Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dear You

"Almost every act of violence had hate at its core, had behind it a heart filled with resentment; so many victims of such acts must have felt secure in the knowledge that it would never happen to him, or to her. But it did. It happened."
The Perils of Morning Coffee, ebook, Alexander McCall Smith

I was dumbstruck by this little passage I read today, and I took it to heart, I gave it my own meaning, and violence has many incarnations, an accusement being one of them.

I have gone over the last few months at work over and over in my head, thinking, was it THIS precise moment that caused things to spill over, or was it THIS one? I went back further. Was my dad's illness and death, and my remoteness at work surrounding those heartbreaking events, did that push an already on-the-edge coworker a little closer to the abyss? Was it the special hours I worked for a couple of months so I could drive the 65-plus kilometres each day from home to work to the hospital to my parents' then-home back to my home? Was it my calm in the face of an over-emotional co-worker who seemed to get worked up over an untied shoelace?
Vacations. She started to take them right before mine, guaranteeing that she would have a soft landing when she came back, an extra few days or weeks with which to do nothing, unsupervised.
Then I got married. To a man whose father hails from the same region as she did. Both wonderful men, my husband and his father both. Men who support equality in a way that goes beyond giving it lip service. I had the wedding I wanted, the marriage I yearned for for so long. I was a glowing newlywed. Did that bother her, fill her with violence, feelings of envy and hate; of resentment?
My coworkers had a luncheon for the two of us after we came back from our honeymoon, coupled with a generous gift. In the photo from that day, she is standing directly behind me, laughing at something. What was funny? What she would do to me in a few short months?

My health went askew in May of last year. I had appointments, specialists, follow-ups, attention.
I wanted none of it. I wanted only one thing: normalcy, a return to my running, which helped me keep my head together after three very difficult years. She ventured that maybe I needed bifocals. I thought she needed to keep her juvenile opinions to herself. For every appointment, she had one to match, a 'pain in the bone' but I didn't look deeper--I didn't look for the gnawing pain in her psyche, the one that was already planning my destruction, by her hand.

She came to my father's funeral. She shared the air in that small chapel where I delivered his eulogy, and when I left the funeral home that day, I'm not sure that she knew, part of me stayed there.
And yet.  She must have had a prayer card from the service that had his birth and death date written on it, in clear black ink.
She sent her missive, her accusation, on what would have been his 65th birthday, that auspicious date, which Margaret Atwood once described in one of her novels (it stayed with me, her description of this date, as it was in fact my father's birthday: November 13th--day of unluck, month of the dead).

Did she time it for maximum impact and pain? I have to believe, after combing over what I've combed over, that she did.
It's all confidential of course. As is this blog. There is no name, and if you ask me if it exists, I will deny it's existence. It's all very covert, Orwellian, ironic; Orwell is my favourite author.
It might seem like I'm not really taking responsibility for what has happened but I can guarantee that I am--I am responsible for letting myself believe that someone at this level was trustworthy, or, even less than that, guileless, too insubstantial to wreak havoc. Too incapable. Too lazy.
But it happened.
And I will say this, as a friend reminded me; it might happen again.
But not on my watch.

I went there

Yesterday, I went there.
I was THAT person.
I lost it in Shoppers Drug Mart picking up a prescription and the pharmacy-assistant-type-person was of no help whatsoever.
As I was telling my friend A. on the phone last night, the whole store stopped. She described a kind of 'third-person' type of tunnel vision. Yep. I had it. I could SEE it all unfolding and I didn't stop it. Instead, I ramped up. Right up. In front of my sister's kids. They were incredulous, and I broke one of my own hard rules--I set a good example for them. Period. No drinking and driving. No random situations of danger. No. No.
And yesterday...well, the day started off innocuously enough, after a really good, vibrant work week.
I woke up in the good mood. That in itself should have set something off in me, a warning of sorts (I hate mornings. Hate them. All the time). But I got up, out of bed, happy at nothing.
Met my sister and her kids and went to my niece's art class. Things didn't go well there, either, with me getting into it with the British/Australian TA, whatever the accent was, I couldn't tell.
But suffice to say, it didn't go well.
We all went to lunch. Lunch took a longgg time. I didn't want to be there.
I took the kids back to my place to paint in my kitchen, on large sheets of paper. That didn't go too well either (paint water, all over the floor. Yes, I cleaned it up, with minimal fuss, but I was Done with Painting by then).
To the park. Bone-chilling cold. Reading a disturbing book on my Kindle ("We Need to Talk About Kevin". I can't say my friend M. didn't warn me).
Trooping off to church.  The kids in an unsettled mood, mirroring me. The glare of the woman in the row in front of me (me, in my head, un-Christian-like to the bone: Look, LADY, I ALWAYS sit here). Me, holding it in for pretty well the only time that day, snapping internally, packing up everything into a bag, and announcing to the kids "We're leaving!" and stomping out of the church, all eyes on me once again (dear Lord), the security guard holding the door open for me as I storm toward it with THAT look on my face, muttering to him on the way out "It's been THAT kind of day".
Me, crying on the phone to my husband.
Me, hanging up on my mom.
Me, being me, having a bad day, and then getting over it.

Sorry about that.
About the things I did and failed to do, as the catcheism goes.
A big F for yesterday.

Friday, January 18, 2013

For Friday

Just this...

This poem melts me and I plan on finding Lydia Davis' beautiful book. (On that note, I spent a long hour with the Toronto Public Library website last night trying to get my Kindle all set up with library access. Guess what? No Kindle compatibility in Canada. What!? WHAT!?).

Head, Heart

Heart weeps
Head tries to help heart.
Head tells heart how it is, again:
You will lose the ones you love. They will all go. But even the earth
will go, someday.
Heart feels better then.
But the words of head do not remain long in the ears of heart.
Heart is so new to this.
I want them back, says heart.
Head is all heart has.
Help, head. Help heart.

from The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis


Happy's to lots of sun-shiney thoughts.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


On our way out of Key West, we stopped at a wild bird sanctuary (pictures of these beautiful creatures below).

It was right on the water, as is everything in the Keys, and it also had the same generous foliage that populates the area, and nestled among earth and water is one woman's whole life-mission--taking care of birds, rehabilitating those that are injured, and releasing them when they are well again.
If they cannot be rehabilitated, the sanctuary keeps them, feeds them, cares for them. In one case of an injured Ibis, it was noted on the wire mesh of the bird's large enclosure that wild Ibises came by daily to visit their Ibis friend. Dumb animals, huh? Not so much. The birds we encountered had an ancient wisdom in their eyes, and despite the fact that owls will actually eat other owls if push comes to shove, it's amazing to realize that they still manage to co-exist in a way our messed-up planet never will.

Outside the enclosures (I hesitate to use the word 'cage' because the wire mesh habitats were large and open and filled with toys for some of the birds, and special perches and baths for others) the birds who make their permanent homes in the Sanctuary had little write ups, with their names and favourite pastimes.  (Gizmo is an African gray parrot who likes to eat popcorn. Fredrika is a green Amazon parrot who likes to hang out with the staff after work and initiate conversation;  Pickles is a large white cockatoo who is mischievous and likes to do 'sound association' where he imitates sounds for fun, such as the "beep beep beep" of a truck backing up.  Did you know parrots and cockatoos can live to be eighty?  Junior is an owl who  loves to take baths in the evening. Flip is an blue jay who arrived as a baby bird, victim of a cat. He loves to interact with guests.)

I know you'll think I am crazy, but reading these little 'bios' of the birds brought me to tears. Their little lives. Their little preferences for certain foods, for human companionship and help. Their trust in our lumbering, stupid species.

What would it say outside of my own enclosure? The same thing I muttered to the priest before Christmas? That I can't let things go? That I like to drink white wine with abandon and stay out too late on nights where I have to go to work the next morning? That someone talking during my favourite TV shows (NFL, American Horror Story) drives me INSANE?

Here is Carolyn, the Canadian chick you see in this enclosure.
She's a happy bird for the most part, except when she's not, and we have no idea how long her lifespan will be.  Right now she is 39 years old and on some days still has no fucking idea what to do about her future. She prefers routine and is scared of change. She has all sorts of worries that she keeps in her head and takes out on occasion, one by one, another after another, and when she runs out of them she makes up more.
She likes to read the New Yorker, and lots of books, and hates to be disturbed when reading. She loves to run, and is a lone runner.  Groups irritate her.  She is not a joiner.  She is an introvert for the most part and socially took a long time to make friends when young. She suffered extreme mortification when her high school English teacher asked her mother during a parent-teacher meeting if she had any friends (she had two at the time. Including her sister. She had just moved to the area).

I leave you with some pictures of these lovely creatures.

Run on donations only...

Free to come and go.
Ps. Blogger--I hate what you've done with the photo-adding now.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Road Trip 2

I'm sitting under a ceiling fan at the Mango Tree Inn, where Mike and I have been staying here in Key West.
He is lying down right now, he hasn't felt that well today, the heat, the drive, the exhaustion of our late nights have caught up to him a little bit.
Mike's been in Toronto with me since November and I sometimes forget he has to go home again.
I tend to not face it, and right now, even in all this beauty and luxury, with a whole night ahead of us on this wonderful island, in this amazing country, one that I feel so alien in and such a part of at the same time, I'm already getting the wistful, welled-up feeling I get when I know I have to be apart from him again.
I fly home from Boston on Monday night, the last flight of the day (I always choose the last flight, always, always) and I will get home to my condo about 10:30 pm or so after customs and the cab ride home. I will most likely cry on the flight. I did that last time, the time in October. I ordered a second glass of complimentary wine, read the New Yorker (Mexican gang violence and drug wars) and cried. There was an empty seat beside me and for that I gave up a little thanks, looking at the ceiling the plane as if God himself could see my raised head.
I will go back to long runs on cold weekend mornings.
I will drink too much coffee and stare off into space.
I will eat salads and sometimes forget to make a proper meal, I will stand while I eat, a terrible habit.
I will read book after book after book.
I will write.
I will pine.
Pine. The state tree of Maine.

But I will also remember how good it feels to mark one whole year of marriage, an anniversary we celebrated in Connecticut, with special champagne from special friends.
I will remember the long stretches of driving, taking shifts, taking turns, the other one sleeping while the other one drove.
I will remember the strength it took for me to get over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, driving over it myself, in Mike's parents' car, my bridge fear in full effect, my "Our Fathers" whispered so I wouldn't wake Mike up in the passenger seat. The Tydings Memorial Bridge, another huge one, Mike still asleep. The curve in the road before I reached it, innocuous enough, until I saw the road sign that said "Cross winds on bridge" and realized I had to conquer another one (I've long had a fear of bridges, almost from birth. It is a strange and irrational phobia). 
Then the tunnel. In Baltimore, impatient traffic all around me, the "Stay in your lane!" signs like an oath to me, but not to the Maryland drivers. Listening to sportscasters talk about the upcoming NFL playoff games on the radio.  The continuing warmth that met us with each ticking mile south.

I leave you with some pictures.
I'm pensive, happy, calm, and already nostalgic, all at the same time.

Road Trip

I'm in Key West, with Mike, and it's our third day here.
I can say it is my kind of town, people like to stay out late, everyone is friendly, and the spirits are flowing.
I haven't written, I know. It was a 5-day journey by car to get here.
Syracuse, New York.
Stockbridge, Mass. The Red Lion Inn, the almost-halfway point in the drive from Toronto to Maine.
Scarborough, Maine (Mike's home).  Maine and Massachusetts and New York state were covered in snow. Piles of it.
Old Lyme and Hartford, Connecticut--the broken-hearted state.  Mike's generous aunt, giving us a place to stay.  The beach in winter.
Durham, North Carolina to visit with my lovely and wise friend G., whom I have known since
I was a small child but had not seen in twenty years. Her sweet little dog M.G.
Savannah, Georgia, oysters on a Saturday night while watching NFL (it doesn't get more American than that).
Boca Raton, Mike's aunt again, a meal and wine and some wild and wonderful warm rain. A funny doorman.
Finally. The Keys. 80 degrees farenheit. The weather defying the predictions and the rain staying away. Millions of pictures. Renting bikes, riding under the canopies of palm trees, the sky blanketed with stars. A sunset that brought me to tears with its beauty. The line of the horizon, so close but so impossibly far.
The book I finished reading today while Mike slept, a heartbreaking memoir of sibling grief, "Names All the Animals", by Alison Smith. Re-visiting my own grief over my father and my friend G.'s death, somehow always inexplicably intertwined for me.
Weather on an island passes over quickly, the sunset lingers for mere minutes.
You can blink and miss it.
And somehow, when I am on an island, any island, my emotions tend to mirror the weather--they are quicksilver, my tears quickly mingling in salt water, my sadness washing away with the tide.

I took this picture on the pier, where they have literary quotes carved everywhere.
Just liked it. I'm not sure what it means, but it spoke to me.

Off to see another sunset.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On Every Street

I'm supposed to be packing for our trip and we were supposed to have left oh, an hour ago.
Instead, as I email my friend H., I am in pajamas (I know--a common theme lately) and emailing friends, posting photos on Facebook, texting people, and listening to the same Dire Straits song (On Every Street) on repeat. Mike's asleep. Hell, it's new years' day. A time to forgive yourself, to maybe repent a bit (so much champagne, so little time)..

H talked about the 'karma bank' in her email to me today.

I love this concept. Deposits in the karma bank. Maybe that will be my only resolution for this new year, this lucky 13.

Not much else to say on this quiet day. Mike and I rang in the new year on the street, walking after we had dinner with friends. It was a festive atmosphere, happy (drunk) people everywhere.
We're leaving for our road trip today.
My goal is to do a post-a-day for January and maybe beyond. Hell, my goal is to write a book but how does one start this endeavour? I'm going to think about this as I ease back into running this month too.
Whatever your goals are, whatever your resolutions might be, I wish you a happy, peaceful 2013.
Remember who you are always.  That's what I'm going to focus on.  This street sign that we traipsed by last night on our way to dinner was a good reminder for me.
In the wise words of my friend L:
"Don't let their lies become your truth."
Words to live by.

"There's gotta be a record of you someplace,
somewhere your fingerprints remain concrete....and it's your face I'm looking for...
on every street..."