Category Archives: poetry

In the Night

It is well into the deepest shadows of the evening and the Midnight Pen (inside joke) writes again.

When all is dark and it is best to be at home wrapped in a quilt by the fireplace, books and teapot by my side, the old cat nestled into the other comfortable chair in my woollen shawl, there is no sound from outside as the night is quiet and sleeping. Rain or sleet  and maybe a forlorn twig tapping against the window pane would be preferable but one can’t have everything.

More than likely the members of a writers group I recently visited are all sound asleep.

From the discussion about personal writing habits and routines I seem to be the only one attending that night  dependent on the night for the comfort to write.

Dynamics of the gathering convinced me that it is a wonderfully unique experience to walk into a meeting of assembled strangers and bravely say a quick hello before sharing your work in a round robin of readings. Once this was done and supportive nods and comments ensued, the task of writing on demand was a slight jolt to the system and yet accomplished. We  wrote together, in our own worlds on our own notepads.

The few minutes left over were even convenient  for my own jot notes of the experience as a whole in my designated Celtic design inspired  journal ( a gift form my niece) for book talks and writers events. Personal characteristics, body language, off hand comments of the other attendees impressed me.  No doubt I also gave off a variety of vibes in the other directions. At times I found myself to be too talkative, too much an attention seeker and too nerdy in my references to plays and theatre and books and travel.

In the course of two hours stories and poems about a wide range of experiences tumbled out in little heaps around the tables originally set up as a quilting room. There was laughter and there was quiet listening, head nodding and maybe a cringe or two. I myself cringed at least once.

The markings from measuring and cutting fabric on the tabletops distracted me a bit during the meeting. Was there some kind of message or connection between the slicing and cutting marks on the surface and the patches of stories and poems available that night? Was there a thread of connectivity between us to make something more out of the experience or was it to best left as pieces and frayed parts of something private and personal to be gathered up again and stored away.

I left the writers group that night feeling that the work of the contributors made me think of long forgotten things and that was the kind of creative relief I desperately needed. I remembered my own stories of books, theatre, travel and other nerdy things  because the writing of others had inspired me, I was using my notebook, new fluid black pens, my special Celtic design journal and even had my note pad ready for jot note action. Simply writing, awkwardly sharing at times with strangers at a quilting table in a rural arts centre and finding pieces of myself again. It was all good.

The daylight hours today were spent in  reading, cooking, housework, watching news programs and late night comedy shows. The really late hours of now, in the dark and in the night I wrote this blog.  Wrapped in the quilt, beside the fireplace, the cat making little sleep noises in my woolen shawl on the other comfortable chair, the night completely quiet outside, I write, In the dark. In the night. (Thank you S.J.)

 

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At the Crack of Midnight

It’s that time of night that I prefer for my writing exercise. It is very late, dark and quiet. Nothing is going on outside that has anything to do with me . I’ve spent the day again. There is no time left for any duty or errand or guilt. This is the time of night, crack of the new day that I seem comfortable with my pouring of words onto some surface.

Late to computer skills I prefer the use of a three ring binder, fluid black pen and a notepad for fly by ideas. I prefer to keep this all in an printed orange Bahamas cloth bag, slung either on my shoulder or tossed in preparation in the backseat of the car. The only trouble is that it is now often left there, forgotten in the backseat.

The actual use of this blog and it’s technical aspects has started to fade from my experience as well.  Desperate times require desperate action.

This past week I went to a book event and this week I plan to visit with some local writers. Just doing those two things seems to have injected some enthusiasm back into my writing attempts.

It seems to be the stress of having to type rather than physically write that annoys me at the moment.

Here in the  darkened house I have only the one light on in the corner of the living room and it casts a gentle nursery glow. In front of me now is the clinical office glare of the computer screen. I find it intimidating and yet the features of computer writing are useful for editing and review or should that be review and editing.

All of it is an excuse for not doing the work. When I was about eighteen I wanted to study to be a journalist and also write novels. That didn’t happen. What happened instead was tragedy, graduation, bereavement, marriage,  university studies, family issues, loss,  more work,  teaching, having a baby, weight issues, divorce, raising a child,more tragedy, more work , non stop teaching, more studies, bills, repairs, friends, loss, another bereavement ,health changes, responsibilities, exhaustion, fatigue, retirement and then sitting on the yard swing, reflecting back as far as possible.

The step of starting this blog about eight years ago was the crack of the night that I needed. It started some writing and endured for a good run. It ran itself out and then went away exhausted again but not to die.

The writing notebook, the note pad and the fluid pen are mostly still in the backseat but have recently shifted around. Sometimes the notepad is stuffed into a purse and used at a whim. The notebook is flipped through occasionally. New black fluid pens were recently purchased and one has leaked rather badly into the lining of my purse.

At the book talk this past week I made some notes while being scathingly critical of the speakers( internally in my head) and making  abrupt (thankfully silent) judgement calls on their work which I knew nothing about. At the end of the book talk I left in a hurry to avoid making eye contact with these speakers who were actually writing and publishing their work. However, at the exit I turned and spoke to one writer and expressed thanks for her contribution to the evening. Wasn’t that big of me?

A few evenings ago, during the wee hours of the night I did a tiny piece as a homework assignment for my pending visit to the local writers group. I’ve received several welcoming emails from one of the members and read the upcoming agenda for our meeting. Tonight at the crack of midnight I have considered the universality of writing  (another point for discussion at the upcoming meeting) and found myself stumped.

My only thought about this universality point was that I have reached some readers around the world with my blog posts and usually had the most positive reaction from my poetry.  Yet, this isn’t a poem. It is nothing more than an essay (of sorts) on finding that collapsed writing than ran frightened into the woods somewhere and nurturing  it again with enough jazz to give it the will to live.  All of this. timed from the crack of midnight to 12:38 am. ,not including review and editing.

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Wizzy’s Protest Flight, All Over This Land!

Oddly, whenever Wizzy ( an owl, if you haven’t been reading her old adventure stories) ventured out of her hideout in the boreal forest something always happened to startle her and she flew back to her favourite old branch.

She had hidden from the chaos for a couple years of several confusing seasons due to her vulnerable and sensitive nature. The final straw of weird and reckless nonsense surging through the little blue button in her nest riled her up  however and brought her back to the border between the Land of Pinecones and Maple Vistas and The Land of the Right and the Left.

It was time to dive in and try to straighten things out once and for all. The survival of bird values was at stake. More than her feathers were ruffled. Wizzy felt inspiration for protest welling up in her craw and it was time to sing out, loud and clear once more!

Where to begin?

The situation was dire!

Everyone was in a flap!

Baby birds in cages, separated from their parental flocks and ….no reason,  no plan or solution in sight for restoring things to the natural order of give and take, live and let live or don’t be a bird brained fool if you can help it. What a mess!

Apparently advised by a few cuckoo birds who were of questionable pedigree and enforced by pterodactyl wannabe’s the attack seemed focused entirely on the exotic southern song birds seeking refuge by migrating  from terror and destruction from deranged and violent gangs of vultures straight out of a Hitchcock movie.

After a long and difficult journey, expecting only a chance for rest and possibly acceptance,as other tattered and torn birds in the past had hoped for and flocked to these shores and lands, the songbirds had a terrible experience of detention, rejection and separation from their young. Identification slip ups galore ensued and you know what hit the fan, big time!

Wizzy flew directly to The Roost on The Hill searching for Old Samuel the Eagle but he unfortunately was gone and wouldn’t be barack (unsure of spelling here) and was somehow replaced by a huge stiff looking Leghorn with small claws scratching around in the dust and raising a twittering ruckus to beat the band.

Surrounding this old bird was a tired gaggle of geese, hissing and spitting in frustration and threatening to quit and take off at any moment. Looming overhead was a very sneaky falcon, surveying the damage with elaborate swoops and smirking into his well preened wings.

Oddly enough there seemed to be dens of foxes everywhere on the grounds as well, mostly muttering to themselves and whispering updates into the Leghorn’s ear frequently, just adding to the general uproar and confusion.

Fortunately for all, the Fearless Birds of Intelligence were quietly on the case and almost ready to send out their pecking order of charges to expose the whole darn thing and set the record straight on the scrambled mess of rotten and cracked shell games afoot.

Wizzy  returned home, back to the Land of Pinecones and Maple Vistas, protest singing loudly and flapping wings of strong support in hopes of encouraging the terrified fledglings and heart broken and confused flocks of adult jailed birds.

What else could she do?

Well, she would turn on that blue button to keep abreast of the daily squawks and keep her beady eyes on the situation for starters.

Wizzy, the owl was a Canadian bird after all. She would politely and respectfully protest the situation for the sake of the downtrodden and of course not let anyone push her around.

 

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One Hundred and Fifty One Years Later at Narin Pickers

Slowly our  weather has become increasingly more springlike. A couple of weeks ago events were cancelled due to an ice storm. Yesterday we turned on air conditioners. Snowdrops were the only brave flowers for about a month and now the daffodils are nodding in the warmth. Last week, on one of my off the beaten path trips it was grey, wet and cool enough for a warm jacket and I almost made it to the lake. I usually pick such a day for visiting the lake because I now avoid crowds. People are fine, just not crowds.

About half way to the lake I decided it was far enough on a drizzly day and decided instead to further explore some small villages along the way. This is a very quiet way to explore but entirely on my own terms. With a supply of snacks and a half full tank of gas I drive around tiny places, browse the shops, soak up the atmosphere and have very random conversations with the locals. When I’m often asked what I do now that I am retired from teaching I often say….”oh, I do artsy things now, just artsy stuff…” The reaction is often puzzled.

 

Along the soggy way that particular day, I stopped in at an old place that was once a tiny country restaurant and is now a vintage store called Narin Pickers. Walking in, there wasn’t anyone visibly there among the aluminum teapots, feathered hats and concrete gnomes. At the back, behind the original lunch counter, a friendly owner on his computer called out and welcomed me.

I made two circuits around the store just looking at old postcards, ancient books, assorted bead necklaces, bracelets and bakelite dinnerware. Lots of other stuff beckoned as well. Two amazing grand gilt chairs that immediately made me think of King Louis sat in the middle of the shop covered with others things that paled by comparison. A hand carved walking cane and a collection of old pipes called out to me for some reason and I was transported back in time to being my Grandpa Walter’s constant companion on his porch steps.

All the time during my visit, Billie Holiday was softly singing…”I’ll Be Seeing You” as the wonderful music was coming from the owner’s computer. He mentioned that he and his son were musically inclined and that his daughter was an avid reader.

At that point of the conversation, we discussed what wonderful things might be found in old books such as postcards, photos,souvenir programs etc. Behind the counter, stored away in a jewellery box under cotton batting, the owner had his treasure of four leaf clovers which he had carefully salvaged from the brittle pages of old books. He had felt it necessary to gently treasure them this way as otherwise they would just break up and go to dust if left in the handled books. He shared their sweet old beauty with me and we spoke together about good luck wishes and these long ago people who had found the clovers.

As I prepared to leave I was drawn again to the postcards and selected only one. It had caught my eye earlier but wasn’t exceptionally beautiful or valuable. The message on the back had hooked me in. It was a message to a student from a teacher.I made my little purchase and left…thinking all the while…”Maybe I should buy that gnome?”. Oh well, another time, perhaps.

When I was finally home for the day I took a long shot and looked up the obscure information on the card in hopes of finding these long gone individuals and learn more about them. With one click, the information of the student was there right in front of me. It was a record of his wedding date and also some information about his community.

This information was from at least one hundred and fifty one years ago. Nothing was available about the teacher  who had written the card so long ago. I can assume though. This teacher was kind, thoughtful and without a doubt searched for four leaf clovers.  I’m also sure this teacher hoped to be remembered in all those old familiar places.

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Long Standing

A long time ago, in this land of sandy soil, evergreen trees and old houses, I started to write some posts. Stories began to appear sprouted from little word gardens scratched into the keyboard. Sometimes poetry surfaced, usually with a reflective tone, sometimes with a satirical voice and occasionally with a slight edge of humour.

Life at that time carried on quietly and some attention given to my writing was most appreciated.  With the passing of time I wrote a little less and then stopped. Blow sand covered my work.

The land of sandy soil, evergreen trees and old houses remained the same and quietly waited. Wet winters and hot humid summers, fast windy springs and stunningly golden short fall days swept by. Snow fell once for days and days and days.

Slowly seized and creaking passages of time lengthened my reading and I found it challenging to find the right book to fill my escape. Searching for the right book to inspire, uplift and relax with proved to be an all encompassing goal and yet it was never really found.

Oddly enough, a lover of books, a devoted reader, a timid writer and an occasional speaker I found myself tossing aside some very well thought of books and not feeling the inclination to finish the work in front of me.

With a weariness in mind and body surging into atrophy fortunately some small and sustained healthy efforts took hold and gave me a good shake. Further details here are not necessary and perhaps just as well kept to myself as that is a long standing family trait.

Something that can be shared is the renewed search for the perfect book, a sudden burst of interest in creating something visual which could be considered spontaneous joy art, continuing the quest for the perfect quirky coffee shop, settling down to a quiet journalling time, dignified writing and living life in an artful and kind way ,another long standing family tradition.

I missed you.

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Half Done

The book is well written and poetic but it doesn’t appeal to me.  I will finish reading it because it is for book club. It is the kind of book I have to take to my reading hideout in the market parking lot and finish as I eat an oversize sandwich on whole wheat with choice of pickle, celery or carrots and drink dark roast coffee. I can’t read this book at home.More to the truth, I won’t read it at home. The afternoon sun will fade. Grey nothing best described as late afternoon surrounds the car and I drive home. It is the way this book is tolerated. In a few days there will be a meeting and we will have a good time as usual for this is the book that has brought us together. A well written, poetic book,complicated and thoughtfully done, it has merit. Historical, educational, sensitive and bluntly graphic with images of sunlight on the feathers of geese and the flight of a terrified child falling into defective net,a flag held by other children,breaking both arms and no one coming to help. It has become a chore and most likely worth finishing to get the full benefit.  My book, which I’ve never written glints in the moonlight. No geese.

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Creative Differences

Snow whipped into a frenzy piled up past the ledge of the kitchen window and I still thought we would go to the concert. Even after the telephone chain call originating from the school trustee I thought there would be a chance that we could still go. I had the lead in the school Christmas pageant….as least in my mind I was the lead! My eight year old self suffered terrible disappointment that night. I never got my chance to perform as Mary and have the one goose necked reading lamp “spotlight” rigged up by the teacher shine reverently on my white and silver headscarf illuminating my blonde ringlets. All I had was the one  rehearsal and the approval of the young teacher. Oh, so long ago and the pain goes deeply.

At the one room school, S.S. # 7 Bear Creek we had a stage platform with two side entrances. Those entrances and exits fascinated me when we did community concerts for our parents. The visiting health nurse also used the stage area for eye examinations and giving vaccinations. She would take off her high heeled shoe and pound the eye chart into the wall. With the curtain closed it was made medically official. We carried on with our lessons and waited our turn.

One exit led to the boys cloak room where they kept their coats and lunch pails. It always seemed grubby and smelly in there. The other exit led to a small teacher’s room with another door exiting to the outside.This little room was for the teacher’s stuff and there was a  wall mounted crank telephone. The teacher let the Grade One kids play in there when she was busy with the older kids and I fondly remember wearing her coat, scarf,gloves,boots and going through the contents of her purse.

 

My sister was with me there for two years and then she left me to fend for myself while she went off to high school. Fortunately she was there for the horrible day in Grade Two when I sat on an ant hill under the maple tree to eat my lunch. She was the one to deal with my terror of having big black carpenter ants bite my tender little body in every conceivable spot. To this day I can recall the ants creased into my armpits and in my underpants. Another recess event I recall with some significant dramatics was when my sister diagnosed my raging out break of measles as I erupted  one warm spring day into blotches and  blistering bumps and informed the teacher to call home immediately.

When I was in Grade three with no sister around, Elveretta, a neighbour girl claimed me as her charge.She didn’t suffer fools gladly so I was basically protected from harm. She let me help her keep score for our baseball games and let me sit in her lap. The boys at bat would make it a point of honour to hit the ball over the top of the huge evergreen trees and send the ball into the orchard across the road. There were good girl players too like Elveretta and impressed me big time as they could hit the ball just as well, run like the wind and slide into base while wearing billowing knee length skirts .

I played as little baseball as I could and maybe hit the ball a total of two or three times. I preferred being off in the corner of the school yard telling stories and organizing plays about elves,fairies and trolls and delegating roles to my friends Julie and Irene, who just happened to be sisters and artistic types like me. They were real artists and could draw anything, even horses.Their creative input was invaluable.

I would visit Julie and Irene at their farm and they would visit mine. We had lots of fun together. Their parents were good to me and fed me Ukranian food. I remember turkey suppers, cabbage rolls, borscht, the best ever  dill and garlic pickles and apple pies. There were some special pictures, painted trinkets and darkly coloured floral scarves draped around them in a tiny parlour which we were supposed to stay out of so we wouldn’t damage anything in there. Outside the  barnyard geese would chase us, honk and spit, knock us down and trample us.  That was terrifying and extremely noisy especially when we provoked the geese repeatedly despite being told to stop by both parents in English, Ukrainian and maybe Estonian or Latvian.

Back at school it was the simple little readers and sparse few textbooks that held my parched interest. No extra literature or media was available except for an occasional box of films from the National film Board.When the box of films arrived that is all we did for a couple of days. The classic poems from the readers soothed my poetic  little soul but left me wanting much more. Basic knowledge in print form, limited text material ,barely fed me a starvation diet of information. The only books for extra reading available where a set of old black and yellow atlases , Gideon New Testaments,  battered dictionaries and High Road to Song books.

It was a bit grim creatively. Exceptions were the times when the teacher would plan an art lesson such as painting the school windows with seasonal art or read aloud for a few minutes on a warm afternoon from her own book or request everyone to write an composition based on a a selected picture from her file of clippings. Possibly, I was the only kid who really loved this writing exercise. I recall others groaning when we did this task every Friday afternoon. A calendar clipping of a fall tree or a cute kitten in a basket or a dark and stormy sky set my imagination free. When selected ( without fail) to share my composition with the class I would deliver it with all the impact I could muster.

From Grade Five  until the end of Grade 13 I was always selected to say my “speeches” . Not once did I win a speech competition. However, for thirty two years I taught kindergarten and other primary grades and loved the creative opportunity to play, read,write, tell stories, act things out, laugh, listen, draw,paint,dance around, sing and share what I love about communication. Retired now, I read every darn obscure book that interests me that I can order from the local tiny library and write a little and sometimes I write more. It all depends on me.

 

 

 

 

 

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