Cool Water, Rushing

31 Dec

Cold water in the egg bowl. Use the cold water not the warm. Warm will curdle it, hot will stick it to the bowl in that godawful mess you can’t scrub off so you just end up throwing the damn bowl out.

Cold water. Cool water.

I fell in cool water this year, tipped a canoe after only seeing a rock at the last moment, so last minute I only had a moment to blurt out “the fuck! A rock!” and SLAM we were in the cold and down went the canoe and my feet kept slipping without purchase on something so accurately named rock snot and the water just kept moving past and over me. Time held still and moved away into that space where it stops doing much of anything at all. When I find my footing and stand, finally, against the snot and the earnest current I just stand breathing, shocked into stillness and awe.

Something so cold, and seeming so small and low, it had the power to rock me on my ass and leave me there, at it’s will and whim.

There’s a lesson there in that cold water, in the cold water of my sink, in the egg bowl, in the rocking canoe.

It’s the same lesson the eyes of my babies taught me, long ago.

Be patient. Let it pass. Go with it. Bear up babe.

You can do this.


Sometimes you’re the rock, sometimes you’re the canoe. If you’re lucky, you’re the cool water rushing.


No moving when touching.

13 Dec

An hour of off key singing and pretty taffeta dresses, ragged ties on the boys and for another year it’s over, this memory, this place in time.

No touching when moving is writ large on the dull yellow walls of the gym, and I joke with another mother how constrained these children are, how limited. Do they understand their bodies? Can they touch and not touch? How do they learn the simple reassurance of a friendly hug? How do they play tag without, you know, the tag?

I float in and out, not touching. I’m better on the outside, no investment, no responsibility. You don’t hold my crap so I don’t have to hold yours. I am not a burden. I will not be a burden. I will not touch, or be touched.

I know my reasons for how I am, but I wonder, how on earth can I teach my daughters how to reach out without worry for the burns?


It’s amusing to me on some levels how women interact. You might say it seems to be a pose, an act, but I don’t get it. Sometimes I wonder if I missed out on the vagina card when I was born, since I don’t understand women, and as I grow older, find I don’t want to. They gossip. I sit near a few tight groups of women in my workplace and nothing has changed since grade school. Not one thing. Cattiness and meanness and snobbery. I find myself sucked in unwillingly, and have to extract myself, confused by the tide of mean, hating myself for it.

I look to other groups, and find it disguished in well meaning glances, in advice, in “help”-women always seem to want to help me, leading me often to the conclusion that I’m better off hanging out with men since I can drink and pontificate in peace, without worrying about what’s being said the minute I’m 5 minutes down the aisle. Help with my hair, my esteem, my attitude. Always something to fix, always something to change.

I don’t understand sisterhood. It makes me nervous and uneasy and glossed over, closed up. I don’t understand the touching, the hugging! What is the need for hugging, for contact? Surely I’m not the only person overwhelmed by physical proximity and touch, so why is it always so difficult to believe that I really don’t want to hug or be hugged, hands grabbed, hair twirled? Do I need to do this to be a woman? Are these the things that make me part of whatever red tent sort of arrangement that gets made? Is it necessary to subvert my needs and wants in order to have any sort of closeness with women?

I teach my daughters to stand up for themselves, to defend against unwanted advances and actions. I teach them these things with boy and men involved, not able to think of how to adequately defend against girls and women, against the slithery smiles and whispered “did you know…” when they’re barely out of earshot. I teach them to give no quarter, but I am at a loss for how to deal with the shunning, with the changing requirements, with the seeming needs of women. Most of which I don’t understand.

And being alone, do I teach that? Do I teach them to find solace and satisfaction in being on their own? Is it right to teach them that the sisterhood might possibly be a lie, and that reveling in a weekend or 10 spent reading by themselves is glorious? Is it right and good for them to notice that some of us don’t need the network that others do, even when it’s faced with a disapproving eye?

Can they learn to touch little in a world that touches too much? Should they?


They were lovely but aloof, my eldest with eyes only for her mother, my youngest the one who knows all the names and loves her friends. Rosalyn points out her friend’s dress, her shoes, her other friend’s tie and hair, carefully mussed by a mother’s hand. One loves grand and the other to herself, and I find it lovely and simple and right.

But later this year, or the next, things will change, and one or both will find they don’t know or play by unwritten rules well. There will be no signs on the wall with these lessons.

And I fear I will have nothing for them than my own lessons, which are likely not nearly enough to go around.

29 Nov

Suddenly they are clearly no longer the creatures


I gave so much to, no longer split ends, fresh water and pure air

they are whole and growing and into the moon

into the sun they reach. Skin splits and grows hard

as do their hearts presumptive.

We skim the air with them, with their stories and youth

stretching before me as fields of green

the new sweet buds on the rosebush, heavy with summer at the door.

This look is gone, this moment, hold still my darlings but no!

don’t gasp or it’s over.

I can beg until I’m bloody, I can cry silent again

i can dream until the day returns in sleep


and your skin is gentle and purrs against the winter wind.

I can whisper breathless again all time

and bring you back, as now

nimble, scentless and free.


22 Nov

In the litany of a long day, a long week, it’s hardly anything I can speak to. But it backs me against the wall, too tired, too worn to resist, overwhelming me where I should be inspired and smart.

It’s the usual, the always complaint, the never ending rush of a day, the socks and the dirty floors and the disappointment of a child told, yet again, that there’s just no money for that, yet there’s no time either, not with work and housework and trying to fit all the pieces together, the wool puzzle shrunk until it’s just not quite right. The exhaustion comes from knowing I do this on my own, watching in sore envy as others have family, friends to surround them, to understand and make it better. I have but one person in my life I can lean on, and that is not fair to them, this seeming dependance, this need.

So I do need to be strong. I do need to pack it all in, shudder that quavering breath and march off to another day of letting my soul slowly wither because children need to eat and mortgages must be paid and one needs new shoes and the other pants. Somewhere in there, there might be a few dollars for me, but even that is riddled with guilt and hate because it’s not important and really shouldn’t be.

When I say I’m tired, it’s not the tired you can resolve in a few days sleep. It’s the tired that comes from knowing the future holds nothing different, just more of this battle, a little worse, a little better. But forever this stretching agony.

So I am weary, and coming to a point that, just like the elastics I wear in my hair, may mean that I cannot return from whence I came.

“Anger is a wound gone mad.”

14 Nov

I have spent all week avoiding the news, turning pages, clicking past, closing my eyes. Closing my ears.

But you can’t.

I’ve spent the week trying to avoid the knowledge that I was being triggered, in the most massive of ways, just by coverage and words. It’s like my insides were retrieved and pulled back in time, to another place. I wasn’t that little boy the the showers, but dammit if I don’t remember the feeling of knowing, of knowing without a fucking doubt that someone knew. Someone saw and someone could have stopped it and someone did nothing.

I have lived my life with the knowledge that I wasn’t worth saving. That I wasn’t worth the effort of protecting.

It sounds like the simple choice an adult could make. Get involved, don’t get involved. Walk away. Pretend you didn’t see. Pretend no one if hurting. Pretend there isn’t a little girl naked on film, film in your hands.

Wash yoru hands of it.

To me, it makes you complicit. It makes you guilty, If my eyes had reached to you, much as that little boy would have reached, in anguish, in horror, in terror, and you could walk away, are you any less a monster?

Somethings are just wrong. I, like many others this week, have spent time reliving our monsters, playing it over and over in our heads. The knowledge that we just didn’t matter.

That we were something to walk away from.


I can’t listen about the man who just got 5 years for 4.5 MILLION images of child pornography without wondering if I’m one of those pictures. I will never know. I will never know if the man who took the pictures while the other man directed the action ever felt bad when he walked past me in the street. I wonder if he ever thinks about what he did, about the full impact of what he did.

On bad nights I wonder if he kept them and enjoys them still.

On bad nights, the voice whispers to me that I must be unworthy, I must be garbage, less than some, a null value. Why else? Why else did this happen? Why else was there a cold wet tongue in my mouth at 8, fingers at my chest? Why else are there memories colored by condoms and pain and frigid terror, a red wash to the skies behind my eyes while my body goes rigid and eats it’s own screams?

Why the fuck else?

Why else would anyone destroy a child, if they were nothing to begin with?


I don’t have the answers. But you know what I do have? I don’t trust anyone. I try, and I bind my lack of faith in pretense and poetry, but there is a nagging doubt behind me always, nodding. They will betray you. They will ruin you.

You will deserve it.

I hate myself. Every child who has been touched, every adult who has felt the power leave their limbs will nod and understand this loathing, the scars on my body where I’ve dragged metal through skin, the sudden shudder to my voice. There is such hate inside of me, a burning seething wreck, stranded lonely. I cannot soothe it, or break free from it. Instead I cover it with the cotton of time and walk from it in hope.

And you will never know.

Your skin will turn cold at a lover’s touch. Your stomach will curdle, your breath will catch and you’ll resist the urge to call out your own name in rememberance. You’ll forget the difference between memory and a dream.

As if there was ever one anyway.

“We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist and forever will recreate each other.”

9 Nov

I should know what to say. There should be a spot in my heart, a marble in my mouth that would bless me with the lyrical brilliance you need, the comfort, the relief, the acknolwedgement, the confessional bleed that would let you breathe outside of your lips again and bring you freedom and a slight momentary pause of peace.

I don’t though.

We believe that for suffering, our reward should be wisdom, knowledge, the pat clatter of enlightenment. But I got nothin. For all my trials, my struggles, I’ve instead been cursed with the knowledge that sometimes it’s just bloody rotten horrible, sick and coagulated and messy in our hands, and no amount of  whispered platitudes or sheltered love can change that. Life, a pile of entrails slick in our hands and cooling in the fall air.

I want to have the meaning. I want to have the purpose. My children ask me, what’s the point is living if we’re just gonna die? How does that make sense? and I shake my head and shrug with resignation and a reminder to myself to read more Descartes and tell them I don’t know and maybe no one does and does it have to have a point? I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

It gets no better or worse for repatition, no simpler, no prettier. Remaining it hangs in cold air like truth, bartering with us. Give us a kiss it slithers let us in, this doubt, this wondering acceptance. I don’t know now what I didn’t know then and the balance hangs and I find myself again with the shrug, and the words trapped, perhaps forever in a place where they mean something else, and they matter. A place where words are a solace we can quantify, paint silver and ruby and massage under dim gold light.

But I don’t know.

They’re hidden then, if they’re there at all, burnished and cold. Perhaps they’re as lonely as we are, scratching and crawling for meaning and reality, sober in the corner, suffering with us. Perhaps they don’t matter, as we revolve with the knowing that it just is. That the suffering, the pain and the ignorance and the wonder, it all just is and we handle it with aplomb, and grace and many nights of plain faced sobbing into pillows.

I don’t know.

I have no answers. Is it better to admit that I’m not omnipotent, to myself, to my children, or stay the course in strength and glory? Can I mock an answer made of gods and monsters, tied with wax and arrogance?

Sweet hell, can I ever make it better?

I crave to take this pain from you, from all of you, transform action and slivers of ache into love and warmth and marshmallow relief. I want to bring it meaning, bring it reason and cause. Can we spin tears to gold, sadness to leafy green mornings in June? Can we make it better?

Can we answer yes,  there is a point Virginia, because we make it so?

Can we answer yes?

Hope Swells

7 Nov

There are many days where I think I’m pretty kick ass and this whole mothering thing? Easy peasy. That I’ve got it down pat. I can sit there, smug knowing I’m that cool Mom who dyes the kids hair blue and reads them Pratchett and occasionally lets them stay up to watch Mel Brooks films.

Then there are today’s.

I’m not in the door 5 minutes when Vivian starts to tell me about this kid who pushed her on the playground. Only the playground is the jungle gym that resides within the bounds of the low income housing, with it’s unofficial “stay out mantra”, and the kid is one of the (many) children of a woman who quite possibly personifies the myth of the mother who has babies for the checks and who couldn’t possibly be any more verbally abusive to her children in public. It’s quite frankly a place I want Vivian to stay away from, especially considering all the needles and cigarette butts and broken glass. It’s hard to not reference the stereotype when it seems to live in such vivid color.

I shake my head, drag the story, such as it is from her, and tell her to have her actual friend come over here instead. Any time Viv goes up there, someone throws something at her, pushes her, etc. And while I’m more than quick to blame my own kid, it’s constant and I’ve seen it. The adults are bullies, and sadly, for too many of the kids, it’s an inherited trait.

I wish it weren’t so.

Then as we’re getting ready for bed, I hear Rosalyn in the bathroom, staring into the mirror. I hear “I’m ugly.” and my heart, is makes this WAAAH sort of noise and I try to keep calm as I ask “What did you say Sweetie?” and she comes shamefaced out of the bathroom and all I can think is “what the hell did I do to cause THIS!?’ There is little to no poor self talk, only mentions of how lovely and smart and strong they are, what wonderful women they’re becoming. She won’t tell me where she’s heard this, denies anyone said it to her.

But I worry at this one. Where Vivian seems so self reliant, so adaptable and frankly, so strong, Rosalyn reminds me of someone.


I turned 34 this past September, and this is the first year I can remember where I have actually felt confident, and beautiful, and smart and strong. Maybe not every day, but most days. I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t wracked by fear or doubt or self loathing. I can look in a mirror now. I still don’t always like what I see, but I see it and think this is me. This is a me who has come through and survived and thrives now. This is someone who is loved, someone who is in love, someone who matters. Someone who cares. This is someone.

But I remember being that person who felt only horror at herself, who felt that pain everyday, who said “I’m ugly” and meant it. I remember that as vivid as any picture I have ever taken. I never want to feel that ever again. And I certainly do not want it for my daughters.

Especially my youngest, as delicate as Queen Anne’s Lace, as lovely as starlight, as strong as a young birch, at whim to the wind. She who shares my apparently flighty constitution, my flair for the dramatic, the simple peace of naivete, that which I do not want her to cast aside until the last possible moment. I baby her because she is who I was, she is the creature I remember being, before it all changed. Quietly lovely, and happy. I cannot let her lose that so easily.

I cannot let her lose it.

But it will go. Now, maybe later, maybe well into the future. But I cannot protect them, not completely. Not from others, not from themselves.

All I can do is try and arm them, and hope.

I remember thinking this would never end

10 Oct

Now it’s undeniable.

From the corner of my eye I still see, slight, a girl. She lingers in the lines beside my eyes, in the way my hands wave along as I walk. She whispers in my hair with the wind. A certain time of day and the light might catch her, fresh and terrified.

But she’s receding. She’s receding in everyone, tethered behind children and marriages, failures and dreams we face and shake off, forever lost to us. Those versions of us, those gentle philosophers, music prodigies, the fame and the fortune, they are slumbering, tucking away as suddenly, we’re old enough to realize that when I grow up is never going to arrive. We are there. We are the other side.

We begin to misunderstand, we shake fists at youth while staring wistfully. A girl on the cusp of womanhood wanders by, and we remember, the halting nervous legs, newborn colt wet and ready. We see the age in eyes, the age she holds already, but unburnished. We sigh and miss and wish we knew, wish we had listened as you cannot then, youth born of fire and deafness. We scatter ourselves back in time but cannot touch.

We wimper as the young men walk by, brash and unshaped, time is gentle on the immortal. We remember and we stall them for time, willing the air to steal back that which, so vital, becomes hidden, stolen away from us. Our bald spots and wrinkles, cellulite and blood pressure, when did it replace joy and vigor and the sweetness of another day? When did we lose sight?

When did we get so old? How did we begin to forget? Where once we sat in glory as the world moved for us, now we’ve been shifted back, into wings, the far north to ripen off and age and pass, our jobs here done. The shine is off the penny, and time, it marches for no one but itself.

One day it was suddenly all about places to stay instead of places to go. How did we let it happen?

A child IS your heart outside your body.

8 Oct

I’m at work, and for the first time ever, I’m not watching my phone like a hawk. (During school days I keep an eye out, worried of course that someone will be sick or maimed or, well, fall off a chair like my children are habitually doing.) I’m not even thinking about my phone, tucked away in my bag while I work.

About 1.5 hours into my day, I think gee, I should take a peek, just to be safe. You never know.

Missed call an hour previous. The school. (Of course, the school being the smartest place I know, shows up as a private number, meaning I then need to scramble to find the number.)

I log in to my land line voicemail and hear a message which chills me. “Vivian doesn’t appear to be here today-can you call and confirm if she’s out sick or late?”

I’ve never felt such a sick, greasy fear before, but it shot straight down my spine, and settled somewhere near my liver while I sprinted off the floor to call.

The lady answering asks, not unkindly, “Is she sick? We noticed she isn’t in today.”

I sent her. She walks to school. She went. I walked the same way, back and forth since Rosalyn made me miss the bus, and I didn’t see her. She must be there.

A hem. A haw. She puts me on hold while silently, I pace and I slowly burn with a million thoughts. The rational ones are buried in the back, drowned out by self doubt (why did I let her walk? Is it worth it, letting her have this freedom at 8, these 4 blocks, barely even a km to school?) by anger (it’s not like her to not go straight to school! If she’s somewhere else I’ll lose it I swear to crap…) and by cold fear (oh sweet hell, is she somewhere cold? Did she get hit by a car and they didn’t stop? Is she lying behind a house, her leg broken? Did someone snatch her?)

Is she ok? Please, please, let her be ok.

The woman comes back. “All the kids are in the gym. Let me go look and call you right back.”

Let. Me. Go. Look?

I can’t breathe waiting for the call. I’m on fire, my nerves tense and strung, and all I can think is the possibility that my sweet girl in hurt somewhere, or scared, or all those horrible things you don’t speak of, not out loud. Did I tell her I loved her as she left? Did I hug her enough, distracted as I was by the morning, and getting her sister dressed, getting her sister to eat breakfast faster than she does? I pace and gnaw on my fingers and stay as tightly wound as I possibly can.

She calls back. “So sorry. Teacher marked the wrong kid absent. She’s here. She’s fine. I’m so sorry.”

I barely choke out my understanding before I burst into hysterical tears, heaving the words “holy fucking shit” from my lips. I catch my breath and run to the bathroom so I can let it go, the fear, the panic. The fucking cold fear.

This was maybe 15 minutes of my life. And it was terrible, horrible. How parents lose their kids, and carry on, survive-I cannot imagine. A few minutes of not knowing ate me up inside for the day, and all I could think was that some people life with that pain, daily, forever. Their kids never come home. Their kids, are just gone.

And I just couldn’t imagine it, hope I never, ever have to worry.


What I hate the most is that I automatically questioned my judgement in letting her walk, something which, honestly, is likely safer than if she got on a school bus in the morning or drove. It’s 4 blocks, through a residential area full with her peers and other families. It’s absolutely safe, unless you really worry about some random person smoking weed.

But I doubted myself. Instead of assuming, rightly, that everything was fine, and someone just made a mistake, I doubted me, just like all the media and the hyperbole and the paranoid suburban housewives want me to. I fell prey to believing in the boogeyman, even if just for a minute.

But there wasn’t a boogeyman. Just a miscounting teacher, and a secretary jumping the gun. A little girl who seemed oddly surprised at the extra tight hugs she got the other night. And a mother who should trust herself more often.

(Is it just my kid’s school that just does not have it together? Is your neighborhood safe, or would you doubt yourself first too?)

here is the secret nobody knows

6 Oct

I whisper to speak of her, the gilded spectre of a gutted angel that my mother has remains in my mouth. To give her to my daughter, to explain how a woman, not just any woman, but my mother, survived and tried to thrive as her body betrayed her, gave out, held hands into the wind to let blow the seconds she had left, into the wind like so many crumbs.

Her teacher had cancer. She had long hair she tells me, but no longer. Why does this happen Mommy?

Cursory explanations, rogue cells, the memory brushing my eyes of verdency dropping to the floor of a bath tub, the hollow look of a woman with no eye brows, the acceptance I held to the just is. The vomit and the weakness and the size 6 boots she wore that winter, mincing up the laneway in the dark, leaning on me.

Leaning on me. I was just her age then, 8, then 9, then 10 then she was gone and the memories I have left to hold, the crumbs given are so few that I can’t even piece together who she was any mre, just a figment, just a second in a life.

And just like that, 23 years fall away and unbidden tears fall and Viv sees them, frowns and I can’t not tell her, I can’t not let her know that everyday somehow, my mother is with me and I miss her, desperately sometimes, wistful others, because she was my mother and even after all this time I love her and how can’t you? How can you stop loving someone, even when they’ve been gone so long their voice is a mystery and their dreams are nothing more than the heights climbed in sleep?

When she asks why I cry it’s for her, and them and my mother and the grandmother she’ll never be, the nightmares she never shushed for them, the dresses she never picked out, the interruption, the godfucking awful end of all of it. The shuddering finale that left us all wounded, bear trapped in the woods and maimed, leaking blood and water even years later.

I tell her all these things, I see her as a that newborn, I hold her close and wonder that her skin is still just that soft and her hair new and shining and waiting and the ache roars up my chest, like an arrow through my throat and I feel my mother then, I feel her loss, I feel her fear and her wonder. I see her arms about me. I remember leaning into her, fire on a cold night I remember, years and days and ages later, I remember her love for me. I understand it’s meaning.

I understand what it gave me, and I hold my angels now closer, bare to the heart, knowing. I carry her heart.

Our Arms Full of Miracle

3 Oct

Paddle in.

The water will resist you, like syrup around your boat. It will bend and slither, and you’ll swear you hear it laugh.

Pull back now.

The soft run of water over the bow, your hands battling the gunnels, the crest of a wave or glint of sunshine against the black water before you.

Paddle out. 

The smell. the silk touched scent of alive! the pines and the soft wool of forest, untouched, protected. Were it a woman she would curl around you, fingers, tendrils in your mouth, slippery down your cheeks, gentle on your eyes. Drunkenly you’ll close your eyes.

Again. Over and over and your muscles nod their assent and whisper we remember and your bones and body just work and thought-what’s thought, it’s thrown out while you count the waves and rocks and trees you’ve avoided and curse the headwind and wonder if you can.

I think I can. I think I can. Fucking river won’t best me.

And it doesn’t. It pushes back every step of the way, the wind and the concealed armor of rocky water, it makes you work for it this river. Every river has a soul, a being, and this river is immersed in attacking back. This river makes you want it.

Arms screaming, every pull to the left a struggle and a trial and then it ends and you’re out on the rocky shore and unbelieving that you’ve done it.

First real time in a canoe, you do over 25 kms in one day, into a headwind. First real wild trip, you go three days into the bush, realizing only after that if you chop off a finger or swallow some water, it might take a few days for someone to notice when you don’t come back. First real trip into the woods, and you miss that rock, not the one on the left or the one ahead but the little yellow beige bastard who popped his head up and said BOO!, dumping you into the cold October water. The river doesn’t let you up for a minute, teaching you a lesson you aren’t willing to admit you needed to learn. First time, and you did it, 50 odd kilometres, or more over a few days, and you don’t hurt so much as feel oddly proud that even though you weakened, even though you wavered, you told the river to go fuck itself and kept moving.

River’s don’t much like cussing it seems.


We rode the Patapedia River (named by the Micmac meaning “irregular and capricious current. HA!) down to where it met the Restigouche, fell in, camped, and hauled ass the next night to make up time. My first day out I was terrified, out of my depth, worried I’d disappoint or even worse, endanger my lover. I worked hard to find my footing, and instead gave myself a migraine. We made camp in a fishing camp built what seems like eons ago, a different world 1958, I couldn’t help but think of the french men who built the camp, all pipes and playful cursing and an easy cast into the waters.

We woke to the scent of pine misting on the air, salmon jumping, for joy, for dinner, not matter, they were silver in the air. We woke to a young bull moose, 20 feet away, maybe 30, just staring, curious, but ultimately, moose-like. He wandered off, tired of my baby voice telling him he was lovely and look! no guns, we won’t eat you moosey! and clambered like a tank through the river and up onto the bank across from us. I saw his antlers go, and then only heard him, and echoing crack in the wind bouncing against the ridges.

The second day we found our rhythm. It made more sense to me, as the river released it’s language and my patient boyfriend let me find the rocks before us, and I learned to read the river. When we turned into the Restigouche, we were having fun, energized by what I can only imagine flying feels like. We ate apples by the small fire we built on a gravel bed, waved to a man closing out a warden’s lodge. We watched as bald eagles took their lazy time in the very wind which angered us, swimming it seemed in the air.

Then, high on our pride, we missed a rock, I missed a rock, and in we went. Even in a wetsuit, hitting rushing river water when it’s 45F outside is a shock. I watched my love jump for the boat, murmured my thanks that he is so bloody careful with tying everything down, and proceeded to want to crawl into a very warm bed with a very hot cup of tea.

But you push on, You have to. Just like so much else, the only way out was through.

I wasn’t going to admit defeat, but we were shaken and suddenly felt unsure. We pulled off early to camp on Crosspoint Island, a lovely little island site. I wandered around mostly useless, made stupid and sullen by the cold. My man did all the man things, and got the tent up, the wood split, the fire going. Food warmed. We crawled into a too small tent, and warmed the air, waking through the night tangled. Every move meant coordinating who turned when, and accounting for the bounce of air mattress. I woke to the rising sun, warmed.

We set out again, and I was anxious and worried, and was feeling ill. My head was filling up with snot, that spot behind my eyes was starting to pound, and I wanted to sit and cry. The cold had sapped my strength and confidence, and I was equal amounts scared and pissed off.

We stopped at one of the campsites that has road access on the off chance that we could pick up cell service. But it’s funny, 22 kms off the main road and in a valley, there’s no service. It was walk for hours without the promise of a signal, or suck it up and keep going.

We kept going, I sucked it up, and we powered through 25 kilometers, at least. I felt like shit, and then suddenly, I didn’t. Suddenly we found the groove. We stopped trusting the river, and went back on guard-our intial problem when we hit the Restigouche was that we thought it would be easy. It’s never easy. It’s just different.

And then it’s over, and you stare back at the water in wonder. I can’t do that again, you think, but then you can’t yourself staring at the rivers you pass on the way home, wondering, what if, could I?

You could. You should.

I will again, and soon.

Imagine 3 days of something this pretty.


20 Sep

I don’t often miss being married anymore, these days full of my mess, left where I wish, my food, steady in the fridge, my couch, clean for me.

But then I spend a few days in a row with an eight year old moodier than me 2 days before my period, and one of the nights involves multiple wake ups and bad dreams and crawling in with me and I just cannot hack it. The tired, the soul destroying tired that leaves me weak at the knees and shamefully wanting to lock myself in a room where they just cannot reach me, huddled with gummi bears and peaches.

But there’s no secret room. There’s no where to hide, no way to stem the flow of tears. The reasoning fluctuates from ‘but I wanted something too!” all the way over to “my hair is so short they say I look like a boy!” and I hear my mother crawl out of my mouth with a “we can find a reason for you to cry” and then I hear that hated little girl in the back of my chest who blurts out “at your age I was worried sick about my mother, but I didn’t dare cry. What do YOU have to cry about?”

As much as I hate that I’ve said these things, I wonder if I’m so wrong. I do everything possible to make sure they have what they need, and then some. I maintain a reasonably friendly relationship with their father to make sure that stays as normal as possible. I do what I have to, and then I do some more.

And I’m tired. Good sweet crap I’m just, tired inside. Tired of their feelings. Tired of explaining and reasoning. Tired of wondering and hoping and trying to get it all right and then looking for a space to carve for myself. It never ends.

At least when their father was in the house, I could split the crying and the comfort, the need for love and understanding. Now it’s just me, every night, over and over. Vivian’s even started the little “I miss mommy” game which means I’m dealing with the crying over the phone on my days off from them. A part of me, a large part of me, feels like it’s in danger of shutting off completely, my usual compensation for when it gets too much, but I don’t want that. I’m trying to learn how to feel, like normal, how to let it flow through me and past me, around me. Shutting down won’t help, but I feel like I teeter on the edge lately.

It’s all so very much, and by the end of the day, after all the other multitude of stresses that make up normal life, I just cannot find it in my to deal with or care about a child crying. Again. Especially because she’s changed her mind about wanting a bath for the 5th time that night.

Single mommas, how in the hell do you do this?

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

13 Sep

In air turned a dirty grey dusk, the scent of it tacky on my lips and skin, voice ring.

Counting. Counting down.

Come find me!

Where are you?

Find me!

I’m searching.

The dull gassy hum of streets lights balance against the warm brick of our house, our home, as we’ve made it. That sound, the grass through their toes, the laughter which bounces, terribly naughty against the neighbours house, spills in through my windows as this gauzy late summer night begins it’s drawl away. Perhaps the last summer night of her 8th year, her 6th. Perhaps the night they both build memories that become the stories and bedrock of their futures. Perhaps they’ll parse in in the smell of chocolate cupcakes, years from now. They’ll paint it in Venice, sing it on stages from here.

Draw the futures of their children against it.

Vivian, where are you? Vivian!

The house is lit, and welcoming against the coming night. The woods behind are darkening, turning from friendly caves to malevolent holes. I can hear Rosalyn, tethered between, wanting her sister, her heart arching to look under the maples and yet still young enough to see the orcs and goblins and child eaters hidden within, whispering.

Come find us.

Only this dank falling night can hold them, whispers, plaited promises. She yells for her sister, song on the wind, voice aloft.

I tell her, sweetly, kindly, to come wait, everyone has to come to home base eventually.

She won’t be moved. She stands, knee high to the clover turning to winter in the ditch, waiting.



“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”

7 Sep

The voice at the other end of the phone is a pleasant warm one, a woman. She’s young, not so young that you can hear the inexperience in her voice, but young enough. Late twenties, rough with time, glossy with hope.

There’s a gurgle, and a small quiet squeal. New baby sound, close to the speaker. You can almost hear the hip jiggle in progress.

My heart bends, constricts and sighs, memory overlaid with echoes, the foreign land of a time I’d almost forgotten, and I can feel the petal soft skin of my daughter’s arms, the down on the cheek, the satin hair that tuck under my chin. I remember hearing those squirmy noises and thinking how curious it was that she had so recently been inside of me, snatching time under my heart.

I whisper congrats to this woman, to her newborn child, still dewy. Welcome.


They can’t be this old. Not yet.

Time is like one of those snakes of a spring that hide in those cheese ball nut cans, all ninja sneaking and fake noise. You least expect it to draw back and punch you in the nose, but then it does. Time shudders and overlays itself, moment over moment and you wonder just how you can possibly hold it all in. The angle of the sun on the grass. The slush in the driveway as labour began in earnest. The night sky that one summer when, too hot for sleep we danced through our street greeting the stars.

It scares me. I remember the lost child I was, the broken girl, the strong woman who needed no one and nothing and I cry even imagining this as you. I remember taking pill after pill and hoping for death, wanting for it, and I weep at just the idea of you, either of you, ever feeling such pain. Let me take it from you now, so instead as horses you can run, strong and swift and lovely in wind. Let me promise the day to never impose such terror upon you.

Were it to be this simple, a benediction to air, a promise to nothingness, a wish, a hope. I fill you each with as much beauty and wisdom and strength as I can muster, yet worry it is never enough. I obsess over things like new shoes or proper lunch snacks and hope I’m getting it right.

I was too alone at the age you are now Vivian. I see that phantom pain in behind your eyes sometimes, and to know I cannot change it hurts more than any moment of bringing you into this world. I see Rosalyn trying to understand why the other kids just do some things. And I can’t make it make sense then either.

Baubles for wishes? Days of my life for their to only be candy floss and sweet songs on air?

Tell me what the trade-off is to keep them soft and petal-like. Tell me their secrets so I can hold them tight.

Tuck them back under my heart, to rest quiet forever.

Stop this implacable rush to the future. I almost cannot bear it.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes

17 Aug

It’s beautiful where I hardly suspected.

Behold, thou art fair, my love, behold, thou art fair, thou hast doves’ eyes.

In each line I can smell the rise of love, the dusky glance in air, the longing, oh the longing. I can taste the need.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

In reading it I feel almost dirty, witnessing something so private and yet so truly common, that of love, of two souls entwinned. The pride in that love. The surety.

Thou art all fair my love; there is no spot in thee.

Oh, the pride. The silly, blinding pride.


I haven’t really, truly touched a bible since I was a young teenager. Reared roman catholic, schooled unwillingly, I have always been more familiar with the words from that book than I was likely comfortable with. Or rather, I was familiar with the bits fed, the beige parts, the instructive parts. Burning bushes and fish and wine and zombies wandering down the road.

But I don’t remember my heart burning in recognition of that phantom feeling the Song of Solomon brings forth. (To be honest, I’m thinking that reading those lines to hormonal teenagers would set them over the edge. The more aware of them at least.) I don’t remember feeling so very wretched with beauty. I don’t remember any lines, ever, taking my breath away and filling me with a magic I scare thought existed.

I don’t remember anything making my blood sing so.


Sun dapples through leaves. My coffee is bitter and warm on my lips, it’s roughness sweetened so slightly on the edges to barely be there. Skin is bronze and browned, smooth with youth, gnarled with age. Words are in the wind as the ebb and flow of people come around and beside me. She wears a dress of purples and pinks, short to the knees, sleeves like bells, and her mouth quirks slight towards the heavens when she stares at her coffee date. The grey in his hair shines silver in the sun, glistening with the day.

There are black dogs, and white ones, big and small but all are loved in the arms of their masters this morning.

The sun comes and goes, and the song sings to me again and again.

His mouth is most sweet yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters if Jerusalem.


I am not drawn to faith. I ponder it, I envy it, I watch it from a distance and wonder what it must be like to be so full of such a certainty-even my faith in science, my knowledge of it, is tempered by the fact that even the light switch won’t work if I screw with the wiring or forget to change the blown fuse. I do not get the seeming blindness of faith, and do find myself drawn to understanding the workings of it.

And so I found myself reading The Cloister Walk.  The author resides with Benedictines for awhile, and we read her experiences, set against a year of liturgy. A year of patterns I remember in my very being from youth, raised as I was. I may be an atheist, but some habits remain-even visiting a church, like the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaumont Chapel as my boyfriend and I did a few weeks back, I found myself almost genuflecting and crossing myself at the altar, completely unaware. It took an actual act of will, a thought to remind me that those actions had no place in my world.

This is how strong my mother’s catholicism was, truly. I wish I could say it was mine.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that in reading this book I feel the draw to the quiet places the author finds. I feel her draw into the words-she’s a poet after all, and understand simply how evocative words really are, how seductive they can be. Even in her own confusion and wonder about her place in the words, in the worship, she is able to give simply an understanding of how the words can be solace unto themselves.

This I get. Even as someone who has no draw to an other, no belief in something larger, I get the sparseness of the quiet she describes. Reading some of her selections through the book soothes even my heart. And gives me hope that I can find my own solace in words again, be it Anne Sexton or the bible or e.e. cummings. A reminder is what I needed, that words are a balm to my soul at it’s barest essential. Words are the spring to a winter’s heart.

I heartily resent your bean sandwich.

15 Aug

As a single mother I need to attest to a fair amount of resentment regarding certain types of people and comments. Some of this is just further proof that I’m a bit of a bitch, but a lot of it is surely driven by flat out exhaustion. You get your 5 year old to eat beans? I’m lucky to get her past the yoghurt! Yours is fluent in 3 languages? I’m terribly impressed if mine speaks english to me in the morning without the inflection of whining that she’s picked up somewhere this summer, a new variant on the past dialect.

So i’m scrubbing the bathtub this morning, the filthy tub I’ve put off for too long because dammit, when it’s 38C, I am not spending time scrubbing head down with hot water. And it’s nasty filthy, actual dirt, not just “un shiny”-and I wonder if the people who have time to do elaborate meals and outfits for their kids, who have these incredible sounding little cultured people, if they have the spotless tubs I imagine them to have? And if so, where is the time?  Do they not sleep? Do they eat? Is this why some women are so skinny?

My house is something I look at with a certain level of shrugged irritation. I can’t get ahead of it all, the cleaning, the cooking, the “educational toys and books”. My kids eat Mr. Noodle too often and spend time on the computer doing what kids in the summer do-playing, wasting time, dicking around. Presently they’ve been kicked outside as my mother would have done “I don’t want to see or hear from you in the next hour.” But I’m thinking in the grand scheme of mom war, I’d lose, Because I flat out don’t have the time.

I am jealous of those women who have the time to do all the baking and cleaning and interaction that I can’t do. I really am. I envy their lives, their plans, the meaning they give to the days. But I have a choice-I could spend my little time with my children cleaning and organizing and planning and making, or we can just hang out and be kids and Mom together in the last humid weeks of this summer.

I resent that I lose all this time with them. That parenting isn’t even benign neglect at this point, but rushing to and fro. I parent more on the walk to and from day care than I do at home. Mornings are crazed muddles and “let’s move!” and evenings a time when I have to puposefully slow myself down, so we all enjoy Equal Rights, not just me for the small victory of creating another Pratchett addicted person. I resent that these days move too fast, and I know it. I feel it rush past us, and then suddenly I know it’s not about bean sandwiches or sprouts or doing algebra. It’s about the time I lose to my circumstance, to reality, to a world I know I didn’t ask for, this one where we run and we run and nothing gets better.

I can’t get it back, any of it, and they grow older as I stand, hands slipping through time like water. I can’t stem the tide.

Vivian, 8

10 Aug
136 by thordora
136, a photo by thordora on Flickr.

I was 8 forever ago, or maybe not forever. Maybe just in enough time to squeeze between two lemons. In the silence that fills our kitchen, the one in which I fight off ants with vinegar and the cat sleeps on your new clean clothes, I can remember the feel of 8, the excitement of that year. I remember also the dread, the secret I carried, the want, the need to split myself off.

My memory, as it is today, began that year.

I got my first pair of glasses. I lost my two front teeth, just in time for school pictures, just like you. I had the worst bowl cut you could ever see, or at least, to tomboy me, the worst cured monstrosity I had even encountered. It required a curling iron and time. Who has any time! You’re EIGHT! The cat died that year, or maybe the year before. improbably named Suji, I came to figure out years later that it wasn’t any kind of cool “my parents smoke pot” sorta name. Rather, they were lazy and merged the names of the previous owners, Sue and Jim into one name.

That cat hated me anyway.

Being 8, and starting Grade 3, it was the cusp. Where I grew up, you were the big kid in Grade 3, although you’d shortly become the little one again in the new 4-8 school. But for a glorious year, you were king shit. First in the school. Too tall for the fountain. Pants ready for floods.

Grade 3 was the year that Michael kid threw his desk at the teacher, full of what I now recognize as rage, grief fueled anger and hopelessness. I understand why the teacher didn’t freak out so much. My mother was only sick at the time. His father was already gone. Grade 3 was the year I remember actively daydreaming entire chapters of work away. Most of the math, and grammar sunk into a strange heard but not heard sponge zone in my brain. The grass was so terribly green that year, and sun, scarlet light and glare. The world glowed then, and I could hardly hear a word above it.

Grade 3 was the year I learned exactly what mother’s did when you jumped on a half full Welch’s Grape Juice box just to make that loud POP! while wearing pale yellow pants. 8 was the year I learned that mother’s roll their eyes even more than their daughters.

8 was the year shit was just starting to get hard.

Vivian, you’re getting hard on me. You’re getting lovely and incredible and smart, but you’re also surly and forgetful and entirely too enamored of yourself. You’re becoming. No longer content to just say ok, you’re truly coming into your own, the bright light of you tarnishing around the edges some, but also morphing into blues and purples, your dusky self, molting. Where my time condenses and all at once you’re that newborn squalling after a terrified night of labour and then a baby clapping as she’s mastered the stair climb, then you’re that toddler, flailing on the deck with a seizure as I scream in terror and fear. You’re the first day of school, the Christmas concert. Your tiny hands in mine as your parents tell you they just don’t love each other enough anymore. Your face, stubborn and willful as your mother’s, jutting out of the darkness as we walk home.

Viv, I hold all these moments. They are all one singular place, not a file cabinet but more of a snake eating itself, a continual meaning, that dimension they still can’t find where today and yesterday and tomorrow all live. This is who you are to me, still. You are all those moments and memories. All those times make you, my daughter, my eldest.

Yet, they are static moments, and they don’t let me see you for who you are, or will be. My memory is frozen, but child, you are not. You change like the weather, you flit and flounce and sometimes when you sit, in certain light, I see your future. But it’s different from the one I plot, the one I see. I see all possibilities. I see the woman I want you to be. I see my dreams in you.

But honey bear, trust me. These things rarely are the same between mothers and daughters. As they shouldn’t be.

So on this birthday, your 8th in this world, I promise you this. I do not promise wisdom or patience. I do not promise that I will always be perfect, or strong, or right, or sometimes, let’s be honest, nice.

But I promise to remember my 8. I promise to listen harder still for the shrill canyon echo of that age, the silvery birds of possible that flew by every so often to say “don’t go! Don’t grow!”. And I will remember that child you might still be, woman you soon become.

I love you daughter. First born. Ache of my heart, gift of my soul.

Happy Day Vivian. Happy, Happy Day.

Bottles and Tops

22 Jun

There’s a bag in my cupboard.

It’s crumpled, you’ve left it there, unknown and unwanted, it’s paper worn and soft now, aged.

I don’t know what to do with it.

You know exactly what to do with it. You’re scared.

Am not.

Are fucking too.

Fine. I’m scared. What of it?

You’re scared to throw away all the expired reminders? All the things you tried, all the reasoning to yourself that the problem was you-that it was always you, and there was some magical way to fix it with a pill.


Let’s go through them shall we, or at least what’s in this bag? There’s so many which aren’t.

Let’s just not. Let’s throw them out.

You can’t do that. You have to “safely dispose” of them, as you’ve been saying for all these years, walk them to the pharmacist and absolve yourself of your martyrdom. You ready to do that?

– – – um- – –

Exactly.  Bupropion.

I had hope for that one. Hope that it would swell and make me better, make it all simple and smooth, like planed wood. Nothing like that happened. The dead inside didn’t disappear.



Wanna make a girl feel awesome? Put her on something labeled and anti-psychotic, when she knows she’s not. If I remember correctly, these are from when I put myself in the nuthouse for a week. Maybe they aren’t. But I do remember, the tiny brown pills, the leap into oblivion, the allowance it gave me to not fix anything. Tears and rage and blame. Fires banked, but healthy.


Not indicated. Not indicated for what’s wrong with you. But we’ll try it anyway, and the side effects only count if they include explosive shits and crying fits. Maybe we can’t fix you. Maybe you don’t want to be fixed. Maybe the problem isn’t you!


More of the same. Blind flailing in the dark. The refrain from the doctors that lack of sex wasn’t a side effect that concerned them, like taking away my humanity wouldn’t make me less human. Bloat and wheeze and still, that hole in me, the whistling quiet.

and on and on and on. Is it enough? I spent years shoveling something, anything in my mouth to avoid one thing. ME. And still I end up at the same place. Is it enough?

Are we enough?


I can’t help but wonder, on my way home after another long dreary rainy day, if I’m not coming full circle. I talk to a friend who’s sick, who has bipolar, and I shake my head in near awe. Like so many people, like normal people, I can no longer grasp wanting to die, each and every day. I no longer do it. I wake up, I go about my day, I make lists and plans and I’m happy to do so. I dream. I see something other than a knife to a wrist, a speeding bus, a hearty river I can be lost in. I don’t have those days anymore, and feel like finally, I’m becoming the person I should have been, the woman behind all the years of shit and misery pretending to be a life.

My friend is still floundering through it, most of the time better than others, but I’m reminded to vividly when she says “I hear nothing after I take my pill.”

and I thank anything that listens that I am not sick like that anymore, regardless of why it happened.

Maybe I was never really sick at all, but escaping that voice, muffling it. Maybe I just didn’t know what else to do, trapped in a space and time that couldn’t ever try to lift me up to see above the shit I was mired in. Maybe I was lazy.

Maybe. But I also know that there are no magical secrets in bags and bottles. The work? It’s the hard lonely part, piecing a person back together.


Life Divine

17 Jun

Every morning, Vivian gets up around 6:30, plugs in her iPod, and blares me out of a dead sleep with Rhianna, or Lady Gaga, or Beyonce, or something else high pitched and treble laden. Mostly I can ignore it, covered as it is by the white hum of my room fan, and the syrupy lure of 20 minutes of more sleep. I hear bowls, or toast, glasses and humming. Flat, off key 8 year old singing. (I just downloaded her the new Lady Gaga album, so this is only going to get worse. I won’t get Judas out of my head for weeks now.)

This morning was another just like this, full of the usual. Probing for dinner ideas. Packing lunches someone might eat. Finding the “right” long sleeved shirt for Ros. Convincing Vivian that yes, you DO need to brush your hair and that soon her friends will comments on the greasy hair rocker look she’s been sporting. Most morning also tend to include brief lessons in “why you cannot wear THAT shirt with THOSE pants.” Variations on this theme include leggings not being pants, holes and stains mean it cannot be worn off the property, and real waistbands won’t kill you.

So color me surprised this morning to see my daughter resplendant in beige, pink and brown culottes and a plain pink shirt. She looked pretty my tomboy! She looked, frankly, quite lovely.

And so grown up. It seems like she’s sprouted wings and stretched these past few months, growing lanky, limber. She’s 8 so soon that I’ve taken to calling her 8, because frankly she’s always been older. But now, her body betrays me, and when my bones creak, hers rejoice and I hear a tsking noise in the backround, that reminder, voices when she was just a baby.

The relative nature of time which causes me to press a silent “fuck you” into the abyss directed at Einstein.

My eldest daughter, my baby girl, she grows too fast. I can catch wind before I can catch her, flying past me without thought. I let her though, I know I must. This is my place, the soft place to land, with limits and terms. I must cast her forth, with hope and beauty.

Most days she’s cranky and snotty and laughing at farts. But then there are days, days like today when I see the woman I have brought forth, the mother to be, the someday wife, the pride in flesh I have wrought.

And proud I am.

Buy Nothing Month-First Weekend

6 Jun

Ah the weekend,  time of relaxation, contentment….

Unless you work a shitty job that makes you work on Saturdays, in which case your weekends are….odd.

I did pretty good, if you consider my boyfriend did the spending for me. Found me a booster seat for Viv for less than 20.00, for which pay day will repay. Grabbed all the bread at the outlet when I realized it was the OTHER store that took credit cards. Bought me the most delicious pizza for dinner on Friday. (Yes I love Panago. Even more, I LOVELOVELOVE their Tropical Hawaiian. Without the freaking fruit. LOVE IT. Seriously. Send me coupons, please. It’s likely a good thing they don’t deliver to my area of town.)


The money I spent was, sorta kinda necessary. We went to Scholars Choice since I never get there and wanted to look for ideas for Vivian’s birthday…and I bought her a snap bracelet watch. Which technically she needed, since I want her walking home alone next year, and need her comfortable with telling time analog. And a cheap pencil for Ros since, well….it was only 2.00 and I’m still trying to break the habit of needing to get both of them something. (And she loves the watch. It was time.)

So that was only 20.00 or so.

Sunday we went here and stopped in Alma for lunch, which was delicious Turkey Veggie Soup and THE BEST BREAD EVER. I even tried some of his seafood chowder (and was disturbed by tingly lips later so my quest to conquer my seafood demon might need to be cautious ones.) I bought lunch. Not because I had to, but I wanted to. I can’t deal with anyone, even my boyfriend, paying for everything. So, 15 bucks or so, but totally wonderful food, and totally worth it.

Keep in mind that I did not buy anything at the gift shop, nor did I buy anything when we browsed in Value Village or Homesense or any of the other places I drooled through other days. This was balanced by a driving need, or desire all Sunday to figure out how to afford to sell my house, buy cheap land on the coast and support myself. (I swear I’m going hippie, without the dreads and Patchouli. But look at this! Or this!)

It’s a dream, and one I think I can pull off sometime. I even drove again! (Can I mention how much I love that my lover can push me to try things without being overbearing or nasty? He just believes in me. So very cool.) But this dream, it gives me focus. Before I can even think of living out in the country I need to know how to drive. And I need to sell this house and save some money. And I need to have a plan for work.

A dream is a focus though. I finally feel like I can have a dream, and a real focus. Control.

It all comes back to that word. Control. If I can control spending, then I can control everything else. I can start to really plan, instead of living day to day as I have for too long. This weekend reminded me that yes, I can spend some money, but I don’t need to buy everything I see, and that it’s nice to have a little money set aside for when you find something you need.

Bad Thing this weekend? I spent some money, and felt bad not having more to spend when at the park. I hate not being able to carry my own weight.

Good things this weekend? Going to a national park, having fun for nothing more than the entrance fee. (which, if you care, is worth buying for the season if you go more than once. So I will be doing that next time. Also makes it more likely to camp there.)

Other good thing? Seeing this.

Dickson Falls, Fundy National Park, NB