Archive for July, 2013

I’ve followed Lisa Gibson’s heartbreaking tale over the last five days and, like many Canadians, I’m sure, have wondered if we do enough to help those in need.  I think of the quotation from the Bible that speaks of helping one’s brother, or sister, when they are in need.  If we want a gentler, kinder, more compassionate society, as Canadians, as humans, we need to be more aware, I think, of people’s pain.  Too often, I think, we tend to neglect others around us, those who sometimes most need our help.  It may only be a kind word, or a smile, but it may help them to feel more connected to others when their lives feel fragmented or split open.

Lisa Gibson had two children, Anna and Nicholas.  She was supposedly being treated for postpartum depression.  The discovery of the two children last Wednesday, and their mother’s disappearance, seemed to point in the direction of some tragic end.  How many times have we heard of children found in a family bathtub, and the new mother has disappeared?  It’s a sad equation that doesn’t need to be continually repeated.  It’s a sad equation that means we haven’t done enough as a country to help new mothers with postpartum depression.

I can’t speak about postpartum depression, but I can speak to major depressive disorder, which I’ve dealt with personally.  The kind of darkness that comes with depression is all encompassing.  People will try to help you, to understand you, but only those who have walked through that shadow world, who may have had suicidal ideation, will understand how much emptiness it carries.  It’s not the sadness that will kill your spirit, but the erasure of self.  It’s hard enough to deal with as an adult, on your own, but imagine also having to care for others…and becoming overwhelmed to the point that you cannot imagine continuing.

I wish that Lisa Gibson had found the help she so desperately needed.  I honestly feel that we fail the mentally ill in our society.  I feel that she must have tried and tried, and someone may very well have tried to help her, but how futile, how empty she must have felt. It breaks my heart just thinking about it, that she was found alone, in the Red River, four days after her children’s deaths.  There are three people who should still be here, but who aren’t.

Those of us who have survived depression, and those who struggle with (or who have struggled with) postpartum depression, must speak up for others.  The pain cannot continue.  The loss of this young mother, and her two children, is a tragedy that aches.  One can only hope that, somehow, lessons will be garnered from this incident.  In the meantime, be mindful of those around you….someone who needs to talk, or just needs someone to listen.  You cannot know how much of a gift you give with your time, your heart, your voice, when someone just needs someone to sit with….during a dark time.  You might be the light that helps to lead them from the darkness….

Prayers and blessings of light and love to the Gibson family….to her husband, especially, but also to the memory of Lisa, Anna and Nicholas.



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This is my third night in my new home.  It has been christened with the strains of Great Big Sea, The Dixie Chicks, Coldplay, some traditional Irish music, a cluster of dear friends, two shih tzus who guard me, and memories of my parents in photo frames (and then, as always, in my heart).

One part of unpacking boxes is rediscovering wonderful memories you’d forgotten about….like echoes from your past.  At 42, well, there is as much past behind me as there is future in front of me.  It’s hard to believe my 20s and 30s have disappeared…as I tend to believe I’m part Hobbit or faery, so there is always the ethereal and Celtic in my blood, something more timeless that walks through dimensions and defies mortality.  (It’s the part that allows me to believe in faeries and to listen to the songs of the trees, in shadow or in sun…)

My favourite part of the last two days is the time I’ve spent on my own unpacking boxes of old CDs and books.  Each one marks a specific time period in my life.  There might be a song that triggers memories of a road trip with a lost love, or a box of cassette tapes I kept from my old CKLU radio show.  (I haven’t been brave enough yet to crack those open and listen to them….I was so young.)

One book that called out to me this evening is my friend Liz Zetlin’s collection, The Gourd Poems.  It won the Shaunt Basmajian Award in 1999.  Liz has always inspired me and is a poetic mentor and inspiration to me.  I first met her in the mid to late 1990s, when I volunteered to help fundraise for the League of Canadian Poets.  We stayed together at LCP AGM back in Winnipeg in the late 1990s and became friends.  We don’t talk as often these days….but I still consider her a dear friend.

The Gourd Poems is a wondrous collection of work.  Liz lived in Markdale, a rural area near Owen Sound, Ontario, for years.  She had her own “punctuation field,” which she photographed from the air.  She has a brilliantly creative mind.  These particular poems were borne of the idea to carve single words into gourds.  As the gourds grew, so too did the words, stretching out across the surface of the gourds.  As Liz writes in her introduction:  “Considered the first cultivated plant, perhaps as early as 40,000 years ago, ornamental gourds have an honoured place in human history.  Gourds have been used in ceremony and ritual as well as for drinking vessels, bowls, bottles, floats, masks, rattles, drums, birdhouses and art.  They have been found in Peruvian excavations dating back 5,000 years and in Egyptian tombs.  To the native Hawaiians, gourds were sacred–the heavens were the top of the gourd, the earth the lower half and the celestial bodies were the seeds and pulp.”  One day, Liz emailed me and asked for a series of words that resonated in my own life….I chose “daisy” (my favourite flower, so simple and elegant), “deer”, and “song.”  I also remember saying something about how I often spoke with my hands.  That aspect of myself, too, is ensconced in the poem.  From that odd clutch of words, my dear friend wrote the poem titled “Every moment speaks” and dedicated it to me.

I remembered it faintly, but found it again tonight, reading through Liz’s wonderful chapbook.  It struck me that so much of that beautiful poem, written about fifteen years ago, speaks to the transition I’m going through these days.  I won’t write out all of it here….but I can’t resist sharing a couple of snippets with you all:

Everywhere the memories pass

through the land like ghosts.

Trodden and marked, we keep

reaching back to that ruffled edge,

stumble over its surface, noticing

how time bends and melts under its crust

as everything runs into memory. 

That is how it has been this week, leaving behind the last physical remnant of my parents as they were, once alive and vibrant in a house that helped to “grow” me.  They supported me as an artistic soul, even when they had no idea of what poetry was about, or how it would work in terms of raising a little girl who loved books, but who was sad and later became very depressed as a young adult. They sheltered me, encouraged me, attended every poetry reading (clapping the loudest), and raised a fairly decent human being and poet.  (There are no lessons on how to raise a poet child…and I think they did the best they could, given my moods and fancies….and I thank them for that kindness.)  I miss them both so much, every single day.

When people talk of how they dread family dinners or gatherings, I feel unbelievably sad inside and think “oh, how blessed and lucky are you, to still have parents, or to even have one left.”  I get angry, hearing them complain about their parents.  I think, “who will walk me down the aisle, if I ever get married?” I wonder “who will tell me which ancestor is in the photo, or what story is behind a yellowed letter or sepia toned photo?”  Most of all, though, I miss their hugs and the sounds of their voices and laughter.  (You’d be amazed at how much you can miss a hug….and all it conveys.  You’d also be surprised at how horrid it feels to not be able to remember a loved one’s voice after a time….something that once was so familiar is almost lost to the mists of time…and you feel guilty about that loss of voice.)

The end of Liz’s poem strikes a chord in my heart about how we all need to move forward, without losing touch with our past, or how we imagined it to have been.  We always, as humans, gild and glorify memory….perhaps because the reality wasn’t always that Rockwellian.  In any case, Liz wrote:

….memory still runs

sweet, covering her tracks

until nothing is visible

but the song in your throat,

how it used to be,

wasn’t really,

could have been,

and tonight is all white

with a calm lasting until dawn

when every moment speaks

with its own hands.

I think tonight, listening to a cooling rain fall after days and days of heavy humidity here in Northern Ontario, that things lift….things like darkness, things like heartbreak and despair, and things like losing parents, loves and friends.  After the cooling rain, after the loneliness, there is some promise of better times ahead.  There is, at the very least, peace in my heart….even if that heart sometimes feels broken and askew.  There is, now, more peace than frantic intensity, more calm than despair, more balance than insanity.  For that I am grateful….and I move forward and listen while “every moment speaks” to me with new vibrancy and sacred light.





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Well, I’m a day away from leaving my family home.  What’s surprised me most is how much work there has been to do here, at this old place.  There are dust bunnies in strange places, along with crumpled notes written in my parents’ familiar cursive writing.  Those are the things that unsettle me to weeping.  When it gets too much, I just have a nap….and think that there is a time and season for everything, including evolution and leaving behind physical reminders of who you’ve lost.  I worry about things like whether or not the family antiques will fit out of the doorways here, and then into the doorways of my new home.  I worry that I place too much meaning and symbolism into pieces that my mother chose and loved dearly during her lifetime.  Still, I know they are only things….and that things aren’t what keep my parents close to my heart.  They do make me miss her even more, lately, though….

I’ve been blessed to have a few very good friends, and an amazing aunt, Cathy, to be here for me.  My family is very small now….so my friends have become more of a family than I had imagined could be possible.  When you’re single, well, it’s good to have that network of people who will spend the evening lugging boxes from place to place, or just listening to you cry over the phone when you’re overwhelmed.  It’s good to have them realize that it’s a life changing shift….that while one door opens, a very deep, painful, full-of-love one is closing shut.  It’s been hard, realizing that the excitement of a new place can be dampened by the leaving of a place where your family began….and ended.  I’m hoping that changes this weekend, once I set up my things….and settle in.  That’s the hope, anyway.

The dogs are aflutter…wondering why things are being packed into boxes and suitcases….but they’ve seen the new yard and know there is the promise of squirrels and chipmunks to chase there, too.  The three of us will be surrounded by quiet, green spaces, and art on walls….with Sable grumbling and talking all the time, while Gully charges across backyard lawns and pretends to hunt big game.  I, however, will breathe, meditate, pray, sing, and write….while cuddling the tzus.  🙂

Am bringing the peonies, poppies, and iris….all in hopes of bringing Mum and Dad along too….into a new place in space.

Radio silence, until next week sometime….when I’ll let you know how it all panned out….



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