Archive for September, 2009

What Really Didn’t Happen

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I have a Leonard Cohen story of my own. Today on his 75th birthday I am breaking my silence to elaborate on what really didn’t happen between Leonard and me.

It was the summer of 1973, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. What was a sleepy little village was changing fast. The Shaw Festival was under construction, Canada’s only mime theatre had its home there, and a production of New York City actors and their entourage had arrived in town to rehearse a musical based on the lives and loves of Leonard’s women, called The Sisters of Mercy.

I was staying in a little old hotel, the historic Prince of Wales, with my boyfriend. He was playing downstairs in a band that kept the locals, the casts and crews from the various shows, hopping into the wee hours. Niagara-on-the-Lake was abuzz and on fire. Hot! Hot! Hot!

As the story goes, Leonard got wind of this little enterprise that was using NOTL as a stepping stone before taking their show back to New York, albeit off-off-Broadway.

I first noticed him sitting on the outdoor patio of The Buttery Restaurant, right there on Queen Street, the main drag in town. It’s funny how the way he extends his leg, and then crosses it, still has that distinctive elegance. I had many reasons to go up and down that street, and saw on more than one occasion Leonard sitting on the patio being served by a girl I’d known in high school. Elyse was the understated classic beauty, so shy and modest (and oh my, so innocent). I could tell by the way she was ducking her head as she cleared his table with her tray, and smiling, and blushing to the roots of her fair hair, that Leonard was trying his best to seduce her.

It was a small town and it was inevitable that at one point Leonard and I would come face to face. This is that story.

Perhaps it was high noon. The sun was hot. The street deserted. Or perhaps people were behind curtains, looking out. I began my walk down Queen Street. And then up ahead, I saw him. Alone, walking neither fast nor slow, he was approaching. I continued walking. He continued walking. I determined that I would not look away. This was Leonard Cohen. We came closer. I could see the whites of his eyes, the intensity in his face. I was just about to see the thought processes in his brain. Leonard Cohen’s brain.

I’d say we were about ten feet apart, maybe less, and the distance between us was destined to diminish, and that’s when it happened. Leonard Cohen undressed me with his eyes…and kept walking. And then, it was over.

I’m quite sure he didn’t succeed with my teenage friend. I’m quite sure I immediately went for pecan pie at the cafe (while mentally readjusting my clothes). You can decide what this story is about. A lot didn’t happen. You may remember it as a story about Ontario summer weather, or wonder how good was the pie? Or you may ruminate as I do about all the things in our lives that really didn’t happen.

Good Life

…always for you Leonard.

Broken Clouds

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

There is a field across from the attic. Where I can walk to and sit on old wood bleachers and have an unimpeded view of sky. I call it the cloud field. It’s after sunset, I’ve just returned. After discovering the plains I am so hemmed in now by power lines and houses in a neighbourhood, and no matter how beautiful, trees.

A word seems to be coming up in the collective consciousness. I hear it everywhere – BROKEN. It vibrates and resonates in me. In book titles, movies, the names of songs, in everyday speech. For me it evokes powerful energy. We want to name the poisons and the causes of what weakened and gave way and broke. We want to start the healing.

My friend Tom came over and upgraded and tweaked my computer baby for me, and added the applet “weather conditions” to my desktop panel. When I raised the cursor to the little pictograph these words appeared – broken clouds – and I am completely taken. Enamoured.

Broken. No longer whole. In need of fixing? Or just the way it is now. Changed.

I’m thinking of all the different ways of looking at things and how it can shape your life, depending on how you interpret it. Willie P.’s song, “You think every silver lining has a cloud around it…And every whiskey bottle had my mouth around it.”

Yesterday I stopped in at the jewellery appraiser’s on my way to my walk, and he gave me ten bucks for my broken gold wedding band. I had had it cut off years ago when it no longer fit.
Yesterday my son Joseph proposed with a ring to his beautiful girl Zuzana.
Yesterday my friend Roslyn helped their daughter Erika wrap a gift in pretty paper for her ex-husband’s wedding.

A marriage that needed to be broken. The ten dollars will pay my monthly donation to Amnesty International – Justice, Equality, Freedom.
The circle of love. A ring, the hope in the future of a love that never ends.
The cycle of life continues. A kind giving. The generosity of spirit that transcended the break.

If something breaks in two, three or four, sometimes it is not meant to be whole again. The separate broken pieces are whole unto themselves. We have to break something open, to look at what’s inside, to understand it. Sometimes it’s not a weakness at the break but the strength of something growing too big to be confined.

Break – up, down, through.

I’m reading a book called “Broken * A Love Story,” by Lisa Jones. Lisa travelled to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, to interview a shaman horse breaker called Stanford Addison. He explained how he took on the sickness in the sweat lodge, with his own body. “I get sick so my medicines can stay clean…It’s like laundering money. Bringing bad money and making it clean.” He takes that on even though he is in a broken body, a quadriplegic suffering the traumas and debilitating illnesses that attend to that.

When I was devastated by the sudden passing of my loved one almost five years ago, these words came unbidden in my mouth, they surfaced in my sleep…the way forward is with a broken heart. I knew it was the title of an Alice Walker book. They swam in my grief, the words in the wrong order until they were put together, and formed that sentence over and over again…the way forward is with a broken heart. I knew them to be true. I hung my very soul on them, a mantra, a prayer, a whisper to myself against defeat while I crawled until I could get on my feet.

There is powerful magic in words. Browsing the shelves in the bookstore, another one leapt out at me, a book by Richard M. Cohen, “Strong At The Broken Places.” Having the wisdom to see the continuity, no matter what shape it takes. We’re moving along, we’re circling around the holes, we have to take detours, nothing is ever or will ever be in a straight line.

The meteorological definition of broken clouds are clouds which cover between 6/10 and 9/10 of the sky. I never knew. And those low broken clouds that are skipping across the sky like white pebbles on a blue pond? SCUD the acronym: scattered cumulus under deck.

There are activists and prophets, poets and healers amongst us, from meteorologists to shamans to teenage rockers, and they have put together words that trigger something primitive and challenging, a call to action. Go find the sky. Meet me at the cloud field. My weather forecast: daylight with probable chance of darkness towards night.

In a book by Pete McCarthy, “McCarthy’s Bar,” he journeyed to Ireland to find out whether he had an honest to goodness pull towards Ireland, he of Irish mother and English father. Was he sucked in by the marketing push for all things Irish, or did he have a true feeling for the place of his childhood summers? He was questioning that feeling, that sense of belonging he felt.

He was told a story that continues to mesmerize me. The Celtic monks wandered Europe and would not settle and make their community until they felt a place calling to them. They called it – seeking their place of resurrection. They believed that if they found their true home, they would be underneath that spot in the firmament that would lead them to heaven.

I don’t know where my home is, except under sky. And with the monks in mind, I will stay under broken clouds.

Good Life

Coyote, What Say You To Me When Once I Had Become You?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Last Friday night, full moon but the clouds covered it. Wendy and I were walking through the dark field to her home when we saw a young coyote up ahead, eating carrion at the side of the road. Fearless, it lifted its head but kept tugging, only backing a little ways into the bushes as we got nearer.

We walked on. Coyote watched.

My friend hears the coyotes bark in the night at her end of town. The yips and howls of their calls. The discordance of the train whistles are my sound track as I lay in my bed. And the rain, always the rain. A pummeling force on the skylights, or a caress, the water in waves from the sky.

We said our good nights, and I turned homeward. Moving through the silence of a small town on a holiday weekend, I pulled up a dream that I had had more than a dozen years ago. A dream that has such powerful mojo it thrills me still.

My dreams are tactile, always in colour, the sound quality superb. I am never bored. I have had dreams in which I’ve laughed so hard I’ve woken up gasping. Woke in grief that morning could never shake. Gone places in my night travels that earn map pins on my wall and stamps in my passport.

I was moving through canyons. There were red rock formations, the red I love, and the ground was that rust colour, too. The road red dirt, the canyon walls steep, the high sky in contrast was a blue that defied the existence of any other colour. Glorious sun, pillowing white clouds. I became conscious that I was in a large car speeding through the desert heat. The air was clean and there was lots of it. An open car, a convertible. A large American car with the top down, and fins, and there was no one driving. Somehow I sat like a beauty queen in a pageant, perched up high with my feet on the back seat, facing forward head on, breezing down the road. Oh, it was a smooth ride!

There was a shift, I became the car, or not just the car, but part of the force. The power that was within the car. I sped on. And then another shift, the movement changed. The car began morphing into a large animal, bigger and bigger and the movement became a lope and then a galloping run. The speed never diminished. Then I was riding the back of a huge silver gray coyote. I felt its body beneath me, the fur of its neck clenched in my hands. The wind rushed past us, so great our pace. We grew as we ran, our size and height becoming mythical. And as I rode, the black tipped fur streamed its colour behind us, and left in its place a pure and brilliant white.

And then the shift again and It was I. I became the white coyote. There was no more me. I, a white coyote, raced down red roads between rock walls. I felt the pads of my feet hit the dirt. Powerful, turning, twisting through the canyons so surely. Moving. Free.

Knowing – Myself – Coyote.


They say that a coyote signifies the change that’s coming…
Teaches us to laugh at ourselves, to learn from our foolishness, our human mistakes…
Mediator between life and death…

Coyote on the road…What say you to me, when once I had become you?

Reach into your bag of tricks. Pull one out for me.
Pull me out a new lesson.

Coyote…Shift me…Shape me.
I will only have to learn it once.

Good Life

Time On My Hands

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Time on my skin like sun and the rain. Time in my hair like wind across my face. In my veins, in the dreams I dream at night where I soar beyond every boundary, outside of time that has no definition. The road at my back and the road ahead. Walking, watching, waking. Opening up each moment like a present.

I have stolen all the flowers and filled each corner of the attic with their scent. I have discovered Debussy’s Pavane in E Minor, my anthem of now.

I think of this, T.S. Eliot…Where is the Life we have lost in living?

My little Buddha Boy, my grandson Hayden has a blanket he calls his Buddy. He said the blue stripe running through it is a lake. I have taken to carrying on my person a small heart shaped crystal amethyst. My buddy. A funny thing, always walking with this in my hand, such comfort. Sleeping and finding it beside me in the morning, during the night. I palm its smoothness and it is soft and hard at the same time. Instantly it warms to my touch. I feel it pulsing. An amethyst has the power of healing. My purple heart of courage. So much of this life for me is falling away faster and faster. Not in a destructive, diminishing way, but in a necessary way.

A long time ago my friend Ruth brought me back a rock from her family vacation at a northern Ontario lake. She theorized that it was the perfect rock because it had a small hole in it. All its weaknesses had been eroded and washed away and what was left was its strength. I immediately threaded a leather thong through it and tied it to my belt. I was David to any Goliath, and so I walked through high school halls.

It’s not the unknown that I fear now. I fear the known. I fear holding on to any falseness that is meant to crumble. I am getting it. I am getting it. It is the invisible that is the most enduring, that’s where I want to stake my claim. This is where I will commit my heart.

I think of a story that Anne Lamott tells of autistic people so overwhelmed that they cannot cross a room. But their therapists devised a plan, and strung a rope from one side of the room to the other. And at first they clung, but then they crossed, and they made their way to the other side. That rope became a clothesline, and then eventually a strong, thin fishing line. They crossed. The day came when they were each handed a single 12 inch piece of fishing line. They crossed.

The courage to believe in the invisible strength.

I love my friends. I love how they get up in the morning and cope with their loneliness, the relentlessness of employment, the particular staggering peaks and sorrowing valleys that come their way. They hope for their children with a devotion that never dies. They spin kindness and grace and humour through their days. Armed with their buddies; their red shoes and dream catchers, the tucked picture of the kids, the memory of a touch on their skin. They walk, wending their way through the known and the unknown with whatever talismans, or whatever holes their courage seeps through.

I am feeling an utmost gratitude for the holes in my life. The invisible, the unknown, is more tangible to me now than ever before. The holes are encircled by such strength and love. I am hearing the flowers, smelling the music, seeing the invisible. Taking my time, I am touching the sky.

Good Life

…for my friends…