland, on the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula, which served picnic lunches and dinners. The two of us sat, squinting into sun and sun reflecting on ocean waves, trying to see minke whales. It was impossible, especially with a glass of wine, to distinguish the difference between a flip of a minke tail and the cresting of a wave. I cannot begin to explain the disappointment I felt, to leave Newfoundland without seeing whales. It haunts me still and I know some day I’ll return….to see both icebergs and whales.

In Haida tradition, though, the Orca (or ‘killer) whale, is referred to as the “Lord of the Ocean.” While I love other types of whales, I find the Orca is most striking, because of its black and white ensemble. I also love First Nations symbolism and artwork, especially the work of the late British Columbia artists, Bill Reid and Emily Carr, so any west coast pattern with the Orca woven into it always pulls me in. I’m not sure why I have this fascination with whales. Perhaps it is because the poetic symbolism of a whale speaks of storytelling. I’m sure I’ll figure it out some day….

I also have an affinity to oceans, so I suppose it makes sense I’m drawn to whales. 🙂 Perhaps it is the idea, in my mind, in my soul, that water, that sea, is a place of soupy origin. I love the idea that waves can travel across oceans, from one country and continent to yet another’s shore. How brilliant is that? I also love the way sitting on a sea shore makes me feel: small, insignificant, but ever more aware that I have a place in the scheme of things. There is an awareness of how grand the natural world can be, how vast and wondrous. Sitting on a sea shore (never the Caribbean, because it’s too hot!), tasting salt water in the curled up palm of my hand, always makes me feel that sense of wonder and amazement all over again.

I’m reminded of the wonderful poem, “Sea Fever”, by John Masefield. I remember first hearing it in my early teens, when a young Welsh soprano named Aled Jones sang the poem. The words are burnt into my heart: “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky,/And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by.” Isn’t that all we ask for on the most mundane of our days? A star to guide us? A niggling but undeniable sense of purpose that will drive us forwards, to learn, to grow, to evolve?

It seems fitting, just into this new year, that people should set goals and resolutions. Right now, I can’t see the forest for the trees, as I set out to use this year to shed yet another layer of skin and reimagine myself. I feel on the cusp of a life change, but I can’t ascertain what it is just yet. I feel a bit like those grand Orcas, hemmed in by ice floes and sensing something even more grand and brilliant just beyond the edge.

Soon, the ice will shift and I will follow that star. . .so that a sea change becomes commonplace and glorious all at the same time. 🙂


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