Tag Archives: memories

Nostalgia

Have you noticed them creeping in now?

Arriving separately,

that one always early, that one always late

to a party years after the kitchen’s been cleaned.

Moments

as we were then.

Catching up with me on a sidewalk,

sneaking into an elevator,

following me on those stairs.

The darkness of a last stare

strolling through the back door.

A touch,

warm arm hairs,

that itchy sweater of yours,

a reproach, a grin,

apologies never spoken.

Screen door slams

goodbye.

And all that white light.

My sunglasses? Where are they?

I must cover my eyes.

Their. No, there.

There. They. Are.

Pointing down

from the heavens

laughing and shaking their heads.

Is that pity? Are they pitying me?

Shush.

They’re examining their hands.

Looking back at their lightness.

Catching their bearings.

Who’s dead now?

A collective wondering.

 “What’s that covering their faces?” they mouth, confused.

Is it Halloween?

Just dropping by.

Did someone drop the cutlery?

Why so many line-ups? they ask.

Whatever happened to spontaneous?

They’re mocking me now. And you. All of us.

In the breeze through the poplars

through the trill of red winged blackbirds and

the turtles on that log clinging to the scent of

spring flowers:

clematis, hydrangea and calla lilies

befriending me on my 6:30 am walks

when I’m trying to lean into

so much sorrow,

I must steady myself,

ignore the vertigo

because they’re so alive,

no doubt about it.

I can feel them

in a surge of yearning

so strong

I have to resist an overwhelming desire

to be there with them

and

not here,

just carrying on.

Daydreaming the past in April 2020

Siem Reap, Angkor Wat

There’s something about being inside mostly that has set off my daydreaming about all those times I felt the most free and so I decided to make a list of 25 experiences that came to mind.

I hope you’ll reflect on your own special times of exploration that were particularly satisfying while you’re cooped up these days.

  1. Walking along Walker Hook Road on Salt Spring Island and down to the Fernwood dock and back again to the cottage where I lived on Hedger Road. Camping at Ruckle Park.
  2. Riding a bike on a day trip to one of the Mekong islands across from Phnom Penh and on a dirt road that passed by wooden shacks with little children running out and saying Hi to me as I rode by.
  3. Walking on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, with almost no one around, with a young woman who was also on a day trip and passing fields of those hairy Highland cattle as we made our way to the other side of the island to see Duart Castle.
  4. Daytrips to Mayne Island and walking from the village to the lighthouse over to Bennet Bay and back again on a beautiful summer’s day. I once saw a pod of Orcas rounding the corner in front of the lighthouse, some of them spyhopping.
  5. Driving in a sports car from Phoenix to Flagstaff and on to the Grand Canyon in the middle of February and having to finally “give” and put up the top and blast the heat. Silly Canuck moves.
  6. Being in the beautiful Botanical Garden outside of Hilo, Hawaii, beside the ocean and being so inspired by the lushness and tropical beauty, and staying in the village of Volcano, Hawaii.
  7. Running down an empty country road in Finland on the way to the country store at least a mile away that summer in 1980.
  8. Walking across the Painted Desert at The Ghost Ranch in New Mexico on a hot day in June on the way to the other side near Georgia O’Keeffe’s house.
  9. A seven day kayaking trip through the Discovery Island Group and setting up camp on a beach every night, often with a fire.
  10. Hiking the Stein Valley with Will and the ponderosa pines reminding me of the annual summer trip to Osoyoos with my parents when I was a child.
  11. Walking across a courtyard in Greenwich, England, and hearing someone playing a beautiful piece on the piano, the light high notes sparking into the air like electricity.
  12. Walks in Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island on the farthest dike on a hot August afternoon where it used to be possible to sit on randomly placed benches, soak up the heat and watch the red winged blackbirds among the tall grasses and just linger.
  13. Whale Watching in the zodiac when Ian Gidney used to own that on Salt Spring and the joy of speeding across the water in search Orcas but mostly just enjoying the wind in my face, especially on hot summer days.
  14. Exploring a ruin in Mexico called Uxmel and hearing the rustling of leaves behind me only to see two big green iguanas coming in my direction and feeling, stupidly, afraid.
  15. Exploring the streets of Chiapas, and one beautiful afternoon of exploring an historical centre called NaBolom.
  16. Riding a bike from Prachuap Khiri Khan in Thailand across a military checkpoint to the most beautiful deserted beaches.
  17. Taking that boat to an island off Sihanoukville in Cambodia to a small place where a group of us spent the day, playing volleyball, hanging out, barbequing. Koh Ta Kiev.
  18. Walking along a footpath in Bath, England that led from the city, overlooking the weir and back up to the Italianate mansion on the hill converted into a hostel. And a footpath in Oxford past the river boats with Don, the man I met at the Summer Opera Festival on our way to that famous restaurant, La Petit Blanc, which I understand is now gone, not surprisingly since my visit was 19 years ago.
  19. All the times I’d go with a friend and ride my bike around Point Roberts on day trips in the 90s that always included back then, a stop at that restaurant that started with a “B”, now gone unfortunately. It was always such a nice place to have lunch. Carrying on past the marina and onto the bluffs before heading down the big hill to the beach.
  20. Riding a bike around the Palace of Versailles grounds with a guy from the hostel in Paris where I was staying.
  21. Riding the Bamboo Railway near Battambang Cambodia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk1B-GSG6Mg
  22. Long walks around the Stanley Park Seawall with the end point The Sylvia, one of my favourite things to do.
  23. The rapids of the Fraser River on an overnight rafting trip along the Thompson into the Fraser with Kumsheen Rafting before they had a resort and we camped.
  24. Giving up our seats on the plane that was overbooked and the joy of having one more day to explore San Francisco, and the meal in that Italian restaurant in North Beach, Calzones.
  25. Walking through Saguaro National Park in Tucson and being awestruck by the purple and orange sunset as the backdrop for the tall saguaro cacti.

Childhood memories through a pepper shaker’s glass

I was doing the dishes the other night and once again, I took out one of those small wiry brushes that allow access to inaccessible corners of glassware or ceramics. I purposely bought those little brushes so I could see if I could get the inside of a small glass pepper shaker clean. For reasons I can’t explain, the pepper residue just won’t come off the inside of this tiny shaker. And as I was doing that it occurred to me that I’d been trying to get this little thing clean for about 2 months and I still hadn’t got there.

In the midst of doing what’s become almost a habit as part of doing the dishes, I stopped and asked myself, What are you doing? Why does this tiny little glass pepper mill that has no financial value matter so much to you, and apparently it really matters!

And when I thought about that I realized that this small object, smooth to the touch with rippled diagonal lines, elicits such strong memories for me of Sunday dinners in my childhood when there was almost always someone coming to dinner, an occasion at a time when having people over, not going out, was how special occasions got marked.

As a little girl, the child size of these must have been what appealed to me. I would often be asked by my mother to put them on the table from their usual resting spot in the china cabinet in the dining room, as if I was putting the cherry on top, the final accoutrements on the white linen table cloth as the guests arrived.

If it was Sunday, there was almost always someone coming for dinner. Uncles and aunts, my father’s parents, sometimes one of my eldest sister’s boyfriends and dinner, it seemed to me, would last a very long time.

Good china. White linen. Cutlery laid out correctly. The special silverware taken carefully from that heavy wooden box with the red velvet lining. My three older sisters moving back and forth between kitchen to dining room as a trio of servers  in that big old house in New Westminster, three storeys high. A fireplace in the the dining room, another one in the den. Beams on the ceilings. A sunroom. Window seats. Awnings. The kind of old house that few are lucky enough to live in now. The only time I’ve been able to call a house mine even if it was my parents who owned it.

After my parents died and their things were sorted and given away, I realized that these little glass salt and pepper shakers represent the feelings of togetherness, of family, that I have not had for a very long time. I made the decision to keep them when I could just as easily have given them away. And every time I look at them, they represent a link to a past that is a testimony to my mother who worked so hard as a home maker, to feed her family and mark special occasions properly. I never use them. They don’t work very well but that’s not the point.

It would have been my parent’s 73rd wedding anniversary today if they were still alive. They got married on February 25th, 1945, in Holy Trinity Church in Winnipeg at 6pm by a Reverend Findley. The reception was at the Marlborough Hotel. I only know this because I have my mother’s bride book and it has the details, along with details of what she wore and all the well wisher cards and strange long white ribbons with women’s names typed onto them, which must have been a custom at the time, the names of the attendees at the bridal showers held for her.

My parents eventually moved to New Westminster and they rented rooms in a house at 215 Fifth Avenue near Queen’s Park. There’s a receipt in this bridal book that details the cost of the monthly rent for these rooms. They paid $22.50 per month to a Mr. Taylor who, when he died, left them furniture and his son gave them a good deal on the house to buy it.

Maybe you have something that represents so much more to you than its physical value and even though it’s special, you haven’t explicitly acknowledged it yet, out loud that is. You haven’t really made it known to yourself even though your actions say it’s so.

All good de-cluttering books speak to keeping only those things in your life that you love. I de-cluttered before moving to Victoria and I can say that it’s good to look around my living space and have my eyes fall only upon only things that are meaningful to me and that I’m pleased with. Your mind engulfs the beauty and the joy of what those things represent and feels satisfied, not distracted or irritated or forced off balance which is what happens when your house if full of stuff that has no reason to be there.

In my life, and I expect in yours, these are the kinds of objects – the ones with much more meaning than that which is visible on the surface – that matter the most. Think about it a while and see if what I’m saying makes sense for you.

Walking with ghosts and angels

Painting by Jacky Hosford

As part of LitFest New West, an exhibit is up at Anvil Centre that paired writers of short text with artists who were to interpret the short text or poem.

I was paired with Jacky Hosford, a New Westminster resident originally from the U.K. Through layers and frames she painted her interpretation of what I wrote below. I like the way she’s put the frames into the painting to hint at it being a window into the past, and into the future.

Executive Director, Arts Council New West: Stephen O Shea, Poet Aidan Chafe and LitFest Chair Janice Bannister

I had a really good time at LitFest this year. I was on the planning committee so after all those meetings since September, it was good to see what transpired in real time when the weekend finally arrived.

 

 

 

Nasreen Pejvack, J.J. Lee, and Janet Kvammen

With the kick off at the library via the PopThis!Podcast  paired with J.J. Lee through to the Read Aloud event, I felt perhaps for the first time in the five years since I’ve lived back here, the real strength of community that flourishes in New West and that gets talked about on social media by local residents.

New West residents do a good job of branding themselves, I’ll give them that, thanks to small local businesses with great social media such as Steel and Oak, 100 Braid Street studios, Banana Lab, Tenth to the Fraser and others. And I think City Council and many other residents have a really progressive approach to things.

There is a lot going on here when it comes to words and writing and the people involved. I especially loved the In Your Words event that is put together by Alan Girling and takes place at New Westminster Public Library on a monthly basis.

Kyle McKillop reads Patrick Lane

It’s really great to hear others share their favourite authors and poets, highlighting some of those authors’ books and then giving their perspective by reading the authors’ words and sharing some background about the writers’ lives. The Lit Fest version shared Evelyn Lau, Patrick Lane, Thomas Hardy and a travel writer, Jan Morris. I’d never head of Jan Morris so right after the event was over, I went upstairs and checked out one of her books. It’s called Contact: A Book of Encounters about the people who she’s had the pleasure of connecting with during travels.

And I dropped by the New West Writer’s Group Critique session which was interesting as people shared their feedback on some writing pieces.  The Read Aloud Event was great with fantastic readings by Aislinn Hunter, Nasreen Pejvack, Catherine Owen and Carleigh Baker.  And it was interesting to hear the winners of the Short Fiction contest that got sponsored by local lawyer Dale Darychuk, Q.C.

New West Writers Group and their monthly feedback sessions

Poet Kevin Spenst and Shauna Kaendo doing performance piece to his love poems at Anvil Centre.

Carleigh Baker who read from her new book Bad Endings.

Anna Camporese, playwright Elaine Avila and me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what I wrote:

Walking with Ghosts and Angels

When you return to the small city where you were born, you can’t help but walk with ghosts and angels.

As the radius of your routes expand, you carry in memory everyone who has ever accompanied you.

Landmarked meeting places.

Dad. There. Plaid shirt and black lunch kit full of tuna fish sandwiches made dutifully by mom.

That vacant lot you weren’t supposed to set foot in as a kid and that old woman, Snookie, [was she lonely?] who lived above that garage across the street.

Backyard forts. Baseball diamonds. Lacrosse boxes. Willow trees.

First crush on lifeguard at Kiwanis pool.

Even strangers. Their faces stick.

You carry their hearts on your sleeve as if you’re leading an invisible parade.

Over there. Your grandparents’ backyard and their cement birdbath.

A purple plum tree, its marbled gifts dropped in late summer.

The cobwebbed wooden shed where your Grass is Greener Syndrome first arose as if Grass is Greener might actually be a place that you’d find if only you were better at reading maps.

Now, walking through the cemetery on the hill, you’ve left this era behind, retreated — perhaps to the 1950s — ignoring what the world has become.

Convincing yourself species aren’t disappearing and you’re not afraid of what’s coming down the pipe: oil, the Big One, and even a lack of imagination.

Not the most uplifting ending but written quickly and in line with how I’ve been feeling, about how many people the world over surely have been feeling given the state of international affairs at this point in time.

Float-home Memories

floathome memories

I have only three distinct memories of the women whose float-home I am house-sitting on the Fraser River this summer while they have gone to their other home on the other coast, the east coast, and Newfoundland.

Not a river there right at their backdoor nor two red Adirondack chairs to sit and watch the tugboats from, but a white two-storey house, I imagine, or perhaps I saw a photo they showed me before they left. It has long grass in front  and a square porch that they look past on cloudy days; grass sloping down toward a white-capped cove they have now claimed as their own, not legally, but in attachment,  and little white rowboats all topsy turvy hopscotching around buoys.

Thinking back to another summer so long ago. 1993. Pat, hunched over her desk, always there, busy, scanning information like a reading machine.  Editor. I worked for her, on-call,  right out of journalism school. Occasionally, her humour would lift off through a comment in response to some letter to the editor, a ridiculous request from the faceless all-knowing, know nothing public. Her sarcasm and amazement sprinkling out over the cubicles that sectioned the dingy room like the marks of a surgeon on a stomach before surgery.

It seems as if the next time I saw them, in person, was after he’d killed himself. We were there, inside his float-home, further south along this same river. That abode, run down and wretched and the silence after a death filled the room, and me not able to contain the emotion I’d been pushing down. “No wonder he killed himself. Look at this place.”  The only words that came. And, Pat, bless her heart, responding, “It’s not so bad,” as if that would help. As if anything could make better what could never be made better.  It seems strange now that they were there, except they’d dropped by the neighbours’ place, his friends, and I’m not sure why we were all inside that tiny living room at all.

And, then, fast-forward to happier times. Salt Spring. They’d come for a weekend get-away and thanks to the connections of Facebook, Pat messaged me to ask if I’d like to have breakfast at the Treehouse on a sunny Sunday morning in spring. It had been years since I’d seen them in person. It was a taffy-coloured morning  and  their surprise visit that went so well made everything that much better.

So, you see, I barely know them at all really and yet here I am, in one of their homes. They are getting married today, or was it yesterday? I’m not even sure and it might seem like just another wedding until you read what Pat  wrote on her Facebook page, after she left the West Coast, to marry Janna, the woman she’s shared her life with for 31 years.

Here’s part of what she shared…

“…For those who know me, I’m a pretty private person, and the thought of exchanging vows – or anything in public – is not my idea of fun. But, I marched in protests in the late ’70s just to get job protection for gay and lesbians – and yes, I was fired from a job for being gay (although, granted, I was also crappy at that job!… not in journalism), and while not a fan of the whole marriage institution (don’t get me going) it seems like the right thing to do at this time for a whole lot of reasons.

I must confess, while marching with my protest sign in my stylish suede blazer and Gloria Steinem glasses, I would never have envisioned a time when we would have the right to marry. Basic equal rights at that time seemed an impossible quest. Even trying to get equal pay as a woman required legal threats and action.

So, lastly, I want to thank all of my (our) friends and allies (and there have been many!) who have stood with us (and I mean that in a personal and much wider sense) as we have fought the hard battles. We couldn’t have done it without you!
And, in a very real way, you’ll all be standing with us on the shores of Blackhead Bay, when we say our vows and do whatever it is we’re supposed to do with those darn rings … rings, oh yah, better remember to bring those!!!…”

Congratulations to you both.  I trust your wedding was completed in a style that only you two could pull off. Tears and cake. And, more cake.

And for me, in your floathome, another distinct and very happy memory.