Category Archives: books

Stretching It Out

Billed as “local literary talent” the predicament of choosing the most suitable material for the event is upon me. Two weeks from now I will be the entertainment for an age group that ranges from toddler to adult and perhaps, senior adults.
With some concentration I can recall some fun songs and rhymes that I used in my days of Kindergarten teacher. Oddly enough, at first I had some trouble dredging them up. After all it’s been four years since I had to use them daily, almost nonstop from total recall. Where do these wee rhymes go once their time and usefulness has past? Fortunately, I remember a couple and one begets another and so on.
There will be the older children to contend with and hold them rapt while the evening unfolds. Something interesting and off beat and yet relatable to their experience and understanding is required. Fortunately my drama experience will fill the bill here. Oddly though, the little book of excellent ideas that I’d put away for a rainy day isn’t to be found. It’s here in a bin or a drawer or hidden away on a shelf, snickering at me because I can’t find it or recall where I might have used it last. Annoyed, I’ve come up with something based on a drama structure that I do recall and there is more than enough for a lively hour of preteen activity and creative inclination.
The older ones, the high school kids, will have their cell phones on so their time will be occupied nicely by texting each other in the same room and I need not worry too much about them . Yet, something should be included for their benefit. My poetry may fit the bill for them even though it is not written in a thumping rap or whine. It is unrhymed and melancholic, self absorbed stuff and therefore good enough. On second thought, maybe I should bring food.
My adult audience will consist of neighbours, family and church folk with a few unknowns. Hopefully, I won’t offend. For their edification, they can join in with the little ones and do the fishy dance song and soak up the vibe of the poetry non slam that I offer. As an added bonus for them I have some short stories from my stockpile or from blog archives. These are a style mix like if Maeve, Alice and Kurt were writing together maybe with a dash of Pym and side of Herriot.
This writing is gentle, at times gloomy, at times humorous but reflective. It has taken a couple of years to write out all the emotion to the point where it is now, still holding back some of the reality and as a result any art in that respect is still unwrapped. (What would the neighbours, family members and church folk think of it otherwise?
Hmmm, would anyone recognize themselves in the mirror?
My writing mentor and I haven’t worked together for over a year because of my irregular routines, the polar vortex, my aches and pains and my lack of focus. Next week though, we will work again and see where I am headed. All it took was the friendly invitation to be the local storyteller again to jolt me into seeking this focus once more. Apparently I don’t just write for myself like a reclusive artist content with elaborate stockpiles of unfinished work. I need an audience, even one that is prone to tantrums, texting, worrying and supporting.

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Curtain Time

Well into the early morning hours, after reading and finishing several books I’ve had on the go and doing some online writing research, with an aching appendage or two, I ‘ve made the tea and sat down to this post. The quiet of the country night, it’s darkness and coolness after yesterday’s dramatic storm appeals to my urge to express this mood,this condition and tribal connection. Finding the inspiration by only doing the work and yet not finding it really, just darkness and quiet. All coolness, the night is long  but manageable with hot tea and still fresh cherry bread purchased  from the bakery on impulse but sustaining in these long hours, soft lights and locked doors. Poetry gently nudges around and settles in little thoughts from lists, totally off the cuff and useless but securely drawn and suitable for the night.

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While the fluoride treatment completed its adhering process and I couldn’t eat an already postponed meal, I decided to browse for interesting things at the newish charity shop in town. Looking more for that special shabby literary farmhouse item rather than anything else I was ready to be charmed with a quaint but clever treasure.
Despite the large, well presented and clean ambience of the shop there wasn’t much that beckoned to me. Christmas in July was everywhere as a promotion theme and it rather saddened than cheered. In my mind I kept trying to visualize the people long associated with these items, gathered together with friends and family in urban and rural settings experiencing their own celebrations. Hundreds of Christmas mugs mixed together with dusty sprigs of holly has that effect on me.
After a couple of workarounds the entire store realizing rather thankfully there wasn’t anything I really needed or wanted I noticed a little boy with his grandparents. The little fellow was pleased to have found a Christmas bell and was ringing it to the delight of his indulgent grandpa and the aggravation of his less impressed grandma.
As I walked further to the back of the store towards the assorted used books I continued to hear the little bell .
Once engrossed in the books I forgot to listen for the bell and instead focused on finding my own treasure, scanning for titles and authors on my wish list. I found two almost immediately. Instead of being content with just the two I continued on and of course there were many others on the shelves enticing me to save them and take them with me. It was a couple of real oldies that seemed to unnerve me or perhaps it was just my sentimentality coming to the surface once more.
Leaving the book area finally and approaching the clerk’s desk to pay for the two selected books I gave a backward glance to the others but carried on sensibly ready to pay and depart smartly. Engaged in a bookish talk with the friendly clerk I found out that she had a whole collection of the one author and that reaffirmed my interest in the treasure I’d found. The other book by a much more famous author didn’t get discussed. I just wanted it anyway for my shelf. To sit there most likely unread for some bizarre reason. Some books are like that for me.
At my elbow came a soft chuckly and refined voice asking me if I was stocking up for my summer reading. The rather short person there was a long ago school friend. We chatted a little about those school days and neighbourhood and our shared love of books. She looked so much older and past her prime than she should, like some of the Christmas items surrounding us, and suddenly a little bell went off.

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Self Medicating

Looking today for(any) inspiration I reached for my daily journals. One journal is for my stream of consciousness and is often filled with things that are cluttering up my life involving cleaning, errands, bill paying and other things grownups have to do.
Another little journal is a record of the books I’ve read with a very brief comment about them. This helps me remember what I have in fact read as titles and author names sometimes are forgotten or confused. It seems I’ve also recorded many books and comments about them in my stream of consciousness journal, forgetting to put them in my reading journal. It appears that I’ve read a fair bit over the past year of journal keeping.
Another journal is for my weight release and eating habits which are incredibly boring to read but somehow, after a period of time seem to be effective, slightly, but hallelujah anyway.
Also there is a tiny little pocket journal decorated with a jaunty Christmas reindeer to record my efforts to walk more despite the aggravations of arthritis and other issues.
My journals are self obsessed and at this stage of my life that is perfectly understandable. There were the years, another lifetime, when demands were otherwise. ( Honestly I could write a book about it!)

Oddly enough there isn’t a journal about writing and there really should be one. Creative writing for me has numbed and withered on the vine so I will start writing about writing again and let the air get at it despite the irritants, rashness and discomforts of it all.

Thanks for listening, dear blog.


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Soup on a Pedestal?

At first, I thought I must have entered the wrong store absent mindedly, revelling in my new found freedom from intensive dog sitting. Looking around and beyond, I saw books on display but in my immediate space, entering the bookstore I was treated to a whole section of cozy grey wool blankets, tea making things, candles, table linens, dinnerware, yoga mats and baby gifts. Bookends, word games, giftwrap and you name it engulfed the side aisle of the store.

 Near the back of this long line of lovely things I found a display of children’s books that led in fact to a whole section of children’s games, toys and oh yes, some more children’s books.

Making a quick but thoughtful purchase of some children’s books for a family gift I made a dash out the door to avoid spending anymore money on stuff I most likely didn’t need. I was tempted but I overcame the impulse.

They didn’t really want me to buy books in that store. They wanted me to buy the illusion of the book reading lifestyle. Rare teas, rich chocolates, soft woolen throws and earthy looking pottery soup bowls on pedestals demanded my attention and my cash.

A  book lover all of my life, I keep warm while reading in woolen blankets crocheted by my sister, drink my tea out of mugs collected from garage sales ,enjoy the scent of finally using ancient candles stored for years in case of a power outage and eat my homemade  soup out of small tempered glass pot that can either be heated on the stove, oven or glory be, the microwave.

I used to go into the store to just look around at the books and breathe the bookish dusty atmosphere. I didn’t mind the scent of coffee brewing along the café side of the store. In fact I found it often a temptation I couldn’t ignore. Also appreciated were the many interesting chairs and tables around the very large store encouraging the buyer to stay awhile, read and then decide about a book purchase or not. Phased out a couple of years ago, the music section was another favourite spot of mine. Replacing the jazz, blues, folk and classical vibe are displays of electronic media stuff. Oh well. I can maybe find a music store before they are totally replaced by on line sources.

Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed and out of the loop, yet again. My idea of a bookstore keeps being made over and updated while I hang onto a dream place of quiet shelves, stocked with real books. The kind of store that the second hand type of bookstores have become. A little cramped, a little dusty, rather quaint but filled with choices and treasures of the literary kind.

I’ll go back. I always do. I know the books are in there…. somewhere.


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Talking Books

Thick with dust, the two very old military history books were stored on a neglected shelf in a damp glassed in veranda in the farmhouse. Not the most interesting looking, they were somehow saved in a box and moved to storage. Condition ranging from musty, torn cover to musty and fair shape, the two books didn’t attract any attention at a family garage sale. Next stop was going to be the charity store or the recycling bin. However, the books seemed to speak to me as I drove home with my other more practical treasures from the sale. The chatter was enough for me to call back for the books and they were given to me, free of charge. Family garage sales are excellent for such bargains!

Plans for the two old books are of a decorative nature. They will be displayed together on a fireplace mantel or coffee table along with other battered, ancient books  . The books evoke a kind of dignity to me that is difficult to express but easy to feel. Oddly enough, I found myself reading them well into the night not minding the mustiness or faded pages. They will open again in due time anytime a guest notices them and maybe someday be used as reference material for a story or two. That is the beauty and value of these books that somehow seemed to speak to me. Listening seems to come naturally.


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Shelf Life

Here and there and everywhere little sentiments are in the forefront of my rather significant collection of favourite books on my bookshelves. A picture of  my Dad and myself, another of my mom and a niece, my ( retirement) brass school bell,  “Mumma’s” delicate rose and blue china cup, my son’s baby photo, a neutral faced  theatre mask, a carved wooden angel holding a bountiful floral garland, two die-cut cards from my son, figurines of dogs, birds, old souls and a snow globe shaker containg a picture of my sweet departed cat, are a fair representation of what is gathered there.

These things sit usually at the corners of the bookshelves but often are moved to centre place when access to the books hiding behind them are sought. Books are so plentiful that they are stacked vertically on the shelves rather than horizontally. Another bookcase might be purchased soon if my budget can stand it.

My books are organized at this moment in my life. The two top shelves are dedicated to classic literature as I feel that is only fitting for Shakespeare and those I’ve grouped with him there. On the next level are two full shelves of Canadian literature full of strange, often grim but treasured thought. On the shelves beneath contemporary American and European literature balance each other well.Further down, the two lower shelves begin to appear archive like holding assorted children’s books, art books, (several) books on the monarchy, some of my Aunt Bea’s book club books, baskets of CD’s and a few photo albums. Dear Maeve Binchy has an entire lower shelf dedicated solely to herself as she helped me survive my divorce twenty eight years ago. She provided the wholesome comfort of gentle romance when I was dashed and broken by my own decision to remove myself from my marriage. She stays on her shelf for all time, not ever in my lifetime to be culled in a book clearout as she deserves a permanent home.

The really old books that I collect are relegated to my bookshelves built into my bedroom. Among this assortment are my treasured old school readers, honoured for being the delicate rare taste of literature I was exposed to as a very young child. Along these shelves are little ornaments my mother kept so special in her heart. Things like little wooden shoes that have their own story,small framed pictures of Dad, my brother and an eccentric uncle, little flower vases she liked are arranged amongst the books and Bibles stored there.

All the cookbooks I’ve collected fill another full bookshelf in the small family room beside the kitchen. Several of these books are hand written or collections of recipes from my family’s heritage pasted into old scrapbooks. Many books about gardening and healing are also propped up there. These shelves are decorated with some funky pottery and woven baskets.

The spillage of books and sentimental clutter often needs to be tidied and refreshed. At the moment,  a good couple of hours dedicated to decluttering, putting things away, sorting through some recently acquired books from the used book store and other housekeeping duties is most likely a good idea. If only I had  the luxury of a daily domestic helper, like Maeve often described in her books these things might be more consistently done.  It is perhaps better that I do this work myself. After all, I know where things belong.

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Eclectic, Random and Impressive

When I went on the prowl I didn’t really know what I was looking for but I wanted something good. As soon as I went through the door, there he was, on display. I bought the entire display of eighteen used books by the same authour, Kurt Vonnegut. I also bought some other used books by five authors I had been looking for and keep their names handy on my wish list. The wonderful, young artsy used bookstore clerks gave me a great deal and I made off with my bulging shopping bag like a bandit.

Vonnegut is my son’s favourite writer and I made the purchase with him in mind. Thinking he would enjoy this wonderful assortment for a gift I started in on the other books chosen for myself but within a very short time I pulled out the eighteen books and started browsing through them. I’ve put the other books I picked out for myself aside, for now.

The Vonnegut writing is so very good, sometimes challenging to follow and I have to reread a few sentences here and there but I feel like I’m spending time with someone quite cool, intelligent, humane and with an amazing sense of humour. I’ve only read about a hundred pages of the one book so far and I may change my mind once the novelty of my big find wears off but Mervyn Peake and the others will have to wait for the time being. Now, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast…..that’s quite a read on a dark and stormy night isn’t it?


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Unique Stay Awhile Style

First time inside the door today and I was gently overwhelmed by the adorable vintage feel of the small place but within seconds I was ready to order a nice lunch at The Bag Lady Variety. Located  at Pall St. (at Maitland), in London Ontario, Canada it is the sweetest little retreat , somewhat off the beaten track of regular coffee shops and diners. I honestly felt like I had been dropped into another time period. The feel of the place is very relaxed and I noticed several people writing in journals, reading and get this.. interacting with other friendly customers! Two large store front windows open up the view to an established leafy neighbourhood while the decor inside is retro comfy. Seriously, when I came home I got all of my crocheted throws out of the blanket box and draped them around just to mimic the mood of the place.

The yummy food is prepared in a tiny open kitchen which is fascinating to peek through at while watching three of four people maneuver very carefully around each other as they work behind the counter.  Lots of takeout orders were rustled up while I was there blissfully relaxing at one of the old-fashioned kitchen table sets. I think the local professional crowd of workers are loving the convenience of takeout lunches but the laid back, sit and daydream types like myself  delight in the atmosphere as much as the food. My lunch was homemade tasty and the coffee was good and hot. Oh, and they get points for having the right kind of soft folksy music playing too.

I know I’ll be going back when I’m in town doing my daytime artsy theatre/writing adventures Monday through Friday 7:30 am-4:00pm (as if I’d ever be up at 7:30 am nowadays..ha!), or on Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am-2:00pm. I purchased a gift certificate for a lucky friend and a really good brownie for the road. You can’t have too much of a good thing!

It was a rather special experience today as it felt like I was among friends…including the charming staff and the patrons.


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Wuthering At A Later Date

Bright sun, a gentle cooling wind and deep blue skies mean that the season is just starting to change and I will be out of excuses for not writing every day. After all, if I don’t write everyday I’m just plain lazy. The time is ripe for shaking things up and getting a move on.

Well, that didn’t work.

Instead of beating myself up for my extended vacation from creating stories and poems I intend to just go with the flow. I will read into the late and early hours, doze off with my reading lamps blazing and jolt myself awake at 5:30 am to put myself finally to bed. Sleeping in, ignoring the world outside my door until I get organized enough to grind some fragrant dark roasted coffee beans, read my emails and blogs that I follow and day-dream for most of the remaining day. It is time to soak up the glory of the back yard and garden even if there are  a few towering goldenrod weeds obscuring the view. It is time to cook all the gorgeous fall treats that I particularly like such as soups, sauerkraut, fruit cobblers and fudge. It is time to do all kinds of things. The ideas, emotions and sensations of this time are enough to paint my imagination so that I can draw inspiration from it later.

When the sheeting, driving rains come and the ragged branches tap piteously at my dark, icy bedroom window, then I will pull out all the stored and preserved  material and rock my writing.

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