Vacation, day 1


There’s a story happening on my window sill this morning. The spider, the fruit fly and the cat who’s over the moon. With joy. To be sitting outside. Or close to me.

I am often in front of the sink, which faces the window. I’m in the kitchen now, making breakfast. Pour over coffee with lactose free whole milk, two cubes of raw sugar and two slices of bread, toasted and buttered. Not the best of menus, but simple and sufficient.

The butter was hard as rock when I pulled it from the fridge, so I cut a little corner of it off and tucked it into the microwave for a few seconds. The temperature has cooled off so much now that butter can safely be stored in the cupboard again without becoming a melted puddle.

I moved to the living room, ate the toast as I sat on the couch. The cat was meowing at the window, “Where are you?”

When I finished eating, I brought my plate into the kitchen and told her, “I’m here; come inside” but it took a few moments for her to decide to join me. I downed some ibuprofen for my shoulder pain. The physio session at noon yesterday (as it has for the last five Fridays) always sets me back a bit in regard to the shoulder pain. Everything feels like it’s raw and on fire, stiff and resentful.

I sat down again in the living room to take my coffee when she eventually lumbered over. She speaks to me in meows, certain that I understand. Maybe I do, now that I think of it. She seems to understand me too.

After kneading and walking across my legs a few times, she finally settled herself down half on the couch, half on my lap, rapt and purring for as long as I rubbed her behind the ears, under the chin.

After a while she left me to go back outside, and I decided that the call of the comfort of my warm bed outweighed the comfort of typing these words out on a keyboard rather than on my smart phone, so my thumbs are doing the hard work this morning.

Plans for today are largely to rest. I am so beyond tired at the moment that I feel a week off (well, nine consecutive days, actually) will barely scratch the surface of my fatigue, but I’m hopeful.

I want to rest but also do some planning, make lists of the things that I want to do so that I can slot them in, so that they get done. Time is so easily frittered away if not paid attention to.

The rain will surely help with getting me to complete the inside tasks simply based on the fact that it isn’t appealing to be outdoors. One of these days I’ll have to invest in a proper neoprene raincoat, pants and some waterproof shoes. Nothing I dislike more than getting my feet soaked, having them be cold and damp. Now that I don’t wear glasses, I don’t mind my face getting wet, and my hair as a fashion statement has been long abandoned.

There is a muscle twitching in my left quadricep. I worked out on Tuesday but that was days ago, so why the twitch now? The mysteries of this body has me in a constant state of both wonder and alarm. What next?

I’ve been invited to a housewarming party later today and I am not sure I will muster the energy to go. I want to vacuum and wash my sheets and bedding (yes, and rest too). And one can’t verily show up empty handed can one, and things are tight this week, especially if I want to do something more than just lay about the house. A social life is sometimes beyond my budget.

And I have loads of books I want to read. And to write, too. My writing habit, established at both financial and personal cost during my year-long writing program, is in a state of atrophy at the moment. I can rationalize many good reasons for not keeping it up, even for a short time, but in the end it’s my heart’s desire that suffers; the passions that set me apart from others whose calls go unanswered. An unrequited love, like the many others that life has pinned to me in some form or other.

So much to do, so little time, and such little order in my life. And ease. Not much in the way of ease, either. Working more provides a bit of financial slack but the lack of time leaves me unrested, or constantly trying to balance fatigue and overwork… hard to fit creativity into there, especially since writing takes so much energy.

Well, not all writing. Not this kind of writing. This is like a one-sided conversation; I can pretend to have an engaged and interested audience, even if there isn’t one. I’m good at suspending disbelief… just ask the cat; she listens to lengthy conversations, saves me from being the nutty one who walks around an otherwise empty kitchen and talks to herself.

Alright… time to rouse myself and brew a second cup of coffee. I can’t be deemed fully human or capable until the second cup is being consumed.

Au revoir! Je vous souhaite une bonne journée.

A life arrested

Opposite of Loneliness

There’s a theory that a person’s emotional development stops at the age at which one starts taking drugs.

Maybe this same theory can be expounded upon to include the whole of a life halted in its development due to a variety of reasons, whether family dysfunction or other external factors – arrested in a paradigm much like Bill Murray’s character’s was in Groundhog Day, manoeuvring through the same damned day until he finally gets it right, gets to move on to the next step, and the next, and so on. Bill’s protagonist has an antagonist who is also an ally, in whom he has a vested interest that propels him forward.

I have no such character assist. I don’t even know how to get started on the business of procuring one (though a huge chunk of my life was spent flailing around in the process of attempting to achieve just that). I was under the (clearly) erroneous assumption that in order to get to the next step I would absolutely have to find that other character in order to move forward with my own story. None of the varied and sundry ways I tried resulted in the opposite of loneliness, but I’ve come to find that I’ve become comfortable with my aloneness.

In this space, I write.
I write my way into corners.
I chase words in circles.

I follow the tail of an idea, of emotions whose teeth have gently clasped onto me, unwilling to let me go. I don’t know know where they want to take me, but I’ve come to trust the process, whether or not it amounts to a great piece of writing, or simply provides an outlet for a jumble of thoughts so that they may reach coherence.

I’ve begun reading The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. By the end of the introduction (by her professor Anne Fadiman), I was misty-eyed, sorry for fate of the arrested life of someone so promising. Upon reading the first essay (titled the same as the book) tears came anew along with a sense of kinship.

At 52, I can still relate to her words. They were true for a 22 year old, but I’ve come to find that they are just as true now for someone like me, thirty years older. I hold the same hopes, harbour the same feelings of inadequacy. I wonder how much of it is due to the arrested development of my younger self and how much of it is merely a byproduct of the human condition.

The truth is, we are still SO YOUNG, even me, at 52. And in Marina’s words, “…[w]e can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility, because in the end, it’s all we have.”

I do envy something that Marina had which I have in my 52 years of life been incapable of feeling: “remarkably, unbelievably safe”. Perhaps it is a character flaw, perhaps it’s merely a situational anomaly, that I’ve not for most of the years I’ve lived in this world, felt truly and unequivocally, safe.

It has, however, forced me toward a bravery that I am always astonished to discover that I can muster. I’ve overcome many things simply because I had to get to the other side of them in order to remain intact. I may have at times seemed to be spineless, may have sometimes been graceless, and at times been a downright asshole throughout the process, but I mostly always take something away from each of these experiences, whether immediately or through the distance that the passage of time affords.

It would be foolish of me to say that I have no regrets. I have many, and they multiply with every passing year, with each choice, each road taken (or not), but I release them after I think on them and mourn what could have been, and make more choices.

Whether mistakes or successes, life moves along at an incredible clip. This automated and electronically dense world we live in, it speeds along dizzyingly, doesn’t allow us to dwell on things for too long. I can only hope that the choices I am making now will lead me to where I eventually want to be, and that the vision of where that is becomes clearer as I move closer toward it.

We all need allies, though, and I hope to be as good a one as those who I hope to consort with on this journey. As much as writing is a solitary practice, it can not be done in a vacuum. It needs the eyes and hearts of others to keep it true to course. Onwards, then – bravely.

on reading piles, writing


It’s chilly outside today. I can feel the bite in the air hinting at what the fallen leaves that have begun to litter the walkways for the last couple of weeks have been soundlessly saying: fall is almost here. It’s my favourite time of year.

Nothing is more appealing on days like today (or yesterday, for that matter) than to cozy up in a quilt and read. I can’t resist a good book, even though I should be writing one instead of diving headlong into my reading pile.

I read through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yesterday. Since it essentially is a bound version of the play, it consists mostly of dialog and scene set-up.

I loved the story.

I think we often (as we move through our lives) wonder about the choices we make, and how a different one would have changed our circumstances. This story provides a means for us to vicariously travel along with these characters and see different outcomes. It highlights the perfect imperfection of the human condition, and how much of who we become depends upon those we choose to journey with during our lifetime, and how gracefully we accept our own and others’ periodical defeats.

Prior to even receiving the book (which was an unexpected and most appreciated gift from my son and his girlfriend) I had read through many online critiques of the plot line (and the spoilers, because that’s just who I am). They were a bit off-putting, to be honest, and so when I began to read yesterday I was pleasantly surprised that it was an immersive experience and brought me back into the make believe world that I’d come to love so much.

A week ago from last Friday I took a spill while rushing to the train station between jobs. I injured my right shoulder and it’s been slow to recover. I probably should go to the emergency unit and get it x-rayed but I keep putting it off because I have such little spare time and don’t particularly relish spending it in a hospital line up. I set yesterday as my getting better or going to have it looked at limit and ended up resting instead of going to hospital. It’s getting better but I still can’t properly lift my arm from a certain angle.

I plan on working on one of my own stories today. I have a four hour shift late afternoon but until then I want to get to know my characters a bit better, perhaps write some back story. Maybe I’ll even get to start on the next book in my reading pile. And there will be Dutch Babies for breakfast.

What are you reading these days?

from my kitchen 7.9.16

I had a wonderful visit with friends last night. I only just remembered to snap a pic of the main course and unfortunately, the photo is a little fuzzy.

We started off with fresh baguette slices topped with Chevrai honey vanilla goat cheese, smoked salmon slivers, mango salsa and a drizzle of Bees Knees spicy honey.

The salsa was made with 2 mangos, 2 small shallots, 3/4 red bell pepper, all finely diced, a squeeze of 1/2 a lime, salt and pepper to taste (I’ve been using Le Saunier de Camargue fleur de sel and love it fiercely) all tossed together with a few finely chopped cilantro leaves. I personally love cilantro but some don’t seem to appreciate it as much, so I try to curb my enthusiasm a bit. I used maybe six leaves for mine.

The main course was halibut en papilotte. I put the halibut pieces over a layer of leek and fennel slivers (sliced using a mandolin), seasoned with salt and pepper, a drizzle of white wine and olive oil and garnished with lemon slivers which I’d fed through the mandolin as well. It was all wrapped up in parchment paper and cooked in the oven on a baking sheet at 425 for 18 minutes.

I served them with fresh English peas using this recipe and a spring potato salad using this one. They did not disappoint.

We cleansed our palates with some Mario’s gelatti lemon sorbet, and then I served up a rhubarb, Saskatoonberry and raspberry pie fresh from the oven. I cheated on the crust (I used the Pillsbury ready-made package) and the measurements were inexact on the fruit… about 5-7 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1″ segments, a large tray of raspberries and about half a pound of Saskatoon berries. I grated the rind from 1 lemon and squeezed its juice in, added about 2 tablespoons of Madagascar vanilla bean paste, and about a cup and a half of sugar. Tossed the whole thing together to incorporate and baked it all in a double crust pie shell arrangement.

The warm pie was served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

We had some lovely Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand as accompaniment, trying both the Matua from Hawke’s Bay and the Kono from the Marlborogh region. I liked both but the Matua was truly something special.

on being human

Some days I just want to curl up into a cocoon and forget about the world. A man is on the street corner of Beatty and Pender, screaming like the guy from Network, only much less eloquently. I’m sure he’s mad as hell too.

The world is being torn apart by soulless people who believe they are doing the right thing. It’s frightening, really. I wonder why God just doesn’t shout down at us from the heavens like a good parent should and say “Enough! Enough of this nonsense!!”

This morning I stayed on the bus instead of getting off at the train station and rode it all the way into town. For a good chunk of the ride I chatted about writing and books and dreams with the woman I sat down next to. Both middle aged (she was a bit older than I am, even), it’s good to know that we still have dreams, things that we aspire to, and passions that drive us from the inside out. After our initial chat we both sunk into the reading of our books.

I got to my stop by 8:13 and was able to pop in to Nester’s to pick up some breakfast. Outside on the curb there was a man sitting there. He greeted me with a cheerful “good morning” and when I said it back to him, it occurred to me that he might be hungry too. So I asked him “You hungry? Would you like something to eat?” and he said yes. I asked him what he wanted.

I got it for him, with a coffee to boot. He thanked me and told me that I made his day. I think he made mine.

We connect far too infrequently with people. I’m not sure what people are afraid of. They use all kinds of methods to keep from really being themselves, from really being seen, or from really seeing another. I know at times I am absorbed in my thoughts and worries and don’t see people as well as I could, but more often than not I am assailed by everyone’s humanness. I feel the pain and the fear keeping people locked behind their eyes, and also their bravery at attempting to free themselves from that which binds them.

It is a constant struggle for me, too.

I have a hard time communicating with people who are closed off. I don’t know how to reach them. They frighten the parts of me that tend to close off too, because it’s so much easier to live reclusively than to take it all in, the good and its opposite.

I’m tired today. I have a half hour work out in a few minutes and then I want to run over to Meinhardt’s to pick up a bunch of lavender. I am plotting the presentation for gift wrapping books that I got for my lovely friends. I had to share the gorgeous book that was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. As book medicine goes, it’s one that would be of service to all of humankind, if only they were willing to read it and hear its messages.

I have friends coming over for dinner tomorrow evening, and I’m trying to meal plan but I’m still undecided. Something with fish and rhubarb pie, I think, with vanilla ice cream.

I’m working tonight until 10:30. And I’m already tired. Hope you are well.

from my kitchen 7.4.2016

Inspired by a scene I’d read in the book I’m reading, I wanted to poach some fish in wine and cream. I didn’t have a recipe, and none of the ones I looked at were exactly what I wanted. So I improvised and concocted my own.

I finely chopped two large green onions and some fennel and cooked them over medium high heat in some heated grape seed oil and a dollop of butter. I added Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper.

After it was just on the edge of being caramelized, I added a sprinkling of flour and stirred for a few minutes to incorporate, and to also allow the raw taste of the flour to cook off. I then deglazed with 350ml of white wine. I used a sauvignon blanc from Chile.

Once reduced, I added 200ml of cream and let it incorporate. 

I added pieces of fish to the pan and simmered for about 7 minutes, then transferred the fish into a dish warming in the oven.

Once all the fish was cooked, I added the remainder of the 473ml carton of cream to the pan, grated in some lemon rind and added the leaves of a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Once the flavours incorporated, I poured the sauce over the fish that had been warming in the oven. I served it over plain steamed jasmine rice.

The consensus was that the dish was a win.