Thursday, June 29, 2006


Never listen to recommendations for freeware that say a program is "user friendly" or "easy to use."

Never buy a computer.

But if you've already made that fatal error, do not f-ck with the registry. Do not, in your utter ignorance, uninstall and install things as if you know something.

My computer goes into the shop tomorrow morning. I will miss you and probably explode trying to contain all the words I can't write. I will sneak in next week, from work, to read yours. I may write tonight, if the machine lets me...before I pull out it's 9,000 cords and stuff it in a box. But after that, it's 19th century time for a few days..


If you click here, you will find a useable and hysterically funny article entitled, "What Shamu taught me about a happy marriage." Koru's daughter of Everyday Sutras uses this page to store the best articles she finds. Well worth a look.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Eight twenty three p.m.

This is mine, squawks the smaller crow. He puffs up and pecks nervously at something on the pavement.
Bastard! Back off or you’ll lose a few of those pathetic excuse for feathers, the bigger crow screams and advances, menacing.
No. It’s mine. I found it. I was here first.
Here first? Here first? Have you noticed how big I am, you tick-ridden excuse for a bird? Get out of my way.

They shrill and screech at each other in the parking lot. A crust of bread? Crumbs from a bag of potato chips?

A car motor grinds to silence as they quarrel.

My planter box is full of drowned pansies and sodden petunias.

A mother’s voice calls, “Come in now! Are you listening?”


Half-light in the pale grey sky. Sundown coming. World turning.

Just for this minute, I won’t harden my heart or make a joke of it. I won’t begin to ply myself with platitudes or search for meanings. There is no story. I have no explanations. It is all worthy of love. Worthy of notice.

The crows quarrel. The car stops its’ engine. The flowers droop.

I am passing through forever.


Handy Girl!

Line up your problems, write 'em down. Handy Girl has all the answers. And this particular answer had me guffawing out loud and shouting amens to the monitor. Link on the right as usual, folks.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The question at hand...

Does writing about a relationship change it?

The question begs others. For example, who can you write about? Your friends, your family, coworkers, strangers? When they’re living? When they’re dead? Is it ok to write about people if they read what you write – or would you cringe if they found your blog? And where is the line on tone? Does it matter how you feel about them when you write? Do you write when you feel angry and judgmental about someone? Do you only write nice things? Do you try for the illusion of objectivity?

A writer friend and I argued this one a few years back. His stance is that a writer’s job is to be completely truthful – take no prisoners, tell the stories as you see them. And because it’s writing like that affects me most deeply when I read, I could see his point, but something about going at it full-out doesn’t sit well with me – and it isn’t only cowardice, although that’s certainly some of it. There’s a line that can be crossed from honesty into self-righteous judgment. My test is whether I could face a person who was reading what I’d written about them. Not whether they’d cheer. Just whether I could face them and not avert my eyes.

Telling the stories that matter to me, I try to feel my way to the shape they take inside me and then I try to be true to the shape. It’s a middle ground that I’m operating in, in-between surgical precision and fuzzy niceness. And my view is all I can be honest about because I do not know the story from anyone else’s point of view.

In light of the recent combustion in a relationship, though, and the fact that I’ve been writing about in its’ various phases, the question reopens…

Did it change the relationship? Of course it did.

But you don’t have to write a thing down to change it. The minute, the nanosecond you move from directly experiencing a moment, I figure, and start filtering it through your brain full of history, experience and opinion, it changes. It changes if you tell a friend. It changes if you scribble it privately in a diary. It changes when you remember it. Which is what you are doing that nanosecond later.

So why write it (think about it or remember it)?

I conceive of the universe through the personal. Having been well-advised that I stink at polemic, I stay away from it. Relationship reveals meaning to me and writing is how a big part of how I process meaning. I think in stories – from the taxi driver who sings me a self-composed song for his pet Iguana, to my neighbors pushing stolen grocery carts, to remarks my friends make, to my relationship with the Scorpio. There’s another reason I write – but I’ll come back to that.

Fact is, I don’t have much of a relationship with the Iguana loving taxi driver, so it’s not a matter of great consequence if our relationship is affected by my writing about it. But did the Scorpio read my stories? No. Did anyone who personally knew him read them? No – or, out of respect, I likely wouldn’t have written them. But I often read them to him. They made him laugh and he liked seeing how things looked through my eyes. He encouraged my writing, whether the topic was him or anything else. We made it through at least a year without my writing habit blighting the territory. With or without publicity, it has been a relationship full of Hindenburg conditions: hope, idealism and static electricity. And the chemical combination that sent us crashing to the ground was far more immediate than my writing. The story we got wrong was the one I didn’t write.

Reason for writing, number two – the reason I was coming back to…

It’s important to scare yourself. It keeps you awake to yourself and the world.

One writer (Telling Lies for Fun and Profit) said that writers ask for honest opinions but don’t really want them. If an honest opinion is unkind or critical, he says, it’s a lot like showing someone your baby and being honestly informed its head is too big.

If you are a vulnerable person, it’s damn good practice in stating your truth and letting the rain fall where ever it does. It teaches you how to tell who you are from who people think you are…

And it also lets you know that you are, under absolutely no condition, in any circumstance or emotion, a population of one.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Oh, the humanity!

Staring at my Avatar. The current purple one. Snickering. One more mask, one more slight of technology. One more member of the vast army inside my head.

I am reminded of forties film posters or, even more amusingly, the suspiciously airbrushed looking pic of Ann Landers that graced the top of her advice column for years. Without changing.

And I’m good with advice. Really. As long as we aren’t talking about my life, I’m pretty good at handing it out.

Lately, however, I’ve been the recipient of advice. Lots of truly appreciated advice and support - some of which appears in the comments section of what I am now calling “The Country and Western Song Entries.”

A friend, a close friend, who is (by the way) twenty-nine and suggesting (five or six times in one email) that perhaps people might be expected to be smarter at my age, has offered the following. What it lacks in sentimentality, it more than makes up for in accuracy. Two brief excerpts below:

“Here's the thing, I'm a dystopian by nature. When I hear things like "It is what is is, and without too many expectations, we're really good with it." my brain translates them into "Wow, we sure haven't had an earthquake here in a long time..."

he sends this quote (which I may blow up to poster size and hang in the front room):

"Of course the Hindenburg exploded. How could it have done otherwise? With that much hydrogen, static electricity, idealism, promise, and live coverage, what else could have happened?"
-donna szoke

And if you’ve read the entries on The Scorpio and the recent landmine explosions in my personal life, you will know how absolutely perfect that quote is.

What can you do? I mean, if you write – and you’d rather eat dirt than write about things that don’t matter to you, when you believe, in spite of spirited attempts at bitterness and cynicism, in spite of trying very hard to talk sense into yourself, when your fallback position is that of the doomed Anne Frank, who believed that “people are really good at heart…” and when you have a chronic tendency to think everyone you love, friends included, are brilliant, special, extraordinary human beings? Oh sure they have failings. Those tiny little things? No matter. Mere dust on the shining altar.

So. Because you’ve followed the story so far, it’s only fair to provide another middle which, if I can curb my instinct to write so openly, will be the last public chapter.

There is détente. We are too bruised to call it reconciliation, exactly. But there is détente. We are talking, me and him. We are uneasy, yes. But we are trying to do damage control. We are deciding on conditions…

Nonetheless, from here, I’m going to try for once to take good advice from a friend. And not let it become the Hindenburg.

Expect my writing will suffer for it though.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Inside and out

I swear the curtains
someday take wing
and sail the windows
to the moon.

Light passing
through cotton
like water through
a sieve.

And don’t you
love the time
before the man comes
to behead the Dandelions
with his belching
tidy-up machine?

When the grass is long?
When the day is long?
When the wind blows?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

This is for you...

Here’s the thing…

Sometimes, when I I need people the most, I call and get voice mail and if the phone rings at my end, it’s a call center and the script doesn’t take a polite “no” for an answer. I’ve been stranded in rural Missouri and Southeast Jesus, on ice floes, at airports, and in my own home, my own head, my own crowded heart…with no one in sight and the tide coming in. It’s the sort of time Jehovah Witnesses come around too.

And that, I told myself, is how life is. I got on with learning to accept it. “Dome of silence” I called it. A forced lesson in getting stronger. Stop whimpering. You don’t live in Darfur. Get over yourself.

But other times, when the dishpan is floating grimy dishes from two days ago, which was the last time I really ate, when I’ve had a shot of gin for dinner and the walls are dissolving and listening to the radio is as soothing as chewing ground glass and I haven’t slept through a night without drugging myself and even my best fake smile is falling apart at the edges, people come through. And not only my close friends, bless them, but people I’ve never met in person. It’s a stone left on the doorstep, or recognition of having had the same sink of dishes and the same lunch, or a wish to be here and walk with me a bit. And in the midst of feeling like the best part of my life just burst into flames, all of a sudden I’m grateful.

Thank you for that. All of you.

I hope to return you to regular programming soon.


Spring thaw. Northern Ontario. It is a long time ago and it is sunrise. I have been sitting up all night. I hear wind chimes. Thousands of wind chimes tinkling. I turn to my friend in astonishment.
“What is that sound?”
“It’s the ice breaking up on the lake. Haven’t you ever heard that before?”

I hear that sound now. At first it’s faint and far away. I listen and it gets louder. And it’s the sound of the world changing and changing again. Day, night, the rise and fall of suns and moons, the turning wheel of seasons. I am small and safe. I am here always. I am passing through.

I would forgive you but there is nothing to forgive. You took safety below the ice. You thought the light streaming in through the cracks was fire and the chimes were sounding the end of the world. And you were there, without protection. You thought I broke the ice. How could you not be afraid?

So I wait, hoping that you will see the light won’t burn and you don’t need that kind of protection.

And all that I wish you or ever have
is kindness

I want to thank everyone who commented recently. I am more grateful and touched than you can ever imagine.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I wake up and it’s still yesterday. You had called in the afternoon to tell me what I felt and that it was time for my execution. You were precise, I'll hand it to you. You had the document. You read it out. It was much like the way people think trials work, but don't. I kept thinking, you called it in.

I don’t know how many days it will be until it stops being still yesterday when I get up.

A few hours after that, I walk to the grocery store. I focus on items on shelves as if they are an urgent math problem and world peace depends on my attention. That is all I am thinking about. That is the rule I’ve made so that I can buy things from a list I've written earlier. And just as the supermarket soundtrack spins into a song by Sade from a CD that was your first gift to me, and at precisely that same moment as a tornado is unwinding itself in my chest, a friend spots me, asking frantically, “Have you seen my husband? Have you met my husband?” I don’t know. I don't know. The talent for breathing seems to have left me, momentarily, and I’m caught somewhere between gasping for air, screaming, or laughing at the universe –
good one, universe. How about that woman-alone music? Could you get a little more cliché? - while I try to make polite conversation.

And then I go home. I tip the taxi driver. I arrange my face into a smile. I put away the groceries.

I tell myself life goes on. I start my beadwork. I hunch for over it for hours, the needle weaving back and forth and then I spend the same number of hours ripping out endless mistakes. Life is, in fact, going on, but the pattern is unraveling.

I do not drink. I have eaten one boiled egg the entire day. Some primitive survival instinct kicks in and squats between me and the Bombay Sapphire. I sit, instead, numb or hoping for it, while the sky outside goes from breath-taking blue to sundown pinks.

Today, I shower and dress. Comb my hair into a ponytail and get down to work. I make progress until I declare the work a loss and decide to try again with something else. Everything is square pegs in round holes. Nothing meshes. Nothing works except sitting and watching the sky.

I walk in the afternoon and just past the crosswalk, an invisible sucker-punch lands square in my chest and I’m focused again…breathe in, breathe out. I’m blowing air from my mouth like a woman in labor. I’m counting the inhales, willing my ribcage open. Pride, in my case, is not going to goeth before a fall. I keep walking.

The minutes crawl by on broken legs. It is 6:30 p.m. An hour later it is 6:40 p.m.
And it is still yesterday. The curtains flail in the wind. The vase of orange fabric flowers blow over. The dishes sit in a basin of cold water, all the bubbles hours gone. I observe. I don't move to change anything.

There is nothing to be done. Nothing to be done.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ides of June: Monogamy Police

They tell themselves
they don’t know
that’s a gun.
I tell myself
I don’t know
I am leaning
on their trigger fingers.

Accidents happen
all the time.

it’s the old
Trojan Horse trick.
Eager for a gift
I let the army in.

Maybe they didn’t know
there was an army.
Maybe they thought
I should have known.
I should have

Your certainty
has been my shield.
I held it
over my heart.

your certainty is broken
because I
didn’t look
beside me,
didn’t remember
about accidents,
friendly fire.

Monday, June 12, 2006


He is thirteen, maybe
fourteen that day.
They are on
the street.
His mother stops
to talk to a man
then turns
to him.
“Do you know
who this is?
This is
your father.”
And the father
gruff and embarrassed
“I hear you’re not behaving”
He replies
“Who are you?”
With all the withering scorn
of the unloved

A decade later
he asks her
“What was he like?”
And she tells him
how she was young and pretty
with prospects,
and how
he turned her head.
Meeting him
ruined everything.
She says,
“I wish I never
laid eyes on him.”

And doesn’t know
she is saying
she wishes
he was never born.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I found myself avoiding everything I have to do the other day. I know, I know…you are gasping in astonishment. I’ve finally got the final pattern drawn for the gauntlet, and a black mannequin hand ordered from eBay, so that fitting the glove top will be easier. My mega-laundry is finished…

And well, PSP is a lot more fun than the dishes, isn’t it? I’m never sure what I’m trying for in these until I’m done. (This is how I write, bead, and live, actually.) Afterwards, looking at a piece I’ve played with, I often see my state of mind reflected very clearly.

So this one would be called, “Losing Focus.”

Friday, June 09, 2006


This piece of doggerel began forming in my mind as we headed into week two of steady rain, fog and cold with - according to saddistic weather experts - little relief in sight. Here in Nova Scotia, complaining about weather is nearly an art form because we get so much practice. For example:

Wearing a facial expression that suggests imminent suicide, “Nice weather, huh?”

“Have you heard the forecast? They’re saying the whole summer is going to be like this. The doors in my place haven’t shut properly for a month.”

“I know. And the sheets feel damp when you get into bed. The laundry never dries. And my allergies.”

“Oh. It’s a bad allergy season. And there’s that flu going around…”

“My cousin had that flu. He’s in Intensive Care now….”

"Have you heard we have those ticks now? The ones that cause Lime's Disease?"

My train of thought goes from Bloody Stupid Weather to Bloody Stupid Glove Pattern (and how to solve my design problems). I think, when I get this part done, I’ll be much less stressed…

My apologies for the following. But a little chant started in my Monkey Mind after that and I ended up laughing at how stupidly our brains function…

My brain…How stupidly my brain functions. I’ll accord the rest of you more credit.

if i had a better job
or could sell this house
if i could live in another…

if i could trust that certain friend
or find a perfect lover…

if the sun would shine
if the rain would finally come
if the lilacs would bloom
if it would only

if my nose was smaller
or i were just a little taller
or could stick to a diet…

if the mail would come on time
or my the neighbors would
keep quiet…

if the prices weren’t so high
the distance not so great
the hour not so late…

if i were just more clever
if i worked out more
and changed my hair,
if my eyes were green
instead of blue…

if i could take back
my mistakes
the wrong i did to you…

if i was smarter,
more a saint
and less a sinner…

i would be happy

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Proletarian and Proud

We are sitting on the deck of the Crow today, scoffing down cheeseburgers and fish cakes - my friend VF, who lives in Cape Breton, her friend from Art College days in Britain, Ken.

It’s instant Good Lunch Date chemistry between the three of us, and I adore Ken’s British/Irish dry, biting humor. At one point, he makes an outrageously honest observation and VF laughs and chides him a little.

“You’re so
polite, Canadians,” he replies, “so un-European.” He turns to me. “You’re the most European Canadian I’ve met,” he adds.

There you have it. Not “rude.” Not “belligerent,” “tactless” or “insensitive.”
I’m European.

I’ve earned this, I suspect, by telling the following story – fresh from Monday at work:

We’ve been waiting for the Gallery to send over possible prints or paintings for the wall near the circulation desk. The College owns a fairly impressive collection of famous artists' work. Finally, they send a couple choices. One of them is a big black square, surrounded by five inches of matting board, surrounded by a nice wooden frame and done, no doubt by a Very Famous Artist.

“How about this?” my boss asks. I look at her like she’s gone stark raving mad.

“It’s a big fucking framed black square,” I reply. “Are you joking?”

“Don’t hold back now. Just say what you really think,” one of the Gallery staff comments with a huge grin. The other Gallery person looks a little offended.

“It’s ugly,” I continue, “and it’s A BIG BLACK SQUARE IN A FRAME.” They seem to be waiting. My boss holds it up to the wall. “It goes well with the security gate, “I say, pretending to be fair and add, in case they aren’t getting it, “I’m serious.”

Once again, I have established myself as a cultural toad. A tasteless peasant. Someone has to call it on the Emperor’s New Painting.

I’m sorry. But I have to look at it this way, the way I subsequently defended my judgment to my boss.

1. It’s a big black square in a frame.
2. It’s the kind of art that makes regular people think they aren’t smart enough to understand art. I hate that.
3. In a hundred years (or even fifty), if anyone saw it – and didn’t know the entire context – just saw it, I figure they’d guess it must be art because it was so nicely matted and framed. But seeing the big black square in the middle, they would wonder what art had been there before something happened to it. Be honest. This is a distinct possibility.
4. No one has to know the “context” of really great art, music or literature – even though that might add something. There’s enough for spirit, mind or heart to connect to that you don’t require three years of art theory to like it.
5. It matched the security gate. I mean, really – think about that.

And this, darlings, is my very European opinion.

PS. Credit where credit is due. Conversation between Weedy's son - then a child - with his father.
Son - "What's that, Dad?"
Dad - "That's sculpture, son."
Son- "What happened to it?"

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fractured Fairy Tales

“I was thinking today about how I court you.”

He laughs.

“No! I court you all the time, it’s outrageousHow about when I ran into you the other day and you were bragging about buying all those new muscle shirts on sale for nearly nothing? I sidled up, batted my lashes like a bloody silent film star and said, ‘well, you’ve certainly got the muscles for them, and you said, ‘Yes, I do.’ And then I said, ‘notice you’re looking mighty fine today,’ and you agreed with me.”

“Well,” he says, “I like flirting if I feel the same way towards someone.”

“Bullshit. You are such a princess, you. Come to think of it, it was me who said I was attracted to you, and me who kissed you the first time, and me who suggested the bedroom might be a better idea.” We were half-way on, half-way off the couch by the time I said that. And there was very little doubt in my mind where the afternoon was heading. The point is, he didn’t ask. Didn’t suggest. Of course – he didn’t exactly demur either.

“It’s nice,” he says, in his fake-reasonable voice, “to know that you aren’t forcing your attention on someone. That you aren’t harassing them.” I can tell he’s grinning through a mouthful of canary feathers.

“Oh right. And also nice not to ever face the possibility of rejection. Nice to sit around waiting for women to virtually land in your lap without any noticeable effort on your part.”

We both end up laughing.

And I’m thinking how much I like men who can laugh at being called a “princess.” Men who, in fact, refer to themselves as “48 hour drama queens,” and who love the story of Lilith and cheer when I’m telling it and get to the part where she won’t submit to Adam.

And I stink at being treated like a princess, let’s face it. If we were a fairy tale, I’d be the knight, carrying on like a smitten fool, falling off my horse, gamely dragging my singed, raggedy ass back to the castle to display the heads of hapless dead dragons for the object of my adoration.

If I tried doing princess, I’d ask him what in hell he thought he was doing. Had he noticed, by the way, that the mote stones were covered in algae? That the west wall was about to fall down? That the Barbarian Hordes were camped only miles away? I’d tell him I had a headache and besides that he needed a shower.

No. No. Better he’s the princess. Better I court and coo over him.
That way, we all live happily after.

Process: clean, commit, consider the consequences

7:30 a.m. My new favorite dollar store mug, small soup bowl sized, filled with coffee. Yesterday’s braids, neatly pinned up in a grown-up hairstyle, slipping their moorings. Blue velvet housecoat, almost vintage by now. Bare feet. I’m brandishing one purple glove.

I hold my gloved hand with my fingers spread, studying its construction. The gusset under the thumb, the shape that covers the back of the hand. I wonder if Sears has lady’s gloves in stock, it being June and summer gloves being a kind of antiquated fashion – like cucumber sandwiches or playing croquet. I’d like a left glove. No stretch. Preferably black. Fat chance.

I’d like, really, to take back the moment where I blurted out the word, “gauntlet,” yesterday, during a studio visit from the Director of a Gallery. My work was being considered for an exhibition in January, Haute Couture Avante Garde. The challenge for the artists participating was to create something spectacular, something they normally wouldn't tackle. “Gauntlet,” I said. I was so thrilled to be invited.

I was thinking of the wrist and arm portion of a gauntlet…a kind of extended beaded cuff. But afterwards, checking the image bank of Google, I looked at pictures. Oh. My. God. Fingers. The damn things have fingers. My 150 hour project balloons to…the rest of my natural life? I print antique patterns for gauntlets. I print photographs. I’m stocking up so that I have sufficient scare-material to keep me from every sleeping again.

Save yourself, I think. I decide to eliminate fingers. It’s fashion for the love of god, not actual war. Covering the top of the hand will do – with a…what? Strap to hold it in place underneath? Suede underside? At 11:00 p.m., past my bedtime and theirs, I consider emergency calls to friends who make costumes. I’m looking up articles on plaster to Paris. After all, it will have to display on something. I’m eyeing the pieces of broken bus shelter glass I’ve scooped up into a jar and thinking those might be an interesting addition.

What makes me glibly agree to such things?

I blame it on a clean house. The day before, I’m dusting light bulbs. I’m changing the foil burner protectors on the stove. I’m nearly at the point of vacuuming the air, just in case. The Scorpio laughs at me. “She’s not coming to check your housekeeping skills, you know.” But I have to do this. I have to buy a decent cream and sugar set and a second bunch of Astromeria. “You never know,” I tell the Scorpio. You never know. What if she saw spotty burner protectors and fled in horror and no one ever asked me to be part of an exhibition again and I had to live in a cardboard box and hold out a Tim Horton's coffee cup begging for spare change?

But bloated with the confidence of having a clean house, grown-up hair, and matching cream and sugar set, I feel capable and professional. “Gauntlet,” I say. I could just as easily have said, “beaded tuxedo and matching shoes,” the cleanliness and order had so distorted my sense of my own capability.

The good news is that this dangerous cleanliness is unlikely to happen again because my personal deadline for this project is the end of August – well before hell season hits at the day job, before I start teaching. And there won’t be time to change burner savers or vacuum the air. Or sleep.

Maybe if I hadn’t dusted, I’d be making a nice set of buttons. A brooch.

Thanks for the training, Mom. I’m expecting a little help from the other side while I’m doing this. It’s the least you can do considering the lecture entitled "it isn't clean if you didn't scrub underneath it."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Keeping Faith for Lamar Johnson

Friends (and friends I haven’t met yet)…

I’d like to direct those of you who are interested to a blog page I’ve set up for my friend of the last eight years, Lamar Johnson. Lamar is serving a life sentence, with no hope of parole, for a murder he didn’t commit. I’ve put up the short version of his case summary, at his request. Having followed his battle, both personal and legal, all this time; having received copies of all documents related to his legal fight, and knowing him well by this time – I believe fully in his innocence.

He’s an amazing person. His self-education in law alone is astonishing (and I have the opinion of those more knowledgeable than me on that that score) – but it is not the habit of the courts to pay heed to the legal arguments of the convicted.

He is 32 years old. He wants to go home.

I don’t ask that you believe me – or him. But if you are interested, the case summary is there. Please leave any comments you might have on that page. I am merely the typist for the site.

And thanks.