Sunday, July 16, 2006


The housework, more or less, is done. My apartment smells of clean laundry. I’ve ironed the kimono…my “morning coat,” and several other of the wrinkle-when-washed bali-print items I’m so fond of, and in the heat and humidity, I’ve cooked spicy food to be put away for my visitor, Koru’s Daughter (of Everyday Sutras). Pasta sauce with black olives and Italian sausage, beef cooked in vegetable juice and Tabasco. I’m not sure this food won’t kill her, but I’m pretty much bloated with preparedness and well-being anyway. It’s the thought that counts.

And then…

It’s trite to say that fog rolls in, but there’s no other verb to describe it. Rolls like a wave, entirely visible. When the first plumes pass by my balcony, after the bright sun, looking up from the steaming stove, I wonder momentarily if it is smoke. All through June, I’ve hated it, and now, after “feels like” 90 degree temperatures, it’s rolling relief – cool, damp and soothing. My neighbor and I stand on our next door balconies and compare notes on how wonderful it feels to stop suffocating.

Have I become a Maritimer? Native to Toronto, I once survived temperatures that soared past 100 F, that baked and scorched and made the bottom of my shoes tacky on pavement. I can remember waking from fevered sleep with the sheets plastered to my body. I used to run in and out of cold showers several times a day, just to keep from frying in my own skin.

Now, like any good Nova Scotian, when the thermometer exceeds 70 degrees Fahrenheit, I’m thinking it’s some jeezly hot. I’ve become a fog-baby.

But I started this to remember about kaleidoscopes.

I am little. Maybe five or six or seven. We are staying with my Aunt and Uncle.
The house is on the outskirts of Windsor, Ontario, situated on a flat country road. It is always summer there. There is always a cloudless sky and miles of pancake land. The house itself is propped on cement blocks with no foundation. Out back, there is a play house and beyond that a field with a brilliant blue block in it. “Salt lick” my cousin Lesley says, “for the cows.” She has a slightly superior tone. I am, to her, a city kid, and astonishingly ignorant of the simplest things.

She smells like brown sugar. The house is small and the floor feel wobbly. My uncle has fingers stained brown. My Aunt yells everything in a hearty, cheery voice, as if we were all slightly deaf.

The living room is small and crowded. I don’t remember anything but overstuffed furniture and the shadows in it and how my Aunt and Uncle seemed to fill it to capacity. I am sitting on the floor, with a kaleidoscope in my hands. It is a cardboard tube, about two inches in diameter and six inches in length. It has a glass bottom and you can see tiny scraps of color there. But if you look in the other end….”Hold it up to the light”…fabulous patterns emerge. They change with the slightest shift of hand, dividing and subdividing into infinity, becoming worlds and universes of pattern and color. To my cousin, it’s old. “Just mirrors and pieces of colored paper,” she says, dismissing it like it’s another salt lick I don’t know about. But I can’t put it down. Can’t stop looking into that other world.

There in a tiny cramped living room with my brown-sugar cousin, my tobacco uncle, my loud aunt and a piece of Made in Japan magic, one of my obsessions is established. Pattern and color speak to me like music. Even the word is magic….


Useful advice

Household and nutrition hints from a woman who lives on freshly prepared nuclear food, hot out of the microwave, eating while she stands up or types with one hand
(subtitled: notes to myself)

1. If you put a dead plant in a large, heavy ceramic planter on the balcony, retrieve it before it rains for a month and grows a coat of thick green algae on the top.

2. Do not put a can of spray Pledge on top of the stove in the middle of dusting and then decide to turn on a burner.

3. Cheetos & coffee are not adequate breakfast food for the human body.

4. Sitting at the computer, answering email and writing a blog – or playing with PSP, are not forms of housework. Documenting yourself standing beside a vacuum does not amount to vacuuming.

5. Wash your sheets once a week so that your laundry basket is not stuffed with four to six of them by the time you actually do laundry.

6. Do not throw the once-worn, I-think-it’s-still-pretty-clean-camisole back into the dresser drawer. Remind yourself that this leads to washing ALL the camisoles because you can’t remember which one is making the drawer smell closety.

7. President’s Choice 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese is not doing your ass any favors.

8. Gin and tonic, imbibed at a housework break, does not inspire you to continue cleaning.

9. Vacuum before you have to empty the dirt catcher on the Red Devil after vacuuming half a room.

10. Always keep your stones clean. Nothing is more indicative of bad housekeeping than ten bowls of dusty rocks.

PS..Please note that I am shining with the sweat of effort and Hard Work in the above picture. Either that or it's the humidity and Gin.