It is spring and the weeds, grown strong and well-fed from a winter’s worth of rain, are asserting their place in my yard. I know that to make room for my big garden dreams I have to pull out the determined roots of these humble plants. But as I contemplate the task, I wonder why we have chosen the weeds and not the flowers for some of the most treasured of the small rituals we share with our children?
She let go of the chords that tethered her here. At 96, my grandmother had lived fiercely and well. She wore her lipstick firmly in place to the end. When dignity threatened to escape her grasp she held fast to her not-inconsiderable opinions. Her blue eyes, a little faded, newly shadowed, could nevertheless still blaze. She stunned me not by dying, but by doing it, right to her last moments, on her terms.
Disclaimer: If you want a Valentine’s Day as filled with sweetness as a marshmallow heart, then this post is not for you. This Valentine is more of a dark chocolate pecan cluster: chewy, nutty, bittersweet. May stick in your teeth.
He stood at the street corner with his back to the traffic. It was cold and raining and it was dark, the late afternoon in November dark that arrives in BC like a rock rolled in front of the sun. I was wet having only left the shelter of my car one black ago. He was asking for money, shoulders hunched against the weather. Across the street there were two more men. One man was sitting on the ground with his back against a bike rack, a sign laid on the sidewalk in front of him. He looked both resigned and angry and was talking to himself or passersby, I couldn’t be sure.
In her opening keynote speech for Blissdom Canada '11, Catherine "herbadmother" Connors challenged the audience to come up with answers to four questions. It has taken me longer than it really should to come up with those answers. Though I understood what Catherine was after – intellectual curiosity, both humble and rigorous, is the key to true wisdom. Applying the same models of scrutiny to connect with honesty and integrity is the key to social media – I felt squeamish.
I’ve been asking myself the kind of questions I prefer not to poke at very often. The kind of questions with answers that feel rather like looking at myself under fluorescent lights. In a full length mirror. First thing in the morning.
This summer we couldn’t make our annual trip to the berry patch.Our winter freezer will be empty of smoothie-ready berries, my February pies will be bereft of the raspberries that give them zing in the soft-apple and hard-pear winter months. But it is not the berries that I will miss most; it is the berry picking itself that will leave a hole in our summer.
The good people at NAOT sent me a new catalogue. I was preparing for a big trip and largely ignoring my own shopping needs because my own shopping needs seemed entirely secondary to emptying the fridge and getting the dog’s anal glands expressed. Would I consider blogging about some sandals? Shoes I already know and love and for which I would not have to go out and shop? OKAY.
When Erica challenged me to “put a blog where my mouth was”, I agreed because I wanted to try to speak the truths I felt were missing around me. I agreed because I felt blogging was an opportunity to step into the chasm that opens between writing publicly and failing privately and to try to take an honest look around at the dangling roots and the long shadows. It is why I continually try to poke at the cultural gap between the “yummy” and the “mummy” and it is why I strive to speak honestly about the mess.
I am from the prickly shelter of chestnut trees and stern stone houses built to weather the cold. I am from Colour TV and square fading baby pictures with dogs and cats and horses in every one.
I am from half way up the mountain with bicycles on the sidewalk and back doors unlocked. I am from dreams of escape beneath a Holly Hobby quilt, from kitchen haircuts and homemade corduroy dresses I secretly loved, from long trips in wood-paneled family wagons to far flung stony shores.
There was a movie I watched years ago with my boyfriend. Harrison Ford stars as a husband desperately searching the alleys and apartments of Paris with a punk ingénue for a sidekick/pawn as he tears apart the city looking for his missing wife. He’s intent, rumpled, equal parts angry and confused. He doesn’t speak French but he tries urgently to get the police to believe that his wife wouldn’t just disappear. They shrug, roll their eyes, raise their Gallic eyebrows at the pretty young thing and imply that wives do this sort of thing all the time. Especially in Paris.
Every time the doors close behind us, it is like walking into a tropical exhalation, the humidity, a thickness I gratefully enter, shedding layers, feeling my skin relax and my curiosity awaken. It is a refuge we regularly seek out. That afternoon though, the air was filled with living confetti, a vivid blue butterfly landed on my daughter’s shoulder. Iridescent, it perched, fluttering, soft as a blink. We had come to visit the tropical rainforest room on the day of the butterfly emergence.
Funerals. Weddings. Sudden illness. Anniversaries of marriages and sometimes of deaths. We gather and it reminds us of the things we know are essential, but which we put carefully and lovingly aside, like the good china or the silver candlesticks, out of the way once the everyday hustle takes over again.