Archive for May, 2013

Moving house is a bigger deal than I’d imagined. I’m leaving my parents’ home, which my sister and myself inherited after my Dad died in December 2011, and moving into a tiny red brick bungalow. What happens between now and then is heartsmashingly painful and bittersweet. I’ve packed up little antique knicknacks, readying them for sale at a local antiques shop, and separated other things into a box or two for a yard sale benefitting a local pet therapy program. Touching each piece, wondering about its own story, I find myself sad. There is no one left now to tell me the story that matches the piece, so it’s all feeling a bit ruddlerless, without an anchor. When my parents were alive, I could ask them questions about dead relatives, or where a certain photo was taken, or who was even in the photo, and they would give me the answer. Those threads now, though, have been cut. Death does that. It ends things, but begins others at the same time.

Emptying my little writing desk today, packing up books and photos and old cards from my parents and grandmother, I stumbled across some diaries. I knew I would be in trouble, but ended up losing a good couple of hours to re-reading the turmoil of my twenties. Perhaps not the best idea. In one of them, I found a clipped out copy of Billy Collins’s poem, “Forgetfulness,” which (ironically) I had forgotten I had loved so very long ago. (Maybe it’s just that you forget how quickly time passes? You imagine you’ve only known of a poem or poet for a little while, when, in fact, it’s been over twenty years since you made their acquaintance, since they laid hold of your heart and mind.) Finding that poem made me smile….here’s a lovely rendition you can enjoy:

I love the line “It is as if, one by one, the memories that you used to harbour/decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,/to a little fishing village where there are no phones.” I feel as if, as I grow older, this happens more and more. I often speak, to my classes, about how memory works in literature. Memory is a tricky thing; it causes you to glorify a person or circumstance, or to paint it in shades of something darker, but it never really captures what it was truly like in the moment. Perhaps that is why so many authors and poets are always drawn to memory, as moths to a flame. It offers us fertile ground for creativity.

I stumbled across old diaries. I should’ve left them closed, but the pull was too intense. I felt like I was pulled into a planet’s gravity field, helpless to do anything but take a trip through time and sit in the soup of nostalgia for part of the late afternoon. It was like opening Pandora’s Box.

What I found, what I learned, was that I was an independent thinker, too, in my twenties, but oh so uncertain about love. Reading my entries, I felt like kicking the ass of the ‘girl who once was,’ as if I could shout at her and say “No, he’s a baddy!” or “What were you thinking?!” A couple of times, I think I even shook my head in disbelief as I read the words I had written almost twenty years ago. How could I have been so daft? Poetically speaking, I fell in love (truly) about three times in my twenties. A couple of others were “Oh, I fancy him!” sort of things. They were all very nice men, but reading the diaries made me realize that at least a couple of them told me that I was ‘complex’ or ‘intriguing.’ Only now, decades later, can I see how damning that word was for the future of a love relationship. Sometimes, I was more of a quasi-girlfriend….someone to take out to plays or concerts, someone to have thought provoking conversations with…

I think of Collins and his poem. That final stanza always does me in….

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

How beautiful is that??? I wish I could write something that profound. Going through things here in the house has made me think about how I had forgotten certain conversations, or scents, or emotions, that once were so overwhelmingly vibrant and now only just seem like blurred essences. Reading the diary entries made me realize that time flies, and that there’s a reason why that cliche is true. It does. It flies like a raven with its wings outstretched, buffetted by rough winds over time.

I started thinking….How can my twenties have gone by so quickly? How can my thirties have been so much like a black hole of grief, worry and depression? Can you be angry at a lost decade? Yes, you can. Will it serve you, for future times? No, it will not. So, I think of those two decades as spirit builders, as catalysts that helped to shape me into who I am now. (I’m teaching my students about the power of revision in poetry this week, so all of this dovetails nicely with my ‘life lesson plan,’ which reveals itself when I least expect it to….) 🙂

Lately, I cannot recognize the person I’ve become. I think more than once a day: This is not me. I would not do this. I would not say this, or at least not so passionately and loudly. But then I realize….I have shifted, evolved, butterflied outwards into myself and my soul. It’s pretty amazing. I stand outside myself and think “wow….who would’ve guessed I’d become this person, this spirit, this soul?”

I only wish “the girl who was” twenty years ago could know who it is I’ve become. She might have made braver, more poetic choices and taken chances without fear….but now that I’m finally here….I’ll do that for her. 🙂


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I’m truly blessed to have talented friends. Two colleagues of mine, both amazing teachers, sing in the Sudbury Chamber Singers. Tonight, I went to hear them sing John Rutter’s Magnificat at The Church of the Epiphany on Larch Street. It’s a beautiful church. Burned down to the ground a while back, the parishioners rebuilt it and my favourite part is going to concerts there. Everything seems elevated. The light, the sacred space, the music. The accoustics are amazing and, if you close your eyes while choirs are singing, you feel you might be somewhere else….another dimension, perhaps.

If you haven’t heard it, you can check out Rutter’s Magnificat online….here’s a link to just one wonderful part of it. Imagine, while you listen to it, that you’re in a wonderful church with brilliant stained glass and that bright golden evening light streaming in, lighting up the faces of the singers in a rainbow of colours. Just close your eyes and let it wash over you, if you’re open and willing. A challenge, perhaps, to cast off the stresses of your day and lift up your heart and soul to the heavens!

Sitting there, watching my friends Brenda Thompson and Brittany Goldsborough sing, I thought, “Oh, my goodness….God works in mysterious ways!” Obviously, you start to wonder….Who wrote this? What inspired him? How did it feel, for him, to feel such great emotion and brilliance move through him in his composition? I often think the same thing when I see a brilliant piece of art, or literature, but listening to music, and especially vocal pieces, always seems to make me ‘shift spirit’. The work itself is in Latin, a dead language spoken by men and women who wore togas so long, long ago, and I did take two years of Latin at university, but all I can remember — honestly, now! — is how to say “hello,” which isn’t something that will come in handy in the year 2013. (The people I might have said hello to in Latin, well, they’re long gone….and my knowledge of the physical and geographical layout of Pompeii is rusty now, some twenty-five years after my highschool Latin class at Marymount College.)

Regardless of the difference in language, the barrier itself seems to melt away when I listen to music. It doesn’t matter what the words mean, or even if I have an English translation near at hand, but I often feel weepy when voices converge in a church, and when voices become orchestra in a most amazing way. Music sung in Latin, so often ‘churchy,’ also appeals to me. What a way to worship something divine and the source of all creativity but to sing? It reminded me, tonight, of why I love to sing. I don’t need people to hear me, or to have them tell me I have a half decent voice, but I love the way my voice ripples out of me and how sound transforms into emotion. Hearing others sing moves me even more.

I loved the Magnificat and, upon reading about Rutter himself as a composer, I found out that he composed “This is the Day” for Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton just over two years ago. That, too, was a piece that I thought was stellar. I’ll post the link here, again, for you to appreciate as much as I have tonight. I’ll also post a bit with Rutter himself as he speaks about how music works historically, especially in terms of Royal occasions.

The night was perfect. I saw three old friends: Marion Pitkethly, a friend I used to Irish ceili dance with back in the 1990s, Mrs. Soganich, a family friend who was also my Guidance counselor in high school, and Mrs. Murphy, who was one of my favourite History teachers at Marymount. Plus, to top it all off, I had a wonderful chat with a student who recently graduated, Margaret Huneault. I love seeing my past students. Their stories of where they’re headed, what they’re doing, and who they’re becoming, always seem to inspire me to be a better teacher and person.

How can music do this? Connect, reconnect, lift up spirit, re-engage, inspire, help us to envision and then re-envision ourselves anew? It’s powerful.

On a lighter, unrelated note, thank you to those of you who have recently followed my blog, especially those poetic types from around the world who have taken part in the Great Poetry Giveaway. I promise that I will announce the draw winner this Sunday evening. I’m swamped with marking Grade 12 English essays this week, and with decluttering my parents’ house as I get ready to move into my own place, so all is creative chaos right now. Have faith. I will post again, and more frequently. 🙂


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