January 19th, 2011

A hot day. So restless. Hawks circled slowly, high above the manicured back yards, perhaps eying the lap dogs sprinkled on the lawns. My life felt too small and I needed to break out. Solvitur ambulando. I set off walking mid-afternoon towards the familiar touchstones of library and post office, with a sense that something could happen would happen if I went out to meet it. Terry! Terry was just coming out of the PO and we had a happy and exuberant reunion on the sidewalk. All these years of living in the village and I had not met Terry until last winter when we both worked at Chapters in Langley. I liked this woman and had been shocked to discover that we both lived in town. Hers was the beautiful old wood house on Church Street, barely visible behind a latticework of greenery, aptly named Wildwood.

A short time after I’d left the bookstore Terry posted a jubilant comment on my blog site, saying that I had inspired her to quit Chapters, too. She had done the math and figured out that she could earn the same amount of money, no, a bit more, by teaching two art classes in the time it took to work four shifts at Chapters. Duh! Well pshaw, it was no credit to me. Terry is an educator, a children’s book author and illustrator, and one of the most creative, artistic people ever! Chapters has a very high turnover and eventually if a door doesn’t open you kick out a window or the cliff beckons.

Our conversation continued down the street, there was so much to catch up on, and neither one of us had a schedule to keep. We went for tea, and then still talking we stood here and there in the hot July sun. I told Terry that I didn’t know where but that I had decided to move by the end of the summer. Without hesitation she said, “Move into my shed.” I’ve got to admit my first reaction was, “What the…?” I thought she was being flippant but one look at her face showed otherwise. She was sincere and she was smiling. “Terry, Terry, what do you mean by that?”

Terry said that years ago when she had needed some space, she’d moved into the shed in her yard. It had helped her. Then the shed became the hang out for her daughters and daughters’ friends to have privacy. I was intrigued and getting excited. “Show me,” I said.

With much apology Terry explained that it was currently full of junk. With her frozen shoulder and the pain she was plagued with she was unable to do anything about it. But if I was willing to clean it out, it could be mine. By this time we had reached her yard and inside I was thrumming and clicking. There stood my future home. And yes, the shed was crammed from floor to ceiling with microwaves, boxes of papers spilling everywhere, old TVs, the assorted flotsam and jetsam of kids that had grown up and left a few things behind. I never felt an ounce of dismay at the work ahead. I knew it was doable. We would make piles, I would do the grunt work. One pile for the kids to come and retrieve, one garbage, one give away.

Over the next few days I contacted Terry by email quite a bit. I told her that I was sure, but if she wanted to change her mind there would be no hard feelings on my part at all. Each and every time she cheerily replied that she did not.

Something happened before we even looked at the shed. There we were still talking, standing in the IGA parking lot, and Terry had just invited me to move on to her property. I was quizzing her on why she would do that. I didn’t know Terry that well, and couldn’t believe that she really meant it. She said she liked the idea of helping me with my plan to go to Texas. (The going rates for living in a shed are really, really affordable.) That day I was wearing my old Chapters’ work pants, and I stuck my hand into the depths of the pocket and felt a little bit of paper. I pulled it out. It was one of the many rotating talismans that I’d carried last winter to keep up my strength. Unfolding the tattered little note I read, “Believe in magic. Expect the unexpected and be prepared to be amazed.” Dazzled, my head reeling I handed it to Terry and said, “Now this is yours.”

We did it. The plan grew. I still thought to myself that if nothing came of this at least I would have helped Terry move some very old energy around. It was okay for Terry to change her mind, but she never did. When I started telling my friends that I was moving…to a shed, I gleefully watched their faces. Yep, horror and dismay. But once they saw the vision (they already knew my plan), how quickly they knew that it was right. The capital S Shed is me. But how they wanted me to change the name. Couldn’t I puleeze call it a cabin? Or romanticize the name just a little? They were squirming and I was not. I proudly announce that I live in a Shed. And it took me a while to get it, I was in my bed one night grinning in the dark, envisioning life in the shed, when I finally really heard the word. I got it. I got it! And started laughing. SHED! I am still shedding! So of course, the Shed is perfect.

The ceiling was pale blue and the walls a sunshine yellow. Though I loathe to paint and it bores me silly, with donations of leftover paint from Eliza and Laurel the Shed’s interior became an austere white and the floor sage green. It was worth the effort. I did not want to feel that I was living in a cast off playroom. The shedding began with furniture dispersed and more and more possessions given away. My books were boxed and sent down the highway for storage at Roslyn’s. Living in the Shed was going to exemplify living simply to an even greater degree. One table, two chairs, one bed. Only one bookcase, space is limited. Music, my eight plants, and only the personal treasures I need to keep close by.

The Shed is 11 feet by 17. Blue curtains hang at five little windows. One door. I have a small kitchen area and pantry with toaster oven, hot plate and mini fridge. There is no running water. I take my water jug across the yard and up the porch steps into the big house where there is a bathroom just inside the back door. The Shed sits under an old fir tree that rises a hundred feet above me. The yard has been left wild and untended. Two sister dogs, Georgia and Lily, plummet out the back door, racing down the steps to chase the plentiful squirrels back up the trees. Five luxuriant cats roam the house and yard, taking turns at my door, waiting to be let in.

In the night when I need water, or the bathroom, I make my way to the house in whatever clothes I throw on to keep warm or dry. On the way back I loiter until the darkness lets me in. It is so quiet and still. A dim light glows warmly behind the curtains in my windows. I look up up up to the sky above, see the moon and stars, sense the trees, feel the rain and wind, and know my connection to all that is. This is where I live. I moved in September 1st, and feel grateful to have found the perfect fit. For now.

Good Life

Saying grace…Jack and Terry and Harvey and Virginia, you are lovely.

Creature Comforts

January 11th, 2011

It takes time for all the hundreds of faces to fall away and begin receding in memory. No longer riding the bus into Langley to work at the mega bookstore in the strip mall put me back in the village for the summer. I felt that I was reclaiming it again, settling in after seven months of leaving town. Oh the luxury of the post office and library, my two best pillars of society. Heading towards them was my familiar daily ritual, done at my leisure now, rather than sandwiched in between a hectic schedule. I regained the expansiveness of time again in which time cannot be measured and good times elongate and expand in deliciousness.

I needed to empty out. Live with my decision. I’d toughed out the hardest part of the year and trekked back and forth in wind, rain and snow. May is a good month to run free. And June. And July. But I was walking again, walking for my life.

It is a funny thing to defiantly reclaim your day for yourself. I am not retired, and my joke is that not only am I not out to pasture yet, I will be cutting through pastures for the rest of my life, on my way to earning my daily bread. But not right now. I am still young and foolish enough to know and relish the necessity of living in the now. And I insist on discovering the beauty of now.

At the intersection of Mavis Street and River Road there is a roundabout in the middle of the road, Spirit Square, with three regal carved panels on display; one each of wolf, beaver, and salmon. They are the artistry of Drew Atkins and with his permission I am reproducing the information about his carvings that is written on the plaque at the roadside.

Wolf – Inspiration for the first panel comes from the richness of Kwantlen history and traditions thousands of years before contact in the time of transformation. Kwantlen translates to “tireless runner.” Oral tradition tells of a great Chief whose daughter gives birth to wolf puppies that transform themselves to human form and become descendants of the first Kwantlen families. It has been said that the wolf blood gave the Kwantlen messengers stamina whose task was to run and deliver messages throughout and beyond the vast Kwantlen territory. Today, the Kwantlen government and Kwantlen community members continue in their efforts to work tirelessly in all that they do for their families and Nation.

Beaver – The Colonial History is represented by a beaver, an integral part of the fur trade. The fur trade brought the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader fort and the signing of the proclamation in 1858 to Fort Langley. The beaver is also nature’s engineer and builder, symbolically building the foundation from which the colony grew.

Salmon – The Post Colonial period is represented by a salmon. The salmon industry is the original industry of the Fraser Valley and has always been the economic base that helped First Nations and other communities along the Fraser River thrive. It is also a reminder to us all that if we do not honour and respect the river and the environment, we will lose our precious dwindling resources.

Dedicated to the Kwantlen people; Past, Present and Future. Design and carving by Drew Atkins and Xwa-lack-tun. (2008)

When one walks, or sits, when one has time, it is amazing how the little faces come into focus. The sudden sideways iridescent glancing of hummingbirds on red flowers. Timid brown bunnies tucked beneath the wild blackberry bushes along the railway tracks. To blend in, to become a part of the life of trees where birds chatter and swoop. I walk across the Jacob Haldi Bridge down the road to the river to stand on that dock. Out of the corner of my eye the splash of the salmon jump, a sandhill crane steps daintily in the shallows and lifts off. Today I watched a lone duck paddle towards a one log boom and dive neatly under the water. I watched and waited for it to emerge, and it did yards and yards past it on the other side, to join its mate.

I am on Kwantlen territory when I walk past the bridge. There is an area of the woods that has been cleared ready for building. The long Spring rains left deep pools and ruts between tree stumps where frogs accumulate to sing their song. It seemed that every time I walked past this clearing the frogs were calling, louder, insistently, and I started to pay attention, began to read up on the significance and symbolism of the animal kingdom.

The Frog says, “It’s time to release all things no longer appropriate to bring on your journey. Then you can hop to the next lily pad, light and free. (Colette Baron-Reid).

I heard the frog’s song in places where I had never thought a frog could be. Where I stepped off the bus at night I was greeted by ribet. In the shrubs at the corner where I turned onto my street the chorus would continue. Frog speaks of new life and harmony through its rain song. The deep tones of Frog’s “ribet” are said to be a call to the Thunder Beings: thunder, lightning, and rain. The “ribet” is the heartbeat that comes into harmony with Father Sky and calls for the replenishment needed.

Frog sings the songs that bring the rain.

Frog teaches us to honour our tears, for they cleanse the soul. (Jamie Sams and David Carson – Medicine Cards).

I’m reading about the twin hemispheres of our brains that have different personalities. The left side dominates critical and analytical thinking, while the right side is all about creativity and intuition. The right side of the brain which controls the left hand will say things you don’t know that you know. There are exercises one can do to have a bilateral conversation. I picked up a pencil with my right hand and wrote a question, How’s it going? then switched to my left hand and wrote the answer, Like a tree frog in a burning forest.

Well holy shit and let the rains come! Leap, frog, leap!


On a sunny day a walk to the river in companionship with my dear friend. Roslyn and I stood on the dock, elbows resting on the railing, looking this way then that up the channel. Dusty barked, Bob called up from his boat, “Do you want a fish? Do you like salmon?” Would I! He chopped and sliced the long body, tipping the head and guts into the river and slid the great fish into a bag for me. I carried my catch home. We climbed the steps to my house sit where Roslyn sat at the counter reading the paper, golden sun falling from skylights. She would take home half for her household, to feed herself and her students. I stood at the sink, the tap running cold. The water poured across its sleek sides, cleansing the body of blood. My finger traced the silver scales over and over down its powerful body. Water flowed. I stood staring, hot sun on my shoulders. Through my finger I felt the cold wet strength of the fish and knew its journey. Felt its twists and turns through the shallows and the rapids. Began remembering. Knew myself nosing deeper and deeper into the gray green depths of the river, my powerful tail twisting and turning, disappearing into story.

Good Life

Suspending Disbelief

June 17th, 2010

There has been some concern voiced that I will disappear and then reappear in a posting with a whole new set of circumstances and no explanation of the upheaval in between. Six weeks have gone by…

I am here. Still unemployed. Money has shown up from unexpected sources, invitations to work and earn which have been gratefully accepted. I am now calling myself The Dinner Slut of Fort Langley (if you cook…). I have picked up where I left off more than eight months ago when I began busing into Langley to work at Chapters. My time for those seven months was spent getting there, working, and getting over it. Now I am wandering again, that is what I do when the day is my own. Yes I am on a job search, but primarily I am up here in the Loft working on my mojo. Do I believe something will materialize out of thin air just for me? I most certainly do. All things begin first as energy before they take their worldly form, and I have the opportunity now to work on mine in my solitude or in the company of my fine friends. I will not gasp for breath. I will believe in rarefied air; air that allows me to breathe who I am into life.

Am I chewing my nails? I have had a few panicky moments but when the fingers run out I move on to the pleasures of my life. I am so easily distracted by a good book, the call of the world to walk in, or the time available to catch up in person with the people I love.

I have a curious mind, but I think a lazy one too. I am not delving studiously into any particular subjects but letting myself browse and pick at whatever catches my interest. The archetype The Fool comes to mind. I know people are wondering what the heck is going to happen to me, living the way I do. The Fool laughs at Life, or laughs because of Life. Leonard is willing to be The Fool for Love so I cannot have his crown. It is worth it to me now to be The Fool for Me. For Me. The definition of The Scapegoat is one who is cruel or who takes on the cruelty of others. I did that for Chapters. I sacrificed my employment to make a statement, that I was not willing to not be paid my worth. I still miss all those books, my co-workers who became my friends, and the book lovers who needed me. Oh yes I do.

And so the leap continues. I’m spiraling slowly, looking out at the view. The bloom of purple lilacs has been replaced by pink rose scent. There are no lines of demarcation that differentiate between my day and night. I walk to ground myself when it feels like I am free falling too fast, too hard. I slide open the glass door of my bedroom to sit on the porch floor when the sunset flings its colours across the sky. When I dream of you and me and it wakes me, I turn on the light and pick up my book again to read myself into daylight and the life I live without you.

This flight cannot fail nor is it the first cliff that I’ve leapt from. I’m doing this for me and for anyone who wants to watch. I’m saying it is important to heal a heart that’s hurting. Doesn’t it save your life to stop the momentum when it becomes clear that the direction you’re heading is taking you Nowhere? What looks like falling down is taking me to higher ground.

Good Life

Blowing kisses to all the angels in my life. Thank you.

And, for L.

Watching For Annette

May 3rd, 2010

I have done it again, quit a job before having another. This seems to be my way and I will not regret it. Balance may appear to be precarious. There are things I need to broach, to try and explain myself, and I’m struggling to reconstruct whether there is a beginning and a middle to this. I’ve been on a long journey and been silent from this page. Even I am still struggling to voice exactly where it is I’ve been.

So I will start with where I am now. I am standing on a cliff. It is an exhilarating view, from a long climb, and the air is so fresh that you can eat it. You can survive on it. The sky really does lead one to heaven. Behind the clouds roll and churn what you are glimpsing is not something that is replicated down on earth. So, the cliff, I am poised. I am breathing. My posture is good, I stand tall. It is not the quitting itself that means a thing. I am done now. It was something I gave my time to, to earn enough money to support myself. Something that I am very good at, but one that debilitated me with its teenager’s shifts and its teenager’s wage. What matters to me are the manifestations, inner and outward, of where we are going within ourselves.

Back to the cliff…

I told you about the perfect rock. I wore it looped through my belt when I was a teenager. The water in the lake had worn away the weak and unsubstantial to create a hole, and what surrounded that hole was the strength of the rock. What was left was perfection, its endurance and durability. I’ve fumbled, trying to express how necessary the holes are to bring what surrounds them into definition. That absence also creates presence.

I feel as if I have been living the hole of my own life, this long winter. Still in my Good Life, but living in the absence. Still my life but everything somehow opposite. Everything mirrored back. Living in the shadow that fell from last year’s happiness. I know I felt it coming, prescient is what I am. I knew it was coming, I held on to that attic by my fingernails until the very last moment. I knew that everything was going to change. And it did.

From outward appearances? No. I moved to another good place. I got something to work at in which I excel. Small dramas. For a blessing counter I was still in the Good Life. But inside of me it all changed. I started living in the minus column. Follow me here…I still had all the checks and balances in the plus column (the smooth gray stone around the hole), but I was now in the part of the rock that wasn’t there anymore. It wasn’t, I wasn’t. It felt as if a more real life was being lived inside of me, in that walk by myself through the dark, while my life on the top in my daylight living hours was but a reflection. Walking but now limping. Still saying thank you but through tears.

We all have a secret life. Sometimes secret from ourselves. Our secret life of dreams named and unnamed that we birth in our breast. We dream and we dream. We journey through a nighttime of interior wastelands. We tire, sometimes forgetting what we are doing and where we are going but then the dawn comes when these dreams break through the surface of our lives into the light of day. I felt the piercing loss of a love I was not giving. The loss of a love I was not receiving. Experienced the absent life. My secret life. An unlived life.

On the surface though, I kept going, but I felt paralyzed. My muse turned to mute, the hand at my throat my own. Watching and listening. Moving through this world but stumbling in the dark inside, wondering about the why of experiencing this opposite, this negation. Suffering through the loss of what was never in my hands, never made into a dream. It isn’t faith I’ve lost, it’s still here, up here with me on the cliff. Faith is what made me make the climb. But I let go of what I never had. This is what I know now. I let go of what doesn’t exist. I had to embrace the absence to let it go. Joy does not escape its grieving.


I was shocked to be back at Chapters again. Going back is something I don’t do. I don’t go back, to men or jobs. I liked it a lot when Eliza said, “It’s only going back if you’re looking back.” That helped. Previously I had impetuously quit last summer’s job and found myself with no income for quite a few weeks, hence the return to Chapters. But why was I repeating where I had already been? Then it was brought to my attention three times in one day why I was back in this bookstore. And then I got it. A synchronistic meeting in the bookstacks with a woman named Mange enlightened me. She told me that she had had it all twice. Twice. And lost it both times. And that now she knew why. Because she did not have gratitude. We both pulled amethysts from our pockets. In amazement we touched them gently together and raised them in a toast to each other. And aha! I knew why I was there again. For these encounters, for these teachers. For the gift of these people. “Until we find the lesson in the things that we perceive as obstacles, we will be forced to repeat them.” I began accepting the blessings embedded in the bleak.

But not just accepting them. I began embracing them with gratitude. As I walked towards the store I was making deals. I was saying my prayers. Teach me something, or let me be of service to someone, somehow. If I had to be there, then let’s get this thing done, so I could be finished and move on. My quota was two mindful, significant connections with people per shift, or I would jump off the Jacob Haldi Bridge. I started watching for the moment when my reason for working in a job that was too small for me was unmasked, and its greater purpose was revealed. Oh, how my prayers were answered! What bounty rushed towards my hungry heart.


The universe talks to me. Talks to me in words and signs and I am listening. I was given a Pathfinder. Let me spell it out for you, a P-A-T-H-F-I-N-D-E-R. Sure the universe has a sense of humour. It was a dogmobile that friend Janice used to shuttle hyper and upset dogs back and forth from the Pound. It doesn’t smell so good and it’s covered in dog hair. And just to make it more interesting it’s a standard and my technological skills end at the toaster. So there are things to do. Challenges I must rise to. Getting down the road isn’t going to be easy.

Goethe said it, “Until one is committed…” John Burroughs’s “Leap, and the net will appear,” is a rallying cry to faith. I believe that job was done and enough lessons learned. When I told Jonah I quit, my son sent me a note of cheer, “Go Mom, go! Leap and Annette will appear!” I am laughing now. Four times this week already women by the unlikely name Annette have appeared in my day. Thank you crazy wonderful Jonah! You have triggered a plethora of Annettes. And thank you my angels for sending me reminders that I am getting closer to my path again, on higher ground.


I have a friend. Her name is Dale and her moniker is The Lazy Wizard. When you conjure up a picture of Merlin think the opposite, of a gloriously feminine version of a wizard, this is Dale. Statuesque, long hair blowing about her face (even without a wind), and an invisible wand she waves to create fantastical creations. I told Dale that I was ready to take flight and she said, “You need wings. Come over and lay by the fire, we will put henna wings on your back.” Just the thought of that was enough for me. I savoured the deliciousness of wings to fortify my resolve. On Wednesday I walked over to survey my Pathfinder which sits in her driveway; waiting to be cleaned, waiting for me to learn how to drive it. I was accosted at the door by Jacy, daughter of Dale, like mother like daughter. Wielding her cake decorating tool filled with henna, filling the air with the smell of clove oil to darken the stain, I sat as Jacy drew a long stemmed rose up my spine. Attached to this on either side, two perfect wings unfold across my shoulder blades. I sat in a dream before the fire and didn’t leave until I had more; puzzle pieces. Two on one wrist. On the other arm three interlocking pieces and two pieces straying from the others.

They will fade, the pieces not the puzzle. The Pathfinder will become mine. I will claim it, drive it, travel new roads. The wings beneath my shirt are my secret strength. I cannot see them and will never know when they ever truly disappear. Annette is standing by, I jumped anyway (these wings have come in handy). I’m waiting for more signals from the control tower. Communications are coming faster now. Dr. Bill told me something that pilots say to one another…Runway behind and sky above are useless to a pilot.


It’s late, and the telling of this story has taken me far into the night. This is the first day of another new beginning. I’ve come to an understanding. I can feel the integration of my light and dark, loss and love, visible and invisible. I accept what is and what isn’t; the perfection of my life. The rain is thrumming on the porch roof outside my bedroom door. I have brought in lilacs. I will smell them as I lay in the dark. I will take the beauty of Rumi’s words into my consciousness and take them down, down, down where I don’t need a net, where I already know how to fly.


Always check your inner state with the lords of your heart.
Copper does not know it’s copper, until it is changing into gold.
Your loving does not know its majesty,
until it knows its helplessness.


Good Life

Looking Sideways

January 13th, 2010

Our lives take on such different shapes, each one from another. Years of seeming sameness, when one can look rooted to the very same spot, can suddenly transform, and then the changes come one after the other. Faster and faster.

I have been home from Texas for ten months now, and both Mary and I looked at the calendar on December 29th and wrote, “Wish you were here,” and, “Wish I was, too.” Only ten short months but I have been chafing. Feeling as if my life is moving so slowly, the chasm so wide between my struggle to live in the moment, whatever it brings, and the leaps I wish to take. And yet there is movement. Increments.

With great sadness I left the Attic and my friends in that wonderful house, and am now ensconced in what I call the Loft. For all my mourning it was time, and my new home with different friends is again very, very special. The thought of leaving the skylights had me in despair. But here I am, the Loft is high and bright, and I have not lost the sky. This house where I now live is on a rise, the wall I face from my bed is glass. There is the western sky, with only the bits and pieces of coloured rooftops below, and the bare branches of the trees in between. I will not miss the sky at all. I’ve been given more than a glimpse, it is all there. Choosing these changes has tested me. Wanting to embrace Lao Tzu’s, “When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need…” My friend Anna’s words resonate, have comforted me, “You are moving faster into your future.”

I am working again in a bookstore, so there is the calming and exhilarating company of the books that I love and the books that I will someday read. “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Walking through the industrial area from the bus loop in Langley to the major intersection where Chapters is located, triggers something in me, something bleak, and sometimes holy.

Bridging two worlds is the little community shuttle bus that drives the nine kilometers from Fort Langley, winding along the country road through fields we go. Frank the bus driver plays the best blues. Oftentimes the fare counter is broken and we all ride for free. Leaving the sleepiness and pace of Fort Langley for Langley, my feet hit the pavement for my walk to the store, and the journey is both inner and outer. Langley is a car culture. A pedestrian walking the sketchy sidewalk on that particular road is a rarity. I see it in the drivers’ faces, what an oddity I am, how they can’t relate. They stare through impenetrable glass as they race past.

And November. November was my last month in the Attic. My books were boxed up, the decision made, my life in transition. New job, that adjustment, and the rain. Oh! how it rained. I have always admired the sucker punch of Edna O’Brien’s book title, “August Is A Wicked Month.” November was a gaping hole the deluge poured through, every day an endurance test. I thought, “November Hasn’t Scabbed Over, Yet.” November had its own shade of black.

I struggled with myself. Not liking me. A lack of gratitude is, in my experience, the worst character trait to be missing. I’m still grappling to understand how dark my inner landscape. I am not completely unaware; I know very well how much I have and how very rich I am. I sloshed along the road to work, struggled in gusting winds with my umbrella, drenched to my knees. Guarding myself against the walls of water thrown up by the cars that would not slow down in the puddles that accumulated along the roadway. Entering the brightly lit/in your face/you’re on public display, pre-Christmas retail world was like coming in from the cold and wet and then being hit with a bucket of ice water. No more solitude for me. But it was not the job nor the people in cars that I resented. I wasn’t sorry for myself, nor did I envy them. I understand my choices and where they have brought me. I came to this – that although my shoes were wet, I still had feet. My comparisons brought up not anger against the haves, but looking sideways, pain for the have nots. For all that I felt, there were those that felt far worse. November’s blackness was a lack of hope. Mine would return, but what about the longsuffering?

Every day I pass a store named nood: new objects of desire. Something happens to my soul when I see that. This transparent marketing of a way of life (because you can never ever get enough of what you don’t need) makes me very, very sad. I risk my precious life inches from hurtling vehicles unmindful of my vulnerability in the dark and rain. Walk my to and fro at a human pace, foot to ground. And all about me the Christmas hysteria sped from one store to another, shopping for Jesus. Shopping for Jesus. And that was November, and December, too. For Christ’s sake, indeed.


The road to the ferry that is no more is a good one for me. Now that the ferry traffic is gone, it is deserted enough. Once I cross the Jacob Haldi Bridge my little town is behind me. The silence rises up from the earth, I can see it seeping up the trunks of the trees. The silence sifts down from the sky, flows through the bare branches. There are more moments of silence than the occasional car. It is still. There is the sound of me again, the sound of my own footfalls. Here I can walk safely, not distracted, nor looked upon.

Sometimes it is hard to reach such a short destination. I want to continue on, but I’m stopped by the channel. I do nothing but stand and wait until I really see the mountains, letting everything come into focus. Until the quietness wraps itself around me. I am standing on a small, government wharf. Down the ramp from it there are three fishing boats moored. One is called ADVISE. I wonder about the naming of that one. There is a cocker spaniel named Dusty that barks at me from the deck of the furthest boat. The shifting water, a few bobbing ducks, the land across the way, the faint but steady roar of the highway that runs along its shore. Then the mountains lift from the back, ice peaked, sometimes invisible in a low sky socked in by rain clouds. Leaning on the railing I look east up the channel, turn and look west. Getting my bearings, finding my place, gathering in all of me and rooting and resting my weight down through my body, through my shoes, onto the wooden dock. This moment is my home.

I met a man named Natch on my way back down the road. We stood in the wet day. He asked me how I was, and what little social pretension I have fell away. Why lie? “Sad,” I said. Looking out at the trees, rain falling on our faces, he said, apropos of nothing, “It takes a long time to get over things.” We stood quietly, standing in our knowledge, in our own histories. I told him the road to the ferry dock was good for me, and that I hoped I wasn’t bothering anyone, as I was walking through land of the Kwantlen Nation. He said no, it’s a good walk. Then he told me a story, and I knew that these stories come along for a reason.

He said two of his uncles had been killed on this road. In the fog when cars used to speed recklessly to the ferry. Just racing down that road to get in the lineup. Natch said he’d been fishing one day, he was on the far side of the channel in his boat when he got a feeling, and heard a scream. He got his boat back to this side as fast as he could. He heard the emergency vehicles, saw the lights. And when he got there the police were there and the ambulance, and his dead uncle. A kid sat in the back of the cop car and Natch got in and sat with him. The kid just kept shaking his head and saying that all he saw was the uncle on the windshield and his face looking in at him before he was thrown away.

I don’t know Natch, but I know he is a forgiving man. The way a person tells a story tells a lot about the storyteller. Natch was shaking his head now. His uncle dead, a horrible death in the fog on a cold road. An eighteen year old kid rocking back and forth in the back of a police car. At the funeral, Natch said, the moment they were laying his uncle in the ground, that kid in the jail cell, his heart stopped. He just died. Two deaths, Natch said. For nothing.


In one pocket my purple amethyst heart, folded in the other a piece of paper with the words of Camus, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” These are the talismans that keep me strong and keep me walking forward. I pray for those whose seasons never change.

Good Life

The Last Great Armadillo Watch

October 12th, 2009

I wanted to see an armadillo before I left Texas. There are all kinds, from a giant up to five feet long, to a Pink Fairy the size of your hand. The postcards I bought with their picture, called them the Texas cockroach. That was my determination, to get up close to one of these strange armored beasts and have a real look. I tried. Even on the frigid nights, I’d put on my coat after supper and walk the neighbourhood. The stars throbbed their white brilliance in a black fathomless sky. On the road the occasional light from the widely spaced lamp posts. But I knew there was no sneaking up on these nocturnal creatures. I created an uproar wherever I went. No matter how quietly I walked the streets the dogs that resided in every house just wouldn’t let up. Barking frantically long after I’d picked up my pace and turned the next corner.

The girls at The Tuesday Night Supper Club were amused by my interest in the pests that should be run off, hosed out, or shot. Every week they’d say, “Seen one yet?” and I’d have to say, “Nope.” Then one day Lonnie, Mary and I were stuffing our faces with doughnuts, sitting around the counter in the kitchen of the Inn. I was explaining about a hard chew, trying to get my point across with my mouth full of doughnut. That if you ate a hard vegetable or fruit (like a carrot or pear) two hours after eating breakfast, then you wouldn’t get late afternoon sugar cravings. It was about 5:00 and Jeannie burst through the door.

“Did you see an armadillo yet?”
“There’s one right now in the backyard of my church, rippin’ up the lawn.”

I ran across the street just in time to see a little leathery fatso scurry around the back of the building. There was a hole in the foundation and I saw him disappear. Okay! Location was now pinpointed. I went back for my tea and returned, settling down for the vigil. And so began my armadillo watch.

It didn’t look like a church. It was a small red brick house with rooms inside that I guess were used for administrative purposes. There was a concrete stoop at the back door. I’d sit and lean against the screen, all my supplies around me; my cup of tea, the camera, notebook and pen. I knew that armadillos have poor vision, and I wasn’t downwind of his home under the house.

The sky changed colour. The nights came on. I took pictures of the red gold slash through the bare winter branches of the trees in the yard. Risking the sound of the shutter for that beauty. It didn’t take patience. I was still, resting in the quiet. Then not one but two. There, working his way across the yard, was an armadillo, turfing up the dry yellowed grass with his sharp claws, and then using that snout of a nose. I heard the rustle of his mate beside me and up it came.

In 1974 I lived through a rainy Vancouver winter in a three story house with a bunch of friends, all of us displaced from Ontario. We left the arm up and played a Jerry Jeff Walker record full blast on the stereo. He’d wail, “I wanna’ go home with the armadillo, good country music from Amarillo and Abilene. The friendliest people and the purtiest women you ever seen.” We took turns rollicking my baby Jonah in our arms, round and round the room.

There are signs proclaiming that a particular city is a sister city to one in another country, although it feels like the whole world away. I walk these streets of Fort Langley and see the mounds of dirt that the moles leave behind, and smile at my parallel universes; Fort Langley in British Columbia and Archer City in Texas. The moles busy here in town being a nuisance to the gardeners and the lawn proud. The armadillos in Archer puncturing through the vegetation in their search for grubs, leaving behind a patchwork of shredded yards.

It was a very early airport run the morning we left. A bitterly cold north wind blew, hurling the chimes on the porch into a frenzy. We struggled to get the suitcases out the door of the Inn. The wind so strong it slammed the car doors shut over and over. Val had come down to stay with me and Mary for FIVE DAYS IN TEXAS, and she and I were travelling back to Canada together. I drove, the car buffeted along the wide open expanse on the road to Wichita Falls.

I saw it in my headlights, cutting diagonally across the road, heading straight for us. And I knew I wouldn’t drive us off the road to save it. All I could do was a sharp twist to the steering wheel and keep going. The back wheels of the car hit the heavy body of the possum, I can feel that sensation still. Leaving was hard enough, running over that possum was a sad thing. I know I love Mary, I know I love Val. I’m sorry about the possum. But if it’d been an armadillo, I don’t know what I woulda’ done.

Good Life

For Colette in Texas, on her fourth birthday.
“You’re a big girl now!”
Mo xo

What Really Didn’t Happen

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

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?

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

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…