Archive for March, 2008

For Every Teeter…There’s A Totter

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I have hesitated and hesitated to write again. Then I stopped by my friend Sharon’s. She told me she had read my last blog, and she expressed her condolences at the passing of my friend. I had to say too, that I am sorry. All I can write about is longing and leaving, and it’s all so sad. But Sharon makes me laugh, and told me a Carolyn Kizer quote, that poets are interested mostly in death and commas. Ursula LeGuin’s response to her was that prose writers are interested mostly in life and commas. And Leonard Cohen says, “If your life is burning well, then poetry is the ash.”

I can do this. I am in such good company.

A few weeks back, we had those sunny, golden days. Mellow, limpid, one after the other. I was walking a lot, and sitting by the water, and crossing that Jacob Haldi Bridge. About halfway across I started experiencing a trigger like reaction right around the same place each time. I wondered if it was just a flee response to grief. There was something about the sound of my own steps falling, the sun in my hair that blew across my face, and I wanted to keep walking. I started to entertain a little daydream that gave me so much pleasure. Anne Lamott’s acronym for FEAR is fuck everything and run. Well, I don’t believe I felt fear even though death was on my mind. And I don’t run. But what I really wanted to do was walk. I felt such a pang; I missed my brother, and I thought how great it would be to just walk over and see him. And I really wanted to do that.

But my brother lives in Ridgeway, near Crystal Beach, right there on Lake Erie, in Ontario. So you see how part of that acronym, say about half, really appealed to me. I got so excited thinking about walking. Walking without a cause, walking without any type of competitive value. Just walking. I wouldn’t even carry a pack, just my satchel. There’d be no such thing as cheating. I could take a bus, or scoot ahead on a plane for a province or two. Roslyn said, “Don’t call me when you get to the Rockies.” But I know she meant that’s WHEN I could call her. I am so afraid of cars, so I wouldn’t even be able to walk on the secondary roads. What do you call it (besides the long way) when the roads heading in the direction I want, are smaller and smaller than secondary roads? Neighbourhoods I guess. Cutting through neighbourhoods, walking across Canada. Oh boy! I would stop at diners, the ones that aren’t that good. But they aren’t chains, and they have booths and sometimes a jukebox. There is always a chub chub waitress, friendly and hard working. You just know that she’s got kids at home, is tight with her women friends, and kind to her neighbours. “A hero is one who does what she can.” And I’d have a piece of pie, and my tea.

I am so afraid of living beige.

I wanted to go. Just go. All that is most precious to us is beyond our power to keep safe. We have no control. I’m not saying that I’M not worth keeping safe, that I want to take crazy risks. But I have had a family of seven, and now it’s just me. The risk factor seems so low. I thought of an old poem of Leonard’s, and I felt feverish to find it. And I phoned up my friends at Chapters and bugged them and said, “Please find me that poem, the one about the bus, the one about that feeling!” And they looked on the shelves but Chapters didn’t stock it any more and I needed somebody to read it to me, please. But Craig came through for me, and there it appeared in my inbox, and here it is now…


I was the last passenger of the day,

I was alone on the bus,

I was glad they were spending all that money

Just getting me up Eighth Avenue.

Driver! I shouted, it’s you and me tonight,

let’s run away from this big city

to a smaller city more suitable to the heart,

let’s drive past the swimming pools of Miami Beach,

you in the driver’s seat, me several seats back,

but in the racial cities we’ll changes places

so as to show how well you’ve done up North,

and let us find ourselves some tiny American fishing village in unknown Florida

and park right at the edge of the sand,

a huge bus pointing out,

metallic, painted, solitary,

with New York plates.


I just want to go. That feeling.

But I didn’t keep walking farther than this town. I stayed on the trail. I sat by the water. By way of the bridge walked home to the attic. And thought about happiness and about balance and how one can get weary feeling buffeted by the systematic cycle of extreme opposites that life is made up of. And I found a story in that Larry Dossey book that is so chock full of interesting, insightful things…There was once a king who commanded his wise men to make him a ring that would make him happy whenever he was sad, and sad whenever he was happy. They thought and thought, and finally decided that the ring should simply be engraved with the words, “This too shall pass.”

Aha. Aha. Aha. Aha.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’m not leaving yet. I’m going to sit in this chair and give you my longing. And I even went out and got a job. I didn’t get the job I was afraid to have. And I’m still holding out for the job I’m afraid to want. But I got one that I feel good about. For every AHA moment, no matter which way you look at it, you can laugh or be enlightened, and those are pretty great odds.

Good Life